PBwiki and YackPack Announce Release of WalkieTalkie Widget

San Bruno, CA, April 9, 2007–PBwiki, the world´s largest providers of wiki software and hosting, and YackPack, the online group communications company, have partnered to provide wiki authors and readers with a simple way to communicate using their own voices in real time.

YackPack has created the WalkieTalkie, a widget that you can install on your PBwiki in about two minutes. Then, each and every human or humanoid who visits that PBwiki of yours can simply click-and-hold the YackPack button and, through the miracle of "Technology," talk to anyone else visiting the page. It´s like an online virtual intercom and it adds the power of voice to any collaboration.

"There is something magical about hearing someone else´s voice," said Ramit Sethi, PBwiki co-founder. "It takes collaboration to an entirely different level. It´s more personal and takes away the OMG FLAMER LAMO stuff that you see on IRC. It brings people closer together."

YackPack´s Dr. BJ Fogg agreed, oracularly.

"Voice builds unity," he said.

Like all good stories, the partnership is surprising yet inevitable. And it´s simple. Considering it´s wikis we´re talking about it would be a sad day at the WikiPlex if it weren´t.

To use the widget, sign up for a PBwiki at http://www.pbwiki.com, click the edit button on any page on your wiki, and insert the WalkieTalkie plugin. Voilá: the single simplest way to communicate to your co-authors and readers.

We´re not bluffing. In fact we are so not bluffing that we are going to host an online press release about the integration and its proud parents on our press wiki, http://press.pbwiki.com, using the integrated WalkieTalkie widget. To participate, just go to the press wiki after 2:00 p.m. Pacific Standard Time on Thursday, April 12, and press the widget down. Ramit Sethi of PBwiki and BJ Fogg of YackPack will be there to answer any questions you have on the widget, wikis, packing yack or anything else you´d like.

ABOUT PBWIKI–PBwiki is the world´s largest consumer wiki farm, co-founded by 3 Stanford grads (´99, ´00, ´04). Our motto is: Make a free wiki as easily as a peanut butter sandwich. 48 hours after we launched, we hosted over 1,000 wikis. Today we host well over 150,000 wikis and millions of users every month. We host classroom wikis, business wikis, personal wikis, and wikis for just about anything you can imagine.

Our small, six-person team has big resources. We´ve just raised $2 million from Mohr Davidow Ventures to make our wikis much more awesome. We´ve been featured on TechCrunch.com ("PBwiki is on a bit of a roll," Michael Arrington said), Valleywag.com, VentureBeat, Red Herring and hundreds of other sources.

ABOUT YACKPACK–YackPack provides the simplest way for people to communicate online. Designed by Dr. BJ Fogg of Stanford University, YackPack´s patented interface helps you cut through the clutter of email, VOIP, and instant messaging clients so you can finally communicate effectively with your team, class, family, or group. WalkieTalkie Widget is YackPack´s newest offering. Through the richness of voice, YackPack connects people wherever they live, whatever their language or age, and whenever they want to listen.

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U.S. Commerce Secretary Carlos M. Gutierrez Unveils National Campaign to Inspire Invention in Children

The Advertising Council joined with the Department of Commerce´s United States Patent and Trademark Office (USPTO) and the National Inventors Hall of Fame Foundation (NIHFF) today to launch a national, multimedia public service advertising (PSA) campaign to engage a new generation of children in innovation. The campaign seeks to make inventing and developing new ideas part of American children´s lives.

U.S. Secretary of Commerce Carlos M. Gutierrez unveiled the campaign at the National Press Club.

For generations, the United States has been a recognized global leader in technology and innovation. While the country represents only 5 percent of the world´s population, it accounts for nearly one-third of the world´s science and engineering researchers and 40 percent of all research and development, according to the Council on Competitiveness. However, with increased economic competition globally, it´s widely recognized that the United States must take steps now to maintain its leadership. In particular, America must ensure we inspire future generations of innovators.

The new Inspiring Invention campaign, created in conjunction with ad agency Publicis & Hal Riney in San Francisco, aims to inspire children (specifically the "tweens," ages 8 to 11) to recognize how their imaginations can lead to the technological advances of the future. The campaign communicates that there is a role for every kind of unique curiosity and imaginative idea as it relates to invention. Ultimately, the goal is to motivate children to pursue inventing and innovating as part of their educations and, later, in their careers.

Secretary Gutierrez said, "In an innovation-driven economy, the key to our future success and competitiveness lies in making sure we are sharing America´s culture of innovation with our young people. In doing so, we will prepare them to compete more effectively in the global marketplace and ensure that the United States maintains our global economic leadership."

Under Secretary of Commerce for Intellectual Property and Director of the USPTO Jon Dudas added, "We see the Inspiring Invention campaign as a wonderful opportunity to show kids how fun and rewarding it can be to create. We hope that children who watch these ads will want to become more inventive; explore math, science and other creative fields; and then share their new ideas — to continue America´s legacy of innovation."

Developed with extensive research with inventors and children, the campaign includes new television, radio, outdoor and Web advertising that feature ordinary children creating inventions to solve everyday problems. The PSAs communicate to children that "anything is possible" and encourage them to "keep thinking." The ads direct audiences to visit a new comprehensive website, www.InventNow.org, to explore and discover their own innate inventiveness and curiosity. Designed by VPI (Visual Perspectives Internet), the site features interactive games and allows children to explore their inventive interests in space, sports, design and entertainment.

"Research conducted for our new campaign found that children are naturally curious and inventive, but they do not realize the impact of their creativity," according to Peggy Conlon, President & CEO of the Ad Council. "We are proud to join with the United States Patent and Trademark Office and the National Inventors Hall of Fame Foundation on this wonderful effort to help children see that there are no limits to their creativity and imagination and that they can have a role in the technological advances of our future if they just ?keep thinking."

The Inspiring Invention campaign is one of several educational initiatives in which the National Inventors Hall of Fame Foundation and the United States Patent and Trademark Office partner to encourage children to think inventively. Among these initiatives are the National Inventors Hall of Fame´s Camp Invention and Club Invention programs, which are supported by the USPTO. Camp Invention, now in its 17th year, is a summer day camp that fosters creativity and inventive thinking skills that allow children to learn through hands-on activities, subject immersion and discovery. In 2007, more than 60,000 students will attend Camp Invention in 47 states. Club Invention is an after-school program directed by the Hall of Fame that extends scientific inquiry-based education to after-school sites.

National Inventors Hall of Fame Inductee and inventor of the modern microphone Dr. James West said, "This campaign relates directly to our mission of inspiring invention and creativity. It´s a prime opportunity for us to capture the attention of children and share with them the wonders of science and technology, inspiring them enough to become involved in life-long endeavors in these fields. Our future, and theirs, will be much richer because of it."

"We´re honored to have been chosen to create a campaign with the important objective of engaging a generation of kids to make innovation and creativity an integral part of their lives," said Karen Francis, CEO at Publicis & Hal Riney. "The work shows real kids creating and building incredibly innovative solutions to their problems. We hope that this campaign will help kids realize that they have the power and imagination to invent something totally new."

The PSAs are being distributed to 28,000 media stations nationwide this week. Per the Ad Council´s donated media model, all of the new PSAs will air and run in advertising time and space donated by the media.

United States Patent and Trademark Office
Since 1790, the basic role of the United States Patent and Trademark Office (USPTO) has remained the same: to promote the progress of science and the useful arts by securing for limited times to inventors the exclusive right to their respective discoveries (Article 1, Section 8 of the United States Constitution). Today, the USPTO is a federal agency in the Department of Commerce, headquartered in Alexandria, Virginia. Through the issuance of patents, the USPTO encourages technological advancement by providing incentives to invent, invest in, and disclose new technology worldwide. Through the registration of trademarks, the agency assists businesses in protecting their investments, promoting goods and services, and safeguarding consumers against confusion and deception in the marketplace. By disseminating both patent and trademark information, the USPTO promotes an understanding of intellectual property protection and facilitates the development and sharing of new technologies worldwide.

National Inventors Hall of Fame Foundation
The not-for-profit National Inventors Hall of Fame Foundation is the premier organization in America dedicated to honoring and fostering creativity and invention. Each year a new class of inventors is inducted into the Hall of Fame in recognition of their patented inventions that make human, social, and economic progress possible. Founded in 1973 by the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office and the National Council of Intellectual Property Law Association, the Hall´s permanent home is Akron, Ohio, where the inventors in the Hall are honored and from where it administers its national programs, including Camp Invention®, Club Invention®, and the Collegiate Inventors Competition®. For more information, visit www.invent.org.

Publicis & Hal Riney
Hal Riney is a full-service creative boutique headquartered in San Francisco, wholly owned by Publicis Groupe, the world´s fourth-largest communication group. Riney´s advertising clients include well-known brands such as Sprint, WellPoint, Wrigley, Pinnacle Foods, and The American Red Cross Bay Area Chapter.

The Advertising Council
The Ad Council is a private, non-profit organization with a rich history of marshalling volunteer talent from the advertising and media industries to deliver critical messages to the American public. Having produced literally thousands of PSA campaigns addressing the most pressing social issues of the day, the Ad Council has effected, and continues to effect, tremendous positive change by raising awareness, inspiring action and saving lives. To learn more about the Ad Council and its campaigns, visit www.adcouncil.org.

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Orchard Software Named Finalist in 2007 Golden Lamp Awards

ST. LOUIS, MO, April 3, 2007 — Siboney Learning Group is proud to announce that its flagship software, Orchard Gold Star, has been named a finalist in the Technology category of the Association of Educational Publishers´ 2007 Golden Lamp Awards.

The Association of Educational Publishers (AEP) presents the Golden Lamp Award each year to just four recipients–those judged to be the "best of the best" in four categories: Periodicals, Books, Technology, and Instructional Materials.

Publishing professionals, educators, and librarians recognize winners as providing the most outstanding materials for learning," according to AEP officials, who call the Golden Lamp Award the "most prestigious award in the field of educational publishing."

The Golden Lamp Awards are in their 40th year. Each entry is judged not only on the quality of its content and design but also on the extent to which it fulfills its educational mission. A total of 125 entries were submitted for judging in the 2007 awards, including 38 in the Technology category. Winners will be announced June 12, 2007 at the AEP´s Awards Banquet and Gala in Washington, D.C.

"We are delighted that Orchard Gold Star received this level of distinction," said Bill Edwards, President of Siboney Learning Group. "Orchard is a superior product, and to have it recognized as such by industry peers and experts is very gratifying, especially considering the quality of products entered in the AEP awards competition."

Orchard´s selection as a 2007 Golden Lamp Award finalist is the most recent in a growing list of accolades. Orchard Gold Star was also chosen as a "Best Education Solution" finalist in the 2007 SIIA CODiE Awards. Honors in previous years include 2005 Eddie Awards in language arts and math from ComputED Learning Center and a 2003 AEP Distinguished Achievement Award for Excellence in Educational Publishing for Orchard math programs.
About the Association of Educational Publishers
Founded in 1895, the Association of Educational Publishers (AEP) is a non-profit organization devoted to serving and advancing the supplemental educational publishing industry through research and information, market opportunities, government relations, professional development and networking events. With the rapid growth of new educational technologies, AEP members are at the forefront of delivering progressive educational products and services that address individual learning needs and differences. For more information, visit AEP online at www.aepweb.org.

About Orchard Software
Orchard Software provides standards-based assessments and automatic targeted assignments. With more than 150 Skill Trees covering over 5,000 lessons, Orchard is designed to ensure that students are working on the specific skills they need in order to master the challenging academic standards and learning objectives established by their school districts. To learn more, go to www.orchardsoftware.com.

About Siboney Learning Group
Siboney Learning Group is a dynamic developer, publisher, integrator, and provider of comprehensive and motivational educational software. Orchard is one of several product lines offered by Siboney, including Educational Activities Software, Journey, and Gamco. For more information, go to www.siboneylearninggroup.com.

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KHQ-DT Selects Broadcast Pix Slate 2100 Live TV Production System to Produce ?Weather Plus Updates´ for DTV and Web Broadcasts

BURLINGTON, Massachusetts (April 10, 2007) Broadcast Pix? Inc. today announced that KHQ-DT, the NBC affiliate in Spokane, Washington, is using its Slate? 2100 live television production system for single-operator production of the station´s "Weather Plus Updates." The weather report is broadcast daily on its DTV channel 6-2; carried locally by Comcast Cablevision, and available from the station´s Web site, www.khq.com. The updates are also fed to two other Central Washington stations owned by KHQ?KNDO-DT in Yakima and KNDU-DT in Kennewick?for broadcast on their DTV secondary channels and Web sites. All three stations rely on the Slate 2100 system´s performance when producing the updates since the weather can change rapidly and dramatically throughout the region.

The Broadcast Pix Slate 2100 system integrates a production switcher, production control panel, Inscriber CG, transitional effects, chromakeyer, clip store, and multi-view monitoring, among other functions, in a single workstation-based system. The system can be operated with a production switcher-style control panel or by using a keyboard and mouse interface. In addition to the Slate 2100 system´s integrated design, KHQ found the system´s compact footprint ideal for its situation. The Slate 1000, installed in late 2006, now serves as the centerpiece for a new space called Production Control 2.

"During the first year that we produced Weather Plus Updates, we had been using our main production control room," said Doug Miles, KHQ´s production manager. "We soon found that sharing these resources with the other daily productions that needed to be done from the same rooms made things logistically difficult. Our Weather Plus Updates were tying up the main control room and studio for about five hours a day, and we didn´t always have the rooms available to take Weather Plus Updates live in severe weather emergencies. Since Production Control 2 is extremely space-challenged, it was critical to have an integrated production switcher that could be managed entirely by a single operator, as opposed to our main production control room which requires a director, technical director, and audio person."

Weather Plus Updates are polished TV weather reports formatted as two or four-minute recorded segments and updated seven times a day using the Slate 2100 platform. A KHQ meteorologist provides the latest weather forecast illustrated by satellite and Doppler radar maps, 3D animated weather maps, as well as live video shots showing current weather conditions. The video plays inside a window that´s bordered by an "L-Bar" graphic that displays the humidity, time, and temperature in the left-hand vertical bar, and icons for the six day forecast along the horizontal bar underneath the video.

Another feature that empowers a single operator to manage every aspect of a video production is Scripts, a companion software to the Broadcast Pix system that automates program execution, including chromakeys, camera takes, dissolves, and graphics and other roll-ins.

"With Scripts, the Slate 2100 remembers all your button pushes from start to finish as you go through your show?which cameras to take, which lower third supers to display, and rolling in any video and music elements. Then in subsequent production run-throughs, it can automatically recall all of those moves in their precise order," said Miles. "All the operator has to do is push a button and cue the talent. This feature can store the settings for several different show formats, which will be useful should we expand our ´Updates´ programming in the future."

Formerly a newsroom edit suite, Production Control 2 is a six by six foot space adjacent to an auxiliary set dedicated to producing Weather Plus Updates, as well as news and elections updates. The studio, which is equipped with several four Panasonic robotic cameras, has a green screen chromakey wall for keying weather graphics generated by a WSI weather graphics presentation system.

While the Slate 2100 packs the functionality of an entire television production control room in a single box, KHQ chose to supplement it with two large Sony flat screen color monitors for program and preview displays; as well as a small Tascam audio board, MP3 player for music beds, and an Avid Airspeed playout server for bringing video roll-ins into the system. The operator can also route two or more sources from anywhere in the station, such as a live video shot from a field camera.

About KHQ-DT

Located in Spokane, Washington, KHQ-DT is an NBC affiliate owned by Coles Company which airs programming daily in both HDTV and SDTV. KHQ produces a two-hour live morning show from 5 a.m. to 7 a.m., as well as live newscasts at 5 p.m., 6 p.m., 9 p.m., and 11 p.m. Also, at 10 p.m., KHQ´s news department produces the live 10 p.m. newscast for KAYU, the local FOX affiliate, from KHQ´s main studio and control room. The station also offers regular news and weather updates on its DTV secondary channel 6-2, which is carried by Comcast Cablevision in Spokane on its Channel 115, as well as via video on demand at its Web site, www.khq.com

About Broadcast Pix Broadcast Pix is the leader in integrating switcher and computer technology to provide live television production systems. These are more powerful, easier to use, and much more cost effective than a traditional control room of individual components, yet retain a fast action human interface and robustness. Broadcast Pix switchers enable a single operator to create engaging live video, yet gracefully adds operators on its network when desired. It is the only switcher that can be controlled remotely over the Internet. Broadcast Pix is based in Burlington, Massachusetts, with offices in California and Europe. Customers include leading broadcast, cable, corporate, education, entertainment, mobile, faith and government studios. For more information on Broadcast Pix, go to www.broadcastpix.com.

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3M is looking for some good teacher stories and we know you have them!

3M is looking for some good teacher stories and we know you have them! Send us your strangest, funniest and most unbelievable stories of what has happened in your classroom and you might win a 3M™ Digital Media System 815. Click on the link below for the application form and all of the details.

http://solutions.3m.com/wps/portal/3M/en_US/Meetings/Home/Edu_Network/Edu_Network/OffTheWall?WT.ac=OffTheWall

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Teachers — Show off your best work and you might win a free trip to attend the 2007 National Education Computing Conference in Atlanta.

Teachers — Show off your best work and you might win a free trip to attend the 2007 National Education Computing Conference in Atlanta. Submit your best example of an interactive lesson plan or tell us how the 3M? Digital Media System 800 or 815 has helped in your classroom. Click on the link below for the full details.

http://solutions.3m.com

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Wanted: Single standard for open-content licenses

The use of open, sharable course materials is transforming education worldwide: Educators across the globe are taking open digital content items and repurposing them for their own classrooms; universities in Vietnam have begun translating materials available through MIT’s OpenCourseWare program; and in Japan, leading universities have come together and agreed to make much of their courseware open as well. (See “Web fuels ‘democratization’ of knowledge.”)

But this movement toward open course materials for education has created something of a problem. Although a vast number of repositories have been set up to allow users to download sharable content, many of these sites contain materials that use different licensing agreements. This poses a challenge for educators looking to combine material from different repositories into a single presentation or piece of work.

“Some sites are completely unclear as to the terms under which the material is licensed,” says James Boyle, a professor at Duke University Law School. “Some have no clear policy, some have quite restrictive policies, and some have created their own licenses.”

As an example, Boyle cited two different licensing structures: the GNU Free Documentation License, which governs the use of materials such as the free internet encyclopedia Wikipedia, and the Creative Commons licenses, which control the use of more than 200 million digital objects posted online by authors, scientists, artists, and educators who want to share their works, and others’, without fear of copyright infringement. (MIT’s pioneering OpenCourseWare project uses one of Creative Commons’ several licensing agreements.)

The GNU Free Documentation License “has some interoperability problems with Creative Commons licenses,” said Boyle. “It’s not clear if you can take material from Wikipedia and material from a Creative Commons site and put them together to make something new out of it.”

Now, a new initiative from the nonprofit Creative Commons aims to solve this problem. Called CC Learn, the project seeks to create a single, standard licensing framework that can encompass all open educational resources (OERs).

CC Learn aims to do for the licensing of OERs what the Sharable Content Object Reference Model, or SCORM, has done for the interoperability and accessibility of such objects. (See “Gathering SCORM could transform eLearning.”)

Currently, educators looking to combine materials available in these OER repositories must either ask the repositories what their licenses allow and prohibit, or look through these licenses themselves. Some licenses might allow users to combine materials with items covered under another license, while others might not. The people behind CC Learn are trying to make this process easier and ensure that all open educational materials can be combined.

“If the intent is to make … educational materials openly available, those materials ought to be able to be combined with others from different repositories,” said Michael Carroll, associate professor of law at Villanova University Law School and a member of the steering committee for CC Learn. “There ought to be a global commons of educational materials, and that can only work if the license terms are standardized. Part of the idea is to get folks who want to share their educational material to use a public license that makes users aware of what their rights are.”

CC Learn is not advocating that all OERs use the same licensing agreement; instead, the group will initiate discussions among educators and repositories about how to create some sort of standard framework when it comes to licensing. By creating a certain standard, or common language, for OER licenses, it will be much easier for educators to create projects using materials that are covered under various licenses, the group says. As a result, CC Learn hopes to see an educator be able to take a spreadsheet from OpenCourseWare and a video from Rice University’s Connexions and use them both in a project, for example. (See “Rice builds body of knowledge.”)

“The goal has to be whatever kind of license you use, it works easily and in a simple way with another, so you know what you can do and what you can’t do,” said Boyle, who also is on the steering committee for CC Learn. “We haven’t gotten there yet. That’s the most important task of CC Learn.”

Besides creating some sort of common framework among the different licensing organizations and repositories, CC Learn aims to reach educators not familiar with Creative Commons or other licenses to get the word out about licensing their works so they are free of copyright obstacles. The group’s effort has the potential to open up millions of other documents and multimedia materials to schools and people around the world, Boyle said.

“I expect CC licensing in educational settings to radically reduce the cost of education around the world, resulting in a major reduction of problems associated with the digital divide,” said Jimmy Wales, founder of Wikipedia and another member of the CC Learn steering committee.

CC Learn hopes to begin its work in earnest this summer; as of press time, the initiative was too new even to have its own web page. The group also has not set a timetable for reaching its objectives.

“The No. 1 goal here is to break down barriers between sites and make the materials that are supposedly open educational resources open,” concluded Boyle. “We’re the kind of people who are nudging people toward openness.”

Links:

Creative Commons

http://creativecommons.org

“Web fuels ‘democratization’ of knowledge” (eSN Online, March 2007)
http://www.eschoolnews.com/news/showStory.cfm?ArticleID=6958

“Open content learning portal debuts” (eSN Online, March 2007)

http://www.eschoolnews.com/news/showStory.cfm?ArticleID=6937

“Curriki offers new world of course content” (eSN Online, January 2007)

http://www.eschoolnews.com/news/showStory.cfm?ArticleID=6787

“Rice builds body of knowledge” (eSN Online, July 2006)
http://www.eschoolnews.com/news/showStory.cfm?ArticleID=6380

“Gathering SCORM could transform eLearning” (eSN Online, April 2006)
http://www.eschoolnews.com/news/showStory.cfm?ArticleID=6249

“New site aims to help students, educators find royalty-free works” (eSN Online, May 2002)

http://www.eschoolnews.com/news/showStory.cfm?ArticleID=3727

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ED official cited in student-loan probe

A scandal involving the student loan industry is shaking up financial aid offices in colleges and universities throughout the country and might claim a federal Education Department (ED) official, too. The scandal serves as a harsh reminder to school administrators and technology directors everywhere of the dangers posed by potential conflicts of interest in dealings with education vendors.

New York Attorney General Andrew Cuomo started looking into the lucrative, $85 billion college loan industry shortly after his election in November. Cuomo’s investigators say they have found numerous arrangements that benefited schools and lenders at the expense of students. In some cases, investigators said, lenders provided all-expense-paid trips to exotic locations for college financial aid officers who directed students to the lenders.

On April 5, it was revealed that Matteo Fontana, the ED official who oversees all lenders and guarantee agencies that participate in the Federal Family Education Loan Program, owned about $100,000 worth of stock in a student loan company caught up in Cuomo’s probe.

A September 2003 filing with the Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC) shows Fontana held at least 10,500 shares of Education Lending Group Inc., the former parent company of Student Loan Xpress. The shares were valued at around $9.50 each at the time, according to Cuomo’s office.

Student Loan Xpress is now part of CIT Group Inc., one of several lenders targeted in Cuomo’s probe.

Fontana joined ED in November 2002, according to Higher Ed Watch, a part of the New America Foundation, which first reported his involvement with Education Lending Group. It was unclear whether Fontana told agency officials of his ownership in the stock before he sold it in 2003.

Fontana was placed on paid leave following the revelation, department spokeswoman Katherine McLane said April 6. The case has been referred to the department’s inspector general, John Higgins, who will determine whether Fontana violated ED’s conflict-of-interest rules.

Also on April 5, the University of Texas (UT) put its financial officer, Lawrence Burt, on paid leave and the University of Southern California (USC) did the same with its financial aid officer, Catherine Thomas. Columbia University had already placed its associate dean of student affairs, David Charlow, on leave while it investigates Cuomo’s claims.

SEC records show Charlow owned 7,500 shares of Education Lending Group’s stock and owned 2,500 stock warrants at the time of the stock prospectus. Cuomo’s office said Charlow sold the 7,500 shares for about $9.50 each and in 2005 sold more of the securities for a total profit of more than $100,000.

Investigators said Charlow bought the securities for $1 a share in 2001. Cuomo’s office believes others also got similar deals.

On April 5, Columbia University said it removed Student Loan Xpress from its list of preferred lenders and believes Charlow was the only official at the school who owned stock in Student Loan Xpress’ parent company.

SEC records also show Thomas and Burt each owned 1,500 shares in the company.

Burt denied any financial arrangement between either himself or UT and the company and said his previous ownership of the shares had no connection to Student Loan Xpress’ position on UT’s preferred lender list. Burt sold the stock in 2003, he said. Based on the stock’s price of $9.50 per share at the time of the sale, Burt made a little more than $14,000.

ED spokeswoman McLane also said Education Secretary Margaret Spellings has asked for Burt to resign from the department’s Advisory Committee on Student Financial Assistance. That panel provides guidance to Congress and the education secretary on student financial aid policy.

Cuomo’s office issued a subpoena last week to the New Jersey-based CIT seeking information about stock transactions between Student Loan Xpress and financial aid officers at Columbia, UT, and USC.

CIT said it acquired Education Lending Group in 2005, after the stock transactions took place.

“The reported transactions in securities of that company occurred several years prior to CIT’s acquisition of the company,” CIT said in a statement. “We are currently seeking to determine the facts surrounding those transactions.”

Cuomo spokesman John Milgrim said the subpoenas “clearly cover” all stock transactions between CIT and college officials.

Earlier on April 5, The Associated Press reported that John Ryan, chancellor of the 64-campus State University of New York system, serves on CIT’s board of directors.

Ryan, who announced last month that he will step down at the end of May, has been a director at CIT since July 2003, according to the company’s web site. A company SEC filing shows Ryan earned about $146,000 last year in cash, stock, and options for his service on the CIT board. He is paid $340,000 a year as chancellor.

Student Loan Xpress is also listed as a preferred lender at SUNY Maritime College, where Ryan served as president after retiring from the Navy and the Naval Academy in 2002.

“The chancellor stands by his service on the board of the CIT Group, an approved outside activity, for which he received state Ethics Commission permission on July 2, 2003, while he was at SUNY Maritime, and July 20, 2005,” SUNY spokesman David Henahan said in a statement.

Cuomo’s office is investigating several other lenders, including the nation’s largest student-loan provider, SLM Corp.–commonly known as Sallie Mae. Others include Nelnet Inc., Education Finance Partners Inc., EduCap Inc., and the College Board. Citibank on April 3 agreed to put $2 million toward a national fund that would educate students and parents about the financial aid industry and is no longer being investigated by Cuomo.

Links:

New York attorney general’s office

http://www.oag.state.ny.us

CIT Group Inc.

http://www.citgroup.com

New America Foundation

http://www.newamerica.net

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A closer look at the report’s findings

"Effectiveness of Reading and Mathematics Software Products," a $10 million research study overseen by the U.S. Department of Education, suggests that using certain educational software programs to help teach reading and math did not lead to higher test scores after a year of implementation.
The study set out to examine the effectiveness of 15 classroom software programs in four categories: early reading (first grade); reading comprehension (fourth grade); pre-algebra (sixth grade); and algebra (ninth grade). Here’s a closer look at the study’s findings.

The first-grade study was based on five reading software products that were implemented in 11 districts and 43 schools. The sample included 158 teachers and 2,619 students. The five products were Destination Reading (published by Riverdeep), the Waterford Early Reading Program (published by Pearson Digital Learning), Headsprout (published by Headsprout), Plato Focus (published by Plato Learning), and the Academy of Reading (published by Autoskill). The study estimated the average licensing fees for the products to be about $100 a student for the school year, with a range of $53 to $124.

According to records maintained by the software, usage by individual students averaged about 30 hours a year, which the study estimated to be about 11 percent of reading instructional time. Some control group teachers used technology-based reading products that were not in the study, though these teachers reported using software about a fifth as frequently as treatment teachers reported using the products in the study.

First-grade reading products did not affect test scores by amounts that were statistically different from zero, according to the report. But researchers observed large differences in the effects among schools–and effects were larger when schools had smaller class sizes.

The fourth-grade study included four reading products that were implemented in nine districts and 43 schools. The sample included 118 teachers and 2,265 students. The four products were the Leaptrack Assessment System (published by LeapFrog SchoolHouse), Read 180 (published by Scholastic), Academy of Reading (published by Autoskill), and KnowledgeBox (published by Pearson Digital Learning). The study estimated the average licensing fees for the products to be about $96 per student for the school year, with a range of $18 to $184.

Annual usage by students for the two fourth-grade products that collected this measure in their databases was seven hours for one product and 20 for the other. Assuming a typical reading instruction period was 90 minutes, students used these products for less than 10 percent of the total reading instructional time, according to the report. The fourth-grade reading products did not affect test scores by amounts that were statistically different from zero–though effects were larger when teachers reported higher levels of product use.

The sixth-grade study included three products that were implemented in 10 districts and 28 schools. The sample included 81 teachers and 3,136 students. The three products were Larson Pre-Algebra (published by Houghton-Mifflin), Achieve Now (published by Plato Learning), and iLearn Math (published by iLearn). The study estimated the average licensing fees for the products to be about $18 per student for the school year, with a range of $9 to $30.

Student usage was about 17 hours a year, or about 11 percent of math instructional time, according to data from product records (available for two of the three products). The products did not affect test scores by amounts that were statistically different from zero.

The ninth-grade algebra study included three products that were implemented in 10 districts and 23 schools. The sample included 69 classrooms and 1,404 students. The three products were Cognitive Tutor Algebra (published by Carnegie Learning), Plato Algebra (published by Plato Learning), and Larson Algebra (published by Houghton-Mifflin). The study estimated the average licensing fees for the products to be about $15 per student for the school year, with a range of $7 to $30.

Product records showed that student usage was 15 hours for the overall sample, equivalent to about 10 percent of math instructional time. Usage averaged 5 to 28 hours, depending on the product. As with the other products studied, algebra products did not affect test scores by amounts that were statistically different from zero.

Minor technical difficulties, such as issues with students logging in or computers locking up, were fairly common throughout the study. However, most of those problems were easily corrected or worked around, according to the report.

When asked whether they would use the products again, nearly all teachers indicated that they would.

The report detailed the effectiveness of the products as a group and did not review the performance of particular programs. That was a point of contention among some critics of the research, and the Education Department says it will publish details about each program’s effectiveness after the second year of the study. (See "Delays, designs diminish ed-tech research": http://www.eschoolnews.com/news/showStory.cfm?ArticleID=6927.)
Congress called for a study on the effect of educational technology in the 2002 No Child Left Behind law, which aims to get all students reading and doing math on grade level.

Links:

"Effectiveness of Reading and Mathematics Software Products: Findings from the First Student Cohort"

http://ies.ed.gov/ncee/pubs/20074005/

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Software industry reacts to ed-tech study

The Software & Information Industry Association (SIIA), the principal association of the software and digital content industry, released the following statement in reaction to the Education Department’s school software study:

"As this study recognizes, proper implementation of education software is essential for success. Unfortunately, it appears the study itself may not have adequately accounted for this key factor, leading to results that do not accurately represent the role and impact of technology in education.

"A strong body of research demonstrates that implementation is crucial to the success of any technology. Whether a given school experiences the full benefits of a software application depends just as much on the planning, teacher training, school leadership, technology infrastructure, support, and technology use as it does [on] the technology itself.

"There are questions about whether these issues were adequately addressed in this study. SIIA has learned of a number of concerns, including unmotivated teachers, inappropriate match of technology design to local curriculum, inadequate student time on task, and resistance from districts about providing product training. It is also well recognized that year one of a technology implementation is too early to draw conclusions. Time is needed for teachers to be trained and gain comfort in adjusting their lessons.

"In recognition of this fact, SIIA provides a checklist for K-12 educators, providing specific guidelines to help facilitate the process (available at http://www.siia.net). SIIA will soon release a more extensive guide. Unfortunately, many of these well-recognized, key ingredients were missing in the study.

"SIIA, along with many educators and other stakeholders, is working hard to realize the potential of technology in our nation’s classrooms. The question is not if–but how, what, and under what conditions–technology is most appropriate and effective to meet the needs of students in this knowledge-based, global, digital economy. As the study indicates, the large majority of [participating] teachers said they would like to continue to use the products. SIIA believes success is being achieved.

"This study does not diminish the critical role that technology plays as an essential skill set for the 21st century, nor does it diminish the need to invest in modernizing our classrooms and curriculum to empower our students to achieve in the knowledge-based economy of the future.

"SIIA encourages members and educators to carefully examine the results of the ‘National Study of Educational Technology Interventions’ and to consider the positive effect that proper implementation would have on this study’s results. SIIA looks forward to working with the U.S. Department of Education and other stakeholders to refine the use of technology and the means for its evaluation."

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