Purdue puts emergency texting to the test

4 percent of the messages in Purdue's test weren't delivered.

With some 50 or so companies now marketing emergency text-messaging systems to schools and colleges in the wake of the Virginia Tech shootings last April, campus safety officials have been deluged with promises about how well these systems are able to get the word out quickly in the event of an emergency. But there has been little independent research to corroborate these claims—until now.

On September 24, researchers at Purdue University conducted an experiment to test the speed and reliability of text messaging as a form of emergency communication. They found that text messaging performed well overall, with fewer than 4 percent of messages failing to reach their intended target. Still, in a crisis situation, any failure to reach students or staff members can be critical.

Beginning at 11:25 a.m., the university sent 9,979 text messages to volunteers who signed up for the experiment. Volunteers were asked to reply as soon as they got the message. The text of the message read: “This is a TEST of the Purdue emergency notification system. In a real emergency, check www.purdue.edu for details.”

As of 6 p.m. on Sept. 24, researchers had received replies from 5,741 of the text-message recipients, with 2,915 replying within the first 10 minutes after the message was sent. Scott Ksander, Purdue’s executive director of information technology networks and security, said officials are talking with people who said they either did not reply to the text message, or never received it, to find out what happened.

Ksander said he knows of only 364 text messages that were not delivered.

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About IQinVision

IQinVision has been designing, manufacturing andmarketing the IQeye line of smart cameras and megapixel network camerassince 1998. We have received numerous industry awards for products andcustomer service and continue to win competitions against other CCTVand Network cameras for picture quality, network stability andlow-light performance.

The IQeye’s incredible megapixelresolution eliminates the guess work of Security by clearly identifyingfaces, facts, and features. They can also utilize your existing ITnetwork, storage and servers and can cover a large area withfewer cameras, so you can replace unreliable mechanical pan/tilt/zoomcameras or multiple CCTV/non-megapixel cameras with a single IQeye. This makes deploying a megapixel system up to 40% less expensive than anon-megapixel system so you remain within budget.

EveryIQeye is equipped with on-camera bandwidth and storage managementfeatures that give IT Professionals complete control so there are nosurprises. The IQeye can be used as a stand-alone, on-camera recordingsystem or integrated into a larger system with popular Network VideoRecording Software. Because the cameras are IP based, they can beeasily relocated and accessed from anywhere in the world using a simplebrowser.

IQinVision is privately held and headquartered inCalifornia with regional offices in Pennsylvania and Utrecht,Netherlands. The company’s products are available as IQeye-branded,private-labeled and custom OEM models. IQinVision’s management iscommitted to exceeding the expectations of its partners and customers.

For more information, visit the IQinVision website at www.iqeye.com.

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About American Education Corporation (AEC)

About American Education Corporation (AEC)

The American Education Corporation (AEC) is a leading provider of e-learning instruction for K–12 and adult learners, offering reading, language arts, process writing, mathematics, science, social studies, electives, world languages, and AP® courses. AEC’s learning activities are correlated to national and state learning standards and state tests. They include formative assessment, remediation, and reporting tools. Additionally, AEC provides assessment testing and instructional content for the GED® test. With over 5,200 study hours and over 200,000 pages of content of objective-based, problem-solving courseware, plus assessment, alignment, and curriculum management tools, AEC offers standards-based curriculum content that facilitates learning and school improvement.

American Education Corporation software is currently in use in over 14,000 public and private K-12 schools, charter schools, colleges, correctional institutions, centers of adult literacy, military education programs, and after-school learning programs and is delivered through a local area network (LAN), a wide area network (WAN), or the Internet.

American Education Corporation is headquartered at 7506 N. Broadway Extension, Oklahoma City, OK 73116. The Company has distribution offices throughout the United States, Asia, Puerto Rico, and the United Kingdom.

For more information, please visit www.amered.com.

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Smithsonian debuts ‘virtual museum’

The Smithsonian Institution’s new museum dedicated to black history and culture launched Sept. 26 with an interactive web site–long before its building opens for visitors on the National Mall.

Social-networking technology donated by IBM Corp. will allow visitors to help produce content for future exhibits at the National Museum of African American History and Culture. Almost anything is fair game–long essays, short vignettes of memories, or recorded oral histories. The museum plans to add video capabilities in the future.

“The culture of the African American experience … is too important to wait five or 10 years until the building is open,” said Lonnie Bunch, the museum’s founding director. “I wanted people to know that from the day I was hired, this museum exists.”

Museum staff will monitor the site for historical accuracy, and technical filters will block racist or inappropriate comments, said Bunch, adding that the site is really a “virtual museum” and a new source of research for curators, scholars, and students.

Museum officials began thinking about launching the web site during an explosion in the popularity of social-networking sites such as MySpace and Facebook. That’s when Bunch and IBM Chairman Samuel Palmisano, who sits on the museum’s advisory board, got to talking. IBM eventually agreed to donate $1 million worth of hardware, software, and services to build the site.

“The museum thought, ‘Let’s harness this. Let’s build a social network that brings together people interested in the African American experience … all those people that are your visitors but who have great stories to tell,” said John Tolva, IBM’s senior manager for cultural programs.

One of the first contributions came from Michael Lomax, president of the United Negro College Fund and a member of the museum’s board. Lomax recalls when, at age 13, his mother moved him and his five brothers and sisters from Los Angeles to Tuskegee, Ala., to cover the civil-rights movement for Nation magazine. He submitted a story his mother wrote for the magazine, called “Journey to the Beginning,” which recounted his family’s encounter with the South in 1961.

“We traveled at first by automobile, and then our car broke down and we had to … travel by Greyhound bus from Arizona to Alabama. We thought of it as our family freedom ride,” Lomax told The Associated Press. “My mother was a writer accustomed to the privileges of the journalist. We found ourselves in a position where we no longer had privilege. We were being segregated, and we tried to stand up to it and were almost arrested.”

Lomax said everyone thought his mother was crazy to take her children to Alabama as a single mother during segregation. He said it was “horrifying and exhilarating at the same time” and an experience that changed his life.

Organizers said they hope people of all ages and backgrounds will post messages on the site.

“You’ve got the sort of historical materials on major people and major moments linked directly to the kind of bottom-up recollections of common folk,” Tolva said. “You can link, visually depict, how your memory relates to the other kind of grand narratives of African American history–the narratives of civil rights, Frederick Douglass, and W.E.B. DuBois.”

The museum announced a similar partnership in February with the Corporation for Public Broadcasting, with hopes of recording about 2,000 oral histories from black families over the next year, to be placed in the museum’s archives. The StoryCorps Griot project has been traveling across the country to collect recordings.

By opening the museum online, potential donors see that the museum is alive long before its estimated 2015 opening on the National Mall, said Bunch, who is working to raise half the museum’s $500 million cost, with Congress providing the other half.

The museum is opening its first physical exhibit, “Let Your Motto Be Resistance,” in Washington, D.C., on Oct. 19 at the National Portrait Gallery. It traces 150 years of history through 100 photographs of well-known abolitionists, scholars, artists, and athletes who challenged negative attitudes about race and class.

Links:

National Museum of African American History and Culture

StoryCorps Griot project

IBM Community Relations

National Portrait Gallery’s upcoming exhibits

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Beyond remediation

The 3,750-student Sikeston School District in Sikeston, Mo., counts as one of its 10 schools an alternative school that was using an online courseware program from American Education Corporation (AEC) to help struggling learners improve their academic performance.

My team and I were intrigued by the capabilities of AEC’s A+nyWhere Learning System courseware program. We liked the program’s competencies, and its adaptive nature; we liked that it would give each student an education prescription. But, initially, the product mostly lay dormant, because we didn’t take full advantage of the service available from the vendor to help us implement it.

Discovering the courseware’s potential

We were invited to a local meeting by the software developer, AEC. When they showed us what we had, it wasn’t long before our use of the program took off. The alternative school staff saw the courseware’s potential, invested more time in professional development, and it started growing. School leaders started a train-the-trainers program, which further fueled the program’s use: The more the teachers used it, the more they understood the program’s potential.

The A+nyWhere Learning System (A+LS) is an eLearning solution that consists of an instructional management system supported by core curriculum content for grades K-12. It can be delivered through a local-area network, a wide-area network, or the internet. Our district’s alternative school used the A+LS courseware program’s research-based curriculum content in the subject areas of reading, mathematics, language arts, science, writing, and social sciences.

The assessment component of the A+LS courseware program was a good fit for our alternative school teachers’ needs. The courseware contains more than 130,000 assessment items intended to determine whether students have mastered specific skills. Tools like Course Assessments allow teachers to obtain comprehensive evaluations of the skills taught in any A+LS title, while the program’s Adaptive Assessments generate tests “on the fly,” selecting test items based on the skills that need to be tested. Teachers can create their own tests, and each lesson in the system includes a mini-test.

We really liked that A+LS writes the prescription for each student. If students don’t understand a concept, the program will take them back to an easier problem and let them work their way back up through the system. It also engages students, because it has enough graphics and rewards to keep students motivated.

Teachers can use the system to track students’ performance and get immediate feedback to see if they are improving. Our alternative school saw student performance increase in as little as 20 days.

When we saw the product’s potential, we brought it into our vocational school and high school as well. We’d had a tutorial program where we paid teachers to come in and help the students. The program just died–even with funding–because there was no courseware to supplement it. Once we brought the A+LS courseware program into our high school, however, it was a tremendous success. We liked it so much that we dedicated a whole class to it. It’s already been a success with our seventh and eighth graders, and we plan to offer the class to fifth and sixth graders next year.

A new teaching opportunity opens

As our teachers and students embraced the A+LS program’s ability to get kids back on track and beyond, another unexpected scenario manifested itself.

Our primary uses of the A+LS courseware at that time were for tutoring and remediation. But we also had an accelerated gifted math student, and we wanted new ways to engage his thirst for knowledge. We put him on the A+LS system, and he ate it up.

This encouraged us to look at the A+LS courseware in new ways. Teachers saw that it was not just for remediation; there was some challenging content in the program, too. They began using it in other ways, such as for credit recovery, summer school courses, and ACT preparation.

Our teachers discovered that the A+LS courseware program offered many open-ended questions, including higher-level math. It also could help us prepare students for the state’s new end-of-the-year course exams.

In practical terms, we used A+LS to construct a core competency test. If students are not “proficient,” there will be an A+LS prescription they can go through to prepare them for that core competency skill. We can pull out competencies that are covered in a specific subject, and we can make sure these match the GLEs for that grade level. A feature called the A+ District Driven Assessment lets us take a “snapshot” of school performance at any time during the school year.

The A+nyWhere Learning System courseware program aligns with Missouri state standards. An alignment tool within A+LS provides the means to add further instructional materials, such as textbooks with various content standards. The program’s assessments test students on specific learning objectives defined by any standard chosen by the school or district. This gives our educators the capability to assign students, individually or in groups, any instructional content easily.

Teachers like that they can pull up data to see how well students are doing. The A+LS courseware helps us determine which learning program is best for each age group.
That includes using the system for a new GED program for students ages 16 through adult.

A very rewarding outcome of this program is the change we have seen in student confidence. Some students come into the program and can’t read. They think they’ll never be able to read. When they see the data from the A+LS courseware, they can see where they were and how far they’ve come. They see their effort is paying off.

I believe that ongoing service by the provider, AEC, was critical to helping our district discover the product’s full potential. This service helped us take a program with great potential because of its capabilities, and implement it fully for positive results.

Larry Bohannon is assistant superintendent of the Sikeston School District in Sikeston, Mo.

Links:

Sikeston School District

American Education Corporation

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Web offerings spread in ‘battle for desktop’

If any doubt still lingers that popular computing is experiencing yet another fundamental realignment, the skepticism is likely to be erased by the latest salvos in the “battle for the desktop.”

In fairly rapid succession, high-profile companies such as Apple, Google, IBM, Microsoft, SAP, Sun Microsystems, and Yahoo have been rolling out products for personal and business computing that aggressively seek to take greater advantage of the internet to transform how applications are delivered.

The products vary, from online word processors and communication packages to database management, document sharing, and other forms of over-the-web collaboration. But a common goal is to get a leg up on competitors by offering impressive electronic capabilities in the form of web-based software and services, rather than through individual applications like those that most users have long been accustomed to purchasing, installing, and running from the desktop.

While the new focus on internet applications has already has made great inroads in the business world, so far it has received much less attention in education. If history is any guide, however, where businesses go, schools often follow–at least for the potential financial benefits.

The basic idea is to provide more and better computer action for less money, and it’s all taking hold nearly 25 years after John Gage, Sun’s chief researcher, coined the prophetic expression, “The network is the computer.” Today, however, advances in technology are proving to be more catalytic than ever before, and the internet in particular is facilitating change at a stunning pace.

Often called “software as a service,” or SaaS, the new emphasis on internet-based options is expected to become increasingly popular over the next several years. Already, according to the technology research company Gartner Inc., worldwide revenue for SaaS software will top $5.1 billion this year, for a one-year gain of 21 percent.

Robert DeSisto, a Gartner vice president, predicts that SaaS will grow “seven times faster than on-premise software deployments during the next three years.” By 2011, Gartner projects, one-fourth of all new business software will be delivered as a web-based service, with more than half of all software vendors offering it in some form.

As is generally the case with the adoption of new technology, businesses are well ahead of educational institutions in switching to SaaS, DeSisto notes, although the approach has been gradually gaining ground in colleges and universities, where some operations tend to parallel those of the business world.

How quickly elementary and secondary schools may join the web-services bandwagon is hard to tell. But DeSisto says one of the trend’s key advantages is that money for SaaS software can be taken from operating budgets, rather than from capital funds–a factor that could become increasingly persuasive in financially strapped school districts.

But a deeply embedded attachment to desktop applications in both schools and colleges is likely to impede education’s early transition to software as a service, says Kenneth C. Green, founding director of the Campus Computing Project.

In higher education, “it’s going to be slow because it’s a cultural shift,” Green explains. He maintains that SaaS can work well “if you really control the box,” but that with a high degree of student and faculty mobility, many educational institutions may not be inclined or able to cede such control by switching to a web-based approach–except, perhaps, for eMail services.

Green adds that the widespread practice of site-license discounting for software in education will work against rapid SaaS adoption.

In many schools, moreover, the option of replacing familiar desktop applications that have a long history–in terms of usage and expenditures–may seem impractical. School officials’ reluctance to change technologies midstream has been underscored lately by a widespread failure to switch operating systems from Microsoft’s Windows XP to the newer Vista system.

All the same, as software producers jockey for strategic advantage in the expanding battle for desktop influence, some of the key developments are occurring at the largest tech companies. Long-time rivals Microsoft and Apple, for example, are widely expected to introduce operating systems in the next couple of years that take much greater account of the internet.

Microsoft is already offering a free software suite dubbed “Windows Live,” which the company describes as “a new set of services that brings your online world together.”
Components include desktop and web searching, blog creation, voice communication, photo sharing, and computer security.

At the search-engine giant Google, meanwhile, developers have extended the reach of the company’s relatively new online office suite to include a business presentation tool that is clearly intended to compete with Microsoft’s long-popular PowerPoint. Google also has been pitching a “Google Apps” education edition, which includes free tools for communication, collaboration, and publishing, along with eMail accounts “on your school’s domain.”

Google’s online suite for corporate customers got a boost recently from an endorsement by Capgemini, a Paris-based technology consulting firm with worldwide influence on companies’ software choices. Capgemini also will continue to support business software made by Microsoft, IBM, and other vendors.

Meanwhile, Google also has begun offering Sun’s open-source StarOffice package as part of its Google Pack software bundle. Among other reports from the desktop battlefield:

  • IBM has launched a direct assault on Microsoft’s venerable Office software by offering a free internet package called IBM Lotus Symphony, “a suite of free software tools for creating and sharing documents, spreadsheets, and presentations.”

  • SAP, the world’s largest provider of business software, has introduced “Business by Design,” a web-hosted business-management product aimed at customers with 100 to 500 employees.

  • Yahoo has purchased Zimbra, a startup company that provides web-based eMail and hosting services for businesses, universities, and internet service providers. Apparent targets of the $350 million deal: Google and Microsoft.

    The fact that Microsoft, the PC world’s pre-eminent superpower, is ratcheting up its focus on internet services is a telling sign of the times. So were reports this week that both Microsoft and Google, along with other potential investors, have been eyeing the three-year-old social-networking site Facebook.

    At Microsoft, which controls more than 90 percent of the PC operating-system market, leaders appear to have decided that the company’s dominance is at risk unless it moves more decisively into internet plays and the web-services domain. Microsoft’s Chief Executive Steve Ballmer reportedly told financial analysts in July that its future activities in software development would have to include not only the best features of desktop and office software, but also new web services and electronic devices.

    “Every piece of software–the basic core value in the way software gets created–will change in the next three, five, or 10 years,” Ballmer was quoted as saying, although he rejected the notion that the software industry would shift entirely to an internet model.

    Microsoft’s expanding interest in web-related services comes at a time when its overwhelming influence in the desktop realm has suffered a dramatic blow in Europe. In a major antitrust decision on Sept. 17 that is expected to affect tech companies throughout the world, the European Court of First Instance upheld a 2004 European Commission ruling that Microsoft improperly used its market dominance to crush software competitors.

    Legal questions aside, the internet’s growing appeal as a kind of software supermarket has reached a point where its future success, if not yet clearly defined, seems assured.

    Some of the thinking behind the transformation was described by Steve Mills, IBM’s senior vice president and leader of the IBM Software Group, in connection with the company’s announcement of its Symphony suite earlier this month.

    Noting that Symphony supports multiple file formats, including Microsoft Office and Open Document Format, Mills remarked: “The lifeblood of any organization is contained in thousands of documents. With the Open Document Format, businesses can unlock their information, making it universally accessible on any platform and on the web in highly flexible ways.”

    If ed-tech leaders and other school officials aren’t already paying close attention to analyses like that, they’re likely to be doing so soon.

    Links:

    Google Pack, including Sun’s StarOffice

    Google Apps for School

    IBM’s Symphony

    Microsoft’s Windows Live

    SAP’s Business by Design

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    Jacob K. Javits Fellowship Program

    The purpose of the Jacob K. Javits (JKJ) Fellowship Programis to award fellowships to eligible students of superior ability, selected onthe basis of demonstrated achievement, financial need, and exceptional promise,to undertake graduate study in specific fields in the arts, humanities, andsocial sciences leading to a doctoral degree or to a master’s degree in thosefields in which the master’s degree is the terminal highest degree awarded inthe selected field of study at accredited institutions of highereducation.

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    We the People Bookshelf

    The American Library Association’s (ALA) Public Programs Office (PPO) is pleasedto partner with the National Endowment for the Humanities (NEH) for the fifth “Wethe People” Bookshelf project. Part of the NEH’s “We the People”initiative, the Bookshelf is a grant program created to encourage young peopleto read and understand great literature while exploring themes in Americanhistory. This year’s theme is “CreatedEqual.” In spring 2008, NEH and ALA will select 3,000 libraries to receivethe “Created Equal” Bookshelf. Those selected will be required to usethe Bookshelf selections in programs for young readers in their communities.

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    Interwrite Learning and TeacherTube Video Contest

    Interwrite Learning,in partnership with TeacherTube, announces the company’s first video contest to recognize teachersand students for their creativity and use of technology in the classroom.Participants of the contest are asked to create a short music video parodyingthe song of their choice. The video should demonstrate how different kinds oftechnology are being used in the classroom. The contest is not limited to users of Interwrite Learning’s products ormembers of TeacherTube. It is open to all teachers and students who cancreatively show how they are using technology in the classroom or how theywould like to use technology in their classroom. One winner in each at the elementary, middle,and high school level will be announced.

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    NASA Engineering Design Challenge

    Register online to participate inthe NASA Engineering Design Challenge: Lunar Plant Growth Chamber. During the2007-2008 school year, K-12 students will design, analyze, build and assessplant growth chambers that could be used on the moon. Registrants will receivea packet of cinnamon basil seeds that flew on the STS-118 space shuttle missionand a control packet of seeds that have not flown. The two sets of seeds willbe used to evaluate the student-designed plant growth chamber. Sign up for theNASA Express listserv to receive eMail messages about the challenge, updates tothe challenge web site, and announcements about NASA education activities. The seeds will be available to the first100,000 registrants.

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