AVerVision Scholarship Program

This competition for outgoing high school seniors awards$5,000 to one senior entering an accredited four-year college oruniversity. High school seniors areasked to complete the scholarship application on AVerMedia’s web site, andprovide an official academic transcript, a professional resume, and letters ofrecommendation from two teachers, past or present. Applicants should also submit a one-pageessay describing how they have made a positive difference in social orenvironmental issues. The two teacherswho submit letters of recommendation for the winning student will receive a newAVerVision document camera.

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Bush vetoes education spending bill

Escalating his budget battle with a Democratic Congress, President Bush on Nov. 13 vetoed a spending measure for labor, health, and education programs that would have provided $63.6 billion for the U.S. Department of Education, a 5 percent increase over 2007 spending and 8 percent more than Bush had sought.

Included in the budget bill was $271 million in funding for educational technology, as well as $1.2 billion for career and technical education. Bush had proposed $600 million for the latter program and sought to kill the former entirely.

The president’s veto sets up what could be a nasty showdown over 2008 education spending, with the 2008 fiscal year already two weeks old. In exercising just the sixth veto of his presidency—all have come since Democrats took control of Congress earlier this year—Bush chided the opposition party.

“The majority was elected on a pledge of fiscal responsibility, but so far it’s acting like a teenager with a new credit card,” he told an audience of business and community leaders. “This year alone, the leadership in Congress has proposed to spend $22 billion more than my budget provides. Now, some of them claim that’s not really much of a difference. The scary part is, they seem to mean it.”

Bush vetoed the $150.7 billion labor, health, and education spending measure on the same day he signed a 9 percent increase in the Pentagon’s non-war budget, to $471 billion—although the White House complained that the Pentagon budget, too, contained “some unnecessary spending.”

The defense measure only funds core department operations. It doesn’t include Bush’s $196 billion request for operations in Iraq and Afghanistan, except for a nearly $12 billion infusion for new troop vehicles that are resistant to roadside bombs.

Also on Nov. 13, Democrats on Congress’ Joint Economic Committee issued a report estimating the total costs of the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan at $1.6 trillion—roughly double the amount the White House has requested altogether so far. White House officials and some economists, however, disputed those figures.

Democrats jumped on Bush’s spending priorities.

“With today’s veto, the president has shown once again how out of touch and out of step he is with the values of America’s families,” said Sen. Edward Kennedy, D-Mass., chairman of the Health, Education, Labor, and Pensions Committee. “Cancer research, investments in our schools, job training, protecting workers, and many other urgent priorities have all fallen victim to a president who squanders billions of dollars in Iraq but is unwilling to invest in America’s future.”

The education spending measure would have added $500 million to last year’s budget for special education grants to states, for a total of $11.3 billion. That’s $800 million more than Bush had proposed.

It would have funded the federal Title I program for disadvantaged students at $14.3 billion—$1.5 billion more than last year’s budget, and $400 million more than Bush had requested. Improving Teacher Quality state grants would have gotten $3 billion under the bill, $150 million more than last year and $250 million more than the president’s request.

The measure also would have provided a 20 percent increase over Bush’s request for job training programs; $1.4 billion more than Bush’s request for health research at the National Institutes of Health, a 5 percent increase; $2.4 billion for heating subsidies for the poor, $480 million more than Bush requested; and a $225 million increase for community health centers.

Education groups also slammed the president’s veto.

“This administration wants to nickel-and-dime education, and if the president can’t get his way he’s threatening to completely pull the plug,” said Reg Weaver, president of the National Education Association. “Congress has done the right thing by keeping the interests of students, not the political interests of the president, front and center. Lawmakers must override the veto, so schools get the basic resources they need.”

Said Edward J. McElroy, president of the American Federation of Teachers: “It is outrageous that a president who could not bring himself to veto a spending bill for six years can suddenly demand fiscal prudence on the backs of working-class taxpayers. By saying ‘no’ to appropriate funding for these programs, the president yet again has chosen to shortchange students and turn a blind eye to the needs of America’s increasingly beleaguered working families.”

The White House said the health and education spending bill was loaded with 2,000 earmarks—lawmaker-sponsored projects that critics call pork-barrel spending—which Bush wants stripped from the bill.

“Some of its wasteful projects include a prison museum, a sailing school taught aboard a catamaran, and a Portuguese-as-a-second-language program,” the president said. “Congress owes the taxpayers much better than this effort.”

It’s unclear whether Congress can muster enough votes to override Bush’s veto. The House approved the education spending measure, which had the support of more than 50 Republicans, with 274 votes—just three shy of a two-thirds majority. Yet the Senate passed the bill with only 56 votes, 11 short of a veto-proof majority.

The Pentagon spending bill that Bush signed includes a provision that will fund most federal agencies at 2007 levels through Dec. 14. Meanwhile, Congress will go back to work on completing the budget process.

Democrats have offered to work cooperatively with the president to address the priorities of our nation. We believe our differences are not so great that compromise cannot be reached,” said House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, D-Calif., responding to Bush’s veto. “But the president must work with us [to find] common ground on behalf of the American people.”

Links:

White House

U.S. Department of Education

Sen. Edward Kennedy, D-Mass.

Rep. Nancy Pelosi, D-Calif.

National Education Association

American Federation of Teachers

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State leaders convene to discuss ed tech

Keeping kids safe on the internet and allowing them to learn and explore online don’t have to be mutually exclusive goals: That was one of the key messages delivered to state educational technology leaders who attended a recent event in Washington, D.C.

The occasion was the annual Leadership Summit and Education Forum, hosted by the State Educational Technology Directors Association (SETDA) on Nov. 5 and 6. Called "What It Takes to Compete," the forum invited state education leaders from around the nation to a series of sessions highlighting best practices and innovative approaches for using technology to transform instruction and create 21st-century learning opportunities.

Flash Video

Session topics ranged from managing internet security to the importance of high-speed networks, and from "three-dimensional" social networking to a definition of global awareness.

A central theme throughout the event was the importance of educational technology in preparing today’s students for success in an increasingly global economy.

Though most school leaders would agree with that notion, concerns about internet safety are keeping many educators from using the internet to its full potential as an instructional tool. But it doesn’t have to be that way, said forum participants.

In a session titled "Internet Security Doesn’t Need to Block Learning Opportunities," Jayne Moore, director of instructional technology for the Maryland Department of Education, and Lan Neugent, assistant superintendent for technology and career education for the Virginia Department of Education, gave examples of how their states balance the need for security with the freedom for students to engage online.

In both cases, their success is the result of having clearly stated internet policies and procedures, and communicating these policies to students at the outset.

For example, Maryland’s Voluntary State Curriculum (VSC) defines ethical use of the web and proper digital citizenship for each grade level to help teachers and students prepare for classroom internet use.

In general, elementary students must "exhibit respect for the intellectual property right of others, explore and discuss the concept of plagiarism as taking something that does not belong to you, and explore and discuss how to cite sources when using text and digital information." They also must "utilize safe practices when working online, as well as discuss safety issues related to use of the internet."

Middle and high schools students must build on these basic principles by being able to "review and apply strategies for avoiding plagiarism."

Digital citizenship in Maryland schools requires students to practice responsible and appropriate use of technology systems, software, and information; understand and follow their school’s acceptable-use policy; and recognize the potential harm of intrusive applications (such as viruses and pop-up windows). Students also must demonstrate an understanding of current legal standards and comply with copyright laws and fair-use provisions when using digital content.

To make sure they understand safe and responsible internet use, students who take part in the Maryland Virtual Learning Opportunities (MVLO) program must sign an agreement saying they will abide by all rules and regulations of their local school. The agreement is as follows:

"As a student enrolled in a Maryland Virtual Learning Opportunity course, I will abide by all rules and regulations published by the Maryland Virtual Learning Opportunity program, as well as the rules and regulations published by my local school. I agree that I am subject to all disciplinary procedures establishes by the Maryland Virtual Learning Opportunity Program and/or my local school to address violations of rules of the MLVO."

Maryland also has technology literacy standards in place for teachers, students, and administrators, as well as a state technology plan, Moore said. In addition, state officials host leadership councils, university conferences, and discussions with regional ed-tech companies to discuss internet security products.

"The goal is not to disassociate" from using technology in schools, said Moore. Instead, "the goal is to enable technology and social networking through alternate assignments, [plagiarism] detection software, multiple versions of tests, legislation, and state-to-state collaboration."

3-D social networking

One topic that has sparked some interest among educators is "three-dimensional" social networking through web sites such as Second Life. Jeff Mao, coordinator of educational technology for Maine, and Julia Fallon, technology integration program manager for Washington, led a session on Second Life’s potential as a learning tool.

Mao and Fallon revealed that the popular social-networking site is becoming a big hit with ed-tech companies and education administrators. For instance, the International Society for Technology in Education (ISTE) holds regular meetings for educators and administrators in Second Life to discuss preplanned topics, such as preteen social networks.

"As educators and stakeholders, we’re always looking for ways to inspire students and do something new. We’re experimenting, seeing what will inspire and help teach 21st-century skills," explained Mao.

According to Mao and Fallon, joining Second Life is not as intimidating as some might think. Here are some helpful tips:

  • It’s free to join Second Life as an avatar, or virtual representation of yourself.
  • An avatar cannot "die" in Second Life.
  • Second Life software can be downloaded from the Second Life web site.
  • Buying or renting "land" refers to buying or renting server space in this virtual world. One does not have to buy or rent server space to participate.
  • A large server is called an "island."
  • Money is referred to as "Lindens." Thousands of Lindens usually equate to a few dollars. In sufficient quantity, Linden dollars may be converted to U.S. dollars.
  • There is a keyword search and a URL bar to help you navigate through Second Life.
  • "Talking" occurs through instant message chats, but Second Life has recently added audio chat as well.
  • Educators receive 50 percent off the cost of server space.
  • The owner of any piece of "land" can make a list of users who are allowed to enter. Anyone not on the list cannot enter the space.
  • Schools, companies, and other organizations can post live links to video and television sources, as well as links to web pages.
  • Second Life requires a lot of bandwidth.
  • There is a Second Life for teens; schools interested in having virtual classrooms on the site must contact Linden Research to set up such an agreement.

Many universities have set up after-hours virtual classrooms in Second Life that are used as meeting spaces for conversations. One university has a philosophy classroom in the sky. "Some universities make exact replicas of their campuses, and that’s fine," said Mao, "but even virtual universities can use their imagination to inspire student creativity, and some colleges have completely transformed their campus on Second Life."

He added: "It’s such as great way for people to come together. People from all around the world can finally have a meeting place. With [instant messaging], it’s hard [to do that]. You have to find everyone’s addresses and add them to your buddy list. Here on Second Life, you can chat with an educator in China, a company representative in India, and many others without a lot of hassle."

One professor even created a science experiment on Second Life. Using purchased applications, the professor built a Tsunami recreation on his university’s island. Students can go to the site, press a virtual button, and experience a Tsunami virtually.

Regarding internet security, Mao explained that Second Life is relatively safe. While the company trusts users to provide their accurate age and reviews complaints filed against those who might be older or younger than is allowed, there are some measures that prevent misuse.

"Each owner can put a block around [his or her] land," Mao said. "You can make a list of all the people you want to enter, and those who are not on the list cannot enter without your permission. Since you cannot regulate who builds next to you, some educational [organizations]-like ISTE-have other educational sites try and build around them."

For instance, he said, ISTE’s land is surrounded by a company that hosts tours of a replication of Shakespeare’s Globe Theater in London. This way, students can’t wander into unseemly territory-and those avatars that do visit inappropriate-for-student sites won’t be near the organization’s site.

Users also can block obnoxious avatars that perhaps shouldn’t be talking to them.

Mao explained that educators and companies are using Second Life as a testing ground for now, and many educational benefits have yet to be seen-such as the ability to host professional development courses on the site. However, 3-D social networking has the potential to help various students.

"Second life is really that-a second life," he said. "You can be anyone you want to be. Imagine that you are a shy student in class. Maybe in Second Life you are able to ask questions all the time. You don’t feel so embarrassed or intimidated."

He concluded: "Kids have no fear of technology. If they’re not networking at school, they’re doing it at home. Wouldn’t it be great if we could introduce them to something new they haven’t already explored?"

Global awareness

Besides sparking students’ interest, online social networking also can be an effective way to break down international barriers and create global awareness, which was the topic of another session at the SETDA forum.

To be able to compete globally, "we’ve got to dissolve boundaries in time, place, and education," said Chris Dede, the Timothy E. Wirth professor of learning technologies at Harvard University’s Graduate School of Education.

Dede hosted a session, called "Global Awareness and Innovation," alongside Karen Cator, director of education leadership and advocacy for Apple Inc.; Mary Sladek, outcome manager of informal education for NASA; and Gordon Freedman, vice president of education strategy for Blackboard Inc.

Freedman said students need to acquire what he called "global competence."

"It’s eLearning, it’s geography, it’s once again dissolving those time and place boundaries," he explained. "Our students need to know where they stand in the world and where other countries stand. It’s vital for the [United States’] ability to compete globally."

The panel concluded with the following recommended courses of action for U.S. schools:

  • There should be a new set of education standards for the 21st century; the ones from the 1990s must go. (Dede)
  • Educators need to use new media flexibly to communicate. (Cator)
  • Schools need to differentiate and personalize instruction. (Sladek)
  • There have to be feedback loops-from students to teachers to parents and back to students. (Freedman)

As sessions came to a close, some SETDA administrators and program coordinators met with the U.S. Department of Education (ED) to discuss the prospects for federal ed-tech funding, building stronger working relationships between federal and state education officials, and related issues and concerns.

Recipients of Title II, Part D ("Enhancing Education Through Technology") block grants provided feedback to ED about ways it can improve customer service and technical assistance during the upcoming program year.

"We hope this forum has encouraged questions and provided some answers," said SETDA Executive Director Mary Ann Wolf. "We encourage all educators and education stakeholders to push for meaning as we work toward developing the next steps for the education community. We have a responsibility to our students to guarantee they are prepared for the future." Email Meris

Links:

State Educational Technology Directors Association

Maryland Technology Initiatives

Maryland Technology Literacy Standards

Second Life

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Google’s book scanning faces competition

Already facing a legal challenge for alleged copyright infringement, Google Inc.’s crusade to build a massive digital library is encountering stiff competition from an alternative project that promises better online access to the world’s books, art, and historical documents.

The conflict revolves around Google’s insistence on chaining the books it scans to its internet-leading search engine.

An alternative book-scanning effort called the Open Content Alliance (OCA) favors a less restrictive approach to prevent mankind’s accumulated knowledge from being controlled by a single commercial entity, even if it is a company such as Google, which has embraced “Don’t Be Evil” as its creed.

In September, the Boston Library Consortium–a group of 19 research and academic libraries in New England that includes the Boston Public Library, University of Massachusetts, University of Connecticut, Massachusetts Institute of Technology, and Brown University–said it would reject Google’s effort and instead work with the OCA to digitize books among its members’ 34 million volumes whose copyrights have expired.

“You are talking about the fruits of our civilization and culture. You want to keep it open and certainly don’t want any company to enclose it,” said Doron Weber, program director of public understanding of science and technology for the Alfred P. Sloan Foundation.

The New York-based Sloan Foundation last year gave a $1 million grant to the Internet Archive, an OCA leader, to help pay for digital copies of collections owned by the Boston Public Library, the Getty Research Institute, and the Metropolitan Museum of Art.

The works to be scanned with that grant include the personal library of John Adams, America’s second president, and thousands of images from the Metropolitan Museum.

The Boston Library Consortium deal represents a major coup for Internet Archive founder Brewster Kahle, a strident critic of the controls that Google has imposed on its book-scanning initiative.

“They don’t want the books to appear in anyone else’s search engine but their own, which is a little peculiar for a company that says its mission is to make information universally accessible,” Kahle said in an interview with the Associated Press last year.

Google’s restrictions stem in part from its decision to scan copyrighted material without explicit permission. Google wants to ensure that only small excerpts from the copyrighted material appear online–snippets the company believes fall under “fair use” protections of U.S. law.

A group of authors and publishers nevertheless have sued Google for copyright infringement in a two-year-old case that is slowly wending its way through federal court.

In contrast, the OCA will not scan copyrighted content unless it receives the permission of the copyright owner. Most of the books the alliance has scanned so far are works whose copyrights have expired.

Google has not said how many digital copies it has made since announcing its ambitious project three years ago.

The company will only acknowledge that it is scanning more than 3,000 books per day, a rate that translates into more than 1 million annually. Google also is footing a bill expected to exceed $100 million to make the digital copies–a commitment that appeals to many libraries.

It costs the OCA as much as $30 to scan each book, a cost that is borne by the group’s members. Some libraries also have received grants from groups such as the Sloan Foundation to help with the cost.

The non-copyrighted material in Google’s search engine can be downloaded and printed out, a feature that the company believes mirrors the OCA’s goals.

Although the OCA depends on the Internet Archive to host its digital copies, other search engines are being encouraged to index the material, too.

Both Yahoo Inc. and Microsoft Corp., which run the two largest search engines behind Google, belong to the alliance. The group has more than 60 members, consisting mostly of libraries and universities.

None of Google’s contracts prevent participating libraries from making separate scanning arrangements with other organizations, said company spokeswoman Megan Lamb.

“We encourage the digitization of more books by more organizations,” Lamb said. “It’s good for readers, publishers, authors, and libraries.”

The motives behind Google’s own book-scanning initiative are not entirely altruistic. The company wants to stock its search engine with unique material to give people more reasons to visit its web site, the hub of an advertising network that generates billions of dollars each year.

Despite its ongoing support for the OCA, Microsoft last year launched a book-scanning project of its own to compete with Google. Like Google, Microsoft won’t allow its digital copies to be indexed by other search engines.

Earlier this month, Yale University announced that it had joined forces with Microsoft to digitize thousands of books from its library system. Yale’s move sparked controversy in the academic world, with some critics saying it abandoned its principles in an effort to save money. Yale said it would not otherwise be able to afford to scan so many books; Yale has one of the world’s largest university libraries, with 13 million volumes. (The U.S. Library of Congress, with 30 million volumes, is the largest in the U.S., according to the American Library Association.)

Although Kahle says he was disappointed by Microsoft’s recent move, he remains more worried about Google’s book-scanning initiative because it has gathered so much attention and support.

Many of the libraries contributing content to Google so far are part of universities, including Harvard, Stanford, Michigan, Oxford, California, Virginia, Wisconsin-Madison, and Chicago. The New York Public Library also is relying on Google to scan some of its books.

The University of California, which also belongs to the OCA, has no regrets about allowing Google to scan at least 2.5 million of the books in its libraries. “We felt like we could get more from being a partner with Google than by not being a partner,” said university spokeswoman Jennifer Colvin.

But some of the participating libraries might have second thoughts if Google’s system isn’t set up to recognize some of their digital copies, said Gregory Crane, a Tufts University professor who is currently studying the difficulty of accessing some digital content.

For instance, Tufts worries that Google’s optical reader will not recognize some books written in classical Greek. If the same problem were to crop up with a digital book in the OCA, Crane thinks it will be more easily addressed because the group is allowing outside access to the material.

Google “may end up aiming for the lowest common denominator and not be able to do anything really deep” with the digital books, Crane said.

Links:

Open Content Alliance

Boston Library Consortium

Google Book Search

Microsoft Live Search

Yale University Library

Library of Congress

American Library Association

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Bush ed-tech firm under fire

In the latest twist to a storyline that has surfaced previously during the presidency of George W. Bush, the U.S. Department of Education’s (ED’s) inspector general says he will review whether federal money is being spent inappropriately on educational technology sold to schools by a company founded by Neil Bush, the president’s brother.

Based on reporting by eSchool News, there appears to be no evidence that administration officials have had any influence over school districts’ decisions to buy products from the company, Ignite! Learning.

In an interview with eSchool News, the Ignite! founder suggested the extra scrutiny given to his company is largely politically motivated.

Citizens for Responsibility and Ethics in Washington (CREW), a Washington, D.C.-based watchdog group, called for the inquiry and released a letter this week from ED’s inspector general, John Higgins Jr.

In the letter, Higgins said he would ask an assistant to examine the group’s complaint. That statement provided the impetus for articles in the New York Times and by wire services.

CREW contends school districts are using federal dollars inappropriately to purchase technology from Austin, Texas-based Ignite! Learning, which Neil Bush founded and chairs. The group asserts there is no proof the company’s products are effective and claims that schools in at least three states are using the products mainly as a result of political considerations.

Ignite! Learning’s president, Ken Leonard, issued a statement denying the group’s allegations.

“While Ignite! Learning welcomes accountability for ensuring that public school expenditures are in compliance with appropriation guidelines, Ignite! Learning has no knowledge of any customer that has procured our curriculum solutions through means which are other than completely ethical,” Leonard said.

He added that Ignite has not received any correspondence from the inspector general’s office.

Ignite sells a product it refers to as a Curriculum on Wheels (COW), a cart-mounted video projector and hard drive loaded with video content to help teach math, social studies, and science. The solution costs about $3,800, not including yearly costs for licensing the content.

CREW’s claims are based on a key principle of the No Child Left Behind Act that says federal Title I monies for disadvantaged students should be spent on scientifically proven solutions.

In a 16-page letter to the inspector general, CREW argues there have been few studies done to assess the effectiveness of Ignite’s products–and the research that does exist fails to meet the federal education law’s standards for scientific rigor.

“It is astonishing that taxpayer dollars are being spent on unproven educational products to the financial benefit of the president’s brother,” said Melanie Sloan, CREW’s executive director. “The [inspector general] should investigate whether children’s educations are being sacrificed so that Neil Bush can rake in federal funds.”

In his interview with eSchool News, Bush said the watchdog group has misinterpreted the federal statute.

“We’re proud we have a product that has the science of learning built into its design, with tons of anecdotal evidence,” the Ignite founder said. “But we don’t yet have efficacy studies that meet the What Works Clearinghouse standards–in fact, I challenge you to find any educational curriculum that has met that standard.”

Bush was referring to a clearinghouse established by the Education Department in 2002 to review studies of educational solutions and rate their degree of scientific rigor. Currently, only seven categories of products exist in the clearinghouse database: beginning reading, character education, dropout prevention, early childhood education, elementary school math, English language learners, and middle school math.

Under middle school math, the clearinghouse has evaluated the research behind just seven products, and only two of these products have been found to contain “strong evidence” of success. Ignite’s COW is not among the products whose research has been evaluated, but the company only started selling its math solution earlier this year.

Ignite says it is working to produce more scientifically rigorous studies of the effectiveness of its curriculum. But the company says it already has anecdotal evidence of success in some Texas school systems.

This isn’t the first time questions have been raised about Ignite and its product. An October 2006 story in the Los Angeles Times, headlined “Bush’s Family Profits from ‘No Child’ Act,” raised similar concerns.

The current controversy over Ignite seems to be quite different from the one involving the federal Reading First program, in which the inspector general determined that Education Department officials steered funding toward certain favored solutions.

CREW says its mission is to “promote ethics and accountability in government and public life by targeting government officials–regardless of party affiliation–who sacrifice the common good to special interests.”

CREW chief Sloan, who founded the watchdog organization in 2003, is a former U.S. attorney who has served as an aide to Rep. John Conyers of Michigan and Sen. Charles Schumer of New York, both Democrats. Last year, the group released a list of the “22 Most Corrupt Members of Congress,” which featured 18 Republicans and four Democrats.

Links:

Citizens for Responsibility and Ethics in Government

Ignite! Learning

Office of Inspector General, U.S. Department of Education

tags

State leaders convene to discuss ed tech

Keeping kids safe on the internet and allowing them to learn and explore online don’t have to be mutually exclusive goals: That was one of the key messages delivered to state educational technology leaders who attended a recent event in Washington, D.C.

The occasion was the annual Leadership Summit and Education Forum, hosted by the State Educational Technology Directors Association (SETDA) on Nov. 5 and 6. Called “What It Takes to Compete,” the forum invited state education leaders from around the nation to a series of sessions highlighting best practices and innovative approaches for using technology to transform instruction and create 21st-century learning opportunities.

Session topics ranged from managing internet security to the importance of high-speed networks, and from “three-dimensional” social networking to a definition of global awareness.

A central theme throughout the event was the importance of educational technology in preparing today’s students for success in an increasingly global economy.

Though most school leaders would agree with that notion, concerns about internet safety are keeping many educators from using the internet to its full potential as an instructional tool. But it doesn’t have to be that way, said forum participants.

In a session titled “Internet Security Doesn’t Need to Block Learning Opportunities,” Jayne Moore, director of instructional technology for the Maryland Department of Education, and Lan Neugent, assistant superintendent for technology and career education for the Virginia Department of Education, gave examples of how their states balance the need for security with the freedom for students to engage online.

In both cases, their success is the result of having clearly stated internet policies and procedures, and communicating these policies to students at the outset.

For example, Maryland’s Voluntary State Curriculum (VSC) defines ethical use of the web and proper digital citizenship for each grade level to help teachers and students prepare for classroom internet use.

In general, elementary students must “exhibit respect for the intellectual property right of others, explore and discuss the concept of plagiarism as taking something that does not belong to you, and explore and discuss how to cite sources when using text and digital information.” They also must “utilize safe practices when working online, as well as discuss safety issues related to use of the internet.”

Middle and high schools students must build on these basic principles by being able to “review and apply strategies for avoiding plagiarism.”

Digital citizenship in Maryland schools requires students to practice responsible and appropriate use of technology systems, software, and information; understand and follow their school’s acceptable-use policy; and recognize the potential harm of intrusive applications (such as viruses and pop-up windows). Students also must demonstrate an understanding of current legal standards and comply with copyright laws and fair-use provisions when using digital content.

To make sure they understand safe and responsible internet use, students who take part in the Maryland Virtual Learning Opportunities (MVLO) program must sign an agreement saying they will abide by all rules and regulations of their local school. The agreement is as follows:

“As a student enrolled in a Maryland Virtual Learning Opportunity course, I will abide by all rules and regulations published by the Maryland Virtual Learning Opportunity program, as well as the rules and regulations published by my local school. I agree that I am subject to all disciplinary procedures establishes by the Maryland Virtual Learning Opportunity Program and/or my local school to address violations of rules of the MLVO.”

Maryland also has technology literacy standards in place for teachers, students, and administrators, as well as a state technology plan, Moore said. In addition, state officials host leadership councils, university conferences, and discussions with regional ed-tech companies to discuss internet security products.

“The goal is not to disassociate” from using technology in schools, said Moore. Instead, “the goal is to enable technology and social networking through alternate assignments, [plagiarism] detection software, multiple versions of tests, legislation, and state-to-state collaboration.”

3-D social networking

One topic that has sparked some interest among educators is “three-dimensional” social networking through web sites such as Second Life. Jeff Mao, coordinator of educational technology for Maine, and Julia Fallon, technology integration program manager for Washington, led a session on Second Life’s potential as a learning tool.

Mao and Fallon revealed that the popular social-networking site is becoming a big hit with ed-tech companies and education administrators. For instance, the International Society for Technology in Education (ISTE) holds regular meetings for educators and administrators in Second Life to discuss preplanned topics, such as preteen social networks.

“As educators and stakeholders, we’re always looking for ways to inspire students and do something new. We’re experimenting, seeing what will inspire and help teach 21st-century skills,” explained Mao.

According to Mao and Fallon, joining Second Life is not as intimidating as some might think. Here are some helpful tips:

  • It’s free to join Second Life as an avatar, or virtual representation of yourself.
  • An avatar cannot “die” in Second Life.
  • Second Life software can be downloaded from the Second Life web site.
  • Buying or renting “land” refers to buying or renting server space in this virtual world. One does not have to buy or rent server space to participate.
  • A large server is called an “island.”
  • Money is referred to as “Lindens.” Thousands of Lindens usually equate to a few dollars. In sufficient quantity, Linden dollars may be converted to U.S. dollars.
  • There is a keyword search and a URL bar to help you navigate through Second Life.
  • “Talking” occurs through instant message chats, but Second Life has recently added audio chat as well.
  • Educators receive 50 percent off the cost of server space.
  • The owner of any piece of “land” can make a list of users who are allowed to enter. Anyone not on the list cannot enter the space.
  • Schools, companies, and other organizations can post live links to video and television sources, as well as links to web pages.
  • Second Life requires a lot of bandwidth.
  • There is a Second Life for teens; schools interested in having virtual classrooms on the site must contact Linden Research to set up such an agreement.

Many universities have set up after-hours virtual classrooms in Second Life that are used as meeting spaces for conversations. One university has a philosophy classroom in the sky. “Some universities make exact replicas of their campuses, and that’s fine,” said Mao, “but even virtual universities can use their imagination to inspire student creativity, and some colleges have completely transformed their campus on Second Life.”

He added: “It’s such as great way for people to come together. People from all around the world can finally have a meeting place. With [instant messaging], it’s hard [to do that]. You have to find everyone’s addresses and add them to your buddy list. Here on Second Life, you can chat with an educator in China, a company representative in India, and many others without a lot of hassle.”

One professor even created a science experiment on Second Life. Using purchased applications, the professor built a Tsunami recreation on his university’s island. Students can go to the site, press a virtual button, and experience a Tsunami virtually.

Regarding internet security, Mao explained that Second Life is relatively safe. While the company trusts users to provide their accurate age and reviews complaints filed against those who might be older or younger than is allowed, there are some measures that prevent misuse.

“Each owner can put a block around [his or her] land,” Mao said. “You can make a list of all the people you want to enter, and those who are not on the list cannot enter without your permission. Since you cannot regulate who builds next to you, some educational [organizations]-like ISTE-have other educational sites try and build around them.”

For instance, he said, ISTE’s land is surrounded by a company that hosts tours of a replication of Shakespeare’s Globe Theater in London. This way, students can’t wander into unseemly territory-and those avatars that do visit inappropriate-for-student sites won’t be near the organization’s site.

Users also can block obnoxious avatars that perhaps shouldn’t be talking to them.

Mao explained that educators and companies are using Second Life as a testing ground for now, and many educational benefits have yet to be seen-such as the ability to host professional development courses on the site. However, 3-D social networking has the potential to help various students.

“Second life is really that-a second life,” he said. “You can be anyone you want to be. Imagine that you are a shy student in class. Maybe in Second Life you are able to ask questions all the time. You don’t feel so embarrassed or intimidated.”

He concluded: “Kids have no fear of technology. If they’re not networking at school, they’re doing it at home. Wouldn’t it be great if we could introduce them to something new they haven’t already explored?”

Global awareness

Besides sparking students’ interest, online social networking also can be an effective way to break down international barriers and create global awareness, which was the topic of another session at the SETDA forum.

To be able to compete globally, “we’ve got to dissolve boundaries in time, place, and education,” said Chris Dede, the Timothy E. Wirth professor of learning technologies at Harvard University’s Graduate School of Education.

Dede hosted a session, called “Global Awareness and Innovation,” alongside Karen Cator, director of education leadership and advocacy for Apple Inc.; Mary Sladek, outcome manager of informal education for NASA; and Gordon Freedman, vice president of education strategy for Blackboard Inc.

Freedman said students need to acquire what he called “global competence.”

“It’s eLearning, it’s geography, it’s once again dissolving those time and place boundaries,” he explained. “Our students need to know where they stand in the world and where other countries stand. It’s vital for the [United States’] ability to compete globally.”

The panel concluded with the following recommended courses of action for U.S. schools:

  • – There should be a new set of education standards for the 21st century; the ones from the 1990s must go. (Dede)
  • – Educators need to use new media flexibly to communicate. (Cator)
  • – Schools need to differentiate and personalize instruction. (Sladek)
  • – There have to be feedback loops-from students to teachers to parents and back to students. (Freedman)

As sessions came to a close, some SETDA administrators and program coordinators met with the U.S. Department of Education (ED) to discuss the prospects for federal ed-tech funding, building stronger working relationships between federal and state education officials, and related issues and concerns.

Recipients of Title II, Part D (“Enhancing Education Through Technology”) block grants provided feedback to ED about ways it can improve customer service and technical assistance during the upcoming program year.

“We hope this forum has encouraged questions and provided some answers,” said SETDA Executive Director Mary Ann Wolf. “We encourage all educators and education stakeholders to push for meaning as we work toward developing the next steps for the education community. We have a responsibility to our students to guarantee they are prepared for the future.”

Links:

State Educational Technology Directors Association

Maryland Technology Initiatives

Maryland Technology Literacy Standards

Second Life

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ANGEL Learning achieves SCORM 2004 certification

Indianapolis, Ind. — Sep. 13, 2007 — ANGEL Learning, recognized innovator of enterprise elearning software and services, today announced that the ANGEL Learning Management Suite (LMS) has achieved SCORM 2004 3rd Edition LMS certification from the Advanced Distributed Learning (ADL) Co-Lab. Achieving SCORM 2004 certification further demonstrates ANGEL Learning?s commitment to open standards by making the conceptual practical.

?The Academic ADL Co-Lab congratulates ANGEL Learning for its commitment to SCORM as demonstrated by certification through the independent auditors at the Wisconsin Testing Organization,? said Rovy Branon, executive director of the Academic ADL Co-Lab. ?Achieving SCORM 2004 3rd Edition certification is a milestone that ensures more robust and complete interoperability.?

?Achieving SCORM 2004 certification is a natural extension of our ongoing commitment to open standards for content and interoperability,? said Ray Henderson, chief products officer, ANGEL Learning. ?ANGEL?s SCORM compliance is important to many of our customers and publishing partners who distribute content in the SCORM format.?

The Shareable Content Object Reference Model (SCORM) is a collection of standards and specifications for a comprehensive suite of e-learning capabilities that enable interoperability, accessibility and reusability of web-based learning content. Receiving SCORM 2004 3rd Edition certification verifies ANGEL LMS v. 7.2 conformance with the most current SCORM specifications and guidelines. ANGEL users are assured that SCORM compliant content will work seamlessly with ANGEL LMS.

About ANGEL Learning
ANGEL Learning, Inc. develops and markets enterprise elearning software. Our flagship products are the ANGEL Learning Management Suite and the ANGEL ePortfolio system. Our products have been honed by use — with millions of students and instructors served from K to corporate. We enjoy a reputation for creating products with exceptional ease of use, excellent vision into learner progress and for keeping our commitments. ANGEL LMS won the Software & Information Industry Association CODiE award for Best Postsecondary Course Management Solution in both 2006 and 2007 and is the only product to win the award two years in a row. Educators ranked ANGEL first in customer satisfaction in the IMS GLC Learn-Sat awards. Having emerged from the academy ourselves, our core values reflect those of our customers well. ANGEL world headquarters are in Indianapolis, Indiana. To learn more about the ANGEL difference, visit us at www.angellearning.com.

About ADL Initiative
The ADL Initiative, supported by the U.S. Office of the Secretary of Defense (OSD), is a collaborative effort among government, industry and academia to establish a distributed learning environment that facilitates the interoperability of e-learning tools and course content on a global scale. It sets forth a new paradigm to provide access to the highest quality education, training and performance aiding that can be tailored to individual needs and delivered cost-effectively, whenever and wherever it is required. For more information about the ADL Initiative, please visit www.adlnet.gov.

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Nashville schools pilot face-recognition tech

Beginning Dec. 1, the Nashville, Tenn., public school system will become what is believed to be the first school system in the country to implement face-recognition security cameras to spot intruders in its schools.

Metro Nashville Public Schools (MNPS) will pilot the cameras in its central administrative office and at Harpeth Valley Elementary School, Gra-Mar Middle School, and Antioch High School.

Students, teachers, and school staff will have their pictures taken and uploaded into the system, so the cameras will recognize their images. When an unfamiliar person enters the building, and the camera cannot match that person’s face to a photo stored in its database, an alarm will sound.

MNPS has had security cameras in its schools for the past eight years, said Steve Keel, the district’s director of school security. But the face-recognition technology came to Keel’s attention after a district employee attended a conference and saw the system from Florida-based Cross Match Technologies.

While the face-recognition system can be installed several ways, Keel said he thinks the district will follow Cross Match’s recommendation to buy the type of camera it suggests. That camera is called an image quality indicator, or IQI, and is an IP-based camera.

“Our reasoning is that it can be portable, and with a Wi-Fi network, we can take that camera, say, if we have a basketball game, and we can move it to where the entrance is,” Keel said.

Earlier this fall, a suspended student entered SuccessTech Academy, an alternative high school in Cleveland, Ohio, and opened fire, wounding four people and killing himself. In the wake of these shootings, Nashville school officials said their system could be set up to detect suspended or expelled students and sound an alarm.

Keel said that while the district has not had any major trouble with trespassing, it has had some problems with suspended students coming back to school, as well as with students from one high school coming to a different high school to cause problems.

“We’re trying to be more proactive” with security, he said.

Some civil-rights groups say face-recognition cameras intrude on personal privacy, while other groups support the move as a deterrent to would-be school offenders.

“Schools should not feel like some sort of prison,” Melissa Ngo, of the Electronic Privacy Information Center, told USA Today.

But Keel believes such privacy concerns are unfounded.

“Right now, we take pictures of students for ID badges anyway, and that information is already available,” he said. “We’re not using this technology to track anybody–we’re trying to keep them out of the building before they create a disturbance or problem. When they’re on the school grounds, I’m interested in them and what they’re doing.”

Police departments in Florida and Virginia say they have tried the technology and discontinued its use after it did not help in finding wanted criminals.

“It got a lot of bad press [a few] years ago, but the technology has improved a lot since then,” Keel said.

The pilot project will run until the end of the school year, and the cameras’ performance will be evaluated at that point, he said.

MNPS, which has roughly 75,000 students, has cameras in every middle and high school, along with cameras in some elementary schools. Keel said the district is moving toward having camera systems in all elementary schools.

The entire pilot program will cost about $30,000 to run; the bulk of that cost is buying the required server.

“We’ll evaluate it after school’s out and decide what to do after the summer, and maybe issue an RFP if successful. We’d like to be able to integrate it with a badge system so that when visitors come they’ll be issued visitor badges and have their pictures taken,” Keel said.

Keel said he thinks other schools may follow suit if the pilot is successful.

Four years ago, an elementary school in Phoenix installed face-recognition security cameras to spot potential sex offenders entering the building. But a school district official told USA Today the cameras were never turned on, out of concern they would flag innocent people.

Other schools have used face-recognition technology to process school lunches.

Links:

Metro Nashville Public Schools

Cross Match Technologies

Electronic Privacy Information Center

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Lycos offers classroom web-site-hosting services for free–or for a fee

Teachers across the country who want to connect with their students,fellow teachers, and parents online can use Tripod for Teachers, a website hosting service from Lycos Inc. that provides classroom templatesand easy-to-use site building tools. Educators can use their Tripod websites to post homework assignments, provide links to online resources, host class photo albums and videos, and blog with parents and others in a secure, online environment. If you’re just starting out and don’t mind ads on your web page, Tripod’s free service offers a basic introduction to site building. If you want to build your site on your own terms, without banner ads or other restrictions, you can choose a fee-based service from Tripod instead. "Education is the fifth-most popular topic with our millions of Tripod members, and we are thrilled that more and more teachers are turning to Tripod to access oureasy-to-use site building tools to aid them in their classrooms," said Don Kosak, chief technology officer for Lycos.

http://www.tripod.lycos.com/content/teachers/index.html

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