Earn an ‘A,’ get free cell-phone minutes

New York City education officials began doling out cell phones to 2,500 middle school students on Feb. 27 as part of a closely watched experiment to try to change the way teenagers think about doing well in school, the New York Times reports. The pilot program, at three Brooklyn middle schools and four charter schools, is part of an effort by Schools Chancellor Joel I. Klein to motivate students to perform better academically–and reward them when they do. Each student is receiving a Samsung flip-phone in a package specially designed with the program’s logo. The phones come loaded with 130 prepaid minutes. Good behavior, attendance, homework, and test scores will be rewarded with additional minutes. Teachers and administrators also will be able to use a system to send text messages to several students at a time, to remind them of things like upcoming tests and other school information. Some critics of the program say it’s absurd for school officials to reward students with a device that is banned from the public schools…

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Students slow to embrace text alerts

The massacre at Virginia Tech last April sent colleges nationwide scrambling to improve how they send alerts to students during crises on campus. One widely adopted solution: text messages sent to cell phones. But while hundreds of campuses have adopted text alerts, most students are not embracing the systems, reports The Associated Press (AP)—even in an age when students consider their mobile phones indispensable.

Omnilert, a Northern Virginia company that provides an emergency alert system called e2Campus to more than 500 campuses, reports an average enrollment rate among students, faculty, and staff of just 39 percent.

Another industry leader, NTI Group (now a subsidiary of Blackboard Inc.), reports even lower participation—28 percent for the 300 campuses that use its Connect-ED emergency alerts.

Across the country, colleges “are really struggling with how to get the enrollment numbers up,” said Steven Healey, Princeton University’s public safety director and an expert on campus security.

 

Other companies who provide the services declined to release detailed enrollment figures to AP.

 

The University of Missouri’s Columbia campus tried a giveaway—students who signed up for the alerts were entered in a drawing for an iPod Nano—in hopes of improving its rate. Just 15 percent of the roughly 28,000 students have requested text-message alerts or cell-phone calls during emergencies.

 

“I found out about it a long time ago and never signed up,” said Kaitlin Foley, a first-year student at Missouri from Omaha, Neb. “I was too lazy.”

 

The low participation, and fresh concern following the deaths of five Northern Illinois University (NIU) students by a gunman earlier this month, led University of Missouri president Gary Forsee to issue a new plea.

 

“Alert systems are only as effective as our ability to make contact with you,” he wrote in an eMail message to each of the system’s four campuses, encouraging students to enroll immediately.

 

Even at Virginia Tech, where a gunman killed 32 people and himself last April, four in 10 students still have not signed up for emergency text alerts. The campus also employs other alert methods, including eMails and online instant messages.

 

Campus safety experts point to several factors to explain the lack of interest among students, including feelings of invincibility and reluctance to give out personal information.

 

Others hesitate to pay the fees—generally a matter of pennies—that some cell-phone providers charge to send and receive texts. Colleges generally pay $1 to $4 per enrolled student to the companies that set up the alerts.

 

“It will take time to earn their trust,” said Bryan Crum, an Omnilert spokesman. “That day will come once they see how it can personally benefit them—and once they realize we’re not out there to sell their personal information, and that 10-cent charges once or twice a semester is worth the price of personal safety.”

 

Safety experts emphasize that text alerts should be just one part of comprehensive notification systems that can include sirens, loudspeakers, security cameras, web site announcements, digital signage, and more.

 

On the day of the Illinois shooting, NIU sent out eMail and voice mail alerts. The school does not participate in text-message alerts.

 

“You don’t necessarily have to reach every person to get saturation,” said S. Daniel Carter of Security on Campus, a Pennsylvania nonprofit that pushes for safer college campuses.

 

“If you reach a quarter of the people on campus, they’re going to start spreading the word. They’re not going to start saying, ‘Oh, that’s interesting,’ and close their phone,” he said.

 

On some campuses, enrollment rates are significantly higher: Boston University mandates participation, and other schools such as Colorado State and Florida State ask students to either sign up or decline before they register for class.

 

Even on campuses where participation is high, glitches can reduce the effectiveness of text-message alerts.

 

When two doctoral students at Louisiana State University were killed in December by an intruder in a campus apartment, this text alert went out: “PD notified of shooting @ Ed Gay Apts. 2 M victims-Police on scene/No suspects at this time. Please use caution.”

 

But half the students who had signed up to receive the alerts didn’t get word of the shooting because of registration problems. ClearTXT, the company that provided the LSU alerts, required students to take an additional step to sign up by responding to a confirmation message—a “dual opt-in” approach also seen on other campuses.

 

“Text messaging is not the panacea that many believe it to be,” said Paul Langhorst, vice president of GroupCast Messaging Systems in St. Louis.

 

As campus shootings continue to make headlines, student participation might increase, Healey said. At Princeton, 90 percent of first-year students are enrolled, compared with an overall rate of 64 percent for all undergraduates.

The school’s application for admission now asks potential students to provide their cell-phone numbers in case of emergency.

“These kids lived through Virginia Tech,” he said, referring to the freshmen. “They were high school seniors about to head off to college.”

Links:

Omnilert

NTI Group

Security on Campus

ClearTXT

GroupCast Messaging Systems

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Medical students receive grants from American Medical Association Foundation

The American Medical Association Foundation announced the 47 recipients of the 2008 Seed Grant Research Program. Established in 2001, the program provides $2,500 grants to medical students, physician residents, and fellows to conduct basic science, applied, or clinical research projects. This year’s grant winners are conducting research in the following five categories: cardiovascular/pulmonary diseases; HIV/AIDS; leukemia; neoplastic diseases; and secondhand smoke. The Seed Grant Research Program was established to encourage more medical students, residents and fellows to enter the field of research.

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National Engineering Design Challenge winners announced

A Gardner Edgerton High School (Gardner, Kan.) engineering design team was selected as the winner of the annual JETS/AbilityOne National Engineering Design Challenge (NEDC) with their creation of the Bag Attachment and Replacement Technology, winning the grant prize of $3,000 for their school’s sponsoring department. The National Engineering Design Challenge is a contest for high school engineering students around the country, to build technologies that will assist people with severe disabilities in the workplace. AbilityOne (formerly known as the Javits-Wagner-O’Day Program) and the Junior Engineering Technical Society (JETS) selected the team from Gardner Edgerton as the winner from five other finalists. Garfield-Palouse High School from Palouse, Wash. and Texas Academy of Mathematics and Science from Denton, Texas both won second-place prizes.

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Inspiration Software honors 25 educators with scholarships

Inspiration Software has announced the 25 talented educators who will receive the 2007-2008 Inspired Teacher Scholarships for Visual Learning. The scholarships recognize educators’ "Best Projects" using Inspiration Software’s visual learning software tools. The top honor for "Best Overall Visual Learning Project" scholarship award goes to Kathie Thuillez, a sixth grade social studies teacher at Fort Settlement Middle School in Sugar Land, Texas. All 25 recipients will receive $1,000 to support professional development or new technology for their classrooms in recognition of their creative use of visual learning to help their students think and learn. In addition, Thuillez will receive a bonus of $500 for classroom technology and a $500 personal award for her innovative and creative use of Inspiration. Excerpts from the 25 scholarship recipients’ application essays will be featured in the Inspired Learning Community, Inspiration Software’s online community for educators who want to inspire their students to excel with visual thinking and learning.

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C-SPAN announces “StudentCam” video documentary winners

C-SPAN’s annual video documentary competition, StudentCam, awards $50,000 in prize money and this year asked middle and high school students "Which issue in this presidential campaign year is of greatest importance to you?" The grand prize winning video is "Leaving Religion at the Door," by Scott Mitchell and Nick Poss of Jenks, Okla., which explores the role of religion in government. A cash prize of $5,000 accompanies the award. Their winning video will air on C-SPAN on Sunday, April 27th followed by an interview with the students. The StudentCam competition names 92 total winning videos accompanied by $50,000 in cash awards, including a grand prize winner, two first prize winners; eight second prize winners, 16 third prize winners, and 65 honorable mentions in middle and high school categories. The top 27 winning videos will air on C-SPAN, one each day, starting on Tuesday, April 1, 2008. The top political issues based on the entries in the 2008 StudentCam competition are global warming and the environment, healthcare, and immigration.

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eInstruction donates $100,000 to Tiger Woods Learning Center

eInstruction, a provider of interactive instructional and assessment technology, software, and content, recently donated an additional $100,000 worth of its student response technology to the Tiger Woods Learning Center (TWLC), a youth education facility located in Anaheim, Calif. Through the donation of 550 Classroom Performance System (CPS) student response pads, accompanying software, and seven interactive tablets, eInstruction joins TWLC in its commitment to advance academic progress for every child. Since receiving the CPS donation less than two months ago, TWLC teachers have used the technology in their classrooms as a way to engage students and help them learn concepts — often through interactive challenges such as trivia and live, classroom surveys. The TWLC faculty also uses the CPS technology to share and review information with their peers.

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Google gets into web site building biz

In a move that could make it easy for teachers, students, and others to create simple web sites for sharing information, without any specialized knowledge required, Google Inc.–already the world’s most popular spot for finding web sites–is aiming to become the go-to place for creating web sites, too.

The Mountain View, Calif.-based company is taking its first step toward that goal Feb. 28 with the debut of a free service designed for high-tech neophytes looking for a simple way to share information with other people working in the same organization or attending the same class in school.

With only a few clicks, just about anyone will be able to quickly set up and update a web site featuring a wide array of material, including pictures, calendars, and video from Google’s YouTube subsidiary, said Dave Girouard, general manager of the division overseeing the new application.

“We are literally adding an edit button to the web,” Girouard said.

All sites created on the service will run on one of Google’s computers.

Google acquired many of the new service’s web-site creation tools when it bought a Silicon Valley startup, JotSpot, last year.

The tools are the latest addition to a bundle of applications that Google offers to schools, businesses, and consumers as alternatives to similar products sold by Microsoft Corp., one of Google’s fiercest rivals.

Google’s latest service represents a challenge to Microsoft’s SharePoint, which charges licensing fees. Google is unveiling its alternative just a few days before Redmond, Wash.-based Microsoft hosts a SharePoint conference in Seattle.

While Microsoft’s programs typically are installed on individual computers, Google keeps its application on its own machines, so users can access them from anywhere with an internet connection.

By gradually introducing free versions of word processing, spreadsheet, and calendaring programs over the past two years, Google has been threatening to siphon revenue away from Microsoft, which makes most of its money from software sales.

Microsoft, in turn, hopes to take a bite of out Google’s bread-and-butter in online search and advertising by buying Yahoo Inc. for more than $40 billion.

Google says more than 500,000 schools, companies, and government agencies use at least some of its applications. The company won’t say how many of those organizations subscribe to a premium version of its software suite, but the fees haven’t made much of a dent at Google so far.

Last year, Google’s software licensing and other products generated $181 million in revenue, while $16.4 billion poured in from advertising.

Link:

Google Sites

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Video Insight

Video Insight Safe Center Image

Video Insight Video Insight is a US based developer of District and Campus wide digital video surveillance software. Our systems have been installed on over 2500 campuses. With Video Insight you can view all schools and campuses from a single display via the network using our Network Client or via the internet using a standard web browser. Use maps and floor plans to easily navigate between cameras and servers. We offer both IP video software as well as traditional analog DVRs; or, they can be combined into a hybrid solution. Our IP video software supports over 160 different models of IP cameras from 30 major manufacturers giving you the ultimate in flexibility. Our software supports an unlimited number of servers and cameras. The Video Insight products are built on an open architecture using leading Microsoft .Net and SQL server technologies. These open standards facilitate the integration with other systems such as access control and alarm systems. They are PC based and can take advantage of your existing architecture. Reliability is ensured using our Health Monitor which monitors operational status for all servers and cameras. Lastly our world class US based support is second to none.

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