Ten Who’ve Made a Difference

In honor of our 10th anniversary, eSchool News has put together a list of 10 people who have had a profound impact on educational technology in the last decade.

Chosen by the editors of eSchool News with help from our advisory board members, our list is by no means all-inclusive, as so many people have played a huge role in advancing educational technology over the last 10 years. But here are those we think are among the most responsible.



Julie Evans Julie Evans
 CEO, Project Tomorrow

In the mid-90s, Sun Microsystems executive John Gage founded NetDay, which began as a grassroots campaign in California to wire schools but soon blossomed into a national nonprofit organization. Evans has been running the organization since 2000, when it expanded its mission beyond one-day "electronic barn-raising" efforts connecting neighborhood schools to the internet and started helping schools integrate technology effectively into the curriculum. Last year, NetDay merged with a California-based science education group to become Project Tomorrow.

Under Evans’ leadership, the group has made its biggest impact through a series of annual surveys, called "Speak Up." These surveys aim to collect students’, teachers’, and parents’ views on science, math, and technology, and how to improve education for the 21st century. Since 2003, more than 850,000 K-12 students and their teachers and parents have participated in the annual online Speak Up surveys, and the surveys’ findings have helped shape ed-tech policy at the federal, state, and local levels.



Bill Gates Bill Gates
 Chairman, Microsoft Corp.

Say what you want about Microsoft and its controversial business practices, but there is no denying that Gates and his company have made an immeasurable impact on education.

Gates has been a leading proponent of high school reform. Three years ago, he addressed the nation’s governors and implored them to redesign America’s high schools to meet the challenges of the new century. "America’s high schools are obsolete," Gates told the governors that day. "By obsolete, I don’t just mean that our high schools are broken, flawed, and under-funded—though a case could be made for every one of those points. By obsolete, I mean that our high schools—even when they’re working exactly as designed—cannot teach our kids what they need to know today. Training the workforce of tomorrow with the high schools of today is like trying to teach kids about today’s computers on a 50-year-old mainframe. It’s the wrong tool for the times."

Through his charitable foundation, Gates has committed tens of millions of dollars to projects that aim to redesign high schools and make them more relevant for the 21st century. In 2006, the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation awarded $21 million to the Chicago Public Schools to establish a more rigorous high school curriculum, boost graduation rates, and better prepare students for college. In 2000, the Gates Foundation awarded $26 million to the Seattle Public Schools for the same purpose. And the foundation has given more than $21 million since 2003 to jump-start high school improvements, develop teacher curriculum, and offer students more relevant courses in North Carolina schools.

For all the criticism Microsoft has taken for its predatory business practices, it was Gates who was the driving force behind the idea that school software programs should be able to work together and share data in real time, regardless of their manufacturer—from back-office applications to student information systems to library and food-service systems. Gates first outlined this vision of school software interoperability at the American Association of School Administrators conference in 1999, and his company took the lead in creating what is now the Schools Interoperability Framework (SIF), although Microsoft later stepped back into a supporting role in this initiative. (Ironically, Gates was supposed to deliver the keynote address at the 1998 AASA conference, but he couldn’t make it—he was busy testifying before the Senate during the Microsoft antitrust hearings.) Nearly a decade after Gates’ AASA address, research suggests that schools’ investment in SIF-compliant software is paying off.



Angus KingAngus King
Former Governor of Maine

Former Maine Governor Angus King’s pioneering vision led to the nation’s first statewide one-to-one computing program for schools.

Back in 2000, Gov. King’s idea to give all seventh graders across his state a laptop computer they could take home with them turned a lot of heads, for no one had ever suggested such a brash and far-reaching idea. Eight years later, no one is laughing now, as Maine students’ writing scores are up on the statewide exam, and the program has spread to include many high schools as well.

Other states, such as Michigan and Pennsylvania, have since followed Maine’s lead, although Maine’s program remains the standard bearer in statewide one-to-one computing programs for students.


CoSN CEO Keith Krueger Keith Krueger
CEO, Consortium for School Networking

Keeping kids safe online, calculating the value of school IT investments, using data to make sound instructional decisions, exploring the use of open-source software and open technologies in schools, and empowering superintendents to become effective ed-tech leaders: These are just some of the many important ed-tech topics about which school district leaders and technology specialists have received advice from the Consortium for School Networking (CoSN) over the last decade. And though this advice stems from the work of several dedicated individuals—including the team leaders of these various projects—it is CoSN Chief Executive Keith Krueger who ultimately is responsible for overseeing the group’s efforts.

Besides spearheading these various initiatives, Krueger has led delegations of educators from the United States to foreign countries to study their education systems and see what U.S. educators might learn from them. Most recently, Krueger led a visit to Scandinavia to learn how students in that area of the world scored so high on an international test of math and science skills (a test that U.S. students ranked 24th and 17th on, respectively).

This willingness to learn from other countries is reflected in the international flavor of CoSN’s annual K-12 School Networking Conference, which each year features an International Symposium where ed-tech leaders from the United States and abroad discuss key issues affecting education and technology. Drawing from the expertise of visionaries from all over the world, Krueger and his organization are providing a roadmap for leading schools boldly into the 21st century.



Ray Kurzweil Ray Kurzweil
Author, inventor, futurist

Text-to-speech and speech recognition software has come of age in the last decade, and it’s starting to have a profound impact on education—not just for blind or visually impaired students, but also for struggling readers. And, though improvements in the technology can be traced to the work of thousands of software programmers, futurist and inventor Ray Kurzweil is widely considered the father of these intelligent systems.

Kurzweil was the principal developer of the first omni-font optical character recognition system, the first print-to-speech reading machine for the blind, the first text-to-speech synthesizer, and the first commercially marketed large-vocabulary speech recognition program, among other technologies. Twelve years ago, he founded Kurzweil Educational Systems, whose software—the Kurzweil 3000—scans a printed document and displays the page just as it appears in the original source, with all of the color graphics and pictures intact. It then reads the document out loud while highlighting the words as they are being read. Along with other similar products, such as Freedom Scientific’s WYNN, the software is being used to help students with disabilities excel in school and even take the same high-stakes exams as their peers.

Kurzweil continues to develop new technologies that tackle reading and language barriers, and his forecasts for the future of technology are helping school leaders hone their long-range vision. Earlier this year, in partnership with the National Federation of the Blind, Kurzweil began marketing a cell phone that incorporates text-to-speech capability—and while the device currently costs too much for schools, its impact is sure to be felt in the decade ahead.



Nicholas Negroponte Nicholas Negroponte
 Chairman, One Laptop Per Child

Three years ago, Negroponte—then a professor at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology and director of MIT’s Media Lab—had a game-changing idea: What if we designed a kid-friendly laptop that cost only a hundred dollars, and made it available to children in developing countries? How might this revolutionize education all over the world?

Tech giants such as Microsoft and Intel publicly scoffed at Negroponte’s idea—then promptly set about trying to rip it off, worried that a small nonprofit startup might freeze them out of emerging world markets.

Negroponte’s project, One Laptop Per Child, has suffered several setbacks in pursuing its ambitious goal. For one thing, the laptops now cost around $180, and production problems have delayed shipments to people who signed up for the project’s "Give One, Get One" program late last year. Also, faced with competition from Intel’s Classmate PC, which runs Windows instead of a customized version of the open-source Linux operating system, One Laptop Per Child has found its idea to be a tougher sell than originally thought.

Yet, even in the midst of these defeats, Negroponte’s project could still be considered a success. Although Intel’s Classmate device has cost One Laptop some business, it also has helped Negroponte realize his vision. Governments in developing nations now have several low-cost options for giving every student access to technology—and the revolution Negroponte had hoped for is indeed underway.



Susan PatrickSusan Patrick
CEO, North American Council for Online Learning

Online learning has exploded in popularity over the last decade. Ten years ago, the idea of completely internet-based elementary or secondary schools was just getting off the ground; now, as of last fall, 42 states had either supplemental or full-time online learning programs, according to the North American Council for Online Learning (NACOL). And while there are several movers and shakers who have helped lead the virtual-school revolution, NACOL’s Susan Patrick gets the nod on our list, both for what she and her organization have done to help promote the idea of online education and also for her contributions to ed tech prior to joining the group.

As director of the U.S. Department of Education’s Office of Educational Technology from February 2004 through August 2005, Patrick championed the integration of technology into all facets of education—from classroom instruction to front-office administration. She also oversaw development of the third, and most recent, national ed-tech plan, "Toward a New Golden Age in American Education: How the Internet, the Law and Today’s Students Are Revolutionizing Expectations," which was published in January 2005. The new plan called for stronger ed-tech leadership, creative financing, access to broadband internet service, more digital content, and interoperable data systems, among other priorities.

Patrick left the department in August 2005 to head NACOL, which has done a great deal to spur the growth of online education. Last year, the group issued a free guide intended to help school leaders implement virtual-school programs of their own and help parents understand how online instruction works, and NACOL also has published standards for ensuring that online teaching and virtual-school programs are of high quality.



Linda RobertsLinda G. Roberts
Former Special White House Advisor on Educational Technology

A former teacher and university professor, Roberts is a visionary who was the first to champion educational technology within the federal government. Twelve years ago, working for the Clinton administration, she founded the U.S. Department of Education’s Office of Educational Technology and spearheaded the creation of the first national ed-tech plan. Under her leadership, federal funding for educational technology increased from $30 million to nearly $900 million annually at its peak and included a program to train pre-service teachers in the use of technology. Roberts also played a key role in the development of the eRate, and her efforts have laid the groundwork for much of the progress that schools have made to date in integrating technology into instruction.

Though she’s been out of government service for the last eight years, Roberts is still a strong advocate of using technology to transform education. She currently serves on the board of directors for Curriki, an online community that promotes free and open collaboration among educators, and she also serves as a senior advisor to Apple Inc. and other ed-tech companies.



Lajeane ThomasLajeane Thomas Project Director, National Educational Technology Standards

KnezekDon Knezek CEO, International Society for Technology in Education

Thomas—a professor of curriculum, instruction, and leadership at Louisiana Tech University—led a project for the International Society for Technology in Education (ISTE) to create the nation’s first set of standards for defining what students should know about, and be able to do with, technology.

The first National Educational Technology Standards, or NETS (as they are commonly known), were released in 1998 and applied only to students, but—under the leadership of Thomas and Chief Executive Don Knezek—ISTE soon after followed these up with NETS for teachers and then administrators.

These important standards are used in many schools today to help guide their ed-tech initiatives, and ISTE just released an updated version of its NETS for students last year at the group’s National Educational Computing Conference—the largest annual ed-tech trade show in the country. (Revised NETS for teachers are expected at this year’s National Educational Computing Conference in June.)



Honorable mentions

There have been several groundbreaking developments that have had a profound impact on educational technology in the last decade, but cannot be traced to a single individual without overlooking the important contributions of others.

Perhaps the most significant of these is the debut of the eRate, the $2.25 billion-a-year federal program that has helped bring the internet into nearly every classroom in America, roughly 10 years ago. The program was authorized through the Telecommunications Act of 1996, thanks largely to the bipartisan efforts of four lawmakers in particular: Sens. Jim Exon, D-Neb., Bob Kerrey, D-Neb., John Rockefeller, D-W.Va., and Olympia Snowe, R-Maine.

Former FCC Chairman William Kennard deserves credit for fighting to restore the program’s funding to $2.25 billion after an initial public outcry led to a reduction in first-year commitments, and former Vice President Al Gore deserves praise for lobbying to save the eRate in the face of stinging criticism from some members of Congress. (Gore’s support of the eRate led its critics to dub the program the "Gore tax," referring to the surcharges that telecommunications carriers passed along to their customers to help pay for the eRate.)

Former SLD President Kate Moore, meanwhile, was instrumental in keeping the eRate afloat during its rocky start. Moore took over the helm of the group responsible for administering the eRate in August 1998, when the program’s future was very much in doubt. Her predecessor, Ira Fishman, had resigned amid criticism from opponents of the eRate in Congress that his salary was too high—just one of many attacks leveled at the program in its first year. Moore steered the eRate through these first few tenuous years, until schools began seeing the program’s enormous benefits—which quelled the criticism some.

Another key series of developments in educational technology over the last decade was the creation of Apple’s iPod, followed by iTunes and—in collaboration with Stanford University and other schools—iTunes U, which has revolutionized how students review for exams, while extending the learning process beyond the confines of the traditional classroom.

The whole coursecasting phenomenon started when Stanford officials recognized the potential to deliver recorded lectures and other campus events to students, alumni, and the general public through an iTunes-type site for education. Today, several hundred schools and colleges make course lectures and other video and audio content available free of charge through iTunes U, allowing students to download lectures to their iPods or other media players and listen or watch at their convenience—while studying for a test, if they’ve missed a class, or even just to flesh out their notes if the professor went too fast.

Coursecasting has contributed to the "democratization" of education as well, as even the general public now has free and easy access to much of the wisdom and insight once locked away on college campuses. Another effort that has fueled this democratization of knowledge is MIT’s pioneering OpenCourseWare project, which makes the university’s entire curriculum available online, free of charge.

In 1999, MIT provost Robert Brown wanted the MIT Council on Education Technology to position itself as a leader in distance education. This led to the creation of the OpenCourseWare project, which was directed by Hal Abelson and other MIT faculty. On Nov. 28, 2007, MIT celebrated the publication of its entire curriculum on the OpenCourseWare web site—and the project has inspired dozens of other colleges and universities to follow suit.

Here’s another key ed-tech development in the last decade: Five years ago, a group of ed-tech industry leaders, supported by the U.S. Department of Education, banded together with the goal of helping schools teach skills that are critical to the 21st-century workforce, such as problem solving, critical thinking, collaboration, and communication. The Partnership for 21st Century Skills has since teamed up with education officials from seven states to realign their standards and curriculum to reflect the importance of teaching these skills in the classroom, and the group has created a roadmap for how educators in other states can do so as well.

Although the group’s contributors are too numerous to mention, one stands out in particular: Karen Cator of Apple Inc., who chaired the partnership in its early years. As director of Apple’s leadership and advocacy efforts in education, Cator also manages the Apple Distinguished Educator Program and the publishing of best practices in teaching and learning with technology on the Apple Learning Interchange site.

Under the direction of Douglas Van Houweling, the Internet2 initiative has been exploring advanced research applications made possible by an ultra high-speed computer network connecting universities, research facilities, and even several K-12 schools for the last 12 years. Internet2 allows schools and universities to take advantage of advanced learning applications over the web, such as digital libraries, "virtual laboratories" and collaborative research, "tele-immersion" (shared virtual reality), and high-definition television.

Virtual schooling, in which students attend classes entirely online, has taken off in the last decade—and one of the first and most successful of these schools is the Florida Virtual School (FLVS), which has served as a model for other such schools to follow. The country’s first statewide internet-based public high school, FLVS launched during the 1997-98 school year under the direction of Julie Young and today serves middle and high school students nationwide with more than 90 courses.

Mary Ann Wolf, executive director of the State Educational Technology Directors Association, and her predecessor, Melinda George, deserve a nod for providing resources and a vehicle for state ed-tech directors to collaborate and learn from each other, as well as for lobbying on behalf of ed-tech support. And Karen Billings, who heads the Software and Information Industry Association’s education division, has overseen efforts to give schools advice on how to write effective RFPs for school software purchases and integrate technology into all facets of education.

Two other industry executives merit special attention for their contributions to ed tech: Mary Cullinane, director of Microsoft’s U.S. Partners in Learning program, is helping to redesign education for the 21st century through a partnership with the School District of Philadelphia to build a School of the Future and Terry Smithson, education strategist for Intel Corp., led an effort to rebuild Gulf Coast schools as 21st-century learning facilities in the wake of Hurricane Katrina.

And finally, there have been numerous researchers whose study of emerging technologies will have a significant impact on teaching and learning in the next few years. Harvard researcher Chris Dede—the Timothy E. Wirth Professor of Learning Technologies for Harvard’s Graduate School of Education—is near the top of this list, and his work on augmented reality, multi-user virtual environments, and next-generation assessments serves as a precursor for what schools can expect in the next 10 years.

What do you think of our list? Who have we missed that is deserving of mention? Make your opinions known in the comments section of this article below.


El proyecto de laptops de bajo precio ofrece nuevas herramientas

Ahora los beneficiarios de un movimiento orientado a dotar a los estudiantes en países en desarrollo de laptops de bajo precio tienen un nuevo recurso que les ayudará a aprovechar la tecnología para fines educativos, gracias a un nuevo acuerdo entre ePals Inc. y los distribuidores de computadoras.
El acuerdo significa que los estudiantes que tienen un Classmate PC de Intel o una máquina XO de la fundación One Laptop Per Child (OLPC – Un Laptop para Cada Niño) podrán acceder al juego de herramientas electrónicas de comunicación de ePals. Estas herramientas—incluyendo las aplicaciones SchoolMail, SchoolBlog, y Global Learning Community (Comunidad Global de Aprendizaje)—son seguras y están orientadas a los niños.
La compañía ePals tuvo su inicio en 1996 como un servicio en línea de amigos por correspondencia, y ahora ofrece eMail para el aula, blogs, herramientas electrónicas de alfabetización, y proyectos colaboradores en línea sobre temas como el cambio climático y el medio ambiente—todo sin ningún costo a los usuarios.
Dado que aproximadamente 125,000 aulas y 13 millones de estudiantes en todo el mundo están utilizando sus aplicaciones gratuitas para comunicar y colaborar en línea, ePals ahora está en posición de expandir aún más su rango.
Todos los estudiantes y los maestros del mundo que tienen un Classmate PC o un laptop XO de OLPC podrán unirse a la Global Learning Community—supuestamente la red más grande de aulas interconectadas del mundo—simplemente haciendo “click” con el ratón sobre el icono de ePals en el escritorio de su computadora. Así, dice ePals, entrarán a un ambiente en línea seguro donde pueden crear conocimiento e intercambiar información.
“Estamos trabajando juntos para promover el desarrollo de las habilidades del siglo 21 de los estudiantes a través del uso del Internet en un ambiente seguro. Allí, ellos pueden crear conciencia del mundo, llegar a dominar el pensamiento crítico y colaborar en algunos proyectos,” dijo Ed Fish, presidente de ePals.
Lila Ibrahim, gerente general del Emerging Markets Platform Group de Intel, se hace eco del entusiasmo de Fish sobre la asociación y dice que las aplicaciones de ePals “complementan los elementos colaboradores del Classmate PC—permitiendo que los estudiantes y los maestros colaboren y aprendan juntos a desarrollar las habilidades necesarias para funcionar en una economía global en un ambiente seguro.”
Según el New York Times, ya existen pruebas de que las aplicaciones de ePals pueden mejorar la educación en países en desarrollo, como pasó en una escuela en Kragujevac, Serbia. Una maestra en la escuela, Mirjana Milovic, dice que ePals ayudó a 120 estudiantes a mejorar su inglés. Sus amigos por correspondencia de Alabama y Kansas “también han aprendido que los jeans y los zapatos Nike son populares en Kragujevac, pero que el McDonald´s tuvo que cerrar por falta de clientes,” dice Milovic.
Al mismo tiempo, algunos estudiantes en San Diego utilizan las aplicaciones de ePals para hacer “visitas virtuales al campo” y para comunicarse en línea con otros estudiantes en Italia, China y la República Checa. Los estudiantes han aprendido sobre la vida familiar y los sistemas políticos de estos países, al mismo tiempo que mejoran su escritura.
El anuncio de que Intel y OLPC han formado una asociación con ePals coincide con un acuerdo que hizo ePals con el consejo del New Partnership for Africa´s Development (La Nueva Asociación para el Desarrollo de África). A través de este acuerdo, los estudiantes y los educadores de África tendrán la oportunidad de conectarse con todas las aulas del mundo que participen en el Global Learning Community de ePals. Además, la National Geographic Society trabajará con ePals para proveer contenido digital sobre materias educativas.
Al comienzo, el contenido de National Geographic será parte de la información que provee el Global Learning Community sobre temas tales como mapas y geografía, el hábitat de los animales, el calentamiento global, los desastres naturales, población y culturas, los grandes líderes, agua y clima.
ePals está liderando la transformación digital del panorama educativo hacia una experiencia más dinámica, multicultural y colaboradora,” dijo Edward Prince, jefe de operaciones de National Geographic Ventures, la compañía que desarrolla y distribuye el contenido digital para el National Geographic Society.
Price añadió que ePals brinda “a los usuarios una experiencia de aprendizaje rica, al mismo tiempo que ofrece una plataforma poderosa que permite que los proveedores de contenido entreguen sus recursos de una forma significativa.”
ePals Inc.
Intel’s Classmate PC

La última tendencia en seguridad escolar: La convergencia

Ante nuevas preocupaciones de seguridad, especialmente tras los recientes asesinatos en varias escuelas de los Estados Unidos (EE. UU.), los educadores están buscando nuevas formas de mejorar los sistemas de seguridad de sus escuelas—y la nueva tendencia es unir todas las herramientas físicas de seguridad en una sola red electrónica.
En el Campus Safety Conference (Conferencia sobre Seguridad de los Campus) que tuvo lugar en California el 20 de febrero de este año, funcionarios de Cisco Systems discutieron la importancia de fusionar todas las herramientas físicas de seguridad de una escuela en una red electrónica. Según ellos, ahora las escuelas lo están haciendo a un ritmo sin precedentes.
Aunque la seguridad escolar sea una prioridad absoluta para los líderes académicos, en muchas escuelas las herramientas de seguridad físicas y electrónicas—compuestas de una mezcla de diferentes sistemas de alarmas, cameras de vigilancia, sistemas de comunicación, y radios—no están coordinadas. En consecuencia, estos sistemas no pueden comunicarse con los nuevos sistemas digitales que están conectados a una red que muchas escuelas han instalado recientemente.
Brigham Young University (BYU) siguió el modelo de muchas empresas cuando fusionó sus herramientas físicas de seguridad con su red electrónica. Ahora todos los edificios principales de BYU utilizan tarjetas de acceso que están conectadas a la red. Recientemente la universidad cambió sus cameras de vigilancia analógicas por un sistema de vigilancia IP; ahora se pueden ver las imágenes de las cameras a través de una red interconectada. Además, BYU fusionó su sistema de radio y su red IP usando el IP Interoperability Collaboration System (IPICS) de Cisco.
“Antes de actualizar nuestro sistema de comunicaciones, era muy difícil capacitar a los emisarios de mensajes para emergencias, porque ellos literalmente tuvieron que aprender más de 70 interfaces diferentes para transmitir información,” dijo Steve Goodman, supervisor del centro de comunicaciones de BYU. “Ahora que utilizamos nuestra red como la plataforma para las comunicaciones, el proceso de emitir mensajes es más racional y eficiente.”
La universidad ya tiene mecanismos de notificación masiva, incluyendo notificaciones por eMail, y ahora está instalando otros, como mensajes de texto por suscripción y un sistema que permite que un administrador asuma control sobre todos los teléfonos del campus y utilice el altavoz de esos aparatos.
Algunas encuestas realizadas en la universidad indicaron que alrededor del 95 por ciento de estudiantes tiene teléfonos celulares con capacidad de recibir mensajes de texto.
“La mayoría de los estudiantes ya no tienen teléfonos tradicionales con cables,” dijo Goodman. “Nosotros entendemos que estos estudiantes cambian . . . con bastante frecuencia, se trasladan, se gradúan, y tendremos que incentivarlos a ellos y a la comunidad para que mantengan sus números de contacto actualizados.”
Moraine Valley Community College (una institución de educación superior de la comunidad de Moraine Valley) en Palos Hills, Illinois, desarrolló su estrategia de seguridad alrededor de un sistema de comunicaciones IP, con el uso de SchoolMessenger para Cisco Unified Communications.
Recientemente, los funcionarios de la escuela usaron el sistema para cancelar las clases después de una tormenta.
“Nos tomó apenas 16 minutos para informar a 18,000 estudiantes que íbamos a cancelar las clases por causa del mal tiempo,” dijo Jack Leifel, el jefe de información de la escuela. “Después, el sistema generó un informe de todas las personas que contestaron el teléfono, las que recibieron un mensaje de voz, y las llamadas que no conectaron.”
Una racha de violencia en las escuelas, incluyendo los asesinatos en la universidad Virginia Tech en abril y en Northern Illinois University en febrero, ha llamado la atención del público sobre la necesidad de tener sistemas de comunicación dedicadas a responder a las emergencias.
“Ya antes de los acontecimientos en Virginia Tech habíamos estado investigando los diferentes mecanismos que podríamos utilizar para comunicarnos con los estudiantes y el personal,” dijo Leifel. Él y su equipo, incluyendo Bill Helmold, director de servicios de informática para clientes, examinaron el sistema de notificación masiva de SchoolMessenger e hicieron una presentación a los funcionarios de la escuela Moraine Valley antes de instalarlo.
“Después de los asesinatos en Virginia Tech, el presidente de la escuela nos dijo que era imprescindible tomar medidas [para mejorar la seguridad],” dijo Leifel.
“Hicimos una actualización de nuestra red alrededor del 2001, instalamos telefonía IP en el 2003, y desde ese momento hemos estado investigando diferentes formas de aprovechar otros productos e integrarlos,” dijo él. “Tenemos la base, y una vez que hayamos instalado el sistema VoIP, tendremos la capacidad de seguir adelante.”
El cuerpo de vigilancia del campus está conectado al sistema de emergencias 911, dijo Leifel, lo cual forma parte del sistema de telefonía de la universidad.
“Si alguien marca 911 desde un teléfono del campus, esa llamada va directa a la policía local, pero al mismo tiempo la llamada enciende otro teléfono e informa al cuerpo de vigilancia de la escuela sobre el origen de la llamada,” continuó él.
Grant Joint Union High School District (El Distrito Unido de Escuelas Secundarias de Grant) en Sacramento, California, ganó una subvención del programa Securing Our Schools (Protegiendo Nuestras Escuelas) del Departamento de Justicia de los EE. UU. para instalar sistemas de vigilancia IP en sus escuelas. Utilizando el Video Surveillance Manager de Cisco, la administración de cada escuela y el Policía de Grant fácilmente pueden ver videos en vivo y grabados, además de buscar y trasmitir imágenes de lugares locales y remotos.
“Las cameras de video IP cambiaron de inmediato nuestra perspectiva con relación a la seguridad en nuestras escuelas, y nos dimos cuenta de que era importante compartir con las otras escuelas del distrito nuestra capacidad de comunicarnos con el personal de la escuela, con la policía y con los estudiantes,” dijo Joni Jones, ingeniero senior de la red de Grant Joint Union. “Ahora, en todo el distrito, las personas autorizadas pueden accesar y manejar video en vivo y grabado desde casi cualquier sitio.”
En el Campus Safety Conference en Long Beach, California, la gerente de soluciones para la educación de Cisco, Phylis Miquel, y Dean Zanone, gerente de cuentas de seguridad pública y un sargento retirado del Departamento de Policía de Seal Beach, tuvieron mucho que decir sobre la tendencia hacia la convergencia.
“Una tendencia que estamos viendo es la fusión de redes IP con herramientas físicas de seguridad para racionalizar los sistemas de data y comunicaciones, y así volver más eficientes los procesos para responder a las emergencias,” dijo Miquel.
Consolidar y fusionar varios sistemas de seguridad en una sola red ayuda a reducir el número de interfaces que los emisarios de mensajes para emergencias necesitan para responder a un evento, dijo Miquel. También permite que las escuelas maximicen su inversión en las redes IP, porque la infraestructura IP ofrece más flexibilidad a medida que van cambiando las necesidades y salen diferentes tecnologías al mercado.
Miquel concluyó: “Los cuerpos de vigilancia de las escuelas y la policía entienden que es necesario fusionar las diferentes herramientas de seguridad para ofrecer el ambiente más seguro a los estudiantes. En un mundo donde todo está fusionado, las imágenes de los sistemas de vigilancia pueden ser enviadas instantáneamente a las autoridades relevantes, permitiendo que éstas respondan a las amenazas antes de que ocurran o mientras ocurren, y no horas después.”
Cisco Systems
Brigham Young University
Moraine Valley Community College

Round Rock ISD ensures a safe and productive online environment with Vericept Monitor

Like most school districts, Round Rock Independent School District is dedicated to providing its students with the latest internet technologies to advance the education process while maintaining the safest and most productive online environment. But achieving this balance is an ongoing challenge—and one that Round Rock ISD realized it could no longer accomplish with its existing IT resources.
As Ed Zaiontz, executive director of information services, explained: “With more than 40,000 students and 17,000 computers to oversee, we knew we needed an automated solution that would protect our school community from growing web-based threats, but not hinder the educational benefits of the internet. We were also looking for a solution that would help us stay in compliance with federal mandates such as the Children’s Internet Protection Act [CIPA] and Family Education Right to Privacy Act [FERPA].”
After conducting a thorough analysis of several possible content monitoring solutions, Round Rock ISD selected Vericept Monitor for its ability to intelligently monitor all internet-based communications, including eMail, web traffic, instant messaging, peer-to-peer file sharing, chat, blogs, web postings, File Transfer Protocol (FTP) traffic, and Telnet.
Providing a safe environment for students and staff
As more and more inappropriate content becomes available on the internet, school districts such as Round Rock have found it increasingly difficult to maintain a safe online environment. Internet communication such as instant messaging, chat rooms, social networking sites, blogs, and peer-to-peer traffic can put a school at risk of data breaches or even more serious consequences, such as harm to students, faculty, and staff.
“Protecting our students from inappropriate content on the internet is one of our top priorities,” said Zaiontz. “Vericept Monitor provides us with the kind of intelligence we need to preempt online threats, such as cyber bullying, that can jeopardize the safety of our students.”
Zaiontz added that Round Rock’s Information Systems group also takes seriously the welfare of the district’s more than 4,500 faculty and staff.
“The complex nature of today’s online environment requires us to provide a new level of protection for our users,” he said. “We need to ensure that the internet activities of our employees are safe from cyber threats and do not pose a liability to themselves or the school district. With Vericept, our staff can be confident that their online interactions are secure.”
Protecting personally identifiable information
Managing the personally identifiable information (PII) of 40,000 students and 4,500 faculty and staff is no small task for the Information Services department of Round Rock ISD. The school district must comply with such federal regulations as CIPA, FERPA, and HIPAA. Failure to comply with these mandates and a data breach of PII can result in a loss of funding for the district, as well as more serious consequences such as possible legal action.
As Zaiontz explained, “It’s critical that we protect the privacy of our students and staff. Exposure of such highly confidential information as student records, Social Security numbers, and employee payroll data could have devastating results for individuals and our district.”
Prior to deploying Vericept, Round Rock did not have an automated solution for monitoring sensitive information that might be leaking from its network. Even though the district had an acceptable use policy that was strictly enforced, Round Rock administrators did not feel they had real control over what might be moving outside the network. Since installing Vericept Monitor, Round Rock has been able to gain better visibility into network activity without interfering with valuable internet-based education tools.
Vericept Monitor goes beyond keyword searches and pattern matching by reading the content, understanding the context, and analyzing the structure of all internet-based communication and attachments. This kind of detection provides Round Rock’s Information Services team with the visibility and proof-positive evidence to identify data privacy violations and enforce compliance with federal regulations such as FERPA.
One of FERPA’s requirements is that student Social Security numbers cannot be sent over a network unencrypted. Using Vericept Monitor, Round Rock was able to identify a server with unencrypted Social Security numbers, shut down the server, and inform the staff that such private identifying information cannot be broadcast across the network for any purpose.
Round Rock can point to several other instances, too, of network abuse and violations of state and federal privacy laws that have been discovered using the intelligent content captures and robust reporting capabilities of Vericept Monitor.
Moving beyond content filtering
Although Round Rock currently uses a content filtering solution to block access to inappropriate web sites, it looks to Vericept to provide a complementary solution to meet its needs.
“Although our filtering system provides a good foundation for deterring inappropriate internet activity, we know that no filter is 100-percent effective,” said Zaiontz. “We needed an additional measure to identify and prevent threats to our online learning environment.”
With Vericept, Round Rock is able to see the detail of all user activity, regardless of proxies or anonymous user names that are being used. Vericept automatically flags and categorizes each violating session, and allows Round Rock to rebuild the session with full, rich content. This provides much more detail than just a simple URL or IP address.
As Zaiontz concluded, “By using the content monitoring capabilities of Vericept along with appropriate education of our students and staff, we feel we are taking a proactive approach to internet safety.”
Round Rock Independent School District

Software gratuito convierte una computadora en dos

Mientras que los líderes académicos buscan formas económicas de extender los recursos de computación a todos los estudiantes, una compañía canadiense dice que donará software que convierte una computadora en dos.
Userful, una compañía privada basada en Alberta, Canadá, fabrica software que permite al usuario conectar otro monitor, teclado USB, y ratón a un UPC estándar, para que dos usuarios puedan trabajar con la misma computadora a la vez.
Con la nueva iniciativa de Userful, las personas pueden obtener este software sin costo. La iniciativa empezó como una promoción navideña, y las licencias dobles permiten que los usuarios que tengan una tarjeta de video extra (o una tarjeta de video ‘dual head –doble) puedan añadir otro terminal de trabajo. La compañía ofrece dos descargas gratuitas: una que permite al usuario convertir su PC en dos terminales independientes sin afectar el software ya instalado en el disco duro, y otra para los usuarios que ya tienen el sistema operativo Linux.
"Esta promoción duplica la utilidad y el valor de su computadora a un costo mínimo," dice Tim Griffin, el presidente de Userful. "De hecho, si ya tiene un monitor y un teclado adicional, es como recibir una computadora gratis."
Userful está regalando las licencias de su software para dos usuarios para demostrar el potencial de computación que tienen los PCs de escritorio, pero que ahora está siendo subutilizado. Griffin explica: "mantener un PC adicional requiere mucho trabajo, y no todos pueden comprar un segundo PC…Tuvimos tan buena respuesta a la promoción navideña que decidimos continuar regalando nuestro software."
La iniciativa también mejoró la venta de sus productos, dijo Sean Rousseau, director de mercadeo y relaciones públicas de Userful.
"Empezamos a regalar este software esperando que la gente viera que funciona tan bien en su casa que lo recomendaría en su trabajo o en las escuelas como una manera de conservar el medio ambiente y ahorrar en los costos de tecnología," él dijo. "Parece que está funcionando."
Según Rousseau, la promoción permite que los consumidores vean cómo funciona el software, para luego hacer un upgrade al software Desktop Multiplier de Userful, el cual permite la conexión de hasta 10 monitores, ratones y teclados a un solo PC. Actualmente, por solo $199 Userful ofrece un paquete para cuatro usuarios (con una tarjeta de video quad-head, y cuatro teclados y ratones USB).
Algunas aplicaciones importantes que se pueden usar con el software Multiplier son los buscadores de Internet Firefox y Epiphany; las aplicaciones de procesador de textos, hoja electrónica, y presentaciones de OpenOffice; Adobe Reader; Tótem Movie Player; Nautilus Open Fólder File Manager; y más.
Según Userful, cientos de escuelas en todo el mundo están utilizando el software Desktop Multiplier, y la compañía espera que ese número aumente a más de 4,000 después de varios lanzamientos que se harán en el futuro.
Rousseau dice que Userful está especialmente orgulloso de un proyecto para proveer 2,205 terminales de computación a 105 escuelas en Sudáfrica, utilizando sólo 315 computadoras. La compañía espera que el proyecto pueda ayudar a minimizar la brecha digital en ese país y aumentar las habilidades técnicas de los estudiantes.
Las escuelas estadounidenses están aprovechando el software también. Debido al software de Userful, el distrito escolar Community Schools of Frankfort (Escuelas Comunitarias de Frankfort) en Indiana está ahorrando en costos de tecnología en sus 3,300 escuelas.
La escuelas de Frankfort ya estaban usando el sistema SUSE Linux Enterprise Desktop a través del programa Indiana´s Affordable Classroom Computers for Every Secondary Student (inACCESS), el cual procura dotar a cada estudiante de educación secundaria de una computadora de escritorio que utiliza el sistema operativo Linux. El distrito de Frankfort pudo conectar seis estudiantes a cada computadora Linux usando el software Linux Multiplier de Userful. Los estudiantes pueden conectar un headset (unos auriculares) USB o un memory key a su teclado para escuchar audio y grabar archivos.
La consecuencia, según oficiales locales, ha sido mejor comportamiento (de las máquinas), mejor apoyo para multimedia, y ahorros de hasta 80 por ciento en hardware, gestión, infraestructura de redes y electricidad.
Userful no es la primera empresa que saca un producto para extender el poder de procesamiento de un PC a varios usuarios. La compañía NComputing de California ofrece una solución similar.
Rousseau dijo que su compañía sólo requiere software para convertir una computadora en varias, a diferencia de NComputing, que requiere hardware propietario thin-client para su solución. Él también dijo que Userful utiliza tarjetas de video para producir los gráficos, no el UPC–así "hay mucho menos impacto sobre el comportamiento de la máquina cuando se extiende a múltiples usuarios."
Sin embargo, Stephen Dukker, presidente de NComputing–cuya solución supuestamente puede acomodar hasta 30 usuarios en un solo PC–dice que aunque el software de Userful es "una solución excelente," NComputing representa el futuro.
"Userful representa otra generación de tecnología más vieja que utilizaba varias tarjetas de gráficos y que no era una solución integrada en el hardware," continuó Dukker.
Las tarjetas de gráficos consumen mucha energía y pueden gastar el poder del PC, él dijo. Además, dado que es necesario conectar el monitor a la tarjeta, se requiere un cable. El teclado USB requiere otro cable, y el ratón también–y múltiples cables y múltiples conexiones hacen que la integración sea más cara y más complicada, dijo Dukker.

Microsoft donará herramientas para desarrollo de software y páginas Web a estudiantes

Tomando otro paso para intensificar la competición con Adobe Systems Inc. y combatir la popularidad del software de código abierto, ahora Microsoft Corp. va a dar a los estudiantes acceso libre a sus herramientas más sofisticadas para el desarrollo de software y para la creación de sitios Web ricos en media.
Microsoft dijo que permitirá que los estudiantes descarguen el Visual Studio Professional Edition, un programa para desarrollar software; el Expression Studio, el cual incluye herramientas de diseño gráfico, de creación de sitios Web y de programación con una combinación de Web-PC; y XNA Game Studio 2.0, un programa para la creación de juegos de video.
La compañía también dará acceso al SQL Server 2005 Developer Edition y al Windows Server Standard Edition.
El presidente de Microsoft, Bill Gates, dijo que anteriormente la compañía había dado descuentos educativos en el precio de estos programas, pero que aquellos esfuerzos últimamente limitaron el número de estudiantes que podrían utilizar el software. Según él, DreamSpark, el nombre que Microsoft ha dado a la nueva iniciativa, dará acceso a muchos más estudiantes.
También es buen negocio para Microsoft, añadió Gates.
"Perdemos algunos ingresos provenientes de la venta del software, pero ganamos la retroalimentación que vendrá de la experiencia que los estudiantes tengan con los programas. Además, más cursos van a incorporar nuestras herramientas a sus currículos, y surgirán empresas nuevas cuyos fundadores y/o empleados estarán familiarizados con Visual Studio, Expression Studio, y SQL Server," dijo Gates.
El programa dará libre acceso a las herramientas de creación de software y desarrollo de sitios Web a más de 1 billón de estudiantes en todo el mundo. También dará impulso al ataque de Microsoft contra Adobe Systems del año pasado, cuando se puso en venta Expression Studio y Silverlight, programas que son similares a los programas de diseño Photoshop y Illustrator de Adobe–y que son actualmente los más vendidos en el mercado–y a Flash, la tecnología de video y animación que utilizan la mayoría de las páginas Web hoy en día.
"Microsoft tiene una estrategia brillante," dijo Chris Swenson, un analista de la industria de software para NPD Group. "Esta es una audiencia clave a la cual uno debe llegar si quiere tener un impacto importante en el gran mercado de aplicaciones para el Internet."
Dar acceso libre a Expression Studio a los estudiantes hoy aumenta la posibilidad de que la próxima manía de las innovaciones Web 2.0 esté diseñada con las herramientas de Microsoft y accedida con el plug-in Silverlight, y no con la tecnología de código abierto y los programas de Adobe.
DreamSpark también puede reducir el interés de una nueva generación de programadores en el software de código abierto. Ahora desde las empresas pequeñas hasta las compañías grandes como Google Inc. utilizan el software de código abierto como una alternativa barata y flexible a los programas de las compañías como Microsoft y el fabricante de bases de datos Oracle Corp.
Gates dijo que los estudiantes querrán probar las herramientas de Microsoft porque son más poderosas que el paquete de programas de código abierto que incluye los diferentes sistemas operativos basados en Linux, el servidor de Web Apache, la base de datos MySQL, y el lenguaje de script PHP que se usa para crear sitios Web complejos.
Sin embargo, según Gates la decisión de regalar el software de Microsoft no quiere poner a los estudiantes en contra del software de código abierto completamente, sino que espera que les dé otra herramienta de trabajo.
Entretanto, librar acceso a Visual Studio ayudará a asegurar la creación de nuevas aplicaciones de escritorio y de un híbrido de PC y Web. Microsoft espera que esas aplicaciones mantengan a los consumidores fieles a las computadoras de Windows, aún cuando más y más programas migren a la Web.
Empezando ahora, los programas están disponibles sin costo para más de 35 millones de estudiantes de educación superior en los Estados Unidos, Bélgica, China, Finlandia, Alemania, España, Suecia, Suiza y el Reino Unido.
Comenzando este otoño, DreamSpark estará disponible para los estudiantes de educación secundaria alrededor del mundo; y los estudiantes de educación superior en otros países podrán obtenerlo el año que viene, dijo Microsoft.
Microsoft dijo que está colaborando con las escuelas, el gobierno y las organizaciones estudiantiles en cada país para desarrollar sistemas que ayuden a confirmar que los estudiantes estén matriculados.

Gates dice a los estudiantes: Deben considerar carreras en tecnología

Según el presidente de Microsoft, Bill Gates, una gran escasez de graduados de informática (IT) en Norteamérica, está obligando a compañías como Microsoft y otras empresas de tecnología a acudir a países en desarrollo como China en busca de personal.
"Cuando queremos contratar muchos ingenieros de software, hay pocos en Norteamérica–muy pocos," dijo Gates en una entrevista con el Associated Press.
"Tenemos un problema muy grave: si no se puede encontrar ingenieros aquí, hay que [llevar] los trabajos a los ingenieros."
El 21 de febrero Gates estuvo en la Universidad de Waterloo en Ontario, Canadá–la cual históricamente ha sido un lugar preferido de Microsoft para buscar empleados–para dar un discurso a los estudiantes sobre el estado del desarrollo de la tecnología.
Pero Gates también informó a los estudiantes que hay mucha demanda para los trabajos en informática.
"Esto se debe en parte al hecho de que hay menos estudiantes matriculados en los programas de informática," él continuó después.
La matricula en el programa de ciencias de computación en la Universidad de Waterloo cayó 5.1 por ciento entre el 2006 y el 2007. En general, 408 estudiantes de primer año entraron al programa ese año; el número fue 430 el año anterior.
Sin embargo, los representantes de la Universidad dijeron que la matrícula en su programa todavía es mayor que en programas similares en otras universidades de Norteamérica.
Esa falta de talento "es una de las razones por las cuales abrimos una oficina en Vancouver," dijo Gates.
Microsoft tiene una estrategia de explotar el mercado global de profesionales de tecnología a través del establecimiento de centros de desarrollo en diferentes lugares.
La oficina de Vancouver, ubicada alrededor de 120 millas al norte de la sede de Microsoft en Redmond, Washington, tiene la ventaja de estar cerca del área principal de desarrollo de la compañía, aunque fuera de los Estados Unidos (EE. UU.).
"El gobierno canadiense facilita la contratación de gente inteligente de varios países para hacer un grupo que…[tiene] canadienses, asiáticos y europeos, trabajando juntos en el software," continuó Gates.
Según los observadores de la industria, el período siguiente al bajón del sector tecnológico que tuvo lugar entre el 2000 y el 2002 fue cuando los estudiantes empezaron a buscar otras profesiones, ya que pensaron que habrían muchos despedidos en el sector.
Pero pasó lo contrario, dijo Amy Parlous, directora ejecutiva del departamento de matemáticas de la Universidad de Waterloo.
"Ahora la informática es importante en todos los sectores; no se limita a un solo campo. Se ve en la política pública, la educación, la salud, en todas partes–entonces hay más trabajos," dijo Parlous.
Dar un vuelco a la escasez de especialistas en alta tecnología puede ser difícil, especialmente dado que las estadísticas indican que el retiro de muchos trabajadores de informática está agravando la falta de profesionales.
Durante su discurso Gates respondió a preguntas de los estudiantes e hizo referencia a su tiempo en la universidad durante "la Alta Edad Media," cuando tuvo que aprender sobre las computadoras durante su tiempo libre.
"Afortunadamente ustedes forman parte de una generación en la cual todos estos cursos se encontrarán en línea y sin costo. Yo ahora estoy tomando un curso en física de sólidos estáticos en MIT (Massachussets Institute of Technology–Instituto de Tecnología de Massachussets), aunque MIT no lo sabe," dijo en alusión al proyecto pionero OpenCourseWare de la universidad, el cual da acceso gratuito a los cursos en línea.
"Uds. tienen mucho mas control sobre su educación que cualquier otra generación."
Gates también criticó al gobierno de los EE. UU. por seguir una política de adherencia estricta a las reglas de la visa H-1B, la cual permite que las empresas estadounidenses contraten trabajadores calificados de otros países por un tiempo limitado si pertenecen a una lista de "ocupaciones especializadas."
Gates dijo que esa visa ha sido "un verdadero desastre."
Las reglas son estrictas y sólo aplican a los trabajadores altamente calificados.
"Si pudiera cambiar sólo una ley en los EE. UU., sería ésta," él continuó.
"Debería haber un flujo continuo de talento de los EE. UU. a Canadá y de Canadá a los EE. UU. Si hay una persona inteligente que quiere un trabajo, no debería ser tan difícil cruzar la frontera para hacerlo. Queremos que sea lo más fácil posible."
La visita de Gates a la Universidad de Waterloo formó parte de un viaje de despedida que él está haciendo antes de retirarse de las operaciones diarias de Microsoft. Gates intenta jubilarse como el arquitecto de software principal de Microsoft en julio para dedicarse a la filantropía.
Gates visitó cinco universidades más en el tour, incluyendo la Universidad de Chicago, la Universidad de Texas, Massachussets Institute of Technology, Stanford University, y Carnegie Mellon University.

A different kind of student exam: Breathalyzers spreading in popularity

Jim Hennessy, a Darien, Conn., high school junior, does not go to school dances anymore, reports the New York Times. The 16-year-old is boycotting them because to get in, he has to take a test that he thinks is unfair: Before he and classmates are allowed to enter a dance, they are asked to breathe into a device to determine whether they have consumed alcohol. Darien is one of many schools across the state that requires students to submit to a Breathalyzer test to gain entrance. School officials say the test is a fair way to ensure the safety of all students and send a clear message of zero tolerance for underage drinking. But Hennessy and some other students see it as a violation of privacy. "I think they are completely ridiculous and a breach of personal freedom," he said. "What you do off school grounds should be your own business."

Cell phones test schools’ outreach efforts

OMGYG2BK. As any teen parent knows, kids today don’t use cell phones to actually talk to each other: They text.

Now it turns out teens aren’t the only ones texting their way into history. New survey results released by the Pew Internet & America Life Project show that 58 percent of adult Americans are using cell phones and other mobile devices for non-voice activities.
And, for the first time, more Americans say cell phones—rather than landline phones—are the one technology device they couldn’t live without.
Did anyone else feel the earth shift? Americans now value cell phones or personal digital assistants (PDAs) over the internet and television—RLY.
This quest for faster, mobile access is transforming communication. And young adults, particularly Hispanics and African-Americans, are leading the way.
The trend is particularly strong among Hispanics, 73 percent of whom say they send or receive text messages. This compares with 68 percent of African-Americans and 53 percent of white adults.
Hispanics and African-Americans also are more likely than whites to use cell phones or PDAs to take a picture, send or receive eMail, access internet information, and send or receive instant messages.
Among adults under 30 years of age, cell phone saturation is nearly universal. Currently, 84 percent of English-speaking Hispanics under 30 have cell phones, as compared with 74 percent of white Americans and 71 percent of black Americans.
Hispanics and young adults also lead other Americans in using wireless access to go online away from home or work.
For example, 65 percent of English-speaking Hispanic internet users and 54 percent of black internet users have accessed the web wirelessly, compared with 49 percent of white internet users.
Wireless internet use also varies greatly by age. While 70 percent of online users between 18 to 29 years of age log on wirelessly away from home or work, only 39 percent of online users between ages 50 and 64 do so.
The age gap still persists for online users between 30 and 49 years of age—53 percent of whom access the internet using mobile means.
Since Hispanic young adults make up the fastest growing segment of new public school parents, this means today’s elementary school principals need to get the 411 on how to communicate with this on-the-go population.
When eMail seems almost quaint to these tech-savvy parents, it’s no wonder traditional methods—such as memos sent home in book bags and photocopied school newsletters—fail to connect.
Unlike landline phones, cell phone numbers change frequently, and they might never appear in a phone book or even on switchboard.com.
The transient nature of parent contact information, combined with young adults’ hunger for better, faster, and more mobile technologies, can create communication chaos for school leaders and teachers—and that’s before poverty, language barriers, and cultural differences are thrown into the mix.
This is especially true in urban and rural areas, where large numbers of immigrant workers—and parents of school-aged children—are likely to live.
In North Carolina’s Charlotte-Mecklenburg Schools (CMS), for example, Latinos represent the district’s fastest-growing student population.
Their parents also represent the most difficult group to reach, because they are less likely to speak English well, have internet access, watch the local television news, or read the daily newspaper.
For example, while 84 percent of all CMS parents have internet access, according to public opinion studies, only 55 percent of Hispanic/Latino parents do, as compared with 96 percent of white parents and 80 percent of African-American parents.
Access to cable television follows similar trends. While 71 percent of all CMS parents subscribe to cable television, only 55 percent of Hispanic/Latino parents do, as compared with 79 percent of white families and 67 percent of African-Americans.
Latinos in the nation’s 23rd largest school district also tend to prefer satellite dish (which carries Spanish-language programming from their native countries) over cable television, which means they also lose out on information shared via the district’s cable television channel.
Latino families that enter the United States illegally might rarely or never attend programs at their children’s schools, for fear of being turned over to immigration authorities.
Latino families are often more likely to live in poverty in CMS, which means the home addresses and phone numbers change frequently for many students and their parents as they try to stay one step ahead of various bill collectors.
With the economy worsening, multiple moves in one year are increasingly common, as more families teeter on the brink of financial disaster and homelessness.
Cheap cell phones and pay-as-you-go plans might represent a lifeline for many poor families, but the technology also makes it difficult for school officials to keep accurate and current contract information on students.
Like many urban districts, CMS often finds during emergency mass telephone notifications that as many as 20 percent of its student phone numbers are wrong.
Because urban issues eventually spread into the suburbs, school leaders would be wise to start preparing now for a generation of parents who are considerably harder to contact.
This means updating contact information monthly, rather than annually, and investing more in voice and text broadcasting systems that are web-enabled. 
Bilingual staff members who can answer parent phone calls, translate web copy, and send eMail, text, and voice messages in Spanish are increasingly essential if educators are going to bridge the gap between home and school successfully.
And, while it’s hard to imagine a veteran principal ever signing a text message with “L8R,” educators do need to learn more about this compact new language.
Webopedia’s “Guide to Understanding Online Chat Acronyms & Smiley Faces” provides 700 text-messaging abbreviations, is updated frequently, and is a good place to start.
(For the uninitiated: OMGYG2BK is “Oh my God, you’ve got to be kidding”; RLY is “really”; 411 is “the scoop,” or “the information”; and L8R is “later.”)
Award-winning eSchool News columnist Nora Carr is chief communications officer for North Carolina’s Charlotte-Mecklenburg Schools. She is nationally recognized for her work in educational communications.

URI gets $5.6M for technology education initiative

The University of Rhode Island’s School of Education has won a $5.6 million state grant to develop a new model of technology training for new and prospective teachers, Providence Business News reports. The grant will support URI’s New Order, Multi-Modal Advanced Design (NOMAD) Learning Spaces, a project intended to encourage collaboration by easing the transmission of knowledge, within the classroom and beyond. “This project is an answer to the question, ‘How do we ensure that teachers effectively use technology to enhance student learning?'” David Byrd, director of the URI School of Education, said in a statement. Goals of the project include giving teachers and their students better access to the latest news and professional-development information in math, science, engineering, and technology; boosting the number of teachers in those fields; developing new teaching methods; and engaging students whose nomadic learning style is a product of an era of laptop computers, cell phones, PDAs, and podcasts…

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