JASON Project launches free energy curriculum

A new science curriculum unit from The JASON Project enables students to explore one of society’s most important issues — energy –in a new distribution format featuring print-on-demand and other solutions for 21st-century classrooms. "Operation: Infinite Potential" is the third unit in JASON’s new line of science curricula, following units on ecology and weather. Each unit fully integrates digital and print content in an inquiry-based approach to instruction. Using research articles, hands-on labs, field assignments, videos, computer games, and other multimedia, students work with leading scientists to investigate and analyze emerging technologies designed to meet the needs of an energy-hungry planet. And for the first time, JASON is allowing free downloading and printing of all online Student and Teacher Editions in the new curriculum. "Operation: Infinite Potential" was developed in collaboration with the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, Shell, the U.S. Department of Energy’s Oak Ridge National Laboratory and National Energy Technology Laboratory, and the National Geographic Society. The unit provides five to nine weeks of classroom material with suggested lesson plans, extensions, interdisciplinary connections, and teacher resources. http://www.jason.org/public/WhatIs/CurrOIPIndex.aspx

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ED’s new tech chief previews national plan

As America’s brand-new director of education technology, career educator Karen Cator underscores the determination of President Obama and U.S. Education Secretary Arne Duncan to develop "a transformative agenda" for the nation’s schools and colleges. She said the U.S. Department of Education (ED) will unveil the first draft of the administration’s National Education Technology Plan next month.

"Technology will be in play in every aspect of the education-reform agenda," she said. 

In a speech at New York’s Princeton Club on Dec. 1, Cator–a lifelong educator, technology executive, state school official, and education advocate–gave a preview of the plan to more than 200 ed-tech providers and investors at the Ed-Tech Business Forum, a program presented by the Education Division of the Software and Information Industry Association (SIIA).

In broad terms, Cator said in an interview with eSchool News, the administration’s ed-tech plan will seek to bring to fruition the president’s vow to make the United States first in the world in the number of college graduates by 2020 and to give every willing student at least one year of postsecondary education.

The plan will address the imperatives of global competition, Cator said, but also will stress the importance of global interdependence. It will focus on ensuring effective teachers are present "in every zip code," on seamlessly bridging the gap between the wide array of technology students use outside of school and the more limited technology available to them in the classroom. She said America’s ed-tech plan will promote careers in science, technology, engineering, and math–but now will add an emphasis on the arts, because, as Cator explained, creativity is essential to lifelong success in the age of technology.

Cator indicated the unveiling of ED’s national ed-tech plan might roughly coincide with the release of the national broadband initiative from the Federal Communication Commission. The dovetailing of those two elements of the national agenda, she said, will provide the best chance in decades for genuine, technology-driven, systemic reform.

Although Cator had been on the job less than four weeks when she spoke at SIIA, she noted that work on the nation’s ed-tech plan has been under way for months. According to those engaged in that work, the plan will involve these four focus areas:

"Learning: Enabling unprecedented access to high-quality learning experiences. Everyone, including English Language Learners and students with disabilities, should have increased access to meaningful, well designed, and readily available learning experiences, throughout their lives.

"Assessment: Measuring what matters and providing the information that enables continuous improvement processes at all levels of the education system. Students, teachers, parents, and administrators should have access to the kinds of data that can enable better instructional decisions and provision of educational resources.

"Teaching: New ways to support those who support learning. Technology can enable mentors, coaches, and peers to better support learning both in and out of school. Teachers can benefit from resources provided through technology and from anytime-anywhere professional interactions, including collaborations to share and refine effective techniques and resources.

"Productivity: Redesigning systems and processes to free up education system resources to support learning. In an era of scarce resources, education systems need to take advantage of new technological and content solutions to reduce spending tied to inefficient systems and processes. This effort includes more effective approaches to education R&D to increase the pace of innovation and the scaling of effective practices."

More information from the national ed-tech plan working group work may be found at www.edtechfuture.org, Cator said.

As a result of early community outreach and public input, seven elements of the plan already are emerging. These will have to do with international benchmarks, new assessment strategies, longitudinal data, "effective teachers in every zip code," a rethinking of time and space (what students and teachers do and when and where they do it), how to apply the insights of neuroscience to education, and personalized, student-centered learning.

"The biggest hole," Cator said, is in research, development, and evaluation. It’s critical, she explained, to go beyond anecdotal observations that students "look happy and seem to be learning." The question for any ed-tech application, she said, should be, "How do we know it works?"

A key for educators in these challenging times, Cator said, will be to persuade policy makers that education technology will allow schools and colleges to make more efficient use of existing resources.

Educators, Cator suggested, should reflect on how to ask students questions in an era of ubiquitous information and on how to ensure that technology helps teachers teach what matters. According to Cator, other pertinent questions include these: How do we sustain and scale up promising practices? How do we create conditions to learn about best practices, products, and services?

For the education reform agenda to take hold, she said, "we need to identify and disseminate success stories."

A unique window of opportunity exists right now, Cator pointed out: "We have a genuine chance right now to transform education." This opportunity likely will be available only once in our lifetimes, she said.

Here are some highlights of the education and experience of the new director of ED’s Office of Educational Technology.

Cator: 
• Received a bachelors degree in early childhood education from Massachusetts’ Springfield College,
• Received a masters degree in school administration from the University of Oregon,
• Worked with Apple Computer beginning in 1997 and left the job as the director of education leadership and advocacy,
• Chaired the Partnership for 21st Century Skills from 2006-07,
• Lead technology planning and implementation in Juneau, Alaska, where she also served as special assistant for telecommunications to the lieutenant governor, and
• Served on the board of directors of the SIIA Education Division.

Links:

Software and Information Industry Association Education Division

Office of Educational Technology, U.S. Department of Education

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New CTO guidelines issued for schools

School districts have a new resource to help them define effective leadership in education technology: The Consortium for School Networking (CoSN) has released an updated version of its "Framework of Essential Skills" for K-12 chief technology officers (CTOs).

Unveiled during a Dec. 1 webinar, version 2.0 of the skills framework refreshes the version developed by CoSN’s CTO Council in 2001 to "reflect the current needs and priorities of 21st-century educators," said CoSN chief executive Keith Krueger. The updated framework aims to help answer the question: What must district technology leaders know to be successful?

"Though many education leadership positions are defined by a set of competencies and necessary skills, the concept of education technology leadership is relatively new in many school districts. We undertook this effort to empower CTOs and other educators with the information they need to provide visionary … district technology leadership," Krueger said.

Drawing from sources such as the Baldridge Education Criteria for Performance Excellence, Microsoft’s Professional Leadership Competency Wheel, and the work of Gartner Inc., the International Society for Technology in Education (ISTE), and many others, the revised framework consists of four groupings of essential skill areas: Leadership and Vision, Understanding the Educational Environment, Managing Technology and Support Resources, and Core Values and Skills.

Here’s a sampling of the many skills listed under each set.

Leadership and Vision

1. Leadership and Vision: CTOs must actively participate with members of the superintendent’s cabinet to create a vision for how technology will support the district’s strategic and operational goals. They also must establish and lead advisory committees that inform and support meaningful and effective uses of technology in support of the district’s strategic goals.

2. Strategic Planning: CTOs must work with key system leaders, people networks (such as math teachers), and departments to identify steps needed to meet strategic goals. They must work with these groups to identify budget and funding mechanisms.

3. Ethics and Policies: CTOs must model and assure adherence to state and federal laws, as well as demonstrate high standards of integrity and professional conduct with consideration for fairness and honesty.

Understanding the Education Environment

1. Instructional Focus and Professional Development: CTOs must plan for and coordinate ongoing, purposeful professional development and must identify and promote how technology can support educational best practices through communication and collaboration with the district instructional leadership.

2. Team Building and Staffing: CTOs must create cross-functional teams for appropriate aspects of the district’s technology program and support cross-functional teams for all aspects of the district’s technology program.

3. Stakeholder focus: CTOs must build buy-in for the vision for the district’s technology program and build relationships with stakeholders.

Managing Technology and Support Resources

1. Information Technology: CTOs must plan all tasks related to technical systems, network infrastructure, and desktop/notebook computer management, as well as implement all tasks related to these groups.

2. Communication Systems: CTOs must direct and coordinate use of eMail, district web sites, web tools, voice-mail systems, and other forms of communication. They must have working knowledge of various communication tools and techniques.

3. Business: CTOs must use their knowledge of funding sources available to the district and appropriately leverage them to meet district and programmatic goals, while also developing and managing budgets, both annually and long-range.

4. Data: CTOs must establish systems and tools for gathering, warehousing, mining, integrating, and reporting data in usable and meaningful ways. They also must maintain these systems.

As for the essential skill set of Core Values and Skills, CoSN has defined five characteristics a CTO should exhibit. The CTO should be a communicator, exhibit courage, be flexible and adaptable, be results-oriented, and be innovative.

CoSN says many people might compare its framework with ISTE’s National Education Technology Standards for Administrators (NETS-A), which CoSN participated in developing when they originally were conceived. However, while the NETS-A are intended for principals and superintendents, CoSN’s framework focuses on district CTOs and other technology leaders.

"Another way to think about this is that many of the competencies in the framework will support and allow ISTE NETS … to be carried out," the organization explains.

"While the core skills outlined in the framework were largely developed for and by CTOs, all 21st-century educators in leadership positions should take time to review the core competencies and their components," said L.C. (Buster) Evans, superintendent of Georgia’s Forsyth County Schools, during the webinar. "We live in a digital age, and it’s necessary for our students to be technology-literate–which makes CoSN’s new blueprint for successful district technology leadership all the more important."

Links:

Framework of Essential Skills for the K-12 CTO (v2.0)

Consortium for School Networking

ISTE NETS

Note to readers:

Don’t forget to visit the Anytime, Anywhere Professional Development resource center. When teachers are confident in the curriculum they teach, students will become more engaged in lessons and will learn more. Go to: Anytime, Anywhere Professional Development

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Today’s lesson: Developing iPhone apps

In what has become a growing trend, a computer science professor at Stetson University in Deland, Fla., recently oversaw the development of an iPhone application created for students, by students.

College students have developed a slew of mobile applications for smart phones in recent years, but few projects have involved undergraduates. University of Southern California graduate engineering students, for example, created an iPhone application last year that gives users access to 6,300 radio stations worldwide for 99 cents. And a Carnegie Mellon University graduate student developed an app that gives control of a person’s personal computer from anywhere in the world.

Last year, 12 Stetson University sophomores enrolled in an Introduction to Software Development course were told to create an iStetson app from scratch–meaning students would have to canvas their campus to see what features their peers would use in an iPhone program.

After extensive interviews with students and campus officials, the dozen rookie software developers created an app that shows the campus commons’ menu, allows access to campus events and class listings each semester, and lets students find other iStetson users using the iPhone’s GPS capabilities.

iStetson was released in July and approved by Apple in October. It’s available free of charge in the Apple Apps Store online.

Daniel Plante, an associate mathematics and computer-science professor who taught the class that created the iStetson app, said the semester-long iPhone project was an ideal exercise for an engaged, active learning environment.

"My philosophy with teaching this class is that students do better when they actually do [something], rather than be passive learners," said Plante, who will incorporate iPhone application construction into the spring 2010 curriculum. "We wanted to introduce something … that had the students doing the majority of the decision making."

Students received iPhones paid for by the school, AT&T provided $10,000 for phone service for application developers and computer hardware, and Apple donated laptops for the computer-science course.

Matt Wozniak, a student in Plante’s first iStetson class, said students were accustomed to demanding course projects that took a few weeks to complete.

But ironing out every logistical and technical detail of creating useful software, he said, was demanding for the second-year undergraduates.

"We had never done anything remotely close to this kind of scale," Wozniak said. "It was just a constant learning experience for every one of us."

Bill Penney, the university’s associate vice president and chief technology officer, said he wanted to incorporate iPhone app development into computer-science courses after he met Stanford University students who created the popular iStanford app.

Two Stanford students made an application that allowed for online tuition payment, access to faculty contact lists, and campus maps, along with many other features. The same students started a company called Terriblyclever, which was sold to software giant Blackboard in July for $4 million.

"[Meeting] those students is … what got me jazzed about doing the same thing here [at Stetson]," Penney said.

Downloading iStetson could prove useful for university students fulfilling cultural credits. Students can earn these credits by attending jazz festivals, art shows, and a number of other events that get students involved in the local community. The iStetson app alerts users to upcoming events that would help satisfy the school’s cultural credit requirement, Wozniak said.

Students focused on useable features in the creation of iStetson, he said, rather than wowing users with high-tech graphics.

"You can build the most technically … amazing app in the world, but if it doesn’t have good features, nobody will use it," he said.

Not all campus-based iPhone entrepreneurs have hailed from graduate and doctorate programs. Deepak Mantena, a University of Mississippi computer-science major, made an iPhone app in 2007 that created a to-do list and offered vocabulary lessons, among other features.

Mantena later launched his own company, called TapeShow.

A Texas State Technical College undergraduate recently released his Spacewalk 3D iPhone app, which gives users a first-person playing experience. The app sells for $1.99 in the Apple App Store.

Wozniak said he never considered iStetson a business venture, but the lessons learned in the four-month assignment could be invaluable for students hoping to capitalize on their app-making experience.

"I never had any expectations to make any money from it," he said. "But it certainly opened the door if any of us want to go down that path and get into mobile development."

Links:

iStetson

Stetson University

iStanford

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Group seeking advocates to contest education cuts

Calling all school advocates. The Arizona School Boards Association wants concerned school supporters to attend a free advocacy training session tonight at the East Valley Institute of Technology campus in Mesa in a grass-roots effort to pressure legislators to stop budget cuts to K-12 schools, The Arizona Republic reports. Gov. Jan Brewer last week approved the Legislature’s $300 million budget cut, a large portion of which gouged K-12 school soft-capital funding that typically is spent on new desks, textbooks and other items that students work with in the classroom. Brewer, who previously had vetoed those same cuts in the summer, said this time she believed they were inevitable due to the state’s massive deficit. School district officials and board representatives anticipate many more cuts in the coming months. They aim to lessen the blow through advocacy and lobbying efforts.

Click here for the full story

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Text-a-Tip programs help promote school safety

After struggling for years with an anti-snitching culture that made witnesses to crimes or potentially dangerous behavior too afraid to come forward, police across the country are getting help from text-a-tip programs that allow people to send anonymous text messages from their cell phones — and in many cases, the programs have been used to enhance school and campus safety.

Authorities in Douglas County, Colo., for example, thwarted a threatened Columbine-style attack after an anonymous text about a student’s "kill list" led them to weapons in the child’s home. And campus police at the University of Southern California in Los Angeles have used a text-a-tip service to help patrol football games that can attract more than 100,000 rowdy spectators.

In Boston, the first city to heavily promote texting for crime tips, police have received more than 1,000 tips since the program began two years ago. Police credit text-based tips for providing them with key leads in at least four high-profile killings, including the accidental shooting of 8-year-old Liquarry Jefferson by his cousin; an arson fire that killed two children; the shooting of a Boston teenager on her 18th birthday; and the fatal stabbing of a man during a bar fight.

Officer Michael Charbonnier, who oversees the program, said people who live in high-crime neighborhoods are often afraid that if they talk to police, they could be hurt or even killed by gang members, drug dealers, or other criminals.

"It’s either call 911 or live with the bad guy. And if you call, there could be repercussions," Charbonnier said. "So when they have this option of texting us–knowing no one will know who they are–well, now, people give us license plate numbers, they give us names."

In the past, people feared retaliation for talking to police, but with the texting programs, police never see the tipster’s name or telephone number. The text messages are sent to a separate, third-party server, where identifying information is stripped out and they are assigned an encrypted alias before being sent to police.

Texting programs have caught on across the country. The exact number is hard to pinpoint, but Anderson Software, one of the leading providers of technology for text-a-tip programs, has at least 400 law-enforcement agencies as clients, including Tucson, Ariz., Savannah, Ga., Hartford, Conn., San Diego, Seattle, and Miami.

Company founder Kevin Anderson said text-a-tip programs are rapidly gaining popularity and soon could become as popular as anonymous web tip programs, which have been around for about five years.

"You want to provide the means of communication people are most comfortable with, and right now, texting is the more comfortable means of communicating for young people," Anderson said.

The system allows a tipster to send a text message of up to 160 characters to police, who are then able to send text messages back to the sender to ask follow-up questions. Charbonnier said that because of the two-way communication, Boston police have been able to get the information they need. He said police, who promise tipsters confidentiality and anonymity, have never tried to get a tipster’s identity from the third-party company, either by asking for it or through a subpoena.

"The reality is the protection of the tipster is more important than any one case," he said.

Police would not release transcripts of the actual text messages they receive or give specifics on how the tips have led them to suspects, citing the confidentiality they promise tipsters.

Charbonnier said police use the tips as leads and have to corroborate the information given by tipsters, so the tipsters themselves aren’t called to court to testify.

Some police departments have heavily promoted the texting service in schools, leading to a flurry of tips about students having drugs and weapons.

In Douglas County, Colo., the sheriff’s office got a text message in May from a high school student who said another student had a "kill list." Authorities never found the list but did find weapons in the student’s home.

"We did believe it was a credible threat," said Phyllis Harvey, who administers the Text-A-Tip program for the Douglas County Sheriff’s Office. "Did we prevent something? Maybe, maybe not. We don’t know if the student was actually going to go through with the threats that he was making, but we would like to hope that we did prevent something."

In Springfield, Mass., the texting program was just days old when police in October received a tip about a crack house. Police raided the house, made eight arrests, and shut down the headquarters of a crack distribution ring, said Sgt. John Delaney.

"People don’t want to be labeled as a rat," Delaney said. "This is breaking the barriers down."

At USC, campus police have promoted the text-a-tip service as a way to keep rowdy football fans under control during games.

"We get tips like ‘three guys who are non-students are being rude and obnoxious behind us,’ ‘someone is cutting in line at the student gate,’" said Carey Drayton, chief of USC’s Department of Public Safety.

"Those are things that could turn into fights. We are trying to stop things before they get too big," he said.

Boston police say the anonymous nature of the text-a-tip service, combined with police foot and bicycle patrols in violent neighborhoods, has helped them build trust with people and put a dent in the anti-snitching attitude that was prevalent for years. Five years ago, some court spectators even wore "Stop Snitchin’" T-shirts to the trial of two men charged in the shooting death of a 10-year-old girl.

"We’ve made a significant amount of progress in connecting with the community," said Police Commissioner Ed Davis. "That makes a big difference when you’re dealing with the whole snitching situation."

Link:

Anderson Software

Note to readers:

Don’t forget to visit the Preparing for a Pandemic resource center. With fears about the H1N1 virus, commonly known as "swine flu," putting school leaders on high alert, we’ve compiled this collection of news stories and additional resources to keep you up to date on the latest developments in this critical story–and to help you deal with the crisis in your own schools. Go to: Preparing for a Pandemic

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Christmas Specials: Wondershare 2009 Holiday Sale Launched

Shenzhen, China-Nov.20th, 2009 –Make it a special Holiday this year, with Wondershare Software. Wondershare today delivered an early Christmas present for customers with special offers on a huge selection of products.

This holiday promotion is time-limited, starting from Friday, November 20th, 2009 and going through Saturday January 30th, 2010. Wondershare will provide all users with amazing promotions including big discount saving up to 50%, astounding free gifts attached with products and so on. This Christmas, users don’t need to worry about their gifts for their dearest persons. Wondershare provides users various products, for you, for her, for him and for kids.

Wondershare’s Christmas promotion includes special offers of the following products for users to choose from.

Wondershare business software alleviates your big budget (http://www.wondershare.com/store/holiday-sale-business.html)
Wondershare provides big discount up to 50% off for business software. Customers now can purchase it with a small budget to avoid the big budget request and release the burden of companies. Especially belts to be tightened this year, customers are purchasing products that offer value together with quality. Wondershare provides this kind of products. It’s never been a better time to do purchase now, without spending a fortune.

Wondershare digital photo software bundles refresh your sweet memories (http://www.wondershare.com/store/holiday-sale-digitalphoto.html)
Christmas is first and foremost about memories. Wondershare gives a big save for digital photo software. Users can use this software to deal with their digital photos to make them alive. Moreover, those photos can be made as greeting cards for Christmas, or electronics photo album for family reunions by this software. It will be the most special gift this time.

Wondershare multimedia software increases your holiday happiness (http://www.wondershare.com/store/holiday-sale-multimedia.html)
Christmas is the second summit for movies after summer holiday. To enjoy big hot movies at Christmas is also a wonderful choice, like “This Is It”, the global hot one, “AVATAR”, another hot one just around the corner. Wondershare presents best prices for multimedia software. This holiday, users can enjoy and share their favorite movies anywhere with Wiondershare multimedia software, such as iPhone, mobile photo, etc. It will greatly enrich this holiday.

Wondershare Macintosh software saves your money for Christmas(http://www.wondershare.com/store/holiday-sale-macintosh.html)
Wondershare also prepare gifts for Mac users with great Macintosh software. With this software, users needn’t pay much for Apple software after buying an Apple computer. All Wondershare Macintosh software supports the latest Mac OS X Snow Leopard, and works smoothly on it.

Wondershare mobile software links with your portable device(http://www.wondershare.com/store/holiday-sale-mobile.html)
Recently, some latest styles of Blachberry, iPhone and iPod have shocked the market, such as BlackBerry 9520, iPhone 3GS, iPod shuffle, etc. Complying with it, Wondershare gives general users the lowest-prices of its mobile software. This holiday, users can easily make carry-on pop music and hot movies, as well as stylish ringtone to adapt your latest style.

What’s more, Wondershare announced that the special offer of its new products is coming soon. Let’s see what surprise Wondershare will bring to us next time.

Pricing and Availability

Promotion offers will be available from Nov.20, 2009 to Jan. 31, 2010. Please immediately visit: http://www.wondershare.com/store/holiday-sale-business.html

Wondershare hopes that 2010 will be a perfect year and merry Christmas to all of you.

About Wondershare:
Established in 2003 and located in Shenzhen, adjacent to the international financial and trade center Hong Kong, Wondershare has extended its business worldwide, consistently dedicated to satisfy customers with diversified consumer software products and services. For more information, please visit: www.wondershare.com.

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Embellishing Your Christmas Starts from It

Shenzhen, China – Dec.1st, 2009 – With Christmas just around the corner, people become busy in choosing gifts for families and friends to transmit their thought and care and establish valuable memories. With that in mind, Wondershare presents its digital photo software as mainly recommended products from today, along with big discounts.

Wondershare digital photo software provides an easy and interesting way to place digital photos in well-organized and great-looking slideshows. It can be used to create 3D photo slideshows, web photo gallery, digital scrapbooks, home movies and so on for family events, such as weddings, graduations and vacations. Users can share them on the web easily. In addition, it is also useful for business applications like promotion of musical groups and real estate and travel photos. No special software is needed to view the shows, just a simple mouse click.

Instead of falling back on the usual candy, clothing or compact discs, choosing suitable gifts can transmit givers’ care better. With Wondershare digital photo software, personalized gifts can be created, such as a charming card with a photo, a DVD photo slideshow that illustrates an unusual experience, etc. Your thought and care will touch his/her heart quickly and directly. Also, it’s a good gift worth preparing for selves to refresh your sweet memories and make them alive in your next family reunion or other important parties. Wondershare digital photo software allows users to design and edit their digital photos freely to keep only-belong-to-self memories.

Wondershare digital photo software offers big buddle savings to celebrate sweet holidays with users. The discount is up to 60% off. Moreover, there are free gifts added. Embellishing your Christmas starts from here – easily, quickly, economically and meaningfully. Wondershare may you a colorful Christmas with extraordinary significance!

Pricing and Availability
Promotion offers is available from now to Jan. 15th, 2010. Please immediately visit: http://www.wondershare.com/store/holiday-sale-digitalphoto.html

About Wondershare:
Established in 2003 and located in Shenzhen, adjacent to the international financial and trade center Hong Kong, Wondershare has extended its business worldwide, consistently dedicated to satisfy customers with diversified consumer software products and services. For more information, please visit: www.wondershare.com.

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Free online tools simplify research

Mohan Singh once had the painstaking job of compiling bibliographic information for a college professor, so finding a web-based program that collected and inserted research citations with the click of a mouse was a time-saving godsend for the University of Maryland graduate student.

Singh discovered Zotero, a tool created by George Mason University’s Center for History and New Media that allows researchers and students to drag and drop web page references into a massive, searchable database.

Zotero, an open-source program first launched in 2006, automatically creates in-paper citations, footnotes, and a bibliography at the end of a research paper–a mistake-prone process that usually adds hours to a college project.

"There are so many errors that come up in creating [research references] that people don’t think about," Singh said.

Reference management software has been available for more than 20 years, but those programs often were pricey and required IT know-how, whereas tools such as Zotero and iCyte–a program that lets users save and share online research material in the virtual "cloud"–are free and made for a broader web-using audience.

Zotero, available in more than 30 languages, adapts to almost any kind of citation required by a professor, offering thousands of styles for students to choose from, said Dan Cohen, director of George Mason’s Center for History and New Media and co-author of Digital History: A Guide to Gathering, Preserving, and Presenting the Past on the Web.

Zotero has been downloaded more than 2 million times after starting three years ago with 10,000 users, Cohen said.

Zotero detects when a user is perusing a digital library such as Google Scholar or PubMed, and with one mouse click, the student or faculty member can save all reference information for that publication or article.

If the writer uses a part of that text in a research paper, for example, Zotero instantly formats a citation as a footnote, endnote, or bibliography item.

Simplifying the tedious citation process, Cohen said, is often popular with students and college faculty, but Zotero’s private groups feature also helps students improve their research through collaboration.

"Everything is automated," Cohen said, "and students are taking advantage of it. … We’re proud of [Zotero’s] global impact."

First-generation computer reference tools included BibTex, a program created in 1985 used mostly by researchers with some knowledge of writing code.

Singh, who created research references for an economics professor, said he was familiar with BibTex and other early reference programs, but he recently did a web search for simpler online reference generators.

iCyte, a reference tool that requires customers to use Internet Explorer or Firefox 3, allows users to save web pages as they appear, even if the web site or specific page of origin is altered or deleted. iCyte saves the web link and the image of the page itself.

The program preserves just part of a page–a few paragraphs of text, for example–if only a section of the page is highlighted and saved. The saved information can be tagged with descriptions or phrases written by the user. Zotero has the same function, and users can search the program’s database for descriptions and metatag keywords they’ve attached to research documents.

Singh said being able to save dozens of hours–or perhaps days–on long-term school projects was such a relief that he introduced Zotero to his classmates in the University of Maryland’s Hearing and Speech Sciences graduate program.

"It seemed like a good thing to do for fellow students," said Singh, 35, a Catonsville, Md., resident. "I definitely thought [Zotero] had gotten to a level where non-nerdy people would appreciate it and really want to use it for research purposes."

Links:

Zotero

iCyte

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