Father: School shooting suspect might have contacted students online

Among items seized from the room of a man accused of wounding two students at a Colorado middle school on Feb. 23 were photos of youths who appear to be in their teens, prompting the accused’s father to speculate that his son might have had online contact with students there prior to the attack, reports the Associated Press. Jefferson County sheriff’s investigators were puzzling over why Bruco Strong Eagle Eastwood, 32, might have targeted Deer Creek Middle School in Littleton, Colo. They declined to say whether Eastwood had contact with students at the school, which is just miles from Columbine High School, but they were interviewing students and parents. “It’s very well a possibility, but it remains under investigation,” said sheriff’s spokesman Mark Techmeyer. Eastwood’s father, War Eagle Eastwood, said he found digital pictures in his son’s room showing students, who he guessed were in middle school or high school.

Investigators also were reviewing Bruco Eastwood’s journals as they tried to figure out why he allegedly showed up at his old school Feb. 23 and started firing in the parking lot before he was tackled by a math teacher…

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Tennessee colleges fight cell-phone cheating

As students head off to college with cell phones in hand, universities are wrestling with the issue of how to cope with high-tech temptations in the classroom, reports the Tennessean. Some teachers ban cell phones and laptops on sight. Others figure: If you can’t beat ’em, join ’em. At Middle Tennessee State University, history professor Janice Leone usually starts the semester with a word about cell phones—and that word is usually “no.” “They’re used to looking at it constantly. I’ve seen students actually text without looking, with their hands in their pockets,” said Leone, who sees the devices as more of a distraction than a temptation to cheat. “I have colleagues who tell their students, ‘If I see a cell phone, I’ll dock you 10 points.’ Others will say, ‘If I see a cell phone during a test, I’m assuming you’re cheating.'” MTSU, which has the largest undergraduate student population in the state, sees about 150 or so cases of academic misconduct each year, said assistant dean of student life Laura Sosh-Lightsy. About 10 to 20 of them will involve cheating with the help of a cell phone…

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Facebook messaging glitch raises fresh privacy concerns

Social networking behemoth Facebook reported a glitch in a software update that caused users’ private messages to land in the wrong in-boxes, stoking new fears over the site’s security, eWeek reports. A Facebook spokesperson released a statement via eMail acknowledging the problem and explained that while the problem was being fixed, the affected users were not able to access the site. “During our regular code push yesterday evening, a bug caused some misrouting to a small number of users for a short period of time,” the statement read. “Our engineers diagnosed the problem moments after it began and worked diligently to get everything back in its rightful place.” The statement did not include specifics on how widespread the problem was or how long it took the company to fix the hiccup. The incident puts Facebook back in the security spotlight as questions are again raised regarding the level of security and privacy of its users’ accounts…

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Technology booming in North Dakota schools

From chalkboards to iPods, technology use in schools has come a long way, reports the Bismarck Tribune—and state and local officials say technology such as iPods and electronic book reading devices help to enhance students’ learning. LeAnn Nelson, director of professional development with the North Dakota Education Association, said using technology in school curriculums is becoming more popular. While the majority of teachers are open to new technology, Nelson said, they are a bit nervous about using it.

“They really don’t understand the technology as well as the kids do,” she said. “It’s just understanding what the technology is and how to use it effectively.” Nelson said technology should be used more to enhance a lesson, not to replace anything. Measuring the success of students due to technology integration in the classrooms is difficult, she added. “It’s hard to determine whether the technology was really the factor in increasing student achievement,” Nelson said. “There’s reports that say that it does, but then there’s a lot of other things going on in the classroom that may have affected that achievement as well.” Del Quigley, principal of Lincoln Elementary in Dickinson, said the use of technology there has been beneficial. Quigley estimates there are about 12 iPods in classrooms in Lincoln. He said school officials also are looking into getting small camcorders called Flip cameras for students and teachers, who could post demonstrations of lessons online for parents to refer to when helping with homework…

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Universities mull role of tenure in UAH shootings

UAH students reportedly filed complaints about Bishop.

UAH students reportedly filed complaints about Bishop.

Questions about how universities handle tenure decisions have arisen after Amy Bishop, a professor at the University of Alabama Huntsville campus, was accused of killing three colleagues from the university’s biology department earlier this month.

Bishop reportedly was denied tenure—a distinction that ensures job security in academia—and complained about the university’s decision for months before the shootings, colleagues said in interviews with the Associated Press (AP).

Higher-ed administrators say the tedious six-year tenure process can be fraught with anxiety, and if candidates expect to earn tenure and are denied by campus officials, reactions can be unpredictable.

Maintaining communication between committees assigned to evaluate tenure candidates and those seeking the distinction is critical in preparing both sides for the momentous decision, said Julie Underwood, dean of the University of Wisconsin-Madison’s School of Education.

“The worst thing is when [tenure candidates are] anxious or when they’re blindsided,” Underwood said. “You show them the path and give them support along the way so there are no surprises in the end.”

Patrick Fiel, public safety advisor for ADT Security Services, which works with 15,000 schools and 1,300 colleges nationwide, said that when campus administrators are ready to hand down tenure rejections or other negative news to employees, they should have security personnel nearby in case of a violent reaction.

“Any time you’re going to talk to a person and you know it’s going to be negative, there are measures you can and should take,” said Fiel, former executive director of school security for the Washington, D.C. public school system. “You never know how people are going to react … and in those situations, security should be in the immediate vicinity. Someone with authority should be there, other than the administrator.”

Meanwhile, questions also have arisen about whether UAH should have known about previous instances of violence in Bishop’s past.

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Study: Too few schools are teaching cyber safety

Teaching about safe and responsible internet use is increasingly important for today's digital natives.

Teaching about safe and responsible internet use is increasingly important for today's digital natives.

Students aren’t getting enough instruction in school on how to use technology and the internet in a safe and responsible manner, a new poll suggests.

Released by the National Cyber Security Alliance (NCSA) and supported by Microsoft Corp., the survey found fewer than one-fourth of U.S. teachers have spent more than six hours on any kind of professional development related to cyber ethics, safety, or security within the last 12 months.

More than half of teachers reported their school districts do not require these subjects as part of the K-12 curriculum, and only 35 percent said they’ve taught proper online conduct to their students.

Despite the lack of training and consistent teaching of internet safety, the survey shows that America’s teachers, school administrators, and technology coordinators strongly agree that cyber ethics, safety, and security should be taught in schools.

The poll, conducted by Zogby International, surveyed more than 1,000 teachers, 400 school administrators, and 200 technology coordinators. Results were analyzed in conjunction with the Maryland-based research group Educational Technology Policy, Research, and Outreach (ETPRO).

Key findings of the survey include:

• More than 90 percent of technology coordinators, school administrators, and teachers support teaching cyber ethics, safety, and security in schools. Yet, only 35 percent of teachers and just over half of school administrators report that their school districts require the teaching of these subjects in their curriculum.

• Lessons on these topics aren’t being integrated very often into everyday instructional activities. For example, only 27 percent of teachers have taught about the safe use of social networks in the past 12 months; only 18 percent have taught about online scams, fraud, and social engineering; and only 19 percent have taught about safe passwords. Overall, 32 percent of teachers said they have not taught cyber ethics, and 44 percent of teachers said they have not taught cyber safety or security.

• Teachers and administrators have different opinions as to who should be responsible for educating students about these topics. While 72 percent of teachers said parents bear the primary responsibility for teaching these topics, 51 percent of school administrators said teachers are mostly responsible.

“The study illuminates that there is no cohesive effort to [give] young people the education they need to safely and securely navigate the digital age and prepare them as digital citizens and employees,” said Michael Kaiser, NCSA’s executive director. “Unfortunately, we are not meeting the needs of schools, teachers, or students.”

Kaiser added: “President Obama, in his Cyberspace Policy Review released last year, specifically called for a ‘K-12 cyber security education program for digital safety, ethics, and security.’ Now is the time for a national consensus to move forward to achieve that goal.”

The survey also found a high reliance on shielding students from potentially harmful material online instead of teaching behaviors for safe and secure internet use.

More than 90 percent of schools have built up digital defenses, such as filtering and blocking social-networking web sites, to protect children on school networks. While these defenses might help reduce the online risks that children face at school, they don’t prepare students to act more safely and responsibly when accessing the internet at home or via mobile devices, NCSA said.

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New Windows software turns one PC into many

Microsoft announced Feb. 24 that it is ready with Windows MultiPoint Server 2010, a product that lets schools run a classroom full of systems using just a single computer, CNET reports. Multipoint Server allows up to 10 different setups—each with its own keyboard, mouse, and monitor—to run from a single server. “We heard clearly from our customers in education that to help fulfill the amazing promise of technology in the classroom, they needed access to affordable computing that was easy to manage and use,” Microsoft vice president Anthony Salcito said in a statement. NComputing, which already offers a similar approach using both Linux and standard versions of Windows, said it will incorporate MultiPoint Server across its product lineup. HP, ThinGlobal, Tritton, and Wyse also plan to offer products based on the software…

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Computer snafu might cost schools $1 million

North Chicago Community Unit School District 187 stands to lose close to $1 million in federal Impact Aid funding because of an apparent glitch in the submission of an electronic application form, reports the Waukegan News Sun. But U.S. Rep. Mark Kirk, R-Ill., is intervening and asking that the penalty be waived. The school district qualifies for “heavily impacted aid” owing to the number of students it receives from Naval Station Great Lakes, and last year it received more than $8.6 million in Impact Aid funding, about one-third of its budget. The district recently was notified by the U.S. Department of Education that it had missed a Feb. 1 deadline to apply for fiscal year 2011 funding and that a 10 percent penalty would be subtracted from its funding for the year. Kirk said there is evidence the district submitted a faxed copy of the application on Feb. 1, meeting the department’s deadline. The error in submitting the electronic application could be attributed to a “vague and confusing” electronic application that has a second submit button that the district might not have hit in completing the form, he said. District Superintendent Lauri Hakanen said he has learned that six other school districts were in the same situation, and that the submit-button glitch appeared to be at the receiving end of the application process, which might be reconfigured for future applications…

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Rutgers researchers warn of smart-phone privacy risk

Rutgers University researchers warned this week that smart phones could be susceptible to a virus that would turn them into eavesdropping or tracking devices, MyCentralJersey.com reports. As cell phones become more like personal computers, they are also taking on the same virus risks as the PC, but with the potential for far more serious consequences, the researchers claim. Researchers from the Rutgers School of Arts and Sciences said devices such as the Blackberry or iPhone could be attacked by malware known as a “rootkit,” which attacks a computer‘s operating system and can only be detected using a special monitoring device not available for phones. Computer science professors Vinod Ganapathy and Liviu Iftode say these types of attacks on smart phones can be more devastating, because people carry phones everywhere they go. “What we’re doing today is raising a warning flag,” Iftode said in a statement. “The next step is to work on defenses.” The Rutgers team is presenting its findings at the 11th International Workshop on Mobile Computing Systems and Applications this week in Maryland…

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University of Virginia considers joint application for Google Fiber

The University of Virginia is considering applying jointly with the city of Charlottesville and Albemarle County to become a pilot community for the installation of Google Fiber, a fiber-optic network that could produce internet speeds greater than 1 gigabit per second, reports the Cavalier Daily. That’s more than 100 times faster than the broadband connections most Americans can currently access, all at a price that Google says is competitive. “Google has announced publicly that it’s looking for communities to install ultra high-speed internet,” Charlottesville City Council member David Brown said about the nomination process, which Google will conduct by accepting applications and online votes until March 26. “We’re very interested.” (See “Google to build ultra-fast web networks.”) The university would benefit from the many opportunities this technology would bring. For example, faculty members and students living off campus would have access to the same internet speed provided by the university, said Jeffrey Plank, associate vice president for research…

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