How should Facebook and MySpace handle cyber bullying?

What’s fair to expect of Facebook, or any social networking site, when kids use the site as a weapon against each other? That’s the question explored by this story in Slate magazine, which begins by describing the experience of a 13-year-old boy who was questioned by school administrators about insulting comments he’d made about his classmates on his Facebook page. Trouble was, he didn’t have a Facebook page; someone else had created the page using his name. Facebook took down the fake page after the mother sent eMails to the site’s inbox for reporting abusive content, but Facebook “does not have a contact number where you can talk to anyone,” she complained. “They did not answer any of the eMailed questions, they only took down the page.” She is most upset that Facebook wouldn’t tell her who the impersonator was. “In my mind I feel unresolved, because we don’t know who did this. It’s like the perfect crime. You can wreck someone’s life or future, certainly impact their relationships, with impunity.” Some parents are frustrated at a federal law that prevents the sites from identifying their users, unless you have a subpoena in hand. Given that law, the main remedy Facebook and other social network sites can offer is taking down an offending post or page and punishing the person who put it up, either with a warning or by deleting their whole profile. How and when social networking sites go about such policing of their users, however, is up to them…

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Universities save much-needed cash with the help of technology

UC officials said IBM analytics have helped save money for the university system, which has 228,000 students and 180,000 faculty.

UC officials said IBM analytics have helped save money for the university system, which has 228,000 students and 180,000 faculty.

An analytics system designed to manage risks and improve security has saved the University of California’s 10 campuses and five medical centers more than $160 million since 2006, officials announced March 25—helping the university system cut costs during an economic crisis that has crippled campus budgets.

The universities in the UC system have used IBM’s analytics software since 2006 to better aggregate massive amounts of data from the 228,000-student system and help administrators target wasteful spending and isolate dangerous areas on campus that result in injury or operation failure.

Using IBM’s Enterprise Risk Management System program, UC officials said decision makers at every campus and medical center have been able to mine the system’s database and spot trends, such as pushing and pulling injuries at medical centers.

Once that trend was found in the data, officials could purchase new, safer equipment and launch training programs designed to limit the number of pushing and pulling injuries and accidents. Making decisions based on these statistics, which appear on a computer-based dashboard, has reduced injuries by 39 percent and cut insurance costs by $167.8 million over the past four years, officials said.

Read the full story on eCampus News


A simple fix for internet censorship in schools

Schools and libraries are hurting students by setting up heavy-handed web filtering policies that block access to potentially educational sites, writes Computerworld blogger Mitch Wagner. Instead, educators should trust teachers and librarians to oversee schools’ internet access. So says Craig Cunningham, a professor at National-Louis University, with whom Wagner talked about internet filtering in schools. Web filtering software should be configured so that, when a student stumbles across a site that is blocked, the teacher or librarian can make a judgment whether the content is appropriate for study, and if it is, the teacher or librarian can let the site through, Cunningham said. “If a student tries to show something that’s part of a presentation and it’s blocked, the teacher types a password and everyone sees it,” he said. “Why should teachers not be in charge of what to teach?” Ultimately, the purpose of schools should be to teach students to live in a democratic society, and that means teaching critical thinking and showing students controversial web sites, Cunningham said. That includes sites that web filters might classify as hate speech, or sites discussing same-sex marriage—both for and against. Students need to access this information under the guidance of teachers and librarians, in the process of learning how to think about these issues…

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Will $99 Moby tablet swim or sink?


Marvell also announced a pilot program in partnership with DCPS.

Marvell announced a pilot program for its Moby tablet in partnership with Washington, D.C., Public Schools.


In a development that it claims will be a game-changer in education, technology company Marvell has announced the prototype of a $99 tablet computer that students can use to surf the web, interact with electronic textbooks and other digital media, and collaborate with each other around the globe.

Educators familiar with Marvell’s announcement said they were intrigued by the possibilities of such a device for teaching and learning but would wait to pass judgment until the product comes to market.

If the device works as advertised, they said, its price point could make it a very attractive option for putting technology into the hands of every student. But one potential hurdle could be the kind of applications it runs and whether these match with users’ expectations.

Marvell last week announced the prototype of its Moby Tablet, which the company describes as a “bold new education initiative” that delivers “always-on, high performance multimedia” and features “live, real-time content, 1080 full HD and 3-D media, and full Flash internet.”

The Moby Tablet could “eliminate the need for students to buy and carry bound textbooks and an array of other tools,” said the company in a statement.

The Moby is powered by the Marvell ARMADA 600 series of processors. It features gigahertz-class processor speed, Wi-Fi/Bluetooth/FM/GPS connectivity, high performance 3-D graphics capability, and support for multiple software standards, according to the company—including Adobe and Windows Mobile.

Marvell hasn’t said when the Moby would ship, and it has not yet released a full spec sheet. The company did not return an eSchool News reporter’s messages requesting more information.

In announcing the Moby during a keynote speech to publishers at the Future of Publishing conference in New York City, Marvell Co-Founder Weili Dai said that “Marvell can help propel education into the 21st century with an all-in-one device that gives students access to the best live content, information, and resources the world has to offer—from books and online resources, [to] text, video, news, music, data expression, or any medium.”

She continued: “With Moby Tablet, students can conduct primary research, reach out directly to the world’s leading subject experts, and even collaborate with one another around the globe. Best of all, the device is highly affordable.”

Dai said the device would address three important issues in education:

1. Printed textbooks are not current. Electronic versions of textbooks on the tablet can be updated and refreshed continuously, she said.

2. Textbook costs are soaring. According to Marvell, downloadable electronic versions of textbooks for the tablet could sell for a fraction of the bound versions.

3. School bags are too heavy for students. The actual size and weight of the Moby will vary by configuration, Dai said, but the tablet in its ultra-thin and light versions is expected to hold a full year’s worth of books but weigh less than half of a typical textbook.

Marvell also announced a pilot program in partnership with the Washington, D.C., Public Schools, in which the company will donate a Moby tablet to every child in an at-risk school as part of a multi-year program in new media and learning.

Marvell said it would announce more details about this program at a future date.

What educators are saying

Even with its low price point, the device is not guaranteed to succeed, some education technology experts warned.

To sell for $99, the Moby tablet would have to run on a version of Linux, speculated ZDNet blogger Christopher Dawson, technology director for the Athol-Royalston School District in northern Massachusetts. That could be a problem for some educators who have not fully embraced the open-source operating system.

“Ubuntu will be the only way that these little tablets will be able to run on the Marvell chipset, and the only way to hit that $99 price point,” Dawson wrote. “The Flash implementation … rules out Windows 7 Mobile as well. So Linux it is.”

According to Dawson, the problem with running Linux is that teachers might be “put off” by using a system they’re not familiar with—and development efforts in interactive textbooks are favoring Apple’s iPad and the several Windows-based tablets that are available, not Linux-based devices.


Ed Secretary Duncan faces questions on admissions

Revelations that President Barack Obama’s top education official kept a log of calls from powerful people trying to get students into top Chicago high schools when he ran the massive district have raised new questions about the city’s admissions practices, reports the Associated Press. Still, observers said March 24, former Chicago Public Schools CEO Arne Duncan’s political standing probably will not suffer unless it is determined he or his office pressured school authorities to admit specific students during his tenure. “Obviously you want to rule out the possibility of anyone acting to unduly influence admissions,” said William Trent, an education professor at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign. “That’s the bottom-line question.” The Chicago Tribune reported this week that Duncan’s office had kept the log, which included calls from politicians and businesspeople. A current spokesman for Duncan, who headed the nation’s third-largest school district from 2001 to 2009, told the Tribune that Duncan’s CPS office never applied pressure on schools or told them to consider one student over another. “It’s just a way to manage the information,” Peter Cunningham said of the log. School officials say the log tracked requests, but many students still weren’t admitted…

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Mobs are born as word grows by text message

So-called “flash mobs” that form with the help of social technologies have become part bullying, part running of the bulls in Philadelphia as teenagers sprint through the streets, sometimes brawling and vandalizing, reports the New York Times. The flash-mob trend started innocently enough seven years ago as an act of performance art, where people linked through social-networking web sites and text messaging suddenly gathered on the streets for impromptu pillow fights in New York, group disco routines in London, and even a huge snowball fight in Washington. But these flash mobs have taken a more aggressive turn in Philly, where police on March 24 said they’ve had enough. They announced plans to step up enforcement of a curfew already on the books, as well as to hold parents legally responsible for their children’s actions. They are also considering making free transit passes for students invalid after 4 p.m., instead of 7 p.m., to limit teenagers’ ability to ride downtown. “This is bad decision making by a small group of young people who are doing silly but dangerous stuff,” Mayor Michael A. Nutter said. “We intend to do something about it immediately.” Flash mobs are not unique to Philadelphia, but they have been more frequent there than elsewhere. Philadelphia officials say they have begun getting help from the Federal Bureau of Investigation to monitor social-media networks, and television and radio stations are helping to recruit hip-hop artists to make public service announcements imploring teenagers to end the practice…

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Ohio bill calls for electronic versions of textbooks

Saying they could save more than 50 percent off the cost of textbooks, some House Democrats want to give Ohio college students the chance to trade in their piles of expensive books for laptops or other electronic readers, reports the Columbus Dispatch. Supporters of the bill—as well as the Ohio Board of Regents, which says it is neutral on the plan—say the key is convincing university faculty members that digital textbooks can work as well as the paper versions. Individual professors are responsible for choosing the textbooks used in their classes. Under the bill, the regents would have two years to require publishers to offer electronic versions of textbooks. Publishers also would be required to provide textbook formats for students with disabilities. “Our bill will use technology and common sense to lower the cost of textbooks on Ohio’s campuses,” said Rep. Matt Lundy, D-Elyria, who is sponsoring the bill with Rep. Matt Patten, D-Strongsville. “We can’t ask students and families to shoulder the unnecessary costs of excessive textbook prices.” Lundy said textbook costs increased an average of 6 percent per year from 1986 to 2006 and have risen 10 percent a year since. By delaying the electronic-materials requirement for two years, “we’ll be giving the publishers more than enough heads-up,” he said…

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Hot campus web sites now about romance, not gossip

“I saw you … looking like a dork. But I don’t care how dorky you can be. I just want you to come be dorky with me, babe.” This is what happens when the romantic impulses of the college student meet the declarative instincts of the social media generation, USA Today reports. “My generation, we think about how we can broadcast our message to the world and share things with the world,” says Keone Hon, a junior at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology who last winter co-created the site I Saw You MIT, a knockoff of the popular missed connections site The MIT site is one of several college-based imitators that have emerged in the last few months to give students a way to anonymously express interest in a classmate. Harvard, Rutgers, and St. John’s University also have knockoffs. The sites at each campus are extremely popular, attracting dozens of posts—including idle observations, crude come-ons, and lengthy love poems—and thousands of visitors each day…

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Microsoft adds Windows Phone 7 awards to student competition

Microsoft has added a “Windows Phone 7 Rockstar Award” to the list of other competitions in its annual Imagine Cup programming competition for students, reports Prizes include up to $15,000 in cash, a Windows Phone 7 device for each team member, and an expenses-paid trip to the finals, scheduled for July 3-8 in Warsaw. The Imagine Cup is billed by Microsoft as “the world’s premier student technology competition,” challenging students “to apply their imagination, their passion, and their creativity to bring to life technology innovations that can make a difference in the world.” Replacing a Windows Embedded Student Challenge run by Microsoft in the past, the Imagine Cup’s key “Embedded Development” category asks teams of three or four competitors and a faculty mentor to develop an entry addressing the 2010 competition theme, “Imagine a world where technology helps solve the toughest problems.” Up to 15 winning teams will receive a free trip to Warsaw, where they’ll present their devices, competing for a $25,000 first place prize, $10,000 second place prize, and $5,000 third place prize. The Windows Phone 7 Rockstar Award challenges contestants to create Windows Phone 7 apps using either Silverlight or XNA. The applications “need to be designed with the consumer in mind and should be as visually compelling as possible,” Microsoft says. The five other special Imagine Cup rewards are Envisioning 2020, Internet Explorer 8, Interoperability, Next-generation Web, and Touch and Tablet Accessibility…

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Use multiple news channels to reach ‘on-the-go’ consumers

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40 percent of 'on-the-go' news consumers are parents of young children.

School officials need to share information via a variety of media platforms in order to reach today’s “on-the-go” news consumers, a new study suggests.

According to the study from the Pew Internet and American Life project, while 99 percent of American adults access news daily, only 7 percent use just one media platform to do so. The majority—six in ten Americans—use a combination of online and offline sources.

This also means school communicators who haven’t expanded their efforts to include social media networks, micro sites, and other non-traditional methods probably are missing a significant swath of the population, particularly those under age 30.

The study also ranked local television news as American’s top news source, followed by national news networks and cable news stations. The internet ranked third, followed by radio news, local newspapers, and national newspapers.

For many, discussing the news of the day in person or online has become a “shared social experience,” according to the study.

The advent of social media sites have made it easy for Americans to share news content, post comments, and publish opinions via blogs, podcasts, and other new communication tools. As a result, Americans don’t just consume the news: They help create it.

This shift from passive consumer to active participant means parents, employees, and other education stakeholders are going to expect more interactive options on district school web sites and social media profiles.

For school officials who want to engage parents and other stakeholders in the work of public schools, the growth of participatory news represents good news.

The key question, though, is: How do we deploy communication strategies that tap into this new and growing interest and shape productive conversations about our schools?

The study also highlights the viral nature of digital news content. According to Pew Research, “75 percent of online news consumers say they get news forwarded through eMail or posts on social networking sites, and 52 percent say they share links to news with others via those means.”

One way to stay relevant in this shifting media landscape is to make it easy for constituents to access and share school or district news and information online. RSS feeds, subscription-based eMail newsletters, links to relevant resources, blogs, and social media status updates all help push out news and information.

The new, multiplatform approach to content delivery and distribution helps underscore why school officials need to explore the use of social media, including micro sites like Twitter, to tell their stories.

Relying on one or two major communication vehicles just doesn’t work in today’s fragmented media world, especially among younger audiences.

About 40 percent of “on-the-go” news consumers are parents of young children, according to Pew Research. The vast majority of this group—about 80 percent—go online daily and take their internet connections with them in their pockets, using a variety of mobile devices.

North Carolina’s Guilford County Schools (GCS) tapped into this group when it created district profiles on Facebook, YouTube, Twitter, and LinkedIn. Within weeks, thousands of parents, employees, and others had signed on as fans and friends.

The GCS communications team now updates these sites daily. Based on comments received thus far, GCS seems to be reaching a new audience, one that hadn’t tuned into the district’s cable broadcasts or web site.

GCS also is using Twitter to update reporters and signal that more detailed announcements are coming or are available on the district’s web site. Tweeting reporters and followers about weather delays and closings, for example, has become standard operation procedure.

Leveraging an investment in news gathering by distributing content among multiple channels makes good economic sense, especially for cash-strapped school districts. Once a photo is taken, a story is written, or video content is edited, it doesn’t take much more time or expense to digitize it, post it online, send out a tweet, or eMail a link.