Google Apps for Education wins over Iowa and Colorado

Google Apps for Education, a version of Google’s web-based application and productivity suite tailored for educational institutions, has won the endorsement of the states of Iowa and Colorado, Geek.com reports. The states will offer Google Apps (Gmail, Google Sites, Calendar, Groups, Video, and Docs), as well as associated training and support, to schools and other public educational institutions. In total, around 3,000 schools will have the opportunity to use the application suite. This latest announcement comes just two months after Oregon became the first state to ink a deal with Google for Apps. Google Apps represents a significant cost saving for schools over traditional desktop-based productivity suites, both in terms of software licensing fees and also reduced deployment and maintenance overheads, advocates say. According to Google, the Oregon deal alone will save the state education department $1.5 million per year…

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3,000 new sex offenders each month

noentryAs of June, there are now 716,750 registered sex offenders in this country.  What alarms me is that number is up nearly 72,000 over the past two years. I can’t emphasize enough how important it is for administrators and teachers to…

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Oceanographer touts deep sea web surfing

Students can see what Ballard sees through the new Nautilus Live web site.

Students can see what Ballard sees through the new Nautilus Live web site.

Bob Ballard, the explorer best known for the discovery of the Titanic and other wrecks, has not only made deep-sea exploration more accessible for K-12 and college students, but he’ll feed them updates through two of their favorite web sites: Facebook and Twitter.

Ballard visited the Mystic Aquarium and Institute for Exploration in Connecticut June 23 to introduce his new Nautilus Live Theater, along with a new web site where people can watch his expeditions live.

“The idea is to have millions of people follow these expeditions,” said Peter Glankoff, the aquarium’s senior vice president of marketing and public affairs.

Visitors to the aquarium will be able to attend four daily presentations in which they will not only learn about Ballard’s latest expedition but will be able to watch it live on a huge high-definition screen as well.

They will also be able to talk to the scientists and engineers aboard the Okeanos Explorer and Nautilus, the two ships Ballard will be using in the Black and Aegean seas and the Pacific Ocean this summer to explore, among other things, ancient wrecks that could contain the mummified remains of 2,000-year-old sailors and a massive underwater volcano where marine life lives in boiling water.

At some point, aquarium visitors will also be able to help pilot remotely operated underwater vehicles the ships use to explore — even though they will be thousands of miles away.

The initiative has an even greater reach: Ballard has launched Nautilus Live, a web site that allows people to not only learn about the expeditions but watch them live and listen to the scientists in the control rooms as the discoveries are made.

With the help of 20 cameras aboard the ships and on the ROVs, those logging on will see and hear exactly what the scientists are seeing and hearing, 24 hours a day.

And just to make sure people don’t miss anything, Facebook and Twitter will send out alerts if it appears the teams are closing in on an important discovery. This will allow them to get to their computers and be there when it happens.

“We’ll never have a dull moment,” Ballard said Wednesday. “We’ll always be doing something. The idea is to constantly go with the action.”

Ballard detailed the Nautilus Live Theater’s evolution at the Texas Computer Education Association (TCEA) conference in Austin last year before a crowd of several thousand educators.

If a submarine reveals a major discovery–say, a lost city, such as the legendary Atlantis–experts in whatever scientific fields are relevant can be at their respective command centers within 20 minutes, remotely controlling the sub and its cameras to zoom in on particular features as they explore this latest breakthrough, Ballard said.

“I tell kids in middle school that their generation, thanks to telepresence technology, will explore more of the Earth than we’ve [ever] previously explored,” he said at TCEA.

The theater and web site are the culmination of a dream that began taking shape in 1982, when National Geographic magazine asked Ballard to describe the future of ocean exploration.

The magazine published a drawing in which remotely operated vehicles tethered to a surface ship would explore the ocean bottom and beam video to scientists and students from around the world.

This would allow them to participate in the discoveries in real time, even though they were thousands of miles away. And it would allow scientists to explore much more of the ocean than they could in tiny, manned submarines.

When he first relocated to the aquarium in the mid-1990s, Ballard said that someday he would like to be able to oversee his expedition from his home and have people be able to explore the Titanic from the comfort of their own living rooms.

The technology did not exist at the time, and Ballard and his team have spent the past three decades developing the systems needed to make it a reality. Over the past several years, he has tested them during his annual expeditions.

“Surprisingly, this has all worked. I’ll be damned,” Ballard jokes.

In December, Ballard began broadcasting from the ships to Boys and Girls Clubs, schools and other institutions via his Immersion Learning web site, using his new Inner Space Center at the University of Rhode Island as a command post.

Teachers from across the country who will be working aboard the ships as embedded reporters will be part of broadcasts back to more than 80 Boys and Girls Clubs and science centers.

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How to avoid accidental data breaches

Universities present particular challenges in securing sensitive information.

Universities present particular challenges in securing sensitive information.

College campuses are centers for learning and exploration, where students and faculty develop, exchange, and trade information. More than most other organizations, colleges and universities are in a continuous state of information sharing and data creation, and they rely heavily on the ability to seamlessly share, store, and protect that information within their communities and among their partners.

What’s more, life on a campus is always in flux. Students and faculty come and go, and their need to access certain information, not to mention physical campus locations such as dormitories and labs, is fluid.

As a result, the university setting causes big headaches for chief information officers and other technology professionals who are charged with securing the data that reside on a university’s computer systems—everything from proprietary research to students’ financial and personal data.

While most CIOs spend their days worrying about the external hacking threats, a university’s greatest vulnerability comes from its own students, faculty, and administrative staff. Across the higher-education field, too many insiders have access to sensitive information that they should not be privy to, and the outcome can be highly disruptive and damaging to a university’s operations and reputation.

Making matters worse, most data security breaches are actually the result of students or faculty unwittingly acting as an accomplice to an internal or external threat. In fact, in many data-breach cases on college campuses, there is no malicious intent on the part of the insider—even though they are the primary facilitator of the crime.

The “unwitting accomplice” poses one of the greatest threats to protecting student and organizational data. There is no silver-bullet solution to this dilemma; IT directors can’t spend their way out of this problem, and they can’t flip a switch that will fully protect the data that reside on the university’s system. Rather, universities must deploy a layered approach that combines stringent access control with continuous education on data security for all employees and students…

Read the full story on eCampus News.

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eSchool News June 2010

Download this issue as an Adobe PDF
Highlights

38 State Tech Perspectives

Michigan’s four-part plan to reduce the dropout rate involves an innovative cyber high school.

— Bruce Umpstead with Kyle Grigg

39 Security Checkpoint

Digital copiers pose a threat to data security; teen ‘flash mobs’ turn violent in Philadelphia.

— From staff and wire reports

What´s News

1 ED turns to ‘crowdsourcing’ for new ideas

1 Survey: Teacher colleges lag in ed-tech preparation

1 Education groups rally support for EETT funding

1 eBook copy restrictions vex users

3 Report highlights ed-tech lessons from abroad

8 FCC plan could revive ‘net neutrality’

10 Oregon schools adopt Google Apps for Education

12 Teacher of Year supports ‘learner-centered’ instruction

14 Supreme Court pick could bode well for schools

16 Microsoft, ePals team up on collaborative tools

18 Report faults lax policies in school webcam spying

20 Augmented reality takes hold in K-12 classrooms

22 Free online curriculum expanding to middle grades

24 Free tool lets students participate during class

26 Solar power making a comeback among schools

27 New site is like Facebook, but for learning

34 Will Skype eclipse fee-based video conferencing?

Departments

3 eSN Online Update — Nancy David

6 Default Lines — Dennis Pierce

6 Your Turn

28 Newslines

36 Grants & Funding — Deborah Ward

37 Stakeholder Relations — Nora Carr

40 Netwatch

41 Product Spotlight

42 Tech Buyer’s Marketplace

44 Advertisers’ Showcase

46 eSN.tv Viewer’s Guide

46 eSchool Partners

30 AV systems in the spotlightNew projectors offer images sharp enough for medical use; others eliminate the need for mercury lamps.

— Dennis Carter

eSNOnline

eSNonComputerResources for this issue

Grants & Funding For the latest school funding information, see: www.eschoolnews.com/

funding

Security Checkpoint For more school security news and information, go to www.eschoolnews.com/

resources/safe-center

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eSchool News May 2010

Download this issue as an Adobe PDF
Highlights

30 Education in Focus

A new standard could make interactive whiteboard content more accessible in the U.K.; is the U.S. next?

— Meris Stansbury

33 Stakeholder & Community Relations

A Massachusetts teen’s suicide after repeated bullying has the community asking: Are educators to blame?

— Nora Carr

What´s News

1 Schools brace for further budget cuts

1 Some see conflict in national ed-tech plan

1 Feds to shape the future of assessment

1 Will $99 ‘Moby’ tablet swim or sink?

6 Congress boosts college aid on party-line vote

8 Social studies curriculum spurs Texas-size conflict

10 ‘iGeneration’ requires new approach to teaching

12 Women, minorities need STEM encouragement

13 Public access to school computers raises questions

14 First statewide Digital Learning Library launches

16 Digital access, communication a must for students

18 Could net-neutrality ruling hinder online ed?

18 School webcam spying prompts call for new laws

26 Developers seek to link iPad with education

Departments

4 Default Lines — Dennis Pierce

4 Your Turn

6 eSN Online Update

22 Security Checkpoint

29 Best Practices

31 Netwatch

32 Grants & Funding — Deborah Ward

34 Tech Buyer’s Marketplace

36 Prime-Time Product Preview

38 eSN.tv Viewer’s Guide

38 eSchool Partners

Mrs Obama28Health & TechnologyBacked by First Lady Michelle Obama, schools are taking on child obesity. How can technology help?

— Maya T. Prabhu

eSNOnline

eSNonComputerResources for this issue

22 Security Checkpoint For more school security news and information, go to www.eschoolnews.com/

resources/safe-center

32 Grants & Funding For the latest school funding information, see: www.eschoolnews.com/

funding

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A strong budget narrative can help sell your proposal

1-dollar-billsIf you’ve written a significant number of grant proposals, you might have noticed there are two narratives that funders often request as a part of an application. The first is the narrative that contains your statement of need, your goals and objects, your methodology for carrying out the project, and your description of the staff members who will be responsible for doing this. The second narrative accompanies the budget for your proposal and is called the “budget narrative.”

We typically think of budgets as numbers, so the request for a “budget narrative” might seem unusual. However, the budget narrative gives an applicant the chance to explain in words how the numbers were derived. Budget figures often are the result of mathematical equations, and it’s important for reviewers to understand these calculations. If you think about it, just providing reviewers with a budget full of numbers doesn’t explain how these figures were chosen–and can leave reviewers wondering if they were just pulled from thin air.

Budget narratives should explain every line item that appears on the budget form that contains a dollar figure. Salary and benefit line items, for example, should explain the annual salary for the position(s) of the people working on the project, their required experience or education, the percentage of their time they will spend on the project, and the percentage of fringe benefits that corresponds to the salary amount requested. To illustrate, here is a sample personnel segment of a budget narrative from the Office of Safe and Drug Free Schools on the ed.gov web site:
Project Director (1.0 FTE):      $50,000
The project director will have oversight of the program and provide supervision, recruitment, and training of the program liaisons. At a minimum, this position requires a master’s degree with an emphasis in social work or other related field.
Program Liaisons (2 @ 1.0 FTE):     (2 x $35,000) = $70,000
Two program liaisons will be responsible for day-to-day school/community outreach activities. At a minimum, staff will hold a bachelor’s degree (or equivalent) in the social services field. It is anticipated that each liaison will be responsible for 25 annual events.

Staff Assistant (1.0 FTE):     $25,000
The staff assistant will perform all clerical duties for the project staff. This position requires a high school diploma or equivalent.

Here is the sample fringe benefits section from the same proposal:

Happy Days pays 100 percent medical, dental, vision, life, and disability for full-time employees, and is calculated at .25 percent of annual salary. The calculations are as follows:
Program Director ($50,000 x .25):    $12,500
(2) Program Liaisons ($70,000 x .25):    $17,500
Staff Assistant ($25,000 x .25):    $6,250

If you are including matching funds in the budget for your grant proposal, you should also include them in the budget narrative. List the matching funds amount with the corresponding budget line item, and indicate the source of the matching funds.

If you are purchasing equipment, it is helpful to indicate where the cost for the equipment originated. This might be a web site, for example, or from a vendor quote. Again, let the reviewers know that these numbers are actual numbers provided by a reputable source.

Remember that a budget narrative is another source of information for reviewers as they look at your budget to determine if the amount you are requesting is reasonable. There are many samples of budget narratives on the internet that can help you create a narrative that’s easy to understand and supports a credible budget request.

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No failure to communicate: School-wide communication systems for the 21st century

The CM-3000 is coupled with Conductor, Calypso's software package.

The CM-3000 is coupled with Conductor, Calypso's software package.

For most of us who remember classroom announcements in the 1950s, 60s, and 70s, we recall the tinny, muffled “voice of God” summoning an unlucky classmate to the principal’s office. Some may remember an old rotary phone on the teacher’s desk–similar to the Cold War-era U.S.-Soviet nuclear “hotline”–that frequently interrupted class with a ring loud enough to derail even the most dedicated students’ concentration.

With four new elementary school buildings under construction in my district, and a powerful new data network forming the technological backbone for each building, we didn’t want our communication systems to be throwbacks to 1970s telephony, with no ability to adapt for today’s intercom and paging needs. Our district’s technology team–including network engineer Scott Sibert and network administrator Randy Martz–had a rare opportunity to start fresh and harness the power of 21st century technology throughout these buildings, and we weren’t about to let the school-wide communication systems be an afterthought.

From the moment construction began, finding a single, integrated communication system for school-wide administrative audio functions was challenging. Because every school has multiple priorities for building communications, a “one-size-fits-all” approach can present major integration problems.

When we started looking at options in 2007, most schools used separate two-way and broadcast communications–with broadcasts controlled from a central location, usually the office, using a series of switches and dials. Unfortunately, these systems came up short for emergency communications purposes. Also, there was no way to ensure broadcast announcements were being heard in classrooms where multimedia lessons, such as DVDs or presentations, were taking place.

That’s why we needed a single, dedicated system in each building that could control communications functions–such as paging, bell tones, and emergency alerts–over a school-wide Internet Protocol (IP) network. But when we started specifying hardware and software for this project, we realized the type of solution we imagined hadn’t been invented yet.

We met with several manufacturers early in the process and learned that one company–Calypso Systems–planned to launch a system that suited our needs perfectly. Their CM-3000 is a networked, streaming audio controller and amplifier that encodes analog audio at the head-end (such as an administrative office) for delivery on a standard IP network. In the classroom, the CM-3000 decodes the audio stream for standard playback over conventional, analog speakers and encodes any return audio (such as a two-way intercom call) for delivery over the network.

The CM-3000 is coupled with Conductor, Calypso’s unique software package that controls all aspects of administrative audio through a remote console. Bell tones, intercom systems, and emergency communications all converge in a single, easy-to-use interface that is pre-programmable, yet easily adapts on the fly without complicated setup and configuration.

One of the CM-3000’s most important features is message prioritization. When building administrators issue an emergency alert, the system overrides any queued messages and broadcasts the alert school-wide, automatically muting volume controls on every classroom A/V peripheral to ensure the message is heard loud and clear. Our administrators simply love that their severe weather sirens, fire alarms, and emergency pages are now clearly delivered to all rooms in the building, without delay or confusion.

The Conductor software allows for intelligible voice instructions to be broadcast in the classroom during emergencies, rather than relying only on an alarm tone. The system also will lower the alarm volume to deliver voice instructions, and then restore the alarm at full volume. When used in conjunction with a fire alarm/life safety alert system, Conductor is a very effective enhancement that will help keep students safe.

This single system does much more than a traditional intercom or A/V control system can do, but our goal was never technology for its own sake. Rather, we wanted the technology to make teachers’ and administrators’ lives easier and improve school communications in the process. Its simplicity makes the Calypso solution even more attractive because we know it’s being used every day.

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eSchool News – July 2010

Download this issue as an Adobe PDF
Highlights

26 Viewpoint
Social networking is here to stay—so let’s harness it for learning.
— William Kist

What´s News

1 FCC to simplify e-Rate, expand funding

1 Common standards in English, math released

1 House passes major STEM legislation

1 Court mulls limits of school discipline in web era

6 Meet the future of assistive technology

7 Librarians weigh in on national ed-tech plan

8 Ky. offers cloud computing to 700K school users

8 Wis. service agency aims to reinvent education

9 BECTA’s closing reverberates throughout ed tech

10 Software could ease pain of Windows 7 migration

12 Google’s encrypted search causes problems for schools

14 New smart phones enable mobile video conferencing

14 Arizona law worries non-native educators

15 Can video games help with college counseling?

15 Panel: Even violent video games can be learning tools

16 One Laptop Per Child’s next move: $100 tablet

16 Ten winners snag $1.7M in digital competition

18 ‘Scare tactics’ don’t work in teaching web safety

18 Image-conscious youth rein in social networking

Departments

4 Default Lines — Dennis Pierce

4 Your Turn

6 eSN Online Update

17 Newslines

23 Best Practices

24 Grants & Funding — Deborah Ward

25 Stakeholder Relations — Nora Carr

27 Netwatch

28 Tech Buyer’s Marketplace

29 Product Spotlight / Advertiser Showcase

30 eSN.tv Viewer’s Guide

30 eSchool Partners

Curriculum Focus

22 Reading & Technology
How speech recognition technolgy and smart-phone apps are helping students develop skills for reading.

— Maya T. Prabhu

eSNOnline

eSNonComputer
Resources for this issue
8 Ky. offers cloud computing to 700K school users For more information on cloud computing and its potential in education, go to
www.eschoolnews.com /2010/06/02/computing-in-the-cloud

24 Grants & Funding For the latest school funding information, see: www.eschoolnews.com/ funding

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NCTAF: Transform teaching through collaboration

Teacher teams can increase student achievement.

Teacher teams can increase student achievement.

According to a new report, 21st-century teaching and learning can only occur if teachers and school staff work together as a collaborative team; simple adjustments to antiquated school policies and structures that are already in place won’t help.

The research brief, titled “Team Up for 21st Century Teaching and Learning: What Research and Practice Reveal about Professional Learning,” was conducted by the National Commission on Teaching and America’s Future (NCTAF), with support the Pearson Foundation. The publication gives school policy leaders and educators an extensive review of research and case studies on innovative teaching practices currently implemented by top-performing schools.

According to Hanna Doerr, NCTAF program leader and editor of the report, the research was undertaken as a reaction to the Obama administration’s mission to have every student college and career ready, and to close the achievement gap for low-income students.

“Making these goals happen will require changes that go beyond tinkering with today’s school designs,” explains the brief. “The most critical redesign will be that of the teaching profession—the work of teachers and the way schools are staffed.”

The significance of NCTAF’s report “is that it provides research-based evidence showing that the most successful schools are those that foster collaborative team environments, as opposed to simply attempting to identify individual ‘good’ and ‘bad’ teachers,” said Randi Weingarten, president of the American Federation of Teachers, in a statement.

The brief highlights five research articles, chosen for their breadth of scope and validity, and four case studies that show innovative professional learning communities in practice.

Though each research article and case study is unique and takes into account many differing factors, NCTAF says there are key principles of effective professional learning communities that can be seen within all of the accounts:

  1. Shared values and goals. The team should have a shared vision of the capabilities of students and teachers. Its members should clearly identify a problem around which the learning team can come together, with an ultimate goal of improving student learning.
  2. Collective responsibility. Team members should have shared and appropriately differentiated responsibilities based on their experience and knowledge levels. There should be a mutual accountability for student achievement among all members of the learning team.
  3. Authentic assessment. Teachers in the community should hold themselves collectively accountable for improving student achievement, by using assessments that give them real-time feedback on students learning and teaching effectiveness.
  4. Self-directed reflection. Teams should establish a feedback loop of goal-setting, planning, standards, and evaluation, driven by the needs of both teachers and students.
  5. Stable settings. The best teams cannot function within a dysfunctional school. Effective teams require dedicated time and space for their collaborative work to take place. This requires the support, and occasionally, positive pressure from school leadership.
  6. Strong leadership support. Successful teams are supported by their school leaders, who build a climate of openness and trust in the school, empower teams to make decisions based on student needs, and apply appropriate pressure to perform.

“Overall, the studies show us that when teachers are given the time and tools to collaborate, they become life-long learners, their instructional practice improves, and they are ultimately able to increase student achievement far beyond what any of them could accomplish alone,” says the brief.

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