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News and Trends(12)

from Technology & Learning

The future of intellectual property, chipping away at E2T2, new dimensions to Second Life, highlighting the Web, and more.

Virtual World, Real Voices

Appropriately enough, Linden Lab's Second Life Grid is getting a second life. The virtual 3D world, which already boasts members from over 100 countries worldwide, hopes to boost its online profile by implementing voice capabilities (members could previously only communicate via instant text messaging). What makes its voice chat unique? It's "proximity-based," meaning it takes distance and direction into account for a more real-world conversation experience. "Voice has always been part of the long-term plan for the Second Life Grid, as we feel it will help residents become more immersed in their virtual lives," says Linden CEO Philip Rosedale. While one-to-one chatting is possible, up to 100 users can be present on the same audio channel simultaneously, making it a boon for long-distance lecturing and training. The program is only in beta right now, but it's expected to be launched officially sometime this year.

Quotes of the Month

The annual SUN Worldwide Education and Research Conference was held in February in San Francisco, with this year's theme being Education 2.0: Education in the Participation Age. The following quotes are from a student panel addressing educators, business executives, and researchers.

"In the '00s, information is being recognized as more valuable than ever before, and we're exchanging information at a much higher level than the previous age group."
—University of California Berkeley student Darian Shirazi, explaining why universities should not limit information access through filtering.

"When college kids go on the Internet, they're not browsing. They know what they're looking for."
—Santa Clara University's Lori Ma on how students are going to Google and other Internet sites for initial research rather than the campus library.

Also in February in San Francisco was the 26th annual Teaching Reading and Learning Diversity Conference, sponsored by reading software company Don Johnston. More than 600 educators and research professionals shared innovations and insights relevant to all aspects of technology and literacy. Below are a few highlights:

"By the year 2020, intellectual property as we know it will not exist."
—Mike Hall, technology director for the State of Georgia, on one aspect of the future impact of digital content.

"They're tech savvy, but not for teaching."
—Sheryl Abshire, administrative coordinator of technology at Calcasieu Parish School System, on the high turnover rate of first-and second-year teachers and the need for high-quality professional development.

"The only people ready to use all the technology all the time are the students."
—Eugene, Oregon's Howard Elementary school principal Kim Finch, speaking of her school's "journey of digital infusion."

Open Source Curricula

Rolling out in stages—complete with a high-profile press boost from founder and former SUN CEO Scott McNealy—is Curriki, an innovative curricula-plus-wiki product for educators. This free Web 2.0 application invites visitors from all over the globe to upload and download instructional content. A sampling of current lesson topics includes video production, the history and culture of Israel, mobile learning, and a range of math activities set within the "real world" context of Antarctica. Commercial vendors are partnering with Curriki to contribute some open-source content, which is also "driving visitors to their proprietary solutions," says executive director Barbara Kurshan.

Highlight This

I-Lighter, an ingeniously simple Web highlighting tool developed for Internet Explorer and Firefox, attempts to treat the 21th-century disease of Web information overload. The downloadable i-Lighter software is free, and lets users mark content on any Web page and automatically store it (with notes) for access from any location.

Technology Left Behind?

High-profile ed tech organization leaders recently slammed the Bush administration's proposal to eliminate No Child Left Behind's Enhancing Education through Technology provision (E2T2) from the 2008 fiscal budget. Both Don Knezek, CEO of the International Society for Technology in Education (ISTE), and Consortium for School Networking CEO Keith Krueger see the gutting of E2T2 funds as a major step backward for technology in education—and for the prospects of public education in general.

For Knezek, the move is nothing short of hypocritical. "I simply cannot understand how this decision squares with the administration's stated goal of ensuring that our nation's students can compete globally and effectively in math and science," he blasts.

From 2002-04 E2T2 received about $700 million in funding, but coffers have been slowly dwindling. Krueger is certainly not about to give up fighting for a program he assures can make a "real difference" in the lives of lower-income students who don't normally have access to computer technology at home.

"We hope that Congress recognizes the importance of [E2T2] and increases our investment in our children's future," he says. It's worth noting that the administration has been trying to get E2T2 dumped for the last four years without success, and the House approved leveling current funding for the remainder of the 2007 fiscal year (a good sign for its future prospects). Meanwhile, however, districts serving the neediest students across the nation are struggling to keep their technology programs afloat.

Correction

In February, the price information for Adobe's Digital School Collection was incorrect. The correct price for middle school and later (volume licensing only) is $149 per copy for up to 99 copies, plus $22 for CDs.

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