News and Trends(7)

Yahoo! for Educators

By Amy Poftak

Sixty-five Bay Area educators stormed Yahoo!'s Sunnyvale, Calif. campus this summer for the first annual Yahoo! Teachers of Merit Summer Session. During the seven-day "teacher camp," Yahoo! held working sessions on how new tools such as Flickr and blogs could be harnessed for curriculum activities. The company also involved campers in discussions about common ed tech challenges and product development. "We talked to them a lot about what they need and what they're not getting," says vice president Lorna Borenstein. "It was like rapid prototyping using industry experts." Could Yahoo!, which first jumped into the education fray with Yahooligans, be gearing up for a product launch? Borenstein did not say. However, she notes they want to make educational search better. "There's a great opportunity with Web 2.0 tools for education to jump ahead," she says.

Teens' IM Talk A-Okay

By: KC Jones, courtesy TechWeb

Researchers at the University of Toronto report that instant messaging does not deserve its bad reputation as a syntax spoiler. Sali Tagliamonte and Derek Denis studied about 70 Toronto teens and compared their use of language in speech and instant messaging. The research focused on characteristic features of computer-mediated communication and examined four features of grammar: intensifiers, future tenses, quotes, and deontic modality.

The study found that instant messaging language mirrors patterns in speech but teens fuse informal and formal speech. It concluded that adverse claims about instant messaging are overblown.

"Everybody thinks kids are ruining their language by using instant messaging, but these teens' messaging shows them expressing themselves flexibly through all registers," Tagliamonte said in a statement. "They actually show an extremely lucid command of the language."

E-Learning: Patent 6,988,138

By: Amy Poftak

Course management system provider Blackboard made news — some might say waves — recently when it announced it had been issued a U.S. patent for online learning technology. According to a company statement, the patent encompasses "core technology relating to certain systems and methods involved in offering online education, including course management systems and enterprise e-learning systems." That same day the company filed suit against Canadian-based Desire2Learn for patent infringement.

To be sure, the move has drawn the ire of many e-learning outfits. eCollege CEO Oakleigh Thorne said in a statement: "As one of the pioneers of online education, we launched our first customer's e-learning program in January 1997, before Blackboard even existed...after consulting with patent counsel, we believe the patent is invalid."

Quote of the Month

"It would be like trying to protect children from being injured or killed by drunk drivers by ruling that kids can no longer walk, ride a bike, or even ride in a car or bus to school."

— Larry Magid, columnist and co-director, on why the Deleting Online Predators Act (DOPA) is a bad idea. Source: "House Misfires on Internet Safety,"

Hoosier Daddy? In Indiana, It's Linux.

By: Edward F. Moltzen, courtesy CRN

How's this for back-to-school fashion: More than 20,000 Indiana students are now Linux-enabled under a state grant program to roll out workstations running various versions of the open-source operating system.

Mike Huffman, special assistant for technology at the Indiana Department of Education, says schools in the state have added Linux workstations for 22,000 students over the past year under the Affordable Classroom Computers for Every Secondary Student program. This year, Huffman expects Linux desktop deployments to grow from 24 to 80 high schools, driven by lower costs, higher functionality, and early successes.

"We have a million kids in the state of Indiana," Huffman says. "If we were to pay $100 for software on each machine, each year, that's $100 million for software. That's well beyond our ability. That's why open source is so attractive. We can cut those costs down to $5 [on each computer] per year."

Approved suppliers for the program include Dell and HP, as well as several system builders.

Bandwidth Crisis Predicted

By Amy Poftak

According to a new study, K-12 districts and schools may be unprepared to handle future computing demands. The America's Digital Schools 2006 study, conducted by the Hayes Connection and the Greaves Group, says the projected bandwidth per student in 2011 will be 9.6 Kbps, almost a four-fold jump from today's bandwidth per student of 2.9 Kbps. Even that, according to ADS, is a fraction — about one-quarter — of what's needed, especially given the rise of ubiquitous computing and media-rich Internet applications.

"Yes, there's a bandwidth crisis, but many schools are finding ways around it," says Allen Daugherty, manager of telecommunications for the West Virginia Network. Daugherty, who resells bandwidth from Sprint to K-12 schools, says at least four West Virginia counties are aggregating their bandwidth capabilities by running transparent LAN services, a methodology that allows schools to bypass local bottlenecks and share a 100 MB connection to the county board office. "It's not a cheap proposition," says Daugherty, who suggests all districts should analyze their bandwidth use and project growth patterns.