News and Trends(9)

from Technology & Learning

The Internet circa 2026, Google's K-12 rumblings, $50 million for digital learning, and Reading First's shock and awe.

Peering inside School Networks

Everyone assumes K-12 networks are vulnerable to security threats, but Alert Logic, a Houston-based security firm that monitors the networks of several districts across the country, knows it for sure. The company says its academic customers experienced 1 to 2 attacks—mostly worms—per day in August, which spiked to 30 to 40 incidents per day in September, and then stabilized at 3 to 4 per day in October. —Amy Poftak

A Truly Worldwide Web?

What will the Internet look like in 20 years? According to a survey conducted by the Pew Internet & American Life Project, it will be something out of science fiction novel. Of the 742 tech experts interviewed for the Future of the Internet II study, the Internet will likely be replaced by a global, low-cost network that will be available to almost everyone, though many believe that bridging the digital divide for the world's poorest populations will continue to be very difficult. The respondents also opined that English will dominate as the language of global commerce, though regional languages such as Mandarin will play a bigger role on the world stage.

On a frightening note, a significant percentage of experts fear that the growth of technology will rapidly outgrow the human capacity to control it—bringing to mind such movies as The Terminator and The Matrix-and communities of Luddites opposed to the ever-increasing domination of technology will segregate themselves from society and possibly commit acts of terrorism. —Mark Smith

This Digital Life

The field of digital learning is getting a big boost —to the tune of $50 million. The MacArthur Foundation, famous for giving out no-strings-attached "genius grants" to America's best thinkers, announced it's focusing its attention on the impact of digital technology on kids. "We've seen how digital media has transformed the business and music industries," says Connie Yowell, director of education grant making. "We're asking what it means for our youth." Over the next five years the foundation will support cross-sector research, writing, and demonstration projects that explore how technologies from video gaming to social networking affect how young people learn, play, and socialize. The Foundation has also launched a blog ( featuring Henry Jenkins, James Paul Gee, and others. Call it a think tank for the study of digital natives. —Amy Poftak

Quote of the Month

"You know the line from Casablanca, 'I am SHOCKED that there is gambling going on in this establishment!' Well, 'I am SHOCKED that there are pro-DI [Direct Instruction] people on this panel!'"

Chris Doherty, in an e-mail he wrote in 2002 while serving as director of the Department of Education's Reading First program. The e-mail, which was in response to an inquiry about potential conflicts of interest on the program's expert review panel, was included in a scathing Inspector General audit. The audit found the DOE did not properly identify conflict of interests grant reviewers had with commercial entities, in particular companies advocating the direct instruction methodology, and that the DOE pressured states to adopt DI in order to receive funding. Doherty resigned shortly before the audit was released.Amy Poftak

Open Your Google, Students

The omnipresent search engine, Google, has launched, a Web site that features teachers' guides for various products such as SketchUp 3D design software and Google Maps. The site also offers lesson plans centered on Google Earth and Discovery Education's unitedstreaming video-on-demand service (this comes on the heels of Google's bid to purchase Internet video upstart So are Google's efforts to reach educators and students a sign of a significant effort by the Internet giant to become a major player in the tech ed market? Cristin Frodella, Google's K-12 education outreach manager, says programs such as "Google-certified teachers" and a quarterly newsletter are in the works. "[Education] is not our main focus, but we truly want to help educators bring technology into their classrooms," she says. —Mark Smith

Google's education site provides teachers with lesson plans and tools such as Google Earth.