T&L News(144)

The FCC wants your opinion; Put to the Test: Joe Huber Reviews the Toshiba M700; Back Office Business; Sites we Like; On The Air
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Week of: September 2, 2008

  • The FCC wants your opinion
    Schools are preparing for possible changes to the E-rate program for the 2009-2010 school year—and the FCC wants your opinion. The FCC is seeking public comment on whether costs for items such as Internet content filtering software, anti-virus software, anti-spam software, advanced firewalls, scheduling services, and telephone broadcast messaging should be discounted with the support of E-rate funding. The organization is also asking E-rate stakeholders to offer their opinions of changes in several program definitions, such as interconnected VoIP, and basic phone service.
  • Put to the Test: Joe Huber Reviews the Toshiba M700
    Retail Price: $1,700

    Description: Tablet laptop.

    How to use in the classroom: With Microsoft OneNote, this (like any tablet PC) makes an excellent note-taking platform. Add Vista's improved handwriting recognition and note-taking becomes even easier.
  • Back Office Business
    Memphis City Schools (MCS) is going mobile to track tardiness, assign detentions, verify student identities and various other tracking tasks. All middle and high school students within the district have bar-coded ID cards.
  • Sites we Like
    The Natural Environment Research Council—the UK's organization that funds research into the environmental sciences—is launching an online version of its award-winning magazine, Planet Earth, in late September.
  • On The Air
    Ten year olds anchor the news on playground rules and dress code divas
    "These guys don't sweat," said Daun Korkow, Super 6 Daily News director and program coordinator at Gilbert Elementary School in Las Vegas. He's referring to his fourth and fifth grade anchors who broadcast real news every school day, assisted by colleagues in grade three, and often pursuing interviews among first graders.

The FCC wants your opinion

Schools are preparing for possible changes to the E-rate program for the 2009-2010 school year—and the FCC wants your opinion. The FCC is seeking public comment on whether costs for items such as Internet content filtering software, anti-virus software, anti-spam software, advanced firewalls, scheduling services, and telephone broadcast messaging should be discounted with the support of E-rate funding. The organization is also asking E-rate stakeholders to offer their opinions of changes in several program definitions, such as interconnected VoIP, and basic phone service.

Public comments regarding these changes to the E-rate program must be submitted to the FCC by Sept. 18. Funds for Learning offers a complete summary of this Notice of Proposed Rulemaking on their site: http://www.fundsforlearning.com/content/view/1148/89/

Put to the Test: Joe Huber Reviews the Toshiba M700

Retail Price: $1,700

Description: Tablet laptop.

How to use in the classroom: With Microsoft OneNote, this (like any tablet PC) makes an excellent note-taking platform. Add Vista's improved handwriting recognition and note-taking becomes even easier.

Pros: Very lightweight, and stays cooler than most laptops. The built-in web cam is nice feature.

Cons: The battery only lasted about 2.5 hours. The location of the screen lock could wear after time, which would prevent the user from locking the screen.

Overall Impression: The short battery life means one would need at least four batteries for the average school day. The fingerprint sign-in will be a privacy issue with some parents. Because of the low battery life and the hinge on the screen, I would recommend this as a teacher workstation, perhaps to use in lieu of an interactive whiteboard and a computer, but do not think it is durable enough to use as a student workstation.

Back Office Business

Memphis City Schools (MCS) is going mobile to track tardiness, assign detentions, verify student identities and various other tracking tasks. All middle and high school students within the district have bar-coded ID cards. School officials will use a device called the SoMo 650 from Socketmobile to either print an administrative slip (tardy, hall pass, detention) with the wireless printer connected to the device, or take other actions, including contacting a parent or guardian. After an initial pilot in five schools, MCS will rollout the solution to all middle and high schools within the district. "As with many paper based systems, MCS was looking for a solution to increase efficiency by implementing an automated system," says Sergeant Kenneth Pinkney, Director of Student Behavior and Intervention with Memphis City Schools. "(This) solution reduces paperwork and improves access to information, allowing MCS to better focus on educating the students." In addition to using the mobile devices within the schools, the various school security administrators will have a SoMo 650 in each patrol car. Officers can access the software either through the handheld computer, laptop or desktop in the office.

The Saugus Union School District will receive $1.4M in funding from the Enhancing Education Through Technology (EETT) Competitive Grant program to create the Student Writing Achievement Through Technology Enhanced Collaboration (SWATTEC) program. Approximately 1,700 fourth grade students will use Asus eePCs in the classroom to access a web-based, student-driven writing evaluation tool, and a collaborative learning environment, where students will engage in public posting and commenting, group projects, and multi-school peer editing and review. Teachers will each receive training and equipment necessary to lead the class, including a laptop, projector, printer, digital interactive pad, mobile cart for the netbooks, and appropriate wireless hardware to support the devices. The project works through partnerships with the California Technology Assistance Project (CTAP), Vantage Learning, Inc., and Digital Edge Learning. Professional development will be provided for 53 fourth grade teachers, 15 coach/mentors, and school and project administrators.

Poway Unified School District (CA), which serves 33,000 students in grades K-12, deployed the iPrism 100h Web filter this summer to run usage reports on specific machines or individuals to investigate suspicious online activity and trends. Before, the district's IT department spent up to six hours a week adjusting Internet access for teachers who needed to access sites, such as YouTube, to deliver lessons. With this product, administrators and educators can change settings at their discretion, saving time and allowing the IT staff to focus on critical tasks. As bandwidth needs for these educational tools accelerate, iPrism will be able to manage the increasing traffic and prevent any bottlenecks or network overload from impacting productivity. The product's Web filtering capabilities also ensure the school district continues to meet Children's Internet Protection Act (CIPA) compliance requirements by effectively filtering and blocking inappropriate online material.

Four Independent School Districts in Texas, Wichita Falls, Killeen, Pasadena and Midland have adopted Spectrum K12 School Solutions Inc.'s special education IEP software product Encore to track for students who need special services throughout their districts. The software provides a technology-based system of data, process, and compliance management that includes IEP software and Response to Intervention (RTI) software.

Follett announced that one out of every four U.S. public schools now use the Destiny Resource Management Solution to manage library books, textbooks, media, and instructional assets. This is a jump of 82% from March 2007 to March 2008 according to company records. Districts using Destiny Textbook Manager grew 94% in the same period. Major districts that have recently adopted or significantly expanded Destiny include: Wake County Public School System (Raleigh, NC), Charleston County (SC) School District, Caddo Public Schools District (Shreveport, LA), and Providence (RI) Public School District.

Sites we Like

The Natural Environment Research Council—the UK's organization that funds research into the environmental sciences—is launching an online version of its award-winning magazine, Planet Earth, in late September. The Web site will be updated daily and feature news, features, blogs, opinions, podcasts, and video from the environmental science community. Topics include: climate change, biodiversity loss, volcanoes, earthquakes, the rainforests, oceans, and poles.

Google's Knol is designed to help students and teachers easily share their expertise with others on the web. The tool is designed to verify the authorship of articles, so every knol will have an author (or group of authors) who put their name behind their content. It's their knol, their voice, their opinion. With Knol, authors can work together through "moderated collaboration." With this feature, any reader can make suggested edits to a knol, which the author may then choose to accept, reject, or modify before these contributions become visible to the public.

Evidence: How Do We Know What We Know?, is a new Web site that looks at the role of evidence in science and society. Evidence premieres with a case study in human evolution that features the work of scientists at the Max Planck Institute for Evolutionary Anthropology in Leipzig, Germany. Researchers share their knowledge and insights in dozens of streaming videos, podcasts, and online interactives. See how DNA is extracted from a 38,000-year-old Neanderthal bone; find telltale microscopic markings on fossil teeth; analyze a peer-reviewed paper; manipulate computer models of ancient fossil skulls and much more.

On The Air

Ten year olds anchor the news on playground rules and dress code divas

"These guys don't sweat," said Daun Korkow, Super 6 Daily News director and program coordinator at Gilbert Elementary School in Las Vegas. He's referring to his fourth and fifth grade anchors who broadcast real news every school day, assisted by colleagues in grade three, and often pursuing interviews among first graders.

Gilbert, a magnet school for 144 students in grades one through five targets communications and creative arts, using a sophisticated, yet simple set of equipment to help a highly motivated group of kids produce a children's version of a professional newscast every day.

"It's a real studio and a real news attitude, reporting on national, community, and school news," says Korkow. All fifth graders must write a script. Sixteen fourth and fifth graders rotate through anchor positions; grade five will mentor grade four so they don't get embarrassed and make mistakes. Second graders read the daily lunch menu, while newbies, the six-year-olds, may capture airtime with insights such as "I like pizza." Those not on the air are handling cameras, switchers, lighting and other equipment necessary to put the show together.

Korkow teaches a TV class to grades three and five, an hour a week, about the science behind TV, sound boards, Teleprompters, and how to be a floor manager or how to speak in public. He says of his job, "It's a lot of fun," and of his pupils, "They are a very poised group of students."

Everything starts at 8:20 a.m.; at 9:10 it's done. Sometimes ping pong balls may fall on the anchors, or a field trip might be documented. Maybe a student in a play will have been taped or a softball player interviewed. If it's George Washington's birthday, he could get a mention.

"I can take clips and cut and paste," says Korkow. "The music teacher edits the music and the drama teacher has a piece called Backstage Secrets. The PE teacher may bring in something that happened with the dance team. We have a field crew in our rotation to go out and tape news."

Other schools may ask "how hard is all this?" Korkow believes that if they have a camera and a modulator they can do it, noting that most schools are wired.

A portable production studio from San Antonio-based NewTek (TriCaster, a high-end, post-Web production studio that does a multicamera streaming video with fades, dissolves, and tilting—also used by Fox Sports, ESPN radio, and others of that ilk) is used in a theater with stadium-style seating. Camera and video connections are hard wired all around. Virtual sets are used during programming. A sofa in the studio area is ready for guests, who, in Las Vegas, range from costumers to singers to magicians and the occasional celebrity. According to Korkow, "Tech is secondary; we teach poise—it's our mission."

It costs around $5,000 to $8,000 for the NewTek equipment, depending on what you want. Gilbert does editing, titles, credits, and produces a live show that records for the Internet—a hard drive is built into the equipment. Portability rules as equipment weighing from 10 to 16 pounds can be carried in backpacks or shoulder bags.

Eighteen schools in the district use broadcasting products. "A number of schools visit us," says Korkow. "Five or ten schools a year come to us; we invite them and they stay and talk with the students." There are middle schools and high schools in the area that carry on the activities. Korkow says, "We like to think ours is the best."

See what it's all about at http://ccsd.net/

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