Week of: July 23, 2007
- Laptop Plans Hinge on Grant Success
Midland Valley High School, in Langley S.C. has applied for a $1 million grant that would allow it to provide students in the school's new Freshman Academy with their own laptop computers.
- School Safety Index
According to the School Safety Index, American public schools are currently having greater success with cyber security than physical security.
- South Carolina Examines the Feasibility Online Testing
While online testing has a number of advantages, it doesn't come cheap. It could cost South Carolina as much as $58 million to move its testing program totally online.
- Teens Find E-mail Old Hat
According to some teenagers, e-mail is dead. They prefer communicating with friends via a combination of text and instant messages and communication on social networks.
- FactSpotter Uses Semantic Analysis
FactSpotter is a new search engine that uses semantics to analyze the meaning behind a question in order to return more relevant information more quickly.
Laptop Plans Hinge on Grant Success
Officials at Midland Valley High School, in Langley S.C., are making plans to provide students in its new Freshman Academy with their own laptop computers. The school hopes to tap into a $5 million appropriation approved by the S.C. General Assembly last spring. That money is intended to fund programs at six high schools statewide intended to enhance educational opportunities and increase workforce opportunities. The Aiken County Board of Education has applied for $1 million of that funding on behalf of Midland Valley High School. If the grant application is successful, students would use the laptops to support their classwork in the new Freshman Academy, a program designed to boost academic performance by providing dedicated classes and teachers for the school's ninth graders. Students entering Midland Valley high school this fall participated in activities under the Education and Economic Development Act — a statewide career cluster/exploration process that formally begins in middle school. As eighth-graders, students had selected a broad career cluster as an area of interest, but won't pursue that cluster during their first two years in high school. Grant funding will provide professional development for Freshman Academy teachers that would help them create interdisciplinary projects that would allow students to continue to explore their career cluster choice and others as well. While the grant would provide a welcome infusion of funds, School Board members are concerned about how they would support the program if the grant was not renewed. The Board wants to use the first year to gather data that will help them decided if the program is worth pursuing on their own. Believing that the grant application will be approved, the district's technology director is already working on a plan for delivering the laptops to students, providing appropriate security and filtering software and installing GPS software to facilitate locating laptop that are lost or stolen.
School Safety Index
According to the School Safety Index, American public schools are currently having greater success with cyber security than physical security. The Index, sponsored by CDW Government, Inc., benchmarks the current status of public school district safety, based on 14 elements of physical and cyber safety as reported by school district IT and security directors. The survey examined a broad range of security topics, from data monitoring and building access to security software and safety education. The index found that, in general, schools rely too heavily on technical solutions to protect networks and buildings and need to focus more attention on educating students about physical and cyber dangers. Out of a possible 110 points on the CDW-G cyber safety index, the districts surveyed scored 55.3. While many districts are monitoring student Internet activity (81%), blocking Web sites (95%) and placing computer monitors in view of adults (89%), only 38% have a closed district network to provide more control over communication and content access. IT directors indicate that among their biggest challenges are today's cyber savvy students who figure out how build proxy sites to sidestep IT security procedures. Districts scored much lower on the physical safety index, with the national average at 44 out of a possible 160 points. Sixty-three percent of districts are utilizing security cameras, with many more considering their use over the next two years; 44% utilize intercom systems most often to convey information to faculty in emergency situations and 54% rely on phone calls for reaching parents in an emergency. Only one percent of districts are considering mass notification systems like text alerts to cell phones.
South Carolina Examines the Feasibility of Online Testing
While online testing has a number of advantages, it doesn't come cheap. It could cost South Carolina as much as $58 million to move its testing program totally online. That's according to a study Data Recognition Corp conducted for the state, examining the feasibility of converting all the state's mandated assessments to an online format. All of the state's third through eighth graders take the Palmetto Achievement Challenge Tests on an annual basis and high school students take end-of-course tests. The PACT tests are administered in the spring, but students and teachers don't see results until the next fall, as a new school year begins. Online testing would allow results to be returned in a much more timely manner, However, given the existing technology infrastructure, many schools would face significant challenges providing students with the necessary computer and Internet access. According to Data Recognition's report, the state would need to purchase 32,500 additional computers to reach a ratio of one computer for every four students. In addition, roughly 30% of currently installed school computers would need to be upgraded in order to meet the demands of electronic testing. Despite the high price tag, some school district leaders believe such an investment would be a wise use of state money, given the advantages of online testing and the increased presence of computers in the schools that could also be used for instruction. Three task forces will study the Data Recognition report over the summer, before any further action is taken. Jim Rex, State Superintendent of Education, actually favors moving away from the PACT to using a series of tests that would measure student progress throughout the year. The House Education and Public Works committee plans to hold public hearings to discuss the proposed changes to the state's testing program. The only way the state could manage a $58 million tab would be to phase in online testing over a number of years. Data Recognition's report suggests starting with an online test for seventh-grade science, adding all English/language arts and math tests by the third and fourth years of implementation.
Source:The Post and Courier
Teens Find E-mail Old Hat
According to some teenagers, e-mail is dead. They prefer communicating with friends via a combination of text and instant messages and communication on social networks. This according to a group of teen-aged Internet entrepreneurs, who presented their views during a panel discussion at the Mashup 2007 Conference. While these young people who run Internet businesses may be the leading edge, they may be pointing out a major future trend. Several say that they use e-mail solely to communicate with adults — keeping up business relationships or soliciting sponsors and support for the web sites. Social networks like MySpace and Facebook have tens of millions of members and give teens a sense of community along with communication tools. And of course much of that communication is mobile, with teens using Facebook on their cell phones or sending instant messages. American teens are rapidly catching up with their European and Asian counterparts in terms of text messaging. Jupiter Research says that 80% of teens with cell phones regularly use text messaging and one of the young panelists said she sends a thousand text messages a month. Using social networks to keep in touch often means that a teen has three or four active memberships, since they can't expect to reach all of their friends and contacts on just one network. One network may be used mostly to reach school friends and another may have a broader reach. It may well be that the killer app of the next few years will be a program that bridges the various social networks and allows users to keep one large list of all their contacts.
FactSpotter Uses Semantic Analysis
FactSpotter is a new search engine that uses semantics to analyze the meaning behind a question in order to return more relevant information more quickly. Developers say that typing "what Steve Jobs said yesterday" into FactSpotter results in a handful of relevant documents rather than the typical thousands of articles that just happen to contain Steve Job's name. FactSpotter was developed by Xerox Corp. and will launch next year initially to help lawyers and corporate litigation departments search legal documents. The search tool will not be sold as a stand-alone application. Instead it will be embedded in Xerox's document management products. FactSpotter's strength is its ability to capture the concept from keywords, for example recognizing "Steve Jobs" as a person and "yesterday" as a time reference, and match the concepts with the underlying grammar in a query to return near perfect results. It's understanding the context of the question that makes the difference. FactSpotter can search at a rate of 2,000 documents per second and in multiple languages. Xerox believes the search tool will be most useful in cases where information must be retrieved from huge databases.