While educators were on break from classroom duty this summer, Susan Patrick, director of the Department of Education's Office of Educational Technology, departed her post. Patrick, who took over the director reins from John Bailey in March 2004, is now the president and CEO of the North American Council for Online Learning. At press time the DOE had not hired Patrick's replacement.
For most teenagers, e-mail is for old people. That's the finding of the Pew Internet and American Life Project that found that three quarters of teenagers use instant messaging instead. "They see e-mail as much more formal, similar to how adults would see written letters: a quaint way of communicating with older relatives or for formal communications," Pew researcher Mary Madden said. As a result of the constant use of IM, away messages have become popular among teens wanting to keep tabs on each others' doings. "There's a sense of needing to always stay connected and having this persistence online," Madden said. "Even if friends don't IM each other everyday, they still know each is okay and around because they're logged in." The study also found that nearly nine out of ten teens use the Internet, with half of the 21 million online teenagers using it everyday. This compares to 66 percent of adults who use the Web. About eight in ten teenagers play games online or get news online, four in ten have made purchases through the Internet, and three in ten use the Internet to get health information. All these numbers are significantly higher than what Pew found in a similar study four years ago. Cellular phones are being used by 45 percent of teenagers, and many use several devices to connect to the Internet. Nevertheless, the landline telephone remains the most dominant communication medium in teens' everyday lives.
—Antone Gonsalves, TechWeb.com
Security: How Vista Fights Vulnerability
For the first time, Microsoft is making public some details about how its upcoming Windows Vista operating system will help protect against security vulnerabilities based on administrator rights and logon limitations. It's attacking the problem by making it possible to do more without being logged on with all-powerful administrator rights. If you're working in User mode, you will be able to perform administrator privileges, such as installing applications, on a case-by-case basis rather than having to switch accounts. When users need to work in Administrator mode, a Protected Administrator feature will let you set limitations to prevent an application from going outside its privileges.
Another useful new feature will be the ability to check for and remove worms, viruses, and other types of malicious software from a computer during the operating-system upgrade. Windows Vista will include a new version of the Windows Firewall, which will offer outbound and inbound protection, an upgrade from the previous inbound-only version.
IT staff will find it easier to make sure users, especially those off-site, keep up with security patches. A client-based scan agent will ensure that users who haven't kept up with operating-system and application patches won't be allowed to connect to the network; they'll be routed to where they can download critical patches first. Read more about Vista Beta.
—Finnie and Barbara Krasnoff, TechWeb.com
There are hundreds of bloggers who specialize in education issues. Here's a peek at some notable posts of late.
"Let's not get sidetracked by lamenting the loss of manufacturing jobs to cheaper labor markets overseas. It's a done deal. It's over. Get used to it. Instead, let's focus on the kind of work that isn't easily outsourced—the creative, right-brained work that produces innovation. Let's ask tough questions about what kind of curriculum is needed to produce citizens that can adapt rapidly, use technology effectively, communicate convincingly, cooperate seamlessly, solve problems creatively, and think unconventionally. Somehow I don't think it looks much like the curriculum we have now." -The Savvy Technologist ; technosavvy.org
"When I first came to Ed School, I was sure that if we took out politicians, added choice, and set high standards, everything would take care of itself. The problem was in the organization of schools, and the unions, and the bureaucracy. All that. These things are indeed problems. What I learned, though, is that enacting organizational changes is in some cases like rearranging deck chairs on the Titanic. Things look different, but the ship is still sinking." - Jenny D.; drcookie.blogspot.com
"Teachers should be paid for their time and effort in improving their skills. The traditional concept that teachers are independent contractors when it comes to their own training is as antiquated as closing school for summer vacation." - Assorted Stuff; www.assorted stuff.com
Breaking a Virtual Sweat
Call it the newest health craze: Students from the Minneapolis Public Schools now have the option to take physical education online, reports the New York Times. Although this news may leave some scratching their heads, don't worry: the kids still have to work out in real life. In Minneapolis, for example, online students exercise for 30 minutes four times a week. According to The New York Times, the students then e-mail their instructors the particulars of their workouts, including stretching and heart rate data. (Parents attest to the accuracy of their reports.) In an era of tight budgets and increased acceptance of e-learning, this trend may just have legs.
Speaking of Microsoft, Technology & Learning readers had a lot to say about Bill Gates's commentary that "we will keep limiting—even ruining—the lives of millions of Americans every year" until high schools are redesigned to meet 21st century demands. Sixty-eight percent of respondents to Technology & Learning's online poll agreed, with many citing insufficient funding, outdated equipment, politics, and lack of parental involvement as barriers to change. One reader wrote: "We need to prepare kids for their world, not ours...How can we really serve kids by teaching them skills their grandparents don't even need anymore?" Another respondent argued: "The problem is not in the design but in the implementation. There are plenty of high schools that are equipped with '21st Century' technology, but the teachers are ill prepared."