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GarageBand Rocks

Although he didn't address K-12 education in his annual Macworld speech, Apple CEO Steve Jobs unveiled software that will offer hope to music educators facing ever-shrinking budgets. GarageBand-perhaps the coolest application Apple's turned out in recent memory-essentially turns any Mac into a digital recording studio. Kids can create compositions using over 50 software instruments, royalty-free loops, virtual amps, and editing tools. Plug in a USB or MIDI keyboard, guitar, or microphone, and they can play along with backing tracks. The software is available as part of iLife '04, which includes updated versions of iPhoto, iMovie, iDVD, and iTunes, and is bundled with all new Macs. The stand-alone version costs $49. www.apple.com

Arizona School Pioneers Biometrics amid Controversy

As face-recognition systems are being rolled out in airports across the country to record foreign visitors, a middle school in Arizona is testing out its own version of the biometric technology-and encountering many of the same criticisms as airlines. This winter, Royal Palm Middle School in Phoenix became the first school in the nation to install a face-scanning system designed to spot registered sex offenders and missing children, and immediately report them to the police. School officials stated that despite the chances of getting a "hit" being low, the face-recognition cameras, which cost $3,000 to $5,000, will enhance school safety. The American Civil Liberties Union disagrees. "At a time when Arizona is facing an enormous budget shortfall, we should not be wasting precious education and law enforcement resources on a technology that has been shown not to work and which may well result in false positives," said Arizona ACLU executive director Eleanor Eisenberg. www.wesd.k12.az.us/Schools/royal.htm

One-Stop Reading Shop

Evidence-based research is getting a major leg up through the collaborative efforts of three heavy-hitting agencies. The newly formed Partnership for Reading, comprising The National Institute for Literacy, The National Institute of Child Health and Human Resources, and the U.S. Department of Education, is bent on improving reading instruction through a close look at the facts-and only the facts. The mission of the megaresource is to continue to build the connection between scientific evidence and classroom strategies. Details are available at www.nifl.gov.

Quotation of the Month

"So far, it's been less effective than sticking a finger in a dike."

- John Jordan, PR representative for Lightspeed Systems

Jordan is commenting on the CAN-SPAM Act, the national antispam legislation that went into effect on January 1st. The law requires senders of unsolicited commercial e-mail to refrain from using deceptive subject lines. Additionally, they must include their return address and opt-out instructions. www.spamlaws.com/federal/108s877.html

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