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Dear Subscribers:

Here's our lineup moving into February:

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~Sponsor ~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~
Publishers Pipeline - low-cost or free educational software, housewares,
PC hardware, music CDs, etc. This week the Freebie Clearance Sale, offering:

All JumpStart software titles (Reg price $29.99, FREE after rebate)....
For example, "JumpStart Numbers Ages 5 to 7"
All Reader Rabbit titles, including…
"Reader Rabbit's Kindergarten" (Reg price $34.99, FREE after rebate)

Family Tech: Web research with your child

Here's advice on good Web resources for kids' homework from a father who knows. For his Family Tech column at the San Jose Mercury News this week,'s Larry Magid visited a number of sites with his 9th-grader son Will for a research surfing session and wrote up the experience, with background on what each does best. Links and URLs are provided, so the students in your house can take it from there.

Parents, if you do shoulder-to-shoulder Web research with your child, tell us about your experience and favorite resources - for the benefit of all of us! The address:

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Subscribers write

  1. Schools & the filtering law

    Now it's educators' turn! Last week we featured librarians' views on the new US federal law that mandates filtering in schools and libraries that receive federal "e-rate" subsidies. This week subscriber Jennifer with the Southern Regional Education Board emailed us a thoughtful response with the other important perspective:

    "The education community weighs in....

    "At two regional conferences I attended in the past two weeks, representatives of state departments of education have been both up in arms and panicking over the new filtering legislation, and all of them hope it is overturned, for a variety of reasons.

    "For one reason, the requirement adds another layer of bureaucratic documentation to an already beleaguered public institution. Many schools rely on the e-rate to fund their Internet access, which is used heavily in more and more schools for classroom activities. Nearly all schools have already developed appropriate-use policies, based on guidelines and feedback from parent and community groups.

    "For another, many have also already installed various filtering technologies and discovered it has many unintended effects for online instruction:

    • "One statewide system (Kentucky) blocked high school students' access to a reputable online course provider through which many students in rural schools were taking Virtual High School courses for graduation credit;
    • "Vocational high schools and those serving alternate-education students and adults with low reading skills found that sports and news sites - which they use to interest these students in improving reading skills - were blocked;
    • "All online courses require chat and email so students in 'virtual education' can interact with each other and with their teachers. Filters block both those functions. (This recently happened in New Mexico rural schools. The teacher has resorted to printing and mailing email until a solution is available).

    "These three examples all happened to students using school networks - which are usually used by those students who have no other resources or access to the Internet from other sites (except possibly public libraries). Students who access the Internet for online courses from home would not be faced with these restrictions. Requiring filters to the magnitude suggested by CIPA effectively widens the digital divide by allowing some students access to information without any barriers, but prohibiting less fortunate schools and students from accessing the same information. Separate and unequal.

    "The barriers this legislation presents to virtual learning - which many states are turning to to help them deliver needed courses equitably to remote schools - are just beginning to surface."

    [Editor's Note: We thank Jennifer for taking the time to write such an informative comment, and we encourage other parents, educators, and librarians to email us with their views on school and library filtering - for or against. We were interested to find that 69% of those of you who responded to our Subscriber Survey last fall gave unqualified positive responses to our question, "What do you think of the law requiring filtering on computers that children use in schools and libraries?" (Another 16% said they liked such a law, but with qualifications.) Let us hear from you!]

  2. A major in computer games?

    In response to our Web News Brief item last week on controversy at University of California, Irvine, over the idea of a major in computer games, subscriber and 8th-grade teacher Margie in Texas emailed us:

    "Like it or not, games are a vibrant force in the Internet community. Having informed, intelligent game designers is a step in the right direction. Games are complex in both manner of design and play. We cannot ignore this development. It is a huge employment opportunity and responsibility. If we pretend it doesn't exist, it will still grow.

    "YES!! Include this in college. It is BIG BUSINESS."

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Kids & computers: Meaty report

Our thanks to for alerting us the fund of information for parents and educators in "Children and Computer Technology", released last week. It's the latest report in the long-running, semi-annual "Future of Children" series funded by the Packard Foundation.

We took special note of…

There's much more, so do check out the index page (URL above) to see all that's offered there. Here's the New York Times piece on the overall report.

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Web News Briefs

  1. DoD wants kids' data?

    A consumer privacy group is urging the US Defense Department DoD to disclose what it plans to do with information it has acquired on "the Web surfing habits of schoolchildren," according to The Electronic Privacy Information Center (EPIC) filed a Freedom of Information Act request last week to gain access to correspondence between the DoD and both filtering software maker N2H2 and market research firm Roper Starch Worldwide. "The two companies recently joined forces to sell aggregated data gleaned from the thousands of US schools using N2H2's Internet content filtering software called 'Bess'," reports. EPIC says the Defense Department paid $15,000 for a year's worth of reports showing where students are going online. N2H2 and Roper say that the aggregated data reveals nothing about individuals or schools. There's interesting speculation in the story about why the DoD purchased the data but it doesn't, probably couldn't, answer the questions raised.

  2. Napster will cost ya

    Starting around June those 51 million registered users Napster claims will have to pay a membership fee. According to Wired News, Napster's CEO Hank Barry has acknowledged that, when it happens, 95% of those users will go away. Which spells great news for struggling entertainment sites, Wired adds (such as and Here's's version of the announcement of Napster's parent company, German media giant Bertelsmann.

    A CNET story focused on another competitor, the file-sharing service called, which the article says doesn't yet look like a truly viable alternative. ZDNet, however, says a new software development means new life for Gnutella and a new threat to the record industry. But wait: There's another file-sharing alternative that does have the support of the recording industry - and 5 million registered users to boot - according to the New York Times. Co-founded by a 32-year-old former drummer, the service is called (From Wired News, here's another musician's view of the free-music phenomenon, and - on the consumer hardware side, FYI - we noticed ZDNet's reviewers were surprised that they liked Intel's new MP3 player.)

    But what digital music service do the e-audiophiles at your house recommend - myplay, Gnutella, Tell them to send their picks and tell us why they like 'em (in layman's terms pls!).

  3. FCC's new chairman

    For our many subscribers interested in the e-rate and its impact on technology at public schools and libraries, a commentary on new FCC Chairman Michael Powell might be interesting. The US Federal Communications Commission administers the e-rate program (of federal subsidies for Internet connectivity at schools and libraries), not to mention its role as regulator of the telecommunications industry and broadcast media. "I think [Michael Powell's] approach will be that the role of government won't proactively manage and shape the changing industry," writes columnist Jeff Kagan, which may mean that online children's advocates such as the Center for Media Education will need to be more vigilant than ever (see our 1/19 item "TV to DTV: Same rules apply!" about CME's work with the FCC on kids and digital TV).

    Meanwhile, they were probably preaching to the converted this week, when the American Electronics Association told the Bush administration and Congress that they "should focus on better science and math education to boost high technology and leave privacy concerns to the companies involved," the Associated Press reports (via Wired News).

  4. Arctic in the classroom

    British students will be following the Arctic Circle research of 12 young compatriots via the Web this year. According to Wired News, 12 students from all over the United Kingdom will be spending four months of their "gap year" (between secondary school and university) studying in Svalbard, an island in the Arctic Circle also known as Spitzbergen. The British School Exploring Society, sponsor of the expedition, calls Svalbard "Europe's last true wilderness." At 78 degrees latitude, it's one of the northernmost islands in the world. But, being warmed by the Gulf Stream, "Svalbard is the world's most accessible high Arctic area," the BSES writes in its Web site, "home to millions of seabirds and 3,000 polar bears." The students' data and journal entries on pollution levels, weather, glacial flows, polar bears, and the tundra ecosystem will be posted on the Web, as will lesson plans for teachers and students who want to join the expedition in a virtual sort of way.

  5. No mo' Go(.com)

    Disney is shutting down its Internet portal (formerly the Infoseek search engine), having given notice to's entire workforce this week, according to CNET. The Los Angeles Times says Disney has lost $500 million to $750 million on "the Go debacle," which leaves the company's Internet strategy "in shambles." Go goes the way of, which Disney shut down last May. Remaining Disney sites include Mr Showbiz and (not to mention and, according to's very readable, readably gossipy "Media Grok". For business and Internet history students, here's the big picture on "big media" & the Web at

  6. Another child protection law

    The US Supreme Court accepted a 1996 child pornography law for review last week. According to the New York Times, it comes down to one simple question that has implications for the Internet: "May the government criminalize computer-generated images of fictitious people engaged in imaginary acts?" The case will be argued next October, when the Supreme Court "hears an appeal by the Justice Department from a 1999 ruling by the United States Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit, which struck down two parts of the most recent amendments to the child pornography law," the Times reports.

  7. For e-news junkies

    Used to be, journalists picked the top news stories of the day. Now newshounds can find out what's "important" by going to a Yahoo! News's page that shows "the most-emailed stories" and "most-viewed stories" by average news surfers like you and me. We put the word "important" in quotes because, well, what's important to the average Web-using news junkie and what's need-to-know to newscasters and editors are two different things. According to the New York Times, the Yahoo! page has become "something of a cult favorite among heavy consumers of news." The Times piece notes, interestingly, that "most-viewed" news tends to be entertainment and breaking-news stories, whereas "most-emailed" stories tend toward the bizarre (think tabloids).

  8. Connecting NYC's kids

    The budget alone got our attention!: The New York City Board of Education authorized a $900 million project to build what may well be the Internet's largest education site, as well as to provide every teacher and student above the 4th grade with an Internet device of PC "for use at school and home." That's according to the USIIA Bulletin. The New York Times had the story too, of course.

  9. Say goodbye to Dreamcast

    News for console gamers this week: Sega will stop making its Dreamcast consoles and start focusing on creating games for others, according to The company said it would stop manufacturing consoles right away and discount those already on the market from $149 to $99. Sega has already struck a deal with Sony to make games for PlayStation 2 and is in negotiation with Microsoft to make X-Box games and Nintendo to develop games for Gameboy and the next-generation Gamecube. Next on the docket: the entertainment side of PDAs and cell phones.

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That does it for this week. Have a great weekend!


Anne Collier, Editor

Net Family News

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