Dear Subscribers:

We have lots of news for you this week, including great news of our own. Here's our lineup for this first full week of April:

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The latest on Sage

A hearty welcome to all subscribers of the SafeKids list! This past week The Online Safety Project and The Sage Family joined forces to create a new list: SafeKids-'NetFamilyNews. Our weekly newsletter for parents of online kids - long known as The Sage Letter and soon to be renamed 'Net Family News - will now go out to all member-subscribers of both lists. Larry Magid, creator of and will contribute frequently.

Please know that we always appreciate and often publish (with permission) your feedback and contributions. Just e-mail them to

Here's our lineup for this mid-April week:

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Larry goes to Washington

As we mentioned last week, the Online Safety Project was nominated for a Computerworld Smithsonian award. Well, this week OSP founder Larry Magid was at the ceremony in DC accepting a medal on behalf of the project. We asked him to describe the experience….

"I showed up at about 8:45 Monday morning. There was a very large tent set up on the mall about half way between the Capitol and the Washington Monument. Hundreds of people were milling around drinking coffee and eating fruit kabobs and bagels. It was very nice - though unseasonably cold and windy for April in Washington. The ceremony was called to order at 9:30. It opened with a brass band and a military honor guard presenting the colors. There were roughly 400 of us nominees seated behind the podium, and they read the name and gave a medallion to every single person on that stage. It was quite a long process."

We asked Larry what struck him most. "There were two cool things, really. There will be about five finalists for each category and one winner. I don't know if we'll be a finalist or a winner, but the great thing is that everybody there got a medal and was recognized as having made a significant contribution that will be available to the American people forever….

"The second thing was getting out there to meet the other laureates. It just feels good that the 'nation's museum,' which is really what the Smithsonian is, is saying not just to the Online Safety Project but to everyone that what we're doing is part of the record of what makes America America…. It's not something we give thought to very often, but these are things that contribute to the fabric of our society."

Those contributors Larry's referring to - the Smithsonian laureates - are Web sites, technologies, and education programs selected by a nominating committee of about 100 CEOs and chairmen of companies in the high-tech industry (AOL chairman Steve Case nominated the Online Safety Project). Once you're nominated you submit a case study that is reviewed by a Smithsonian archivist. After it passes that mark, the project is nominated and goes into the Smithsonian's permanent archives. Finalists will be announced later this month; winners sometime in June (we'll keep you posted). There's information on all the laureates at the Smithsonian's awards site.

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Web News Briefs

  1. The UN's new 'Net numbers
    There is no turning back. A United Nations report says more than 200 million people worldwide will be connected to the Internet by the end of this year, according to Wired News.

  2. Winning inventors, wearable PC
    A regular theme of ours is kids teaching grownups. It's part of this Web phenomenon we're covering because of the fascinating way the Internet empowers the "little guy" - kids, consumers, citizens - and challenges all types of conventional "authorities." This is just another example: Wired News tells the story of two Detroit-area high school students who created a wearable Web cam that even impressed the MIT Media Lab's Nicholas Negroponte. Quipped their admiring h.s. teacher, "I, the Wizard of Oz, am now in awe of Toto."

  3. Online consumers' champion
    Rep. Edward Markey (D-MA) means to move privacy beyond Internet industry self-regulation (the current "policy" in place), because he thinks it's not enough. He announced last week that he will shortly be introducing new legislation he calls a "Privacy Bill of Rights." Here are two pieces on the subject: TechLaw Journal's and the New York Times's. The AOP Bulletin says Markey's bill "will combine technology tools, industry self-regulation and government enforcement" and "will give consumers the right to information about how their personal information will be used and the right to refuse to allow the information to be sold or re-used." Our friends at the Center for Media Education are holding a meeting on the subject of children's online privacy next week. We'll be reporting on that.

  4. Shorts from the AOP Bulletin (news from the Association of Online Professionals):

    a. The e-Rate rolls on
    Schools and libraries don't seem to care about lack of support for the e-Rate, which is helping them get wired to the 'Net. More than 32,000 of them have submitted applications for discounted Internet and telecommunications service in the e-Rate's second year. The AOP says that's 2,000 more applications than last year. Our previous reports on the subject this year can be found in the 2/18 and 3/4 issues of the newsletter.

    b. Now they're thinking
    Here's a job title for ya!: Chief of the Commerce Department's National Telecommunications and Information Administration Larry Irving has written to the FCC to urge it to require schools and libraries that receive e-Rate funding to establish policies for Internet use as an alternative to filtering content. We think this is better (more flexible) than Sen. John McCain's legislative efforts to force all e-Rate recipients to install filtering software.

  5. Most-well-connected
    If the college-bound students among us are making schools' Internet use and presence a factor in their decisionmaking, Yahoo! Internet Life magazine keeps tabs on most-wired US universities. Case Western Reserve University in Cleveland topped their list this year. Others high on the list (tho' we couldn't find the actual list on the survey description page): MIT, predictably; Wake Forest; the New Jersey Institute of Technology; and Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute. Criteria YIL considers include: online course schedules; entrance applications on the 'Net; online class registration; multiple e-mail accounts; and unlimited Web server space for students' sites.

  6. No more paper GREs
    From college to grad school: Wired News reports that, as of last Saturday, all prospective graduate students will be taking their GREs (Graduate Record Examinations) on computers. The last paper GRE ever was handed out last weekend. And no more agonizing wait: Test-takers can find out their scores right after they submit their answers. The New York Times says the Educational Testing Service's decision is raising questions.

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Creative outlet

Have you run across a home decorating service on that's new this spring? Together with House Beautiful magazine and The Learning Company (source of the interactive technology), they've launched House Beautiful Interactive Interiors. Starting with kitchens and eventually rolling out to living rooms and bathrooms, users can play around with appliances, plumbing fixtures, and building materials to design their own rooms. We tried it out and found the service pretty time-consuming (of course, when is decorating or remodeling not?) and a little clunky. There's some significant not-so-subliminal marketing going on in the process, too. You start out by picking brands like Delta, Corian, Kohler, Pella, and Sub-Zero. The press release says there are "more than 15,000 home furnishing products in the site's Product Finder," and there's a huge database of pricing information and retail locations. Smart marketing on the manufacturers' part.

If any of you try out the site and find it useful, do e-mail us. We'd like to hear (and, with your permission, publish) your comments. The address:

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The Web: Habitat of humanity

From the creative to the slightly more cerebral, some of you might enjoy this week's New York Times piece, "Searching for the Essence of the World Wide Web.". It's about how the Internet, as the Times puts it, "has become a living laboratory, a place to study mass human behavior with a precision and on a scale never possible before." In this science (of the social sort rather than the computer sort), we, the "informavores" are the ones being studied as we scurry around clicking on links and consuming data. A lot of scientists are studying us, but one of the biggest such projects is at the Xerox Palo Alto Research Center in Palo Alto, CA, where 55 million Web pages are being studied and observed as an ecosystem would be.

As for the Web's future, one of its fathers (no, not Al Gore), Vint Cerf, now a senior vice president at MCI WorldCom and chairman of the Internet Society, told a news conference last week that it will be both wonderful and dangerous. A report, in TechWeb focused more on potential dangers. Foremost, Vint said: Internet taxation. He said $3.2 billion will change hands over the 'Net by 2003, and there are 30,000 "taxation authorities in the US alone." He called for a clear legal framework to keep all those tax entities at bay.

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Print + Web = Dynamic Textbooks?

Last week we highlighted a New York Times piece about how textbook publishers and teachers are working together on the Web to keep textbooks current.

Sounds like a great idea, but we wanted to run it by an educator we know. We e-mailed a couple of questions about this to Della Curtis, technology coordinator for the Baltimore County Public Schools district (BCPS has 103,000 K-12 students). She's been actively involved in education technology for 18 years, working closely with teachers, librarians, and administrators, and she continues to be a leading expert on use of the Internet in school. We featured an in-depth interview with Della in our libraries issue last October.

We asked her what she thinks of this idea of blending the Web and textbooks. Her reply: "I feel it is about time textbook publishers address the age-old problem of currency of information in their product. Using the Internet to update the information and/or enhance the understanding of concepts is an excellent use of this newer technology."

Then a note of caution: "However, the reliability of the information depends on the authority of the people charged with the responsibility of reviewing the Web sites and the frequency of updating." Good point. One such project - SciLinks, a project of the National Science Teachers Association (which has signed up two textbook publishers for collaboration) - appears better equipped to meet that challenge because it's spearheaded by teachers themselves, those with the biggest incentive to keep the material current.

On the publisher's side is another challenge, suggested by Della: "Since the Internet is a 'dynamic' information source, how will they manage to keep the textbook that references the Internet sources up-to-date? Will it be done from the Web site itself?"

An example of a pure publisher's site (rather than a joint teacher-publisher project) is Houghton Mifflin's Eduplace. Collaboration evidence can be found in their site just for K-6 teachers in Illinois, a link on the home page. The "Parents' Center" section includes a State Farm Insurance ad; interesting that a site partially marketing textbooks is also selling ad space - marketing layered on top of marketing. The site is no less of a resource, though, for educators who are discerning Web users (for an example, see the "Project Center" for collaborative classroom projects over the Internet).

Della continued with a question she addresses daily in her school district: She says the success of such print+Web projects depends on the availability of the technology in the school as well as staff expertise to use it. "I know we have come a long way in these areas," she told us, referring to schools in general. "However, Internet access is not yet universal throughout our nation."

Our next question to her: Do you think these projects are as useful as the units you and BCPS teachers/librarians put together? The modules, used in several school districts in the US are based on the work of educational technology consultant Jamie McKenzie, publisher of From Now On, an ed tech journal. The modules objective: to guide students through "thoughtful process of conducting research, problem solving, and critical thinking," according to the BCPS introduction.

Della responded: "I think they're as useful as the Web site our group of librarians maintains. In fact, we will also provide links to these textbook-publisher resources from our Web site, as we have done with elementary language arts and math links. It is another step that we need to carefully consider as we develop our Web site - to check out the publishers' Web sites for the resources that can be used with the approved textbooks we use in our county."

Important note to teachers and homeschoolers: See one of Della's collaborative projects, "Research Modules Supporting the Essential Curriculum and Information Literacy". It's a mouthful, but well worth a look, whether you use it directly or as an example of how to harness the Web for students self-study and research. It includes the modules themselves, lesson plans and other teacher tools, and links to similar modules in other schools' sites on the Web. For more general use - research links not tied to a specific curriculum, but categorized by grade level - see BCPS's "onLINE".

If any of you actively uses sites like SciLinks or Eduplace, we'd love to receive your feedback. Responses to Della's views and/or comments on the sites themselves would be welcome. We publish members' comments, with their permission.

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Kosovo backgrounder

While we're on the subject of education and the 'Net: Homework Central has put together a useful resource page for students and teachers that it says is "10% news and 90% in-depth knowledge" on the subject: "Kosovo Crisis: Spotlight Study Section". It includes links to news coverage; Balkan history, ethnography, geography, languages, culture, arts, religions, and countries; biography; and relevant international organizations, including those dedicated to refugee relief. The news links are particularly useful for debate or dinner-table discussions; it offers many perspectives on day-to-day developments.

Another resource: HomeArts Network's "Make a Difference" feature has a page about helping Kosovar refugees. It lists relief organizations' Web sites, phone numbers, and mailing addresses and links to an online discussion on the subject.

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


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