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Tuesday, November 17, 2009

Classrooms that have replaced chairs with balls and ball chairs see better results. The devices sharpen students' attention and improve posture, teachers say.

Reporting from Chicago - Donna Yehl's fourth-grade students bob behind their desks, heads nodding up and down as if the children were on the deck of a ship.

But they aren't fidgeting.

The two dozen children in Yehl's Elgin, Ill., classroom read and write -- in fact, do all of their classwork -- perched on exercise balls.

The inflatable balls are commonly used in Pilates, yoga and exercise classes. Some teachers say they belong in school classrooms too because they sharpen students' attention and improve their posture.

This year, Yehl checked the Internet for ways to help her restless pupils sit still. She stumbled on a story about exercise balls improving concentration. So she replaced her classroom's chairs with bouncy 21-inch-high balls in colors students chose.

She sees a difference.

"They're more focused," Yehl says. "They're sitting upright."

Balls and ball chairs, which have wheels, feet and backs, are popping up in classrooms.

Lisa Witt, whose Wisconsin company WittFitt sells exercise ball chairs for classroom use, reports a sharp increase in customers, from one school in 2004 to more than 300 across the country and abroad.

"Some people initially think, 'Are you crazy?' " says Witt, a former elementary school teacher in Colorado. But aside from mental and physical benefits, she says, "it's just plain fun."

Kids often agree.

Emily Ziemba, 10, a student in Yehl's class, laughs and nods when asked whether she likes sitting on an exercise ball.

"I mean, sometimes I would like to lean back," she says. "But other times, it's better than a chair."

Teachers say children on ball chairs often quit flopping over on their desks. And they're getting enough exercise to improve concentration.

"You'd be surprised how many kids really need to move while learning," says Adrienne O'Brien, a fourth-grade teacher in Barrington, Ill., about 40 miles from Chicago, who calls her more energetic kids "squirrels." "That would be the majority of them, frankly."

Subconscious mental activity lies at the core of the science behind the balls' success, experts say.

The tiny movements kids make to stay balanced stimulate their brains and help them focus, says Dr. John Ratey, a Harvard University professor and author of "Driven to Distraction" and "Spark: The Revolutionary New Science of Exercise and the Brain."

Children with attention disorders, he says, have "a sleepy cortex," and exercise combats that mental disengagement.

"Just by using their core muscles more, they're flipping [their cortex] on" and increasing their mental activity, Ratey says. "The cerebellum part of their brain is really working to adjust, every millisecond."

John Kilbourne, a professor of movement science at Grand Valley State University in Michigan, experimented with college students last year. He found that they preferred ball chairs to regular chairs and that their concentration improved while balancing.

In elementary school, though, some students equate exercise balls with playtime. So teachers devise ways to keep them from goofing off.

Yehl begins the school day by playing music and letting the kids do what she calls "baby bounces": They move up and down but keep their feet on the floor. She follows the same routine after recess.

Kids sometimes sway back and forth or roll on the balls, she says, but they rarely leave their seats.

And during class, the room is strikingly quiet.

"Even teachers walking past the room said they'd never realize [students] were sitting on exercise balls," Yehl says.

Sunday, November 15, 2009

Exchange Server 2010 is all about new levels of control. The Transport Protection Rules system enables administrators to designate the extent to which the recipient of a message can utilize its contents. The dreaded Access Control List has been replaced with something better, and the archiving process can be completed in the background.

The biggest change to Microsoft (Nasdaq: MSFT) Exchange Server 2007 was supposed to have been the introduction of something called "Unified Communications" -- the introduction of a singular console for the handling of all forms of digital communication, wrapping voice mail, instant messaging, and email into a single delivery system. History may yet vindicate UC as the product's singular achievement.

However, in the near term, administrators credit Exchange more for what it gives them than the world at large. In that light, the inclusion of PowerShell as not only the underlying language of the system but as its engine as well, changed everything for the admin. It may very well be why the product has surged to a two-thirds market share, by some estimates, over once formidable competition such as Lotus Notes.
Short Functionality Gap

So learning a lesson from history, the message from Microsoft with regard to Exchange Server 2010, which went on sale last week, is about new levels of control. The idea that email, or any kind of communication, once sent unto the vast Internet is out of the sender's hands -- like a paper sailboat launched from a river pier -- is what the Exchange team has been working to combat. During a beta program which Microsoft says involved dozens of universities, signing up some 10 million participants worldwide, the company has completed development of a browser-based endpoint for ES 2010-delivered email that is not only more manageable than Outlook 2007, but that has beaten Outlook 2010 -- the product it's supposed to be derived from -- to market by perhaps eight months.

What that means is, hopefully for a short time only, there will be a functionality gap between what the new Outlook Web App -- hosted by ES 2010 -- can deliver compared to what Outlook 2007 provides. If Julia White, Microsoft's marketing Download Free eBook - The Edge of Success: 9 Building Blocks to Double Your Sales director for Exchange, has anything to say about it, that gap will be shorter rather than longer, but it's not unnoticed.

White spoke with Betanews from Berlin, where she had just completed a TechEd Europe demonstration along with Corporate Vice President Stephen Elop. "Obviously Outlook Web Apps comes with Exchange, so they can use that today; when Outlook 2010 comes out, they can use that," said White, "and we are absolutely planning support for Outlook 2007 in the roadmap here. So it's on the agenda, and we will actually be getting to it."

Much of what Exchange 2010 will deliver absolutely depends on this upgrade to Outlook 2007, as you'll see. We asked White for her take on what she would consider the top three enhancements to administrator functionality in ES 2010.
#3: Transport Protection Rules

Number three on this list is the Transport Protection Rules system. It enables the administrator to designate the extent to which the recipient of a message can utilize its contents, based upon rules that enable Exchange to analyze the content itself. "In the demo this morning, I set a Transport Protection Rule based on a keyword. But actually another aspect of that is, those rules can be set based on the sender, the recipient, or even contents of an attachment," White told Betanews.

"Any of those things can be triggered; and having the ability to centrally decide what gets encrypted and what doesn't, is a really powerful tool. With end users, it's hard for them to keep up with corporate policy, pay attention to it, or know about it. So oftentimes it's unintended, versus intended, when information isn't protected. Having that essentially managed brings peace of mind, for the users as well as the IT pros."

The ability to analyze an attachment takes place on a granular level, White told us. If a PowerPoint presentation, for example, were to contain the words "Microsoft Confidential," that fact alone would trigger a rule that automatically encrypts the message outgoing, and that restricts the recipient from being able to pass it on.
#2: Role-Based Access Control

One of the least loved features of Exchange, or anything Microsoft has ever done, disappears in ES 2010: The Access Control List is a Registry-based system for designating which identified and authenticated user had permissions to control specific objects. It has often been a ridiculous concept that starts one off with the assumption that everyone has rights to everything, and that ACLs provide the exceptions.

Exchange Server 2010 replaces this entirely with a concept that is much more rooted in Active Directory. Now, the administrator starts off in a universe where nothing is allowed until groups of users are added into the pool of permissions. Those groups that are added in are called "management role groups," with the concept being that a predefined set of roles exist (a concept made popular by Windows Server 2008), and that groups of users or individual users are delegated those roles.

Julia White demonstrated how Role-Based Access Control enabled an otherwise unprivileged user to search for emails through multiple mailboxes on the company's behalf (in this case, Microsoft's usual fictitious firm, Contoso). Her system was delegated a role that let her perform the search, without having to delegate other responsibilities and privileges of a much higher administrative order. "A compliance officer might get that level of capability," White explained to us, "but a help desk might have the rights to increase mail box quota size. Maybe HR would be given the ability to update contact information on behalf of employees. Extending all the way down to end users, even that same roles-based administration capability -- end users can now create and manage their own distribution groups within Exchange. That no longer requires a call to the IT pro ... usually that's a lot of overhead."
#1: Integrated Archiving

During the late 1980s and into the '90s, Microsoft liked to centralize things, thinking that if everything were in one big pile -- as Arlo Guthrie put it -- that would beat two or more little ones. The System Registry is, and remains, one big pile. Another -- which can stink just as bad -- is the .PST file, the single personal folder file that is created on the client side by Outlook.

It is every Outlook user's nightmare, especially since Office buries this file typically in a black hole within a hidden directory inside each user's Documents folder. For individuals who receive hundreds of thousands of emails per year (I'm on that list, believe me), the archiving process has cost users many a weekend.

With Exchange Server 2010, Microsoft marketing director Julia White told Betanews, is the ability to perform this process completely in the background. However, in addition, the archived items remain indexed and available, still listed as part of "Personal Folder" but stored separately.

"Today, the vast majority of email actually sits on the local hard drive on those .PST files," White remarked. The end users love it because they can file as much as they want in there, and they have access to it when they're on their PC. But from an administrator's perspective, they don't like them because they're very expensive to discover, they get lost, they get corrupted, it's a liability and a lot of overhead for the IT organization.

"So with integrated archiving ... it doesn't have any change to the end user experience," she continued. "That Personal Folder appears, but the archive shows up and it looks just the same, it's another folder in your file directory, it looks like a secondary Inbox...The benefit is, it's all sitting on Exchange, so it's not going to get corrupted or lost. It's very easy to discover -- that time comes down dramatically. And as a user, you get access to it through Outlook Web App, [as opposed to] on the local hard drive."

Here, White took the bold step of proclaiming OWA as superior to Outlook, in that users still get full access to their mail (albeit with transport restrictions), but without having to keep those multi-gigabyte .PST files locally:

"What got us into this in the beginning was when we talked to our Exchange customers as we were planning [ES] 2010, and we found out that 20 percent of Exchange mailboxes have an archive on them today, but over 60 percent said it was important to them. It's scary, because there's not a mailbox out there that shouldn't be archived for one reason or another. What we heard from them was, 1) the cost and overhead of maintaining and managing another system -- new tools to learn -- was too expensive; and 2) the end-user experience. Oftentimes you have an archive today, you have to go to a different UI to retrieve the mail, or the performance is really poor on the archived mail. Because what they do is called 'stubbing,' which means they literally just leave a little bit of the email in the Inbox, and the rest of it sits out on a third-party system. So the performance has to go bounce between multiple systems, so it's very slow.

"If end users don't adopt it, it doesn't work," White remarked. "So this clears the hurdle of both the end user experience as the IT pro cost and management perspective."
That 70 Percent Cost Savings Claim

During the presentation at TechEd in Berlin, Microsoft CVP Stephen Elop made the staggering claim that within a group of 100 companies testing Exchange Server 2010 over the last year, some were able to cut their administrative costs over earlier versions of Exchange by as much as 70 percent.

As is Betanews' custom (and as is the custom of Betanews readers who see anything in double-digits beside a percentile mark), we asked how that figure was obtained. For instance, we've seen companies in the past that said the expenditure to do something this year was X percent lower than the expense to do something in the past, and that typically refers to the fact that memory or storage or processor power is just that much cheaper. That's not really savings; that's a factor of the economy.

So what is this 70 percent savings a factor of? "A big cost driver is storage," responded White. "We know the storage aspect of email, it's a lot of information and it can get expensive. Traditionally, Exchange was deployed always on a storage-area network, which was fine back in the day when you had a 200 MB mailbox. Obviously, that's not sufficing anymore, and 10 GB is becoming more of a standard. Supporting that kind of mailbox storage size on a SAN becomes cost-prohibitive.

"So what we've done in Exchange 2010 is two things: First, we dramatically improved performance, tenfold over Exchange 2003. When I say that, I mean the time it takes to read and write information to the disk. What that enables is world-class support of low-cost storage options -- direct-attached storage, SATA, even in a JBoss configuration. So big, slow disks, you can run Exchange without any performance or reliability impact." NEC (Nasdaq: NIPNY) Philips (NYSE: PHG), for example, was able to increase its storage capacity by a factor of eight, while simultaneously reducing costs by a factor of four, White said; and Germany-based hosted service provider Elabs was able to reduce its storage costs by 70 percent.

Isn't that saying that the expenditure this year is 70 percent or so less than the expenditure for a similar service in 2003? Yes, according to White, but that's in terms of operating cost run-rate, which is figured according to time and not total investment, especially since companies don't always purchase storage capacity all up-front.

Betanews also learned that Microsoft's SMB Windows Server bundles, Small Business Server 2008 and Essential Business Server 2008, will not be updated immediately with Exchange Server 2010. Those bundles may continue to be sold with Exchange Server 2007 for at least several more months down the road.

Monday, November 9, 2009

October 7, 2009 - Chicago, IL - On October 7, 2009 at 12:30 pm, US Dept. of Education’s Assistant Deputy Secretary for Innovation and Improvement James H. Shelton III visited the VOISE (Virtual Opportunities In a School Environment) Academy, a Chicago Public School in the Austin neighborhood (231 N. Pine Chicago, IL, 60644), to observe a H1N1 flu learning continuity drill. The drill demonstrated how VOISE Academy’s unique use of learning technologies and digital curriculum materials promote exceptional student learning during normal school days as well as enable learning continuity in the event of a school shutdown due to a flu outbreak or other emergency.

VOISE Academy principal Todd R. Yarch led the event, accompanied by Chicago Public Schools (CPS) leadership. Sandi Atols (CPS, retired), a founder of the school, and Dr. Kemi Jona (Director of the Office of STEM Education Partnerships at Northwestern University), a member of the VOISE Academy design team, also attended. Dr. Jona is a nationally recognized expert in educational technology and online learning. ”VOISE Academy is a real working model of the promise of online and blended learning in improving the learning of all students,” said Jona. “In 5 years, this is what most schools across the country will look like. Not only are the digital curriculum and tools used at VOISE engaging students in individualized learning every day, they also make it a snap to implement continuity of learning in the case of a flu outbreak or other emergency.”

The impetus for this event is the Dept of Education’s focus on the important role that educational technologies and online curriculum materials like those used at VOISE Academy can play in improving learning for all students. "Technology is core and essential to the strategies we are using to reform education," Shelton said. These same technologies can help meet the challenge of continuity of learning for possible upcoming H1N1-related school closures. There is concern in the education community that the H1N1 flu pandemic will pose significant challenges for educators this school year.

Principal Yarch said: “I think the benefits of online learning and digital curriculum in the case of crisis such as an H1N1 shut down is obvious. Schools like ours can continue to deliver high levels of instruction even when students can't get to school, although what you see in a hybrid school like VOISE is the ability of our outstanding teachers to integrate face-to-face instruction with the rigorous online curriculum on a daily basis. The hybrid model makes the online environment less daunting because students and teachers know each other on a personal level--this creates a nurturing environment, which is something our students desperately need.”

“Interest in online learning solutions for continuity of learning is in high demand by school districts,” said Susan Patrick, President and CEO of The International Association for K-12 Online Learning (iNACOL). “The recent outbreaks of swine flu in schools has prompted the need for continuity of learning using online learning. Online learning offers solutions for helping prepare schools for pandemic planning as well as for natural disasters caused by weather, hurricanes, fires and other closures. States and district education leaders are reviewing policies for learning continuity and virtual education to help establish new school models using blended models of online learning every day to help engage students in 21st century classrooms – and prepare schools for readiness to use online learning in the event of a school closure,” Patrick added.

VOISE Academy has been collaborating with iNACOL and has contributed to and benefited from their newly released continuity of learning website at


A model of the future of schooling, VOISE Academy: Virtual Opportunities Inside a School Environment is one of the only urban public (non-charter) non-selective schools in the country to use online materials all the time. VOISE is open to all neighborhood students who choose to apply. It uses a hybrid model, integrating face-to-face teacher instruction with rigorous online curriculum. VOISE’s mission is to provide all students with choice, flexibility, scholarship, and individual attention by combining the use of technology, best distance learning practices, and quality online curriculum with exemplary secondary classroom teachers and student-centered philosophy.

About the Office of STEM Education Partnerships (OSEP) at Northwestern University

OSEP is a service organization that supports K-12 teachers, schools and other educational institutions by connecting them with the world-class science, technology, engineering, and mathematics resources of Northwestern University for the benefit of K-12 students. OSEP also supports Northwestern researchers in developing proposals and implementing research projects that incorporate K-12 educational components, particularly in the fields of science, technology, engineering and mathematics (STEM).

About iNACOL

iNACOL is the International Association for K-12 Online Learning, a non-profit 501(c)(3) membership association based in the Washington, DC area with more than 2,500 members. iNACOL is unique in that its members represent a diverse cross-section of K-12 education from school districts, charter schools, state education agencies, non-profit organizations, colleges, universities and research institutions, corporate entities and other content and technology providers ( iNACOL hosts the annual Virtual School Symposium (VSS). VSS 2009 will be held Nov. 15 – 17, 2009 in Austin, TX

Tuesday, November 3, 2009

The Governor has called for a special session on education reform to enact changes needed to make California eligible and competitive for billions of dollars in federal funding.

I am honored to serve as the vice-chair of the Assembly Education Committee, and I look forward to working with the Governor and my colleagues in the Legislature to enact meaningful reforms that will improve the delivery of education for our children.

While there will be many issues that emerge in the special session, I am focused on making changes in the following areas:

1. Remove barriers in state law that prohibit using student achievement on state testing in the formal evaluation of teachers.

This is necessary because it is a requirement in the proposed federal "Race to the Top" grants. While I am in support of this concept, I also believe that student test data should be only one factor in evaluating teacher performance.

There are several conditions that impact students' standardized test scores, including parental involvement, public safety (e.g. gangs in the community and on school campuses) and language barriers.

Ultimately, a "value-added" analysis, such as evaluating a teacher's success at making progress with a pupil, is the most logical way to incorporate pupil performance into formal teacher evaluations.

2. Enhancing accountability

I favor crafting reforms that promote innovative approaches that properly distribute accountability, while granting the necessary decision-making authority to those who are held accountable.

For example, there is evidence of success in educational models that allow a principal to be in complete control of his or her school, and then hold that principal accountable for results.

To promote such models it would be necessary to enact changes in law that will allow the principal to hire and fire whomever they think will do the best job.

Also, incentives could be enacted to encourage school districts to allow the principal to spend monies wherever they deem necessary.

Furthermore, the state should do away with or minimize "categorical funding," which dictates to school districts how funds must be spent rather than allowing local decisions to be made based upon the unique circumstances of each local school.

3. Charter schools

The proposed "Race to the Top" regulations favor fewer restrictions on charter schools.

U.S. Secretary of Education Arne Duncan has suggested that California should lift the current cap on the number of charter schools allowed. I favor educational choice and welcome this change in state law.

I propose, in addition, that we focus on which charter schools work best and why, and then initiate incentives to duplicate that success in the lowest performing schools across the state.

4. School vouchers for special education

Funding for special education is overwhelming school budgets, yet special needs children are not always getting adequate attention.

Rather than forcing parents to fight with school districts over appropriate levels of care, why not give them the option of purchasing those services from a private vendor or a school that has excelled in that area of service?

The bottom line for my approach in achieving educational reform is to experiment and promote innovation. The best way to approach reform is to encourage innovation at the local level, while maintaining high standards and enforcing accountability by empowering parents through greater choice and flexibility.

We should exchange the "command and control" model that favors mandates from Sacramento and Washington, D.C., for a model that promotes local innovation and grants local authority.

Assemblyman Brian Nestande (R-Palm Desert) represents the 64th Assembly District in the California Legislature.

Saturday, October 31, 2009

One of the best and simplest ways to protect your data from fraud is having it encrypted with a password. Passwords are used on all the websites where people have any personal page. Passwords are also used to protect documents and important data. However, what can you do when you forgot a password to your excel document? These things happen a lot nowadays because we have to remember so many passwords.

There are cases when you forget your password or you family members that need to use your excel document forget the password. In these cases the solution can be the Excel Password Recovery. This software will help you open any password protected excel document. So if you need to open an excel document as fast as possible you are going to need a software like Excel Password Recovery.

Easy and comprehendible interface will help you recover excel documents in a few moments. All you need is to download, launch the application and open the excel document with it. Excel password recovery software will show you all the passwords that this document contains even the ones that are set to different books within the document.
However, the best way is not to forget your password and if you do not want to get your files hacked bring them with you on your flash drive.

Thursday, October 22, 2009

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