Politics in non-corporate environments make the world a slower place

I suppose I should have been aware of how SLOW things can move in the non-corporate world.  A while ago, I wrote about an idea that I had for school kids.  Since I’m lazy, I’ll just post the original email and the response that I just received.  Notice the over one month delay from the date of my original email?

Mr. Geurts,

Thank you for your explanation and clarification.  We continue to look for ways to not only deliver our curriculum, but to do so in a way that is effective and motivating to students.  Your suggestion is a delivery method we may consider at a later time.

During this academic year, the district will be conducting  a limited number of student e-mail pilot projects following a district approved application, documentation, and evaluation process.  Classroom teachers, like your mother, are eligible to participate in one of these pilot projects. Teachers interested in participating should contact their school’s Technology Coordinator to receive the application form.

I’ll copy the appropriate Curriculum and Technology Departments’ staff on my reply to you so that they will be informed about your proposal.

Thanks again for your clarification.

Jim Bowen

James M. Bowen
District Library Media/Audiovisual Coordinator Green Bay Area Public Schools 200 South Broadway Green Bay, WI 54303
Telephone: (***) ***-*****
Fax: (***) ***-****
E-mail: ******@greenbay.k12.wi.us

>>> "James Geurts" <jim@biacreations.com> 12/11/03 09:33PM >>>

Hi Mr. Bowen,

It appears as though my idea was mistranslated from my original description, to the description that you received from my Mom (Jane Geurts).  What I envision for the kids to use is a closed chat program.  I’ll explain what I mean about closed chat program further in the email.  They could use this program (along side the existing typing books, if necessary) as a way to speed up their typing.  It can be used for education, as they could each research a topic and then tell each person (via the chat software) about what they researched.  If helpful, you could even place those little dots over the keys, so that the students are somewhat forced to memorize key position.  By chatting, in my personal experience, you learn where the letters are for common words and build a memory of the key locations based on that.  Similar to the repetition illustrated in the learning to type books, the kids would get their repetition of letters by typing out words.

Since they would be chatting about a research topic, this would allow the students the opportunity to use unique words and, ultimately, utilize the lesser used keys.

If I’m correct, Preble High School and possibly other schools in the district offer Microsoft certification.  Because of this, students in those classes could write this chat software, possibly as an extra credit project.

The software is trivial to program and Microsoft offers related examples in some of their courseware.  Also, students focused more on security could audit the software, to make sure that it is secure.  This would give a useful "real world" experience to those students in the high school certification programs while at the same time, providing the district with free, useful software.

Now, to answer some of the concerns that you brought up:

I am currently not in a school district.  I recently graduated from the University of Wisconsin Milwaukee with a Bachelor of Science in Computer Science.  I am currently living in Maryland and am the president of a computer consulting firm.

To handle privacy concerns, the students developing the chat software could implement several security features:

  1.  The author(s) of the software could encrypt the traffic sent to and from each chat client. 

  2.  The author(s) of the software could implement a "master chat server" that the instructor would operate.  The instructor would then be sent all posts by the students and approve each post individually.  Only approved posts would then be displayed to all of the chat clients.

  3.  The author(s) of the software could implement an automatic text scan that would replace words not appropriate for school use with alternate words, or remove them outright.

Along with that, the chat software could be written to use a certain designated port number for communication.  The school network administrator would then block this port from accessing the outside network and block any incoming requests to that port.  That way, the traffic pertaining to this chat software would be confined to each lab individually.  This is what I mean by a closed chat program.

I have only touched on a few of the security options available, but this would alleviate some internal and any external threats to the students.

The amount of network traffic increase would not be of worry.  Since the network traffic from this chat software would be confined to the lab, there would be no apparent increase in network traffic on the WAN.  LANs, in general, are designed to handle higher amounts of network bandwidth than their WAN connection, so the amount of increased network traffic on the LAN would be minor and would probably not be noticeable.

If you have any other questions or concerns, please don’t hesitate to ask.


James Geurts