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 From Now On
The Educational Technology Journal

 Vol 11|No 2|October|2001

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Learning
to Go
Unplugged

by Jamie McKenzie
About the Author

Some of us sail, drive or hike away on summer holidays designed to spare us from the pressures of e-mail and other digital influences. We turn off cell phones and listen to gulls calling to each other.

But new sailboats come equipped with GPS and computer screens that sit in front of the ship's wheel. We may find ourselves glued to the screen watching digital islands moving on a chart as the real islands glide by to port and starboard.

Can we keep the technology where it belongs?

Discerning use of digital technologies should appear high on the list of 21st Century Skills - knowing when to unplug, when to go natural, and when to turn to print and hard copy materials.

Schools may already suffer from too little intimacy, so we should be cautious about pressures to embrace distance learning, virtual learning or virtual schools. There are many times when digital comes up short despite the lavish claims and promises of companies who wish to sell us digital adventures, rain forests, lessons and meetings.

Afraid of flying since 9/11? Technology companies quickly suggested video-conferencing as a substitute for face-to-face. But chemistry, eye contact and proximity all play major roles in effective bargaining, problem-solving and negotiating.

Reach out and touch someone? Digitally?

As the next section illustrates by reviewing the treatment of important thinkers by the Net, digital is not always best.

The HotBot Top 40 Revisited

In 1996, just as the Internet was becoming a major new source of information for schools and the general public, I conducted a review of the Net coverage afforded to major figures. Using Hotbot as a search engine, I looked at and reported the number of Web pages devoted to each of 300 people or religious figures.

Does the Internet provide solid information about the great thinkers and leaders of our times? Who gets the most attention? Heroes? Sports figures? Entertainers? Celebrities? Leaders? Thinkers?

Back in 1996, celebrities won the major share of Web attention. Thinkers and important leaders took a back row seat to film stars, singers, sports figures and those with recent scandals on their list of credits. (see Net Worth - Hotbot Top 40 in the November 1996 issue of FNO.)

In October of 1999, the same trend was reported as Madonna, Elvis, Bill Gates and Michael Jordan scored right near the top along with Buddha, Kennedy and Lincoln. Both Frank Sinatra and Princess Diana, who had passed away shortly before the list was compiled rose dramatically in the rankings. (see Respecting Heritage and the Classics while Mining the Millennium in the October 1999 issue of FNO.) Important thinkers such as Rollo May, Julian Huxley, Indira Ghandi and L. S. Vygotsky were virtually ignored.

In October of 2001, the Net continues to lavish attention on celebrities and headline grabbers. The full listing of results can be found below by clicking here.

Madonna has jumped ahead of Jesus to the Number Two spot. George W. Bush and Pamela Anderson each improved their rankings by more than 50 slots. Much of the list is unchanged.

Those who work quietly and seriously out of the limelight creating the best ideas and the intellectual capital for this knowledge-based society are rarely recognized. As a library substitute, the Net is sadly lacking. Its collection development is often driven by ratings and popularity.

How did Edna St. Vincent Millay Really Die?

Especially in categories such as biography, the most reliable and carefully researched information often still resides in printed books such as Nancy Milford's biography of Edna St. Vincent Millay, Savage Beauty.


McKenzie speaking at LA County Digital High School conference in October, 2001

Ms. Milford began her research on Millay in 1972. Twenty-nine years later, after carefully combing through original documents and letters and after interviewing dozens of Millay contemporaries, her research emerged as a printed biography. This work was not something to be posted and given away freely on the Internet.

If you want to know about Millay, you will want to buy this book or borrow this book from your library. It works the same way with most serious biographies of important people.

Order Savage Beauty from Amazon. - Hardcover - 550 pages (September 4, 2001) Random House; ISBN: 039457589X

The Net casts little light on Millay's life. The pickings are slim - 16,500 Web pages - some well intended sites, but little illumination or professional scholarship. In many cases, the authors of these sites never reveal their identities, their background or their education. The Net is generous is serving up her poetry, now past the protection of copyright (?), but biographical sketches are generally thin, usually brief, and often amateurish. Worse, they are frequently mistaken as to some basic facts such as the circumstances (and spelling) of Millay's death.

Millay, a smoker in an age of smokers, succumbed to hear failure in 1950 at her home, Steepletop, in Austerlitz New York.
http://members.aol.com/MillayGirl/bio.htm

One learns several versions of her death . . .

After her husbands death, she went on living in their isolated house in Austerlitz and died* there alone of a heart attack in 1950.
*Millay died of a broken neck suffered in a suspicious fall down the stairs at Steepletop. As a founding member of the Millay Society, I have had the pleasure to not only meet with Norma Millay (her sister, who passed on in 1986) but with her biographer Nancy Milford, whose book on Millay is 20+ years in the making and probably being withheld pending the death of a possible accomplice to her suspicious death. Nancy actually interviewed the doctor who wrote Millay's death certificate after she found that it said, Suspicious fall down stairs, broken neck. I have performed a one-woman show on Millay all over the country and my master's thesis was about her relationship with Edmund Wilson, so I am well-versed in her life and work. Thanks for a fun bio on her. Hope this helps. All the best, JKH
http://www.geocities.com/Paris/LeftBank/6865/millaybio.html

Nancy Milford's printed, full length biography does confirm that Millay died by falling down the stairs and quotes the doctor's note. But the majority of the biographical sketches available on the Net pass along the heart attack story as if it were factual.

Millay, who with her husband had drunk to excess since the 1930s, evidently grew more dependent on alcohol during her brief, inconsolable widowhood. She died sitting at the foot of her staircase, alone, at Steepletop.
http://www.english.uiuc.edu/maps/poets/m_r/millay/millay_life.htm
The were together until his death in 1949. Millay died the following year of heart failure.
http://www.theglassceiling.com/biographies/bio44.htm

The Web's coverage of the best thinkers and artists from the last century leaves much to be desired. For the most part, the important, thoughtful, serious scholarship about these people still resides in libraries and printed books. Much of their work and thinking is found in the same location.

The New Economy, The Virtual Library and Other Myths

The New York Times has reported that the corporate push to replace printed books with electronic books has stalled and fallen well short of predictions.

Forecasts of an E-Book Era Were, It Seems, Premature

By David D. Kirkpatrick (from the August 28, 2001 New York Times, )

Laurence Kirshbaum, chairman of the books division of AOL Time Warner (news/quote ), pledged to lead the charge: We want to see electronic publishing blow the covers off of books. Andersen Consulting had recently estimated that by 2005 digital books could account for 10 percent of all book sales.

A year later, however, the main advantage of electronic books appears to be that they gather no dust. Almost no one is buying. Publishers and online bookstores say only the very few best-selling electronic editions have sold more than a thousand copies, and most sell far fewer. Only a handful have generated enough revenue to cover the few hundred dollars it costs to convert their texts to digital formats.

Along with the demise of the so-called New Economy, the proponents of which spoke sneeringly of the Old Economy, it may be timely to reconsider the bombastic predictions of electronic libraries and the Net replacing the need for school and public libraries.

Some who pose as futurists are little more than salespeople and cheerleaders for a digital product line that has severe limitations, shortcomings and weaknesses. The attempt to create peer pressure for this product line surfaces as lifestyle advertising equating digital connectivity with freedom and joy, yet evidence accumulates that not all things digital are healthy, reliable or worth buying.

These days it is fashionable for some to push 21st Century Skills on schools that seem tilted toward digital living and high levels of technology penetration, but many of these messages are based on unexamined assumptions about the impact of these tools and experiences upon the quality of life and the quality of classrooms.

The skill of unplugging digital tools should rank highly on the list of 21st Century skills when other tools and experiences prove superior.

There are times to turn off the equipment, shut down the covers of the laptops and focus on the dialogue and exchange of ideas.

We should help students learn to turn off their cell phones, their DVD drives and their handheld personal assistants when they might interfere with a walk along a river, a dinner with a friend or the chance to curl up with a good book about Edna St. Vincent Millay.

Discerning use of new technologies and classical technologies is a skill whose time has come.

The © below signifies Canadian birth.

The 2001 Google Top 40
Figure Category Google 2001 Rank '01 Change Rank '99 Altavista '99 Rank '96 Rank Change Hotbot '96
God Relig 25,200,000 1 0 1 6,393,032 1 0 780,052
Madonna Singer 1,750,000 2 5 7 67,725 6 -1 65,088
Jesus Christ Relig 1,340,000 3 -1 2 300,455 2 0 102,304
George W. Bush Political 1,060,000 4 58 62 7,041 . . .
Bill Clinton Political 902,000 5 0 5 70,897 4 -1 76,137
Buddha Relig 853,000 6 0 6 69,704 10 4 34,998
George Washington Political 834,000 7 -4 3 132,739 5 2 72,755
Martin Luther King Relig 767,000 8 -4 4 92,249 9 5 37,261
Bill Gates Thinker 754,000 9 0 9 61,086 7 -2 54,832
Al Gore Political 679,000 10 5 15 30,488 16 1 25,296
John F. Kennedy Political 589,000 11 0 11 45,757 12 1 28,551
Thomas Jefferson Political 534,000 12 -4 8 66,230 8 0 45,239
Mohammed Relig 534,000 13 -3 10 45,757 13 3 27,547
Socrates Thinker 515,000 14 5 19 25,343 11 -8 31,267
Albert Einstein Thinker 398,000 15 -2 13 38,970 15 2 25,665
Abraham Lincoln Political 374,000 16 -4 12 39,833 18 6 20,845
Michael Jordan Athlete 314,000 17 -1 16 29,835 17 1 22,039
Ronald Reagan Political 314,000 18 -1 17 29,367 14 -3 26,088
Elvis Presley Singer 277,000 19 -5 14 32,180 20 6 16,267
Celine Dion © Singer 243,000 20 7 27 16,919 . . .
Jimmy Carter Political 234,000 21 3 24 19,484 24 0 13,898
Pamela Anderson © Actor 233,000 22 54 76 4,301 32 -44 9,890
Bruce Willis Actor 208,000 23 16 39 10,895 41 2 7,716
Winston Churchill Political 203,000 24 -2 22 21,754 25 3 12,444
Frank Sinatra Singer 199,000 25 -7 18 26,399 28 10 10,820
Marilyn Monroe Actor 188,000 26 4 30 12,679 27 -3 11,578
Princess Diana Celeb 182,000 27 -4 23 20,370 74 51 2,435
Woodrow Wilson Political 180,000 28 -8 20 24,796 21 1 14,272
Queen Victoria Political 175,000 29 -8 21 21,768 33 12 9,765
Saddam Hussein Political 166,000 30 -4 26 18,225 29 3 10,678
Osama bin Laden Political 162,000 31 - . . . . .
Hillary Clinton Political 162,000 32 6 38 10,984 106 68 555
Theodore Roosevelt Political 155,000 33 -8 25 19,097 36 11 8,853
Marie Curie Thinker 150,000 34 7 41 10,557 40 -1 7,736
Shania Twain © Celeb 148,000 35 2 37 11,234 . . .
Adolf Hitler Political 148,000 36 11 47 9,939 35 -12 9,013
Arnold Schwarzenegger Actor 145,000 37 11 48 9,864 37 -11 8,328
Richard Nixon Political 139,000 38 -9 29 14,306 23 -6 14,134
Nelson Mandela Political 138,000 39 -11 28 15,118 31 3 10,509
Confucius Relig 129,000 40 -6 34 11,471 38 4 8,229
Malcolm X Political 126,000 41 2 43 10,524 3 -40 81,348
Jim Carrey © Celeb 125,000 42 14 56 7,791 . . .
Sandra Bullock Actor 124,000 43 18 61 7,198 26 -35 12,242
Monica Lewinsky Celeb 119,000 44 0 44 10,290 . . .
Gwyneth Paltrow Actor 112,000 45 40 85 3,283 138 53 43
OJ Simpson Athlete 107,000 46 -13 33 11,550 54 21 6,054
Ernest Hemingway Writer 107,000 47 4 51 9,458 47 -4 6,631
Sarah McLachlan © Singer 105,000 48 -3 45 10,085 .. .. .
Margaret Thatcher Political 102,000 49 6 55 7,985 48 -7 6,589
James Dean Actor 98,200 50 -1 49 9,600 42 -7 7,663
Pablo Piccaso Artist 97,200 51 - 180 14 57 -123 5,668
George Orwell Writer 96,700 52 5 57 7,652 44 -13 7,086
Sigmund Freud Thinker 96,700 53 11 64 6,847 45 -19 7,069
Mike Tyson Athlete 94,400 54 4 58 7,605 51 -7 6,315
Harry S. Truman Political 89,500 55 -15 40 10,834 58 18 5,464
Emily Dickinson Writer 88,100 56 -14 42 10,525 43 1 7,602
Newt Gingrich Political 87,600 57 168 39 125 -43 123
Oprah Winfrey Celeb 87,500 58 -22 36 11,244 53 17 6,056
Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart Artist 86,500 59 7 66 6,670 65 -1 4,115
Eleanor Roosevelt Political 86,300 60 -14 46 10,005 61 15 4,695
Thomas Mann Thinker 86,300 61 16 77 4,211 64 -13 4,280
Demi Moore Actor 85,800 62 10 72 5,076 96 24 1,061
Robert Frost Writer 83,700 63 -28 35 11,344 49 14 6,548
William Gibson © Writer 80,400 64 -11 53 8,672 22 -31 14,214
Bill Bradley Political 74,200 65 8 73 5,013 . . .
Jerry Springer Celeb 73,800 66 2 68 6,306 . . .
Bertrand Russell Thinker 73,500 67 0 67 6,619 56 -11 5,964
Franklin Roosevelt Political 73,000 68 -9 59 7,386 52 -7 6,114
Noam Chomsky Writer 72,300 69 -17 52 9,064 30 -22 10,531
Kurt Cobain Singer 67,900 70 1 71 5,409 34 -37 9,662
Dwight D. Eisenhower Political 64,900 71 -21 50 9,524 59 9 5,302
Wayne Gretzky © Athlete 63,500 72 -41 31 12,369 .. .. .
Lyndon B. Johnson Political 61,500 73 -19 54 8,249 55 1 6,036
Ross Perot Political 58,300 74 -42 32 11,895 19 -13 17,174
Jean Paul Sartre Writer 57,400 75 11 86 3,094 67 -19 3,700
Ray Bradbury Writer 56,600 76 -13 63 6,899 62 -1 4,658
Gerald Ford Political 55,400 77 -7 70 5,874 63 -7 4,546
Michael J. Fox © Actor 53,100 78 4 82 3,635 . . .
Herbert Hoover Political 52,000 79 -14 65 6,742 68 3 3,684
Langston Hughes Writer 46,500 80 -11 69 5,916 . . .
James Baldwin Writer 45,900 81 -6 75 4,314 71 -4 3,352
Hermann Hesse Artist 38,600 82 25 107 1,766 78 -29 1,826
Grace Kelly Actor 37,900 83 14 97 2,180 83 -14 1,576
Jean Chrétien © Political 36,100 84 -24 60 7,268 . . .
Hannah Arendt Thinker 35,400 85 17 102 1,962 81 -21 1,752
Elizabeth Dole Political 34,800 86 -6 80 3,671 92 12 1,318
Ted Kennedy Political 32,800 87 -4 83 3,357 66 -17 3,907
Ingmar Bergman Actor 32,300 88 11 99 2,137 72 -27 2,571
Simone de Beauvoir Artist 30,600 89 23 112 1,217 80 -32 1,772
Paul Gauguin Artist 30,200 90 3 93 2,321 79 -14 1,803
Aaron Copland Artist 29,500 91 -13 78 4,116 73 -5 2,566
Glenn Gould © Artist 29,000 92 -13 79 3798 . . .
Cowboy Junkies © Singer 28,300 93 -4 89 2,500 . . .
Jean Piaget Thinker 27,800 94 1 95 2,206 77 -18 2,033
William Burroughs Writer 27,200 95 -4 91 2,490 69 -22 3,553
Georgia O'Keeffe Artist 26,600 96 -15 81 3,658 98 17 928
Robert Heinlein Writer 23,500 97 -13 84 3,340 70 -14 3,370
Jack Kemp Political 22,900 98 -24 74 4,628 60 -14 4,729
Gloria Steinem Writer 22,400 99 9 108 1,634 76 -32 2,201
King Henry VIII Political 21,200 100 -10 90 2,495 39 -51 7,843
Mary Cassatt Artist 20,500 101 3 104 1,905 90 -14 1,329
Judy Blume Writer 18,600 102 -15 87 3,079 99 12 917
Martha Graham Artist 18,400 103 -11 92 2,480 86 -6 1,492
Alanis Morrisette © Singer 16,800 104 -8 96 2,200 . .. .
Anais Nin Artist 16,600 105 4 109 1,558 93 -16 1,267
Edna St. Vincent Millay Writer 16,500 106 - . . . . .
Benjamin Disraeli Political 15,800 107 -4 103 1,936 85 -18 1,503
Saul Bellow Writer 15,700 108 -7 101 2,087 89 -12 1,343
John Holt Thinker 15,400 109 -15 94 2,257 87 -7 1,460
Emily Carr © Artist 15,000 110 -22 88 2,605 . . .
Winslow Homer Artist 14,000 111 -13 98 2,179 88 -10 1,415
Queen Isabella Political 13,100 112 1 113 1,213 100 -13 683
Margaret Drabble Artist 12,400 113 19 132 584 112 -20 384
Henri Cartier-Bresson Artist 11,700 114 1 115 1,121 109 -6 467
Neville Chamberlain Political 11,700 115 4 119 1,058 152 33 10
Merce Cunningham Artist 11,500 116 -11 105 1,815 94 -11 1,213
Samuel de Champlain © Political 11,500 117 0 117 1086 . . .
Robert Dole Political 11,100 118 -18 100 2,091 46 -54 7,048
Arthur Koestler Thinker 11,100 119 -1 118 1,068 97 -21 1,058
Geraldo Rivera Celeb 11,000 120 -9 111 1,345 84 -27 1,506
Lucy Maud Montgomery © Artist 10,700 121 -15 106 1,775 . . .
Mahatma Ghandi Political 9,880 122 0 122 884 102 -20 660
Katherine Mansfield Artist 9,410 123 -2 121 929 103 -18 641
Ulysses Grant Political 8,480 124 -14 110 1,522 101 -9 676
Berthe Morisot Artist 8,360 125 13 138 320 104 -34 638
Herbert Simon Thinker 7,950 126 -12 114 1,171 91 -23 1,328
Northrop Frye © Thinker 7,220 127 -4 123 884 . . .
Alice Munro © Writer 6,560 128 -12 116 1,095 . . .
Katherine Anne Porter Writer 5,650 129 -9 120 948 107 -13 530
Andrew Ferguson Artist 5,110 130 5 135 445 116 -19 289
Farley Mowat © Writer 5,090 131 -7 124 881 . . .
Julian Huxley Thinker 5,050 132 2 134 552 110 -24 436
Jerome Bruner Thinker 4,970 133 -4 129 697 105 -24 563
John McCrae © Writer 4,390 134 -7 127 742 . . .
May Sarton Artist 4,360 135 -9 126 744 95 -31 1,141
Pat Schroeder Political 4,220 136 -8 128 741 82 -46 1,698
Rollo May Thinker 4,210 137 -4 133 553 50 -83 6,341
Evita Peron Political 3,740 138 -1 137 336 119 -18 237
Richard Gregory Thinker 3,540 139 -9 130 662 108 -22 516
Indira Ghandi Political 2,910 140 -1 139 307 118 -21 246
Alfred Eisenstaedt Artist 2,630 141 -5 136 442 120 -16 235
Henry Jaglom Artist 2,500 142 4 146 226 113 -33 347
Queen Cleopatra Political 2,450 143 2 145 237 114 -31 319
William Lyon Mackenzie King © Political 2,280 144 -19 125 767 . . .
Nellie McClung © Political 2,230 145 -1 144 238 . . .
Jessica Mitford Artist 2,030 146 -6 140 306 115 -25 295
L. S. Vygotsky Thinker 1,960 147 -4 143 276 75 -68 2,388
Kathe Kollwitz Artist 1,810 148 -17 131 614 111 -20 391
Harold Clurman Artist 1,660 149 -8 141 294 123 -18 142
Gerald Vizenor Artist 1,530 150 -8 142 294 117 -25 274
Reuben Hersh Thinker 1,160 151 -1 150 164 128 -22 85
Basil Bernstein Thinker 1,100 152 6 158 69 127 -31 98
K. C. Irving © Business 1,040 153 2 155 116 . . .
John Howarth Thinker 1,030 154 -2 152 135 126 -26 107
Fritz Scholder Artist 1,010 155 -8 147 205 124 -23 129
Joey Smallwood © Political 917 156 -8 148 173 . . .
Eliot Feld Artist 851 157 -8 149 167 130 -19 76
Martine Franck Artist 723 158 16 174 24 150 -24 12
Diamond Jenness © Thinker 707 159 -2 157 85 . . .
Peter Lax Thinker 696 160 -7 153 134 121 -32 228
Eric Hawkins Artist 690 161 -7 154 132 129 -25 78
George Stoney Artist 675 162 -11 151 138 122 -29 148
Lee Connor Artist 615 163 0 163 57 142 -21 24
Tom Longboat © Athlete 535 164 -8 156 91 . . .
Sheila Nevins Artist 482 165 0 165 52 144 -21 21
Sir William Logan © Thinker 463 166 -5 161 62 . . .
F. W. deKlerk Political 461 167 0 167 42 146 -21 17
Shari Steiner Artist 355 168 5 173 30 157 -16 7
James Aronson Thinker 331 169 -7 162 61 134 -28 58
Stan Ulam Thinker 331 170 -4 166 46 135 -31 56
Douglas Turner Ward Artist 297 171 -7 164 57 136 -28 49
Dorothy Dinnerstein Thinker 280 172 18 190 5 131 -59 74
Jeanne Bamberger Thinker 278 173 -14 159 67 132 -27 70
Sir Francis Crick Thinker 278 174 -5 169 37 140 -29 31
Nina Byers Thinker 238 175 -15 160 64 133 -27 69
Barry Brukoff Artist 219 176 -5 171 35 156 -15 8
Beatrice Harris Thinker 218 177 -5 172 33 151 -21 11
Eugene Mann Artist 213 178 20 198 1 154 -44 9
Michele Zackheim Artist 180 179 4 183 10 148 -35 12
Byron Goldstein Artist 150 180 -4 176 21 145 -31 20
Eli Levin Artist 148 181 -2 179 15 137 -42 46
Jenny Vincent Artist 141 182 -7 175 24 143 -32 22
Karen McKinnon Artist 139 183 -5 178 17 162 -16 3
Susanna Egri Artist 132 184 12 196 2 141 -55 26
James D. Finley, III Thinker 106 185 6 191 4 167 -24 0
Miguel Godreau Artist 91 186 -4 182 10 165 -17 1
Constance Sutton Thinker 82 187 1 188 7 159 -29 7
William Rohwer Thinker 74 188 -1 187 7 158 -29 7
Shelley Grossman Artist 68 189 -12 177 18 155 -22 8
Enid Howarth Thinker 64 190 -6 184 10 160 -24 5
Linda Tarnay Artist 51 191 -10 181 13 147 -34 13
Gilbert Voyat Thinker 47 192 0 192 4 149 -43 12
Sandra Edelman Artist 44 193 -7 186 8 163 -23 2
Vivian Horner Thinker 42 194 -24 170 35 139 -31 42
Rosemary Sisson Artist 41 195 -10 185 9 153 -32 10
Elissa Melamed Artist 24 196 -1 195 3 161 -34 5
Ann Moul Artist 21 197 2 199 1 170 -29 0
Hedda Bolgar Thinker 20 198 -4 194 3 171 -23 0
Sir John Dawson © Thinker 15 199 -6 193 4 . . .
Joseph Concha Artist 9 200 -3 197 2 164 -33 2
Hugh Delacey Thinker 6 201 4 205 0 172 -33 0
Gen. Georges Philias Vanier* Political 2 202 -13 189 6 . . .
Albert Bharucha-Reid Thinker 2 203 -3 200 1 166 -34 0
Sara Sugahara Artist 1 204 -3 201 0 168 -33 0
Ry Okomoto Artist 1 205 -3 202 0 169 -33 0
Malka Wexler Thinker 1 206 -3 203 0 173 -30 0
Irwin Maltzman Thinker 1 207 -3 204 0 174 -30 0

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Credits: The photographs were shot by Jamie McKenzie.

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