Companies have also provided computers and internet access to schools, paid for completely or in part by advertisements, such as a banner ad shown continuously at the top or bottom of the screen.
In 1998 Californian company, ZapMe! Corporation, offered schools a satellite connection, Microsoft software and computers with a rotating series of advertisements on the left of the computer screen, taking up approximately one eight of the screen. The ads changed every 15 seconds, and if clicked on, a full screen “rich media presentation” was launched which linked to the advertisers web site.
Schools could opt for full internet access or limited access to some 10,000 educational sites chosen by the company. Corporations could pay to have their ‘educational’ sites included. In return for the computer equipment the schools signed a three year contract agreeing to set up a lab for the equipment, to insure it and to make sure it was used by students for an average of four hours a day.
Schools had to agree to distribute advertising material to students to take home at least three times a year. ZapMe! also sold demographic information about the students using its computer systems to advertisers, tracked their internet usage for marketing purposes, and used their personal information to tailor banner advertisements according to the age, gender, location, and interest of the students. It was accused of helping advertisers collect individual information on the students without parental consent.
In 2000, after installing 25,000 computer terminals in 10 percent of US primary and secondary schools, ZapMe! pulled out of schools and became rStar Corp. It claimed it had had difficulty attracting advertisers, which was probably because of the public criticism ZapMe! attracted.
Some companies offer schools internet filtering software that prevents students from accessing pornographic and other unsuitable sites. This sort of filtering is required of US schools receiving federal funds. Filtering software enables the companies doing the filtering to collect data on the children’s use of the internet; the sites they visit and how long they spent on each one. This information, combined with demographic data about the children, can be sold to advertisers who can use it to hone their advertising to target children.
N2H2 offered US schools free internet filtering system, to protect children from inappropriate material. Ironically the system was financed by banner advertising from the likes of Nickelodeon, Microsoft, and Chevron cars designed to attract the attention of the children as they surfed the internet. N2H2 advertised:
Own the education desktop by reaching teens and tweens where they learn the most – the classroom… our sponsorship and advertising opportunities let you be a part of every Web page they explore… we deliver you unprecedented penetration, exposure and public relations opportunities in the difficult-to-tap education space.
N2H2 also pointed out that as students would be seeing their advertisements at the same time they were viewing educational material, it was "a unique opportunity to wrap your sponsor message around valuable, educational content” and enable brands to be aligned with “leading educational tools and services” such as Encarta Online.
At its height N2H2 claimed to be "serving over 9 million students in the US, Canada, the UK and Australia".
After ZapMe!’s demise critics turned their attention to N2H2, which decided at the end of 2000 not to offer the advertising sponsored version of its software but instead only offer a paid version to schools without advertising.
In 2001 N2H2, which was being used in 40 percent of schools by 14 million school students, was exposed for collecting and selling demograhic information about children using its service. Because individuals could not be identified it was perfectly legal. It no longer operates in schools.
Despite the demise of many of these companies in response to citizen outrage, more are emerging to take their place. In 2005 HotChalk launched a system of wireless networks for schools that is funded by online advertising. Schools get ten percent of the advertising revenue in the form of technology grants. McGraw-Hill has a stake in HotChalk.
In the UK Tesco launched a school internet service, SchoolNet in 2000, which featured the Tesco logo on the screen. Children were invited to contribute their own work to the website. At the time few UK schools had online computers and Tesco set up online computers centres in hundreds of its stores so children could come in and scan in and upload their work to the website. 17,400 schools registered and over 500,000 school children took part. It later became SchoolNet Global.
A Canadian firm ScreenAd supplies screen savers for classroom computers that have rotating advertisements on them such as “Pepsi: Develop a Thirst for Knowledge”. As an incentive to schools, the proceeds from the advertisers are split 60-40 with the school.
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