New curriculum products for schools

From staff and wire reports
September 12th, 2011

Here’s a roundup of some of the latest ed-tech curriculum products for schools.

An all-digital science textbook, a multiplayer online “social learning” math game, and software for honing students’ math and reading skills that comes bundled on low-cost mobile devices are among the latest curriculum software products available to schools this fall.

Here’s a roundup of some of the latest ed-tech curriculum products for schools.

STEM education

With science, technology, engineering, and math (STEM) education a top priority for the Obama administration and for schools, a number of companies have introduced or promoted new STEM-related products at recent ed-tech trade shows.

For instance, Aldebaran Robotics, a French company with U.S. offices in Boston, demonstrated what it says is the most widely used humanoid robot for academic purposes worldwide, called NAO. Teachers who have used NAO humanoid robots during their classes say the devices really motivate students, according to the company. The robots provide an introduction to computer programming and offer a hands-on way to teach about topics such as locomotion, voice recognition, and more.

NAO is equipped with a simple, visual programming tool that allows students to create and program different behaviors for the robot. Students can develop behaviors combining gesture, movement, sound, music, and speech. NAO can be used across many areas of the curriculum, Aldebaran says—allowing for fun, playful exercises that open up meaningful scientific discussions, including what principles allow the robot to recognize a face or what methods help it to locate and aim a soccer ball.

“One of the things that amazes me most is the draw that NAO has for students,” said Mike Beiter, chair of the computer systems department at Central Tech High School in Erie, Pa. “It draws women and minorities [who] have never shown interest in programming or robotics to the table.” He added: “The special education department has been amazed at the results we have achieved with students in a wide variety of areas.”

3D projection is another technology that has shown promise for STEM education, and Cyber Science 3D demonstrated its interactive 3D simulations, which deliver high-quality three-dimensional science models for teachers and students. The content includes interactive models for teaching about botany, chemistry, earth science, human anatomy, and zoology. Each simulation lets users explore, dissect, and manipulate the virtual models on a computer. All content is available in web-based 2D or stereographic 3D modes.

Two encyclopedia companies recently introduced new science-related learning content. Britannica Digital Learning, the educational arm of Encyclopedia Britannica, showcased “Britannica Pathways: Science,” a new web-based instructional program for grades 6-8. The program features interactive exercises designed to supplement core science textbooks. It includes 10 modules and aims to correct more than 100 major misconceptions in the science field, the company says. Students use an inquiry-based, hands-on approach so that they learn by doing, participating, discussing, and concluding. Each lesson uses questions to help start the conversation about what students are thinking and why.

And World Book highlighted Science Power, its supplemental science learning site for upper elementary-age children. The site is correlated with popular science textbooks as well as state standards, and it includes differentiated content to help struggling readers master the material. Units include The Water Cycle, Forces & Energy, Living Things, and more. With interactive multimedia, teacher guides, extension activities, critical thinking questions, and a test for each lesson, Science Power is suitable for use in the classroom, the school library, or the public library, World Book says.

While those two products are supplemental resources, a producer of digital media has created an all-digital “textbook” intended to serve as a core instructional resource in science.

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