In his latest column on ed-tech innovations, Editorial Director Dennis Pierce highlights five new products or services for schools
Products that make it easier for teachers to control students’ tablet computers and leave notes within the margins of online lessons are among the latest ed-tech innovations we’re highlighting this week.
To learn about these and other new ed-tech innovations, read on.
Classroom-based control of tablets
A few weeks ago, I wrote about  the convergence of mobile device management and classroom management software, a trend that gives educators more classroom-based control over students’ mobile devices—which could help with online testing.
TabPilot  sells a program, called Tablet Manager, that offers many of these same features for monitoring, controlling, and provisioning Android-based tablets at the classroom level. It’s a cloud-based management system that “puts teachers in control of classroom tablets,” the company says—allowing teachers to turn specific apps on or off for individual student devices or groups of devices.
Tablet Manager includes a secure web browser, called Focal Point, that lacks a navigation bar, keeping students on the webpage that teachers want them to be on. The program also lets teachers freeze students’ screens and monitor their screens through snapshots that are taken and sent to the cloud every few seconds.
The latest version of the software, Tablet Manager 4.0, lets teachers or administrators set up “configuration profiles,” or pre-configured sets of apps, web links, and other preferences that can be applied to groups of Android tablets all at once with a single click. For instance, a teacher or administrator could create a profile for “sixth grade math,” dragging and dropping the apps that he or she would like to push out to students in that class.
There is also a “Schedule” tab that lets users schedule profiles for certain times of the day—provisioning devices with different sets of apps for home or school use, for example.
This easy, one-click control is ideal for “shared-use environments” in which devices are used by different students throughout the day, said Jarrett Volzer, founder and president of TabPilot.
TabPilot is working on a feature that would let teachers broadcast students’ screens to the entire class, and the company plans to add this functionality soon.
An identity-based alternative to managing devices
Centrify  offers schools an identity-based approach to managing who has access to what resources, rather than a device-based approach. The company says its cloud-based identity management system serves as both a platform for single sign-on functionality and an alternative to mobile device management (MDM) software.
Centrify’s system takes the capabilities of Microsoft Active Directory and extends them across multiple platforms, said Corey Williams, senior director of product management and marketing—including iOS and Android devices.
A software agent that’s installed on each device allows students and staff to log on using their main Active Directory sign-on, and a control panel allows administrators to specify which users have access to which rights or settings.
The difference between Centrify’s identity access management system and traditional MDM software is that Centrify’s system also applies to Macintosh computers and applications such as Microsoft 365 and Google Apps, Williams said.
Enhanced ‘Notes’ feature helps personalize online/blended learning
A few months after unveiling a new user interface that let teachers leave notes in the margins of online lessons and other course content, Odysseyware  has refined this feature based on user feedback to make it more useful for both educators and students.
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The previous version allowed teachers to write notes in a single box embedded within lessons. The revised version enables teachers to leave multiple notes within a single assignment—and it also lets students leave notes. This allows teachers to create more context-specific notes, and it saves students the hassle of flipping between tabs to study more effectively, Odysseyware said.
Teachers’ notes appear in red, while students can choose from a variety of colors. All notes also can be printed for learning offline, the company said.
Self-paced online curriculum for middle school students
Fuel Education  has introduced a self-paced online curriculum designed for middle school students as they transition through the challenging “make or break” years in their education, according to the company.
Available on a wide variety of platforms and devices, including iPads, Chromebooks, and Android tablets, FuelEd’s Online Courses for Middle School enable teachers to personalize learning for students in an online or blended learning environment. The curriculum aligns with the Common Core; features a modular, flexible design that allows for the customization of courses to meet district needs; and integrates literacy and vocabulary development across all topic areas.
The online math, language arts, and science courses for students in grades 6-8 include interactive activities, videos, games, and formative assessments that provide real-time feedback. Each course includes vocabulary help, text to speech functionality, and translation to support English language learners.
The new middle school courses are integrated into PEAK, Fuel Education’s “personalized learning platform,” which makes it easy for districts to integrate and manage all of their online learning programs. What’s more, teachers can customize the courses with resources available in the PEAK Library, which includes more than 5,500 lessons, assessments, and content from third-party partners such as Britannica School, as well as open educational resources such as Khan Academy and YouTube Education.
Another cloud hosting option for schools
Cloud server provider Infinitely Virtual  has introduced a few cloud-based hosting plans aimed at schools and colleges.
The company’s “Virtual Terminal Server: Standard” Plan enables schools to put their Windows-based applications in a private cloud, hosted by Infinitely Virtual. Users can access these applications and data from anywhere in the world, which is an ideal solution for schools that want to offer home or remote access to software, the company said. Pricing starts at $6.65 per user, per month, with volume discounts available.
A “Virtual Terminal Server: Premium” Plan adds Active Directory controllers and a file server, making it easy for schools to get up and running in the cloud, starting at $8.53 per user, per month.
These are the first two of what eventually will be four cloud hosting plans for education from Infinitely Virtual. The others will offer dedicated Microsoft Exchange hosting in a secure private cloud, as well as a combination of this and the Terminal Server Premium plan.
Follow Editorial Director Dennis Pierce on Twitter: @eSN_Dennis .
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