Nova Solutions’ Natural Solution

Nova Solutions Inc. of Illinois has developed a computer desk the company says is more ergonomic. Users view their computer screens through a tempered-glass viewport in the desk’s surface. The computer and monitor are housed beneath the desk with plenty of legroom left over for students.

Scientific evidence shows that viewing the monitor at a downward angle reduces eye and neck strain often caused by eye-level monitors, Nova says. Housing the components beneath the desk’s surface also maximizes workspace and creates an unobstructed view that increases eye contact between teachers and students.

The Natural Solution desk is available in two heights, 27 inches and 30 inches. The desk is a smaller version of the company’s popular Learning Environment desk. (800) 730-6682

Spin Visuals ScanSaver

ScanSaver is a software utility for the Macintosh designed to help teachers and students prepare scanning jobs for projects involving web site or print publishing.

Students can use a simple natural language query to enter elements such as the size of the image, its sharpness, surface quality, and final use or purpose (such as for a brochure, poster, web site, CD). The software then calculates the required resolution of the scanned image, in dots per inch (dpi).

ScanSaver also gives instructions for cleaning up a scan, tips for compressing files, and warnings (coded in red, blue, and green) to indicate the ease of scanning an image. Based on the quality and size of the original, ScanSaver will advise students if it is worth scanning an image or whether a drum scan (a more expensive, higher-resolution procedure) is recommended.

The software includes a zone calibration chart so photography students can set their computer monitors to conform with the Zone System standards pioneered by the late, great photographer Ansel Adams. This allows students to view images on their monitors as they would appear in a print.

A school license (permitting the installation of ScanSaver on any Mac in the school) costs $99, and a classroom license costs $39.

CommCore Crisis Plan wRiter

There’s been a lot of unfortunate attention paid to crisis communications in schools lately. In the wake of a string of deadly school shootings, Indiana announced it would begin to require schools to submit detailed crisis plans each year, and the Departments of Justice and Education are working together on a model for crisis management in schools.

CommCore Consulting Group has developed a solution as well. Called Crisis Plan wRiter (CPR), the sophisticated software helps organizations write, manage, and implement their own cohesive crisis plans.

With CPR, you can choose a crisis team, assign roles and responsibilities, identify and monitor potential issues, define specific policies, and create a crisis-response process that is specific to your school or district’s needs. Data are linked so information has to be changed only once, and the change will be reflected automatically in the appropriate places.

CPR runs on Windows and may be purchased as a stand-alone program or as part of a crisis-consulting package. The cost of the software is $1,200 and includes a license for one main crisis plan and one sub-plan. You can download a demo from the company’s web site. (800) 659-4177

Purdue University Test Pilot

Developed by a faculty member at Purdue University, Test Pilot is a web-based assessment tool that lets you create online tests and surveys with no HTML experience necessary.

Test Pilot is really two separate programs. The first is a stand-alone database on the desktop, where teachers write their test questions; the second resides on a school’s server and automatically turns the file generated by the authoring database into a web-page test.

Test Pilot supports many different types of questions–true/false, multiple choice, and fill in the blank. You can also include media with each question, as long as it’s in a web-friendly format like a GIF or JPG image file or AU sound file.

The program evaluates students’ responses immediately and can either report their scores at the end of the test or store the information for an educator to retrieve later. Another highlight is its random selection feature, which can turn the program into a tutorial tool. You could group your questions into sections, for example, and have Test Pilot randomly select questions from each section as a practice test.

Written in Java, Test Pilot runs on UNIX, Mac, or Windows servers. A site license costs $120 and allows you to install the server portion of the software on a single internet server. The authoring database may be copied freely. (765) 494-6610

Princeton Teaching Associates Software (PTAS) Teacher’s Tools

Teacher’s Tools is a series of multimedia classroom materials for high school AP teachers and their students. The subjects available this fall in the series are AP chemistry and AP calculus.

The software has three parts–study guides, learning stations, and teacher tools.

Study Guides are topic-specific tutorials based on the one-on-one dynamic between tutor and student. A student’s interaction at each learning station in a tutorial is designed to last 30-40 minutes so teachers can use them during class or direct students to use them during a free period.

Each learning station includes six steps: a short set of questions focusing on prerequisite skills and knowledge; a lesson that covers the topic at hand–what students should know, how it fits into the overall course, and how it will be used; a demonstration via peer tutors who act out and narrate the process of problem solving; interactive exercises; sample problems, with feedback on incorrect answers; and a custom report with a tailored study guide to help students prepare for the AP exam.

Teacher’s Tools also contains collections of printable materials for class, called Libraries, and an easy-to-use classroom manager, called Grading Goodies, which is designed to look like a teacher’s grade book.

Teacher’s Tools is compatible with both PCs and Macs. A site license, which includes a teacher’s edition and complete materials for five students (six CDs per student) is $599; for each additional five students, the cost is $150. (800) 257-5126

Optical Data Total Class Math

Total Class Math, a collection of nearly 200 video math lessons, is the first in a series of video lessons from Optical Data that can be delivered via CD-ROM, DVD-ROM, and local-area or wide-area networks. The videos are accessed through a teacher’s computer and displayed on a standard television or computer monitor for the whole class to see

Each video lesson has a specific focus and grade span. Topics of the Total Class Math collection include addition, subtraction, multiplication, and division; fractions and decimals; weight, time, and money; probability and statistics; and real-world problem-solving.

The teacher’s computer screen displays the likeness of familiar teacher lesson plans. Simple icons on the pages represent embedded video files. Teachers double-click on an icon to show a full-frame, full-motion video on the television screen that explains or reinforces the concept being taught.

Optical Data will offer Total Class Math for single users or on a site-license basis. Call the company for pricing. (800) 524-2481