Compaq Computer Corp. has unveiled a new service called TechBuilder, a technology planning and assessment tool designed to help K-12 schools get the most out of their technology investments.
This web-based application offers templates for developing a technology plan and assessing how technology is being used in your schools. Because information is stored in a database and analyzed in real time, you can view results immediately. You can also use a sophisticated reporting engine to measure progress and identify your schools’ specific areas of strength or weakness.
An additional search application, which isn’t be available right away, will let you compare information about your own schools’ technology plans and best practices with those of other schools nationwide.
TechBuilder is available at no cost for three months after its Jan. 1 launch. The site requires Internet Explorer 4.0 or Netscape Navigator 3.01 Gold or better.
Sony VAIO computers
Sony Electronics has expanded its lineup of distance learning products to include multimedia Video Audio Integrated Operation (VAIO) tower and notebook computers. Designed to provide an easy-to-use video, voice, and data platform, the computers offer an enhanced multimedia experience for the classroom, said Lisa Baldino, marketing manager for Sony Distance Learning.
The VAIO computers all incorporate USB (universal serial bus), IEEE-1394 (a high-speed serial bus standard), DVD, and MPEG (moving pictures experts group) standards. The PCV-E200 series of tower computers are just 12 inches tall, yet come with three-dimensional graphics hardware acceleration, PCI audio, DVD-ROM drive, and 56Kflex fax/modem.
Sony’s VAIO computers are initially available through Clover Technologies, a Michigan-based Sony Distance Learning reseller.
Maxum Development Corp., a Streamwood, Ill.-based company, has released what it calls the first internet proxy server available for the Mac OS. Called WebDoubler, the server allows Mac-based schools to cache frequently-accessed web content locally, thereby accelerating access speeds and maximizing bandwidth.
Once installed, WebDoubler acts as a gateway between users on the school’s network and remote web servers. WebDoubler can also block students’ access to inappropriate sites by using PICS, the leading industry standard for rating web site content.
WebDoubler supports an unlimited number of usernames and passwords, and you can assign individual PICS profiles to each user to apply different content restrictions as appropriate.
The Calif.-based company PowerSchool Technologies has launched a platform-independent, site-based school management system built almost entirely upon internet standards. Called PowerSchool, the system lets teachers record grades and attendance electronically and gives parents 24-hour, real-time access to this information via telephone or the internet.
At the heart of the PowerSchool system is an intranet server running a standard browser-based interface. Teachers and administrators can log onto the system from any networked computer with Netscape or Internet Explorer. The system allows for real-time, two-way communication between the classroom and front office–so if a teacher marks a student as absent, for example, that information appears automatically on an administrator’s screen as well.
Besides keeping grades and attendance, PowerSchool lets you manage student meal programs, maintain discipline logs, and send electronic progress reports to parents via eMail on a daily, weekly, semiweekly, or monthly basis.
Advantage Learning Systems’ latest offering is a math management program modeled after the company’s successful Accelerated Reader series. Accelerated Math generates personalized algorithm-based math assignments and helps track student mastery of objectives, from third-grade math to calculus.
Here’s how the software works: Teachers assign math objectives to the class or to individual students. Accelerated Math prints a personalized assignment for each student, which the students then complete and scan into a computer using an optical mark read (OMR) scanner. The program automatically scores the assignment and provides instant feedback to the student and teacher, then generates the next practice assignment, taking into account the objectives mastered and any new objectives in the lesson plan.
Accelerated Math lets each student work at his or her own pace to complete objectives while keeping the teacher in control. Teachers can decide when a student has had enough practice and is ready to test for mastery.
The software runs on Windows or Macintosh systems with 16 megabytes of RAM. An Accelerated Math Starter Kit, with license for up to 200 students, is $999.
Cincom Systems Inc., a pioneer in the development of database technology, marks its entry into the education market with CARE, a software package designed to enhance communication between school systems and their communities.
An advanced electronic grading system, CARE automatically compiles student performance data and communicates it to parents in clear, easy-to-understand language, said Rex Porter, Cincom’s director of education systems. Because the system is automatic, Porter said, it allows report cards to be issued every two weeks, thereby motivating students and allowing for timely intervention by parents or teachers if necessary.
Cincom offers a unique money-back guarantee on its product: if CARE doesn’t improve parent involvement in their children’s education within four weeks of the program’s installation, the company will refund a school or district’s money. CARE is currently available for Windows only, but Macintosh and UNIX versions are expected soon.