Curriculum Showcase:

Scientific Learning’s Fast ForWord

Students with language and reading disabilities may benefit from this software from the Berkeley, Calif., company Scientific Learning Corp. Fast ForWord uses patented methods based on 25 years of neuroscience research by the company’s founding scientists, which has led to important discoveries about language acquisition and how the brain works.

The software focuses on improving phonological and receptive auditory skills, a unique approach that moves beyond addressing the symptoms of language problems and directly attacks their root cause. It consists of seven training exercises, three that train for sounds and four that train for words. The exercises are presented in a game-like environment, with animations to maintain students’ interest and reward correct responses.

Students in the Fast ForWord program complete 100 minutes of training per day, five days a week for four to eight consecutive weeks, with the goal of increasing phonemic awareness, language and listening comprehension, working memory, auditory processing speed, and their understanding of language structures like syntax and grammar.

Chicago Public Schools is using the software to train nearly 1,000 students with language or reading problems by the end of the summer. According to the company, students who train with Fast ForWord make average gains of one to two years in language skills in just four to eight weeks of training.

(888) 665-9707

Stagecast Software’s Stagecast Creator

Stagecast Software, of Palo Alto, Calif., has introduced an innovative software program called Stagecast Creator. The product is a customizable standard platform for Macintosh or Windows that allows students to create interactive stories, puzzles, games, and simulation models while developing their creativity and stretching their higher- order thinking skills.

Using the Stagecast Creator authoring tool, students can create characters and import graphics with a few clicks of the mouse. They can then add rules to their simulation, or “world,” as the company calls it, by demonstrating these rules with the drag-and-drop use of the mouse. For example, to show a grasshopper how to jump over a rock, the student would simply move it over the rock once—then all grasshoppers in the students’ world would jump over rocks in the same way.

Stagecast Creator can be used as a creativity tool or in a cross-curricular classroom to help students learn science, math, and problem solving skills through simulations. According to its creators, the software is easy to use, requires little or no training, and can appeal to students with a variety of skill sets.

A single license costs $59.95, a 10-seat license costs $379.95, and a 100-seat license costs $3,595.95. Play-only and trial versions of the software can be downloaded for free from the company’s web site.


Advantage Learning Systems’ Perfect Copy and Accelerated Reader 5.0

Advantage Learning Systems Inc., of Wisconsin Rapids, Wis., has launched a writing skills development program called Perfect Copy. Along with the company’s acquisition in early June of Humanities Software Inc., an Oregon-based firm specializing in writing software, Perfect Copy signals a new focus for Advantage Learning on providing a complete software solution for accelerating the teaching of writing skills.

Students select an article from the software’s database of passages from literature and read it on-screen. They then edit the passage using familiar word processing tools. Optional “clues,” controlled by teachers, highlight problem areas if students need help. As in the company’s other software products, teachers can compile reports showing students’ progress, as well as areas that need improvement.

Advantage Learning also will be releasing the latest version of its Accelerated Reader this fall. Version 5.0 has added questions to test students’ critical thinking and literacy skills, includes dual-language capability tests to track students in both English and Spanish, and supports all book readability formulas.

(800) 338-4204

Scholastic Reading Counts! and READ 180

Leading publishing and media company Scholastic Inc. has released two new reading initiatives, Reading Counts! and READ 180, designed to compete with Advantage Learning System’s popular Accelerated Reader series.

Reading Counts! is an interactive reading motivation and management program for K-12 students. The program combines books, computer-based quizzes, and assessment tools. Students choose from a database of more than 15,000 book titles. They read at their own pace and are quizzed to verify completion and comprehension. Teachers can then produce customized progress reports to track each student’s performance.

Scholastic READ 180 is a reading intervention program designed for grades 4 and up. The program consists of interactive CD-ROMs, software activities with leveled text and individualized instruction, audiobooks, and diagnostic assessment software, all designed to create a balanced intervention for students with significant reading challenges. Within the program, teachers can instruct students in one-on-one, small group, or whole-class settings. The program is modeled after a prototype developed by Vanderbilt University’s Learning Technology Center.

The Scholastic Reading Counts! Starter Pack sells for $369, which includes software, book database, quizzes, unlimited participation, and one year of unlimited free technical support. Current users of The Electronic Bookshelf or Accelerated Reader can upgrade to Reading Counts! free of charge. Scholastic READ 180 sells for $20,000, which covers 60 site licenses, 45-disk CD-ROM set, audiobooks, teacher training, and free technical support for one year.

(800) 724-6527

Recognix’s Mathpert

Math teachers face huge obstacles in teaching spacial, problem-solving math concepts to classes of students with diverse skill levels. With Mathpert software from the Santa Clara, Calif.-based company Recognix Inc., teachers can provide students with a means to explore and review higher math concepts at their own pace and in their own way.

Available in alegebra, pre-calculus, and calculus editions, Mathpert gives students insight into the problem-solving process as they figure out an equation, rather than supplying them with an answer. When a student highlights a problem, a pop-up menu of math operations that can be applied to the highlighted section appears. As the software guides students through the problem-solving process, it offers hints, shows plausible steps, and doesn’t let them take any mathematically unsound steps. Far more helpful (and less intimidating) than a blank sheet of paper and a textbook, Mathpert is the equivalent of a math tutor that can be controlled by the student and is accessible at any time.

Mathpert editions are available in single-user versions, lab packs, or network licenses, with specially discounted prices for schools.

(800) 361-1001

MathSoft’s StudyWorks!

The interactive learning environment of StudyWorks! software, from the Cambridge, Mass.-based MathSoft Inc., takes a three-step approach to teaching science and math concepts, from multimedia presentations and diagrams, to guided exercises, to problem sets and quizzes that provide instant feedback.

The company’s most recent title, StudyWorks Mathematics Deluxe, covers nine full subjects, from pre-algebra to calculus, and is “the most complete package out there,” according to its makers. Added benefits include a special “Crack the SAT II” section from Princeton Review to help students prepare for the test, participation in “virtual study groups” via the MathSoft web site, and online help from MathSoft experts.

StudyWorks Mathematics Deluxe is available for systems with Windows 3.1 or better at a suggested retail price of $39.95.

(800) 628-4223

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