Students with reading problems may benefit from new software developed by Cognitive Concepts Inc. of Evanston, Ill.

Called “Earobics” because of the way it exercises the ear-brain connection, the software teaches children reading skills through a set of highly-structured games. Children need only spend 20 minutes a day three times a week to show dramatic gains in reading skills, according to Cognitive Concepts.

Research has shown that training a child’s ear is the most significant factor in teaching that child reading, spelling, and language skills, the company said. Cognitive Concepts believes that the most critical skill in learning how to read is “phonological awareness,” which is the ability to identify, think about, and manipulate the combinations of sounds that make up our language.

Researchers were challenged to create a software package that would be fun and interesting for kids, but not visually distracting or noisy. The result is a software program that has won several awards, including the EdPress Distinguished Achievement Award for Outstanding Curricular Pre-School Software and the Technology and Learning Award of Excellence.

Earobics Step 1 is for kids ages 4-7, and Earobics Step 2 is for ages 7-10. An adolescent and adult version of this software will be released this fall. The software costs $299 for a classroom package and $59 for individual PCs and Macs.

(888) 328-8199

http://www.cogcon.com

Question Mark’s Perception Secure Browser

Question Mark Corp. has introduced what the company calls the first web browser ideal for delivering secure, high-value content like tests and exams over the internet.

In its Perception Secure Browser (PSB), all menus, icons, control keys, and the “right-click” options have been removed. The browser links to a specific URL and limits navigation from within the web page displayed.

PBS was developed to enhance internet security in high-stakes environments. The browser stops users from printing out or copying the information into another application to pass on to other students. It also prevents users from accessing other URLs while taking a test.

With this technology, teachers can deliver quizzes and exams online without having to save questions to a disk. The software also protects users from inadvertently disrupting the assessment process by disabling the refresh or reload buttons on the computer.

PBS runs on Windows 95, 98, or NT, and pricing is structured according to the number of users.

(800) 863-3950

http://www.questionmark.com

Ace Software’s ADM-2000 Administrative Software

Ace Software, of Grove City, Ohio, has released an updated version of its popular administrative software package. The new version of ADM-2000 features a new fee system and enhancements to the student scheduling module.

The new fee system allows fees to be automatically added when a student enrolls or adds a class. Fees are canceled automatically when a student drops a class or withdraws. The new module also allows fees to be traced from building to building to follow students districtwide as they move from school to school.

The newly enhanced schedule builder supplies administrators with nearly complete schedules in a matter of minutes, using student requests to calculate how many sections are needed and then creating class schedules for the entire building. A company spokesman reported that, for the average school system, the software can schedule 1,500 students in less than two minutes with only 40 to 50 conflicts.

In addition to these features, the software tracks attendance, demographics, grading, discipline codes, medical needs, graduation planning, and academic history.

Pricing varies depending on the level of connectivity desired and the existing hardware, but the company estimates that, on average, the software costs from 25 to 50 cents per student per month.

(800) 837-2692

http://www.acesoft.com

Lexia Learning Systems’ Quick Reading Test

Lexia Learning Systems, of Lincoln, Mass., recently introduced the Lexia Quick Reading Test (QRT), a reading skills assessment program for grades K-12.

The new program includes 12 tests to help teachers assess students’ reading capabilities, identify specific weaknesses, and recommend areas for improvement. The software also lets teachers group students of the same ability together in order to give them more specialized training, according to a company spokesman.

Lexia’s president and CEO, Jonathan Bower, added that, “in 5-8 minutes, a test can provide the teacher with information to decide exactly what to teach each student. The teacher can also determine practice needs, because QRT reports whether a student is fluent with each skill or merely has a general sense of the skill without the ability to apply [it] consistently and correctly.”

During the short test, the teacher and student sit together at the computer and the teacher presses one of two keys to indicate that the student has answered the question either correctly or incorrectly. The software then analyzes the responses in terms of their accuracy and speed.

The test is meant to measure a student’s ability to decode words into their proper sounds. The program analyzes the answers and puts the results into three reports: one individual report for each student, one graphic and tabular report for the whole class, and a long term comparison report that shows the change in skills over a year or longer.

Currently, schools can expect to pay an introductory rate of $248, or $550 for a five-workstation pack. The standard price will be $349 for a single license or $750 for five.

(800) 435-3942

http://www.lexialearning.com

Edmark’s Travel the World with Timmy! Deluxe

Edmark Corp., of Redmond, Wash., has released the latest software program in the company’s world travel series for kids. Pre-kindergarten to second grade students can now join Timmy, their virtual tour guide, on a trip through Russia, France, Argentina, Japan, and Kenya.

The program allows younger children to experience multicultural diversity through a virtual tour of the five countries, during which they learn how the locals live, speak, sing, dress, and play. Kids are able to sing along with native songs, play problem-solving games, compose stories, and make things through native arts and crafts.

Researchers believe early exposure to foreign languages will later aid in the acquisition of languages, according to Edmark. The program caters to readers and non-readers alike and reinforces certain language, writing, counting, and problem-solving skills, the company said. Students hear and see numbers that correspond to quantities of items in Swahili, Japanese, Spanish, Russian, or French, for example, and they learn the natural rhythms of these languages while singing native songs.

Kids can also use virtual paint brushes and art tools to create art in its native forms. Thinking skills are further encouraged through interactive games.

Travel the World with Timmy! Deluxe is available on CD-ROM for Windows and Macintosh computers for $59. Edmark also offers school versions complete with teacher’s manuals, reproducible activity sheets, and lesson plans.

(800) 691-2985

http:// www.edmark.com