EarthWalk wireless mobile computer labs
EarthWalk Communications has developed a complete computer lab, without wires, walls, or limits. The company’s NetWize system expands upon the “computers on wheels” concept by bundling presentation equipment, training, and software into its wireless solution.
The system consists of 32 wireless eBuddy laptops, classroom management software, a SmartCart, a large-screen presentation monitor, online teacher training, and software. Within minutes of rolling the SmartCart into a classroom, students can connect to the school’s network, perform research on the internet, or use educational software, EarthWalk says.
To use the mobile classroom, teachers just plug the SmartCart into a standard electrical outlet and a single Ethernet connection. The eBuddy student laptops have a range of 1,000 feet and operate on Windows 98. They are stored and charged in the SmartCart. The NetWize system solves the problem many schools face of not having the infrastructure or resources to install computers and internet connections in every classroom.
EarthWalk, established in 1997, has gained a reputation for providing cost-effective technology resources for teachers and students. The NetWize system is completely customizable, EarthWalk said. The price ranges from $12,000 to $50,000, depending on the features selected.
Sony plug-and-play internet videoconferencing
Sony Distance Learning has released a competitively priced videoconferencing system that delivers high-quality real-time video over the internet. At 6 pounds, 10 ounces, the Contact 323 videoconferencing system is one of the smallest set-top systems available, Sony says.
The system’s easy-to-use plug-and-play design is intended to make distance-learning a snap. The unit connects to any local or wide area network and features wireless document imaging.
The Contact 323 is capable of scanning and transmitting three-dimensional objects, graphics, and computer presentations. The unit comes with a dockable camera that allows users to detach it from the base and strategically place it in the room. The camera pans, tilts, and zooms. The system also has a built-in microphone, auto-tracking motion detection, and a remote control.
“As videoconferencing becomes more mainstream, the Contact system offers the flexibility to start basic and add on as needs change,” said Glenn Adamo, vice president of videoconferencing at Sony.
Sony sells five scaleable videoconferencing models with transmission speeds ranging from 128 Kbps to 768 Kbps. The Contact 323 sells for $5,995.
Travel the Grand Canyon with TrekInteractive
Students can lace up their hiking bootsand boot up their computersfor a “Grand Canyon Journey,” the latest CD-ROM field trip in the TrekInteractive Young Naturalist series, which transports students to the outdoor classrooms of the national parks.
This interactive field trip is designed to allow third-, fourth-, and fifth-graders to explore earth science while on a wilderness tour. Guided by Ben, a junior ranger, elementary students can explore a wide range of science and social studies topics related to the Grand Canyon.
Students navigate the journey through a web-browser format, gaining access to a select number of child-safe web sites. The software features “you are there” photography and factual narration that makes Grand Canyon Journey a valuable geology and history resource.
Produced in cooperation with national park educators, this series is the only “just for kids” software about America’s natural wonders, according to its maker, T.I. Multimedia. The series also features Yellowstone Journey and Everglades Journey. Each CD-ROM costs $24.95, or $69.95 for the complete set.
Low-priced caching servers from Swell Technology
As an alternative to expensive proprietary servers, check out the Tsunami CPX series of web-caching server appliances developed for schools and small offices by Swell Technology. Based on the open-source Linux operating system, the CPX series offers affordable, easy-to-use, high-performing web-caching products, the company says.
The Tsunami CPX 1000, geared toward schools, can handle two to three T1 lines. Caching servers save bandwidth and increase internet speed by saving a copy of previously visited web sites, so the next time the site is visited, it is reloaded from the local server.
This product performed best when it was compared with other servers priced less than $4,000 at a recent industry-wide marathon event, known as the IRCache Bake-off. The server also performed better than several servers that cost more than $4,000, the company said. The Tsunami CPX 1000, which sells for $2,139, also features access control to block game sites, pornography, or other inappropriate content.
MindPlay’s My Reading Coach combats illiteracy
My Reading Coach, developed by MindPlay, is a phonics-based software program that uses a unique artificial intelligence technology to create a “digital teacher,” who teaches and interacts with the student just like a tutor would.
The technology behind the software, called TeacherSmarts, incorporates digital video, digital audio, and one-on-one responses from a virtual tutor. According to MindPlay, users of the software can improve from one to four reading levels in as little as 40 hours.
“Our Digital Teacher evaluates the learner’s skills and then teaches only the skills needed,” said Judith Bliss, the company’s founder and chief executive officer.
Based on a proven reading program created by speech pathologist Jim Larrabee, the software teaches phonics, spelling patterns, pronunciation, and letter formation. It automatically schedules review tests and reassigns lessons when needed. It also includes printable worksheets to reinforce skills and comprehension when students are away from the computer.
The software is compatible with PCs and Macs. The suggested retail price is $99.