Reading assessment software from Renaissance Learning

You can find out what reading level your primary students are at with STAR Early Literacy, a new software program that assesses reading skills in students from pre-kindergarten to grade two from Renaissance Learning (formerly Advantage Learning Systems Inc.). This computer-based diagnostic assessment allows teachers to test students quickly and accurately in more than 100 key skills and monitor their growth throughout the school year.

STAR Early Literacy contains more than 2,000 test items covering seven skill areas: phonemic awareness, phonics, general readiness, graphophonemic knowledge, comprehension, structural analysis, and vocabulary. The program stores students’ results, so teachers can use it repeatedly throughout the year to fine-tune instruction and accelerate progressive learning.

It takes only 10 minutes per child to complete the tests, according to the company. Tests incorporate graphics, audio instructions, and Adaptive Branching technology, which adjusts the level of questions to each child’s ability. Teachers can generate 16 different reports of the data, including one for student growth, the class, and the parent.

“Educators using our STAR Reading test in over 25,000 schools have long wanted to be able to assess students earlier in their development,” said Michael Baum, chief executive officer of Renaissance Learning. The company tested this product last spring on 2,000 students and has plans to do more testing with 65,000 students this fall.

(800) 338-4204

Pioneer’s bar-code software for DVDs

For teachers who want to show only the relevant parts of movies in class, Pioneer’s new Bar ‘n’ Coder software could put an end to interrupting class time to shuffle through a videotape. Using this software, teachers can assign and print a bar code for a particular audio or video segment of a digital video disc (DVD) so it can be scanned at the appropriate time during the lesson. When scanned, the bar code automatically accesses and plays chosen frames, chapters, or titles from the DVD.

Unlike rewinding and fast-forwarding VCR tapes to find the appropriate segment of video, DVD bar codes let users jump to an exact point on the disc. With this ability, teachers can create personalized curriculum from any DVD simply by connecting a Pioneer DVD player to a computer and using Bar ‘n’ Coder software to tag specific frames with a bar code number. The Bar ‘n’ Coder software also lets teachers choose what DVD features the segment will display—including camera angle or language. It even lets teachers add subtitles to the DVD, according to the company.

Bar ‘n’ Coder only works with Pioneer’s DVD-V7400 player and its predecessor, the DVD-V7200, and Windows-compatible bar code readers. Developed by Pioneer New Media Technologies of Long Beach, Calif., the Bar ‘n’ Coder sells for $99.95.

(800) 872-4159

Student health tracking system from ECS

Enterprises Computing Services Inc. (ECS) of Woodstock, Ga., has developed a new web-based system for tracking and managing students’ immunization records online. Called S.H.O.T.S. (Student Health Online Tracking System), the system is intended to provide school district administrators, building-level administrators, and parents with varying levels of access to students’ immunization records via any internet-connected computer.

Using the system, school building-level administrators will be able to manage their school immunization certificates easily through simple input screens that have same look and feel as each state’s required certificates. S.H.O.T.S. will track students’ immunization status—up-to-date, not up-to-date, or exempt—and generate reminders in the form of a standard letter or postcard. District-level administrators will be able to view any school’s immunization standing, run immunization status reports for any school in the district, and maintain a list of valid users of the system. Parents will have secure, view-only access to their child’s immunization records and will be able to view all family records with a single log-on.

S.H.O.T.S. is expected to be released this month. For further information, including pricing, contact ECS.

(877) ECS-8060

Desktop firewall from Symantec Corp.

If your students and teachers are able to connect to the school’s server from home, consider protecting your computer network with Symantec Desktop Firewall 2.0. This software keeps hackers from entering a computer network through a remote user’s computer by controlling all internet connections to and from that terminal. It also defends organizations from involuntary involvement in Distributed Denial of Service attacks.

Symantec Desktop Firewall 2.0 automatically configures itself with a complete set of rules tailored for the specific applications on each individual system, unlike traditional firewall products that require users to set rules every time they open a new application. Users can indicate which information on their systems should remain private, and Desktop Firewall 2.0 will alert them if they attempt to send this information to an unsecured web site.

The firewall provides a detailed log to let users determine the source of questionable connections. It also can prevent web servers from retrieving a remote user’s eMail address or other potentially sensitive information while surfing the internet, Symantec said. With built-in privacy features, Symantec Desktop Firewall 2.0 can be used to prevent web sites from tracking remote users’ online activities. It can be configured to block cookies on a site-by-site basis and to block automatic downloading of Java applets and ActiveX controls.

Symantec Desktop Firewall 2.0 is compatible with the leading Virtual Private Network solutions sold by Cisco and Nortel. It also supports Microsoft System Management Server.

(800) 745-6054

ClearLearning’s internet-based assessment software

Using ClearLearning’s Test Pilot Version 3, schools can design tests that assess each student’s achievements and weaknesses over the internet, providing immediate feedback. The latest version of the software offers group reporting, randomizing capabilities, and on-the-fly editing.

“This new release is faster and more nimble that the previous version,” said Malcolm Duncan, ClearLearning’s chief technology officer. Version 3 features an easy-to-use online editing feature, which allows users to preview how the assessment or survey will look instantly, make changes on the fly, and share their work with other teachers and administrators.

The new version also incorporates flexibility in grouping questions and using random variables. “Both the question grouping and randomizing cababilities of Version 3 derive from the ability for users to create their own database of questions. Users can then integrate questions into a test any way they want,” Duncan said.

Test Pilot Version 3 also features greater security, faster test administration time, and improved scoring and reporting, the company said. Users get direct access to all the data so they can download, analyze, and report on the results in a myriad of ways. The product works on any server and is priced below $1,000.

(765) 567-2220

New laser printer from IBM

Printing with IBM’s new Infoprint 12 results in high-quality printouts for less money, according to the company. Priced at $399, this desktop laser printer features network connectivity, 1200 x 1200 dpi print quality, reliability, and portability.

The Infoprint 12 weighs only 25 pounds and comes in the same color as the IBM ThinkPad. It is capable of printing up to 12 pages per minute. The printer generates high-quality reports, spreadsheets, proposals, and letters on a wide variety of paper sizes and types, including labels, transparencies, and card stock.

The Infoprint 12 uses a powerful 66 MHz, 32-bit IBM microprocessor, and its controller comes with 4 MB of memory and supports up to 68 MB of memory. The printer’s software lets network administrators or users monitor the printer status from remote locations on a real-time basis. Designed for easy installation, it supports both Mac and PC computers.

The Infoprint comes with a standard one-year warranty, which includes repair by replacement through IBM’s depot exchange service. Extended warranty also is available.

(800) 358-6661