More than 200 ed-tech companies exhibited at this year’s T+L² Conference. Here’s a sampling of news from the exhibitors offering curriculum software:
BestQuest Teaching Systems used the conference to promote its family of DVD-based supplemental curricula, including its algebra’scool line, which includes 99 lessons on 20 DVD discs. Highlights include a free DVD player, six instructional units, two student assessments per instructional model, graphing calculator activities, lessons, journal questions, and 25 Live Video Career Profiles, so students can see firsthand how math works for people in the real world. The idea behind BestQuest instructional products is to provide standards-based instruction with real-world relevance, according to the company’s web site.
Holt, Rinehart and Winston–a leading publisher of textbooks and educational materials for grades six through 12–announced the release of Holt Science & Technology, North Carolina Edition, which is specifically developed for North Carolina’s middle school science curriculum and meets the North Carolina academic standards prescribed in the Standard Course of Study. A team of North Carolina teachers worked on the curriculum alignment and provided crucial input during development, a process that sets HST North Carolina apart from other science textbooks, the company said. Holt also launched a complementary Online Assessment resource that diagnoses student understanding of science, assigns interventions, and tracks improvement with benchmark practice tests.
Kurzweil Educational Systems introduced its Kurzweil 3000 for Macintosh Version 3 software, which helps struggling students learn critical reading and writing skills. The release broadens the popular Kurzweil 3000 for Macintosh product line by adding a new network edition that enables more students to access the software across a network. In addition, new writing, vocabulary-building, and document preparation features have been added in Version 3 to both the network and standalone editions.
Learning.com representatives were in Denver touting the release of the company’s EasyTech 4.0 product, which provides “digital citizenship” instruction on acceptable computer use and online ethics for students in grades K-8. The company pointed to a recent study by the National Telecommunications and Information Administration, which confirmed that children and young adults (ages 5 to 24), more than any other age group, use computers and the internet widely for many daily activities. As a result, it’s more important than ever that young people learn the responsibilities that come with technology use.
A provider of online technology curriculum and integration tools, Learning.com stresses that digital citizenship should be taught at the time when children first encounter technology in school, which can be as early as kindergarten. EasyTech is a technology integration system that includes a K-8 technology curriculum and teaches real-world applications of technology across the curriculum. EasyTech includes built-in lessons, activities, and discussion guides on responsible use of technology. Age-appropriate lessons are featured for grades K-8, including computer rules, acceptable-use policies, and online ethics. Assessment capabilities are built into the software, which also includes Spanish-language support.
Learning.com provides lesson plans for teachers encouraging young students to develop technology skills. The company also released the results of a study by Brigham Young University professor Gregory L. Waddoups, whose scientifically based research examined the impact of technology integration on learning outcomes for K-8 students. A summary of the study is available at http://www.learning.com/EasyTech/etr.htm. In addition, Learning.com offers schools a free trial of EasyTech, with access to the full curriculum for a 30-day evaluation period.
Live Ink offers “a new way to read” and has received an Innovation Research Award from the U.S. Department of Education. Live Ink displays text in phrases that are arranged in a cascading pattern on a computer screen. As the viewer reads, he or she reads sentences that have been computer-formatted to improve the brain’s ability to understand the meaning of the words and to build comprehension. Live Ink bases its reading system on the idea that, as people read, their visual systems can only process a small amount of visual data at each fixation. This results in many regressions during reading, where the reader must review what has already been read. Live Ink reading technology is available in online textbooks published by Holt, Rinehart and Winston. The Live Ink format of the text is available through a “Reading Help” link.
netTrekker, a standards-based online search engine for schools, announced that it will include the International Society for Technology in Education’s National Educational Technology Standards (NETS) in the State Standards section of the product this spring. Educators will soon be able to access online resources that directly support these important standards, the company said.
The Sioux City, Iowa, Community School District will now offer K-12 mathematics and reading curriculum to 2,000 students across 18 schools, thanks to an agreement inked with PLATO Learning, the company announced at T+L². The agreement extends an existing relationship between PLATO Learning and the Sioux City Community School District. “PLATO Learning has been used successfully in our Central Campus/Individualized Learning Center for years, and we are thrilled to extend this courseware to more classrooms,” said Larry Williams, superintendent of Sioux City Schools, in a statement.
The Reading Assistant Manager, a new network-based software program from literacy software company Soliloquy Learning, works with children individually at their own pace to improve their reading skills. With this new software, students in grades one to six will get more practice reading aloud through Soliloquy’s proprietary Speech Recognition/Reading Verification technology. The program listens to students as they read, providing intervention as needed, and then reports the results to the teacher. The company says its speech recognition is extremely accurate and can be matched only by human reading assistants and teachers. Included with the software is a set of earphones and a noise-reducing microphone. Each session starts with a microphone check to ensure that the microphone is picking up the student’s voice properly. When students finish reading a section, they can play back their voice recording to hear how they sound. The Reading Assistant Manager also includes many reporting features for teachers and administrators. The software is sold in packages for five to 50 users starting at $2,000. Current users of The Reading Assistant will receive a discount.
TelecomPioneers offers a free web site, called Project:Connect, that features six educational, online games that help teach children about today’s technologies while not confusing them or overloading them with information. One of these games is Sattelite:Connect, which teaches students about basic physics, astronomy, and technology by studying satellites. The program also offers Fiber:Connect, which teaches students how fiber optics work, and Cellular:Connect, which teaches students about maps, demographics, and how radio waves work.
Texas Instruments used the T+L² conference to announce the release of TI Navigator 2.0, adding new power to the Navigator product used by math students in both junior high and high schools. Navigator 2.0 allows an entire class using graphing calculators to participate in group activities through a wireless network. The wireless factor lets teachers roam around the class to give students individual attention.
“We’ve really changed the landscape with this release,” said Tysun B. McKay, product manager for Educational and Productivity Solutions at TI, who demonstrated Navigator 2.0 in Denver.
McKay said the product’s latest version is ideal for assessment, because teachers can truly determine if a class understands the individual mathematical concept being discussed before moving on to the next topic. Entire quizzes can be given through the TI-83 or TI-84 Plus family of calculators, and the teacher can monitor each student’s response in real time without exposing these individual results to other students.
As an example, McKay showed how an entire class could plot points on a graph to show how various equations can affect the slope of a line. She said up to 40 students can participate in an activity at the same time.
The Tool Factory works with educators as they begin to integrate software into the classroom and into lessons. With software in English, music, mathematics, early learning, science, physical education, social studies, and special education, the company gives teachers many options as they search for educational technologies to use in their curriculum. Tool Factory Workshop is a child-friendly office suite that allows teachers to customize projects to meet students’ needs. Teachers also can subscribe to elementaryzone.com, which gives students access to more than 100 educational activities in English, math, and science. Tool Factory Word Processor is available for grades K-12 and has full multimedia support that enables students to insert video, audio, or clip art into their documents. A built-in voice engine speaks the text as it is typed, and a spell checker provides speech feedback along with visual cues.
TouchSmart Publishing President Jason Barkeloo, a former teacher, demonstrated his company’s Touch User Interface (TUI) technology, which provides multimedia interaction with content formerly delivered only in print.
TouchSmart’s mission is to create and distribute exciting and easy-to-use interactive textbooks that connect to digital content by using its TUI technology. A student who touches pages in a book triggers an activity on a computer screen that fully engages the student and enhances the learning experience.
The technology can go a long way in bridging the digital divide because it is so easily accessible, Barkeloo said. He noted that even a person who has lost the use of all four limbs can still interact with the material, simply by activating sensors with head motions. As such, the company touts its TUI technology as the only complete NCLB solution poised to meet the National Instructional Materials Accessibility Standard (NIMAS).
“When I showed this technology to a group of superintendents, they became very excited about its potential,” said Barkeloo. “They immediately saw what it could do for special-needs students.”
TouchSmart faces obstacles from traditional book publishers in licensing content for the new platform. However, Barkeloo said digital media providers are already embracing TUI because it opens new doors for their content.
London-based Valiant Technology promoted its new MathAmigo software application for handheld devices. MathAmigo aims to boost student performance in mathematics by providing challenging lessons and tutorials that support concept understanding. Students also get feedback from their answers, which promotes higher-order thinking. A Teacher Alert feature assesses student progress while highlighting which students need the most help.
Exhibitor information compiled and written by Online Editor Dan David, Managing Editor Dennis Pierce, Associate Editor Cara Branigan, Assistant Editor Corey Murray, and Contributing Editor Laura Ascione.