More than 500 ed-tech companies exhibited at this year’s Florida Educational Technology Conference. Here’s a sampling of news from the exhibitors offering instructional software:

Curriculum Advantage, publisher of the Classworks reading and math curriculum program, announced that it has purchased OpenBook Anywhere, a collection of research-based ways to teach English to remedial and non-English speakers, from OpenBook Learning. Curriculum Advantage will integrate the OpenBook content into its Classworks curriculum. With this purchase, Curriculum Advantage has expanded its catalog of remediation resources with content specifically for English as a Second Language students, the company said.

Curriculum Advantage also announced that it has teamed up with AlterNet Performance of Mechanicsburg, Pa., to create a seamless interface between Classworks and AlterNet’s Performance Tracker, a web-based platform that aggregates and disaggregates assessment data from state, national, and local benchmark tests. The partnership gives Classworks customers a new tool to analyze data from high-stakes assessments, further assess each student’s proficiency in math and reading, and automatically create an individual Classworks learning plan to address areas of need for each student, Curriculum Advantage said.

Discovery Education announced a brand-new promotional offer giving a free site license for its popular “unitedstreaming” digital video-on-demand service with every license purchased at list price. This new offer is available immediately and runs through April 15, 2005, the company said. With more than 4,000 full-length, core-curriculum videos divided into more than 40,000 content-specific video clips, the service gives educators the ability to enhance their lesson plans with rich multimedia content that is correlated with individual state education standards. To take advantage of this buy-one, get-one-free offer, which is open to any new or existing unitedstreaming customers, call (800) 323-9084.

Discovery Education also announced that it has added more than 250 new video, DVD, and CD-ROM titles to its Discovery School line of educational products, bringing the total collection to more than 1,000 titles. In addition to all-new titles in history, math, health, and literature, Discovery has added four new video series covering science, geography, and social studies. These include “Greatest Discoveries with Bill Nye,” an eight-part series featuring stories of how the great discoveries of science were made, how they affected the development of scientific knowledge, and how they touch our lives today; and “Daily Planet,” a series from Discovery Channel Canada that finds science in the most unusual places: firefighting, hurricane tracking, space travel, fishing, golf, and more. As with all Discovery School products, these titles also include complete lesson plans correlated with national standards for easy integration into teachers’ existing curriculum, Discovery said.

Help Me 2 Learn Co. announced the release of “Phonics 3b, Advanced Level II: Sports Edition,” software designed to reach struggling students in grades 3-8 who have a hard time learning through traditional methods and who need help developing their reading and comprehension skills. The program features a sports theme that should appeal to both boys and girls, the company said, as they work through lessons on grammar, literature, writing, punctuation, capitalization, spelling, reading comprehension, and more. “Phonics 3b” works on PC or Macintosh systems and is available in a home version, too. Also included are pre- and post-test assessment programs, teacher/lab program controls, a user guide, and lesson plans.

Inspiration Software unveiled new versions of its Inspiration and Kidspiration visual learning programs. Both include new compatibility with emerging technologies, giving teachers more choices in how they use graphic organizers to develop and organize thinking, the company said. Enhancements for Windows and Mac OS X include the ability to draw and write directly on interactive whiteboards and Tablet PCs, as well as synching to Inspiration for the Palm OS. Upgrades are free to users of Kidspiration 2 and Inspiration 7 or above.

iScienceProject, a maker of data loggers for K-12 science education, has added more than 100 free science lab projects to its HOBO science lab library. K-12 teachers and students now can choose from more than 200 grade-specific, inquiry-based data collection activities, from tracking the temperature inside a hamster cage to understanding which types of containers keep food the longest. “While the labs can be used as stand-alone science lessons, teachers who use them with HOBO data loggers, which we loan out for free, now have additional resources available to help tie data logging into their curricula,” said Rich Marvin, education program manager for iScienceProject. Besides the expanded lab library, the iScienceProject web site also includes a number of classroom application examples, details about iScienceProject-sponsored contests, and information about how to get free two-month loans of HOBO data loggers.

RM Educational Software demonstrated its RM Easiteach whole-class instructional software, which gives teachers a number of tools to build lessons that can capture the interest of every student, the company said. Using Easiteach Studio, teachers reportedly can move and manipulate on-screen objects such as text or video; incorporate Easiteach Studio’s wide range of teaching resources, images and symbols, or materials from other sources into instruction; grab, annotate, and drive screens from other applications; use spreadsheets and databases to demonstrate, model, and enhance understanding of concepts; and save interactive teaching materials for future use, or share them within and among schools. The software can be used with any projection device and is designed to run on any interactive whiteboard, too, the company says–thus minimizing staff training needs by giving schools a single, standard platform for instruction that can leverage the schools’ existing resources. Content packs are available for math, language arts, science, and geography, with additional plug-ins for concept mapping and timelines (and a Spanish version of Easiteach Studio) coming soon.

Approximately 25,000 students and their teachers in rural Florida will have access to SAS inSchool‘s web-based educational curriculum for the next two years, thanks to a grant made by Bank of America Charitable Investments to the Florida Learning Alliance Inc., SAS inSchool announced. The company creates web-based teaching and learning curricula focusing on the core subjects taught in grades eight through 14, including English, Spanish, social studies, science, and mathematics. With this grant, Florida becomes the fourth state in the country to offer SAS inSchool’s Curriculum Pathways product to schools statewide. Two years ago, Bank of America Charitable Investments funded the use of the software for all secondary schools in North Carolina. Last year, the Wellman Family Foundation provided a grant to offer the software across the state of West Virginia, and SAS inSchool software recently was made available statewide in Wyoming through a partnership with EdGate.

Software MacKiev, which develops software for the Macintosh platform, demonstrated its latest program, called 3D Weather Globe & Atlas. The software provides weather information on students’ desktops, including real-time cloud cover, current weather conditions (including temperature, wind speed, and humidity), and seven-day forecasts for 10,000 cities from Boston to Bangkok, all overlaid on high-resolution NASA maps, offering an astronaut’s-eye view of the earth, the company said. The real-time weather data comes from CustomWeather, a San Francisco-based company that supplies weather feeds to Reuters and other news services. In addition to weather, the program can show country borders, cities, time zones, and a real-time night-day line. It also contains a route-mapping feature that can plot and store travel routes. A number of famous routes come pre-loaded, such as Amelia Earhart’s attempted flight around the worls, Magellan’s voyages, and the Athens 2004 Olympics torch route. The software requires Mac OS X, version 10.3 or later, and an internet connection is needed for the real-time weather data.

Texas Instruments announced the release of two new products at FETC: TI-SmartView Emulator Software and TI-Navigator 2.0 Classroom Learning System. TI-SmartView provides teachers with an exact, fully functional representation of the TI-84 Plus Silver Edition graphing calculator on a Windows or Macintosh computer. Using any computer projection device or interactive whiteboard, teachers can display the image of the graphing calculator for the entire class to see, enabling teachers to demonstrate calculator applications as necessary. A feature of the TI-SmartView software–View3 (View cubed)–enables teachers to project multiple representations of equations, tables, and graphs for given math values and formulas simultaneously.

The TI-Navigator 2.0 Classroom Learning System creates a wireless network that fosters an engaging environment for hands-on learning with TI handhelds, the company says. It enables teachers to assess, monitor, and provide feedback to students in real time to cultivate higher achievement. Using the software, teachers can send to, and collect from, the entire class various lessons, activities, tests, assignments, and other files, developing a real-time communication pathway between teachers and students. A feature called “Activity Center” enables students to actively contribute in real time to a shared workspace that is housed on the teacher’s PC, which can be projected to the entire class to illustrate equations, graphs, and other key math lessons by using one of any widely available video projectors, TI said.

Tom Snyder Productions, a division of Scholastic Inc., demonstrated a number of instructional programs, including Scholastic Keys, which provides elementary students with a kid-friendly interface for Microsoft Word, Excel, and PowerPoint applications. The software helps teachers incorporate technology skills and enhance lesson plans in reading, writing, math, and other subjects, while leveraging their school’s investment in Microsoft Office. With a variety of helpful templates, drawing tools, child-friendly icons, colorful graphics, sound effects, movies, and a text-to-speech reader, Scholastic Keys offers young students an early introduction to Microsoft Office productivity tools, the company says.

FETC 2005

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  • Tom Snyder also previewed new software for developing fluency with basic math facts and computation in addition, subtraction, multiplication, and division. Called FASTT Math (Fluency and Automaticity through Systematic Teaching with Technology), the software moves beyond simple drill and practice to provide a continuously adaptive program that effectively increases math fluency in customized, 10-minute daily sessions, Tom Snyder says. Developing automatic recall of basic math facts enables students to focus on higher-order math skills such as advanced computation, problem solving, and algebra, the company notes.

    Because FASTT Math has built-in, ongoing assessment, students receive targeted instruction and practice on the facts they struggle with. The program presents these new facts in manageable chunks that are interspersed with known facts in practice sessions. This “expanding recall” technique has been proven to help students move newly acquired facts from their working memory to their long-term memory, the company says. The product is expected to launch officially at the Association for Supervision and Curriculum Development (ASCD) annual conference in April.

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