More than 500 ed-tech companies exhibited at this year’s National Educational Computing Conference in Philadelphia. Here’s a sampling of news from the exhibitors offering instructional technology:
Bytes of Learning Inc. highlighted the release of UltraKey 5.0. UltraKey lets educators manage keyboarding instruction by way of a central server. Using a specially designed software and server technology, instructors can track student progress and plan customized lessons intended to target students’ weaknesses while helping to build upon their strengths. Unlike many keyboarding instructional programs, UltraKey lets teachers define and manage student instruction wherever they have an internet connection, the company said. Students, too, can access the program from remote locations, including from home. UltraKey 5.0 offers several new and improved features, including the ability to build customized user interfaces. Students and teachers can choose from a variety of theme colors, text sizes, and contrast levels designed to accommodate young children, students with special needs, and users who are visually impaired. UltraKey 5.0 and the UltraKey 5.0 Data Server are sold via school site licenses beginning at $695 for a 30-station license of UltraKey 5.0 and $500 for the Data Server. Until Dec. 31, Bytes of Learning is granting schools credit for the full value of any UltraKey 4.0 school license toward the upgrade to UltraKey 5.0.
CompassLearning unveiled a host of new product updates at NECC. The company has added more than 11,000 assessment items and several hundred hours of curriculum to its CompassLearning Odyssey product suite, including eight more chapters (containing 82 new activities) for Odyssey Kindergarten Reading, five more chapters (containing 65 new activities) for Odyssey Reading/Language Levels 7 and 8, and two more chapters (containing 38 new activities) for Odyssey Kindergarten Math. In addition, the company has enhanced its CompassLearning Odyssey Manager with a student transfer feature intended to help administrators transfer students’ information more effectively. Reporting options will include improved grouping and sorting for district analysis of attendance and duration data, a new summary report for analyzing class performance by item and “distractor,” and a new assignment status report designed to analyze student performance across classes.
DyKnow released Version 4.1 of its DyKnow Vision and DyKnow Monitor software. DyKnow Vision enables educators to present prepared or spontaneous lesson notes that appear on students’ computers. With this solution, students no longer have to struggle to copy everything from the teacher’s lecture. Students can simply add their individual, personalized notes to create a more robust electronic notebook, company executives said. DyKnow Monitor gives teachers the ability to monitor and control student computers during class. The idea behind Version 4.1 is to make lesson creation easier for teachers and note-taking more personalized for students. Using the demonstration mode function, a teacher can work with web design software within the DyKnow software, broadcasting each click of the mouse to students’ computer screens. Screen shots of the demonstration can be captured and inserted into student DyKnow notebooks for instant annotation. The new panel filmstrip viewer gives educators better lesson visibility and flexibility by allowing them to see several panels of a notebook at one time and present panels in any order during the session. Teachers can use DyKnow Vision’s new prepared notes navigator in combination with the panel filmstrip viewer to preview prepared content easily before transmitting it to students. Additional features in Version 4.1 include a more intuitive start page, an expanded help utility, improved security for exams, and more efficient wireless communication. The software works on computers running Microsoft Windows 2000, XP, and Tablet XP Edition with 128 megabytes of RAM and a wired or wireless internet connection. Corresponding server software for Vision and Monitor runs on Microsoft Windows Server and Microsoft SQL Server.
Elluminate discussed the increased implementation of its products, especially Elluminate Live!, in schools around the nation. With Elluminate Live!, schools can add live, real-time instruction to existing distance-education programs, enhancing student performance and retention rates, the company said. Elluminate Live! also enhances the traditional classroom, enabling teachers to hold virtual office hours, bring in guest speakers from around the world, and record the classroom experience for later student access online. The Cognitive Science Society Inc., Fraser Valley Distance Education School in British Columbia, Canada, and the Pennsylvania Department of Education are among the institutions that recently implemented Elluminate Live! Academic Edition.
Evan-Moor announced that it will provide content for Classroom Jeopardy!, a classroom version of the popular TV game show created by Educational Insights, including content from two of Evan-Moor’s most popular series, Daily Language Review and Daily Math Practice. The cartridges include language-arts practice for students in grades 3-6 and math practice for students in grades 3-7. Teachers can use the cartridges to review key concepts and skills covered in their language-arts and math curriculum units. Each cartridge contains 300 questions and answers, with all content correlating to state standards. Each Classroom Jeopardy! cartridge retails for $24.99 and can be purchased online.
Freedom Scientific released WYNN 4, a literacy tool that transforms printed text into understandable information for readers of all ages and abilities. WYNN users experience a bimodal approach to reading, as text is highlighted as it is read aloud. English and Spanish come standard, and other languages are available. New features of the WYNN 4 software include spell check, increased definition capacity, and an updated word-prediction functionality.
Generation Yes! , a teacher-created initiative that encourages students to learn technology skills with the goal of applying those skills toward the solution of real-world problems, announced that it’s changing the name of its flagship Gen Y program to GenYES. According to Chief Executive Officer Dennis Harper, the change reflects the company’s intentions to expand its reach beyond a small and aging section of the population. “We realized that the name ‘Gen Y’ was becoming a common-place term for a small segment of the population that is rapidly growing older,” explained Harper. “We wanted to make sure that as new students enter school, our program was relevant to them.” Now used in more than 1,000 schools across the country, GenYES encourages students to design projects intended to make more effective use of technology in their classrooms. Students collaborate with teachers in every subject area, using tools such as eMail, presentations, the internet, and video production to enhance lesson plans and curriculum units. Among other benefits, GenYES students support school-wide teacher professional development initiatives and new hardware implementations. New additions to the program include revamped curriculum guides, special handouts and case studies from exemplary schools, customized mini-units targeting the convenience of a specific technology or device, and a participant blog launched in 2004. Other features include teacher and student home pages and online reporting capabilities to track student progress throughout the duration of the program.
Glencoe/McGraw-Hill launched its newly designed web site, which features learning resources for teachers, students, and parents. Educators can browse the company’s academic and vocational programs through its new eCatalog and can search by subject area to have components organized into teacher, student, and technology materials. The web site also includes State Gateways, which allow users to search for state-specific information, and Online Learning Centers, where teachers can find lesson plans, learning activities, and more.
GTCO CalComp, maker of the Interwrite Personal Response System (PRS) for the classroom, announced Version 3.2 of the system’s software. The Interwrite PRS an interactive assessment tool that gives each student a chance to participate during class using a wireless transmitter. The latest cross-platform Version 3.2 expands options for educators using Macintosh computers, enabling them to create and deliver questions in PowerPoint. The new release also allows students to answer PRS questions at their own pace, and it adds new modules that enable students to easily register their transmitters when they log into the Blackboard Learning System course management platform. Interwrite PRS 3.2 includes lesson questions, session reports, and class rosters. A new capability permits users to edit grades easily in the PRS Gradebook, and enhanced charting capabilities allow educators to view results in three dimensions and pie charts.
Holt, Rinehart and Winston announced ¡Exprésate! Premier Online Edition, a Spanish program for middle and high school students that offers interactive and multisensory learning activities. The software is the web-based version of Holt’s ¡Exprésate! 2006, which engages students in Spanish culture while they learn the language by using instructional and multimedia techniques.
ImagiWorks, a provider of science and math solutions for the Palm OS platform, featured its new wireless, sensor-based data collection tool designed for middle school students. Students can use the ImagiProbe AirLink Sensor Interface to connect to sensors from up to 30 feet away using a Bluetooth-equipped, Palm-powered handheld. The wireless system is designed for extreme mobility and fits easily into the palm of one’s hand. It supports the PASCO PASPORT line of more than 25 digital sensors, as well as many existing analog sensors through an optional PASCO Analog Sensor Adapter. Used with the ImagiProbe software application, the wireless interface enables an experimental approach to gathering information through data collection trials. Students can collect data; graph the data as they are collected; analyze them to discover relationships, rules, and principles; and transfer the data to a desktop computer. The ImagiProbe AirLink Sensor Interface is available at the single price of $249. Five-pack, 10-pack, and large packages also are available.
Knowledge Adventure introduced Reading Readiness, an early-reading system that gives teachers the adaptive learning tools needed to build phonemic awareness and phonics skills for children in primary classes. With Reading Readiness, teachers can choose from more than 30 different phonics activities to create customized lessons for their students. Ranging from letters and sounds to word building, spelling, and decoding, each teacher-designed lesson aims to help students master fundamental reading skills at their own pace, the company said. Using built-in classroom management tools, Reading Readiness allows teachers to electronically track the progress of each student by skill in conjunction with state standards. A series of specially designed readers, detailed progress reports, and take-home skill-building materials help foster parental involvement to track and share each student’s accomplishments. Also at NECC, the company released an expanded version of its signature Math Blaster Software series. Fueled by a new national report that finds America’s students are falling behind in their ability to master basic math skills, Knowledge Adventure has added Master the Basics, a new platform-based school program that gives teachers an engaging way to help students achieve math confidence and improve math scores through standards-correlated practice and play.
LeapFrog SchoolHouse, the school division of LeapFrog Enterprises Inc., announced the release of Version 4.0 of its LeapTrack Assessment & Instruction System. The LeapTrack system supports teachers in grades K-5 with formative assessment and differentiated instruction in reading, math, and language arts. Assessment and instructional content in Version 4.0 are now aligned with every state’s content standards, LeapFrog said. Other features include expanded reporting capabilities, such as the Parent Report, a take-home report for parents that offers an analysis of their child’s mastery of skills and highlights areas that need improvement. The LeapTrack system also generates more than 20 student progress reports that can be used at the classroom, school, and district levels, as well as at home. A study conducted in the Mississippi Delta region in 2002-03, funded by the U.S. Department of Education and performed by Delta State University, concluded that third-grade students who used the LeapTrack system achieved triple the learning gains compared with their control-group peers, the company said.
LeapFrog executives also are preparing for the fall release of FLY, a patented pen-top computing device designed to help students build critical reading, comprehension, and computing skills. At a projected sale price of $99, the FLY pen-top computer, which looks like a large magic marker, translates foreign languages, helps with math calculations, and provides help with spelling, geography, history, and more. Look for more on FLY in an upcoming issue of eSchool News.
LearningWare launched Gameshow Prep, a software program that allows educators to create TV-style game shows around their own curriculum–or pre-packaged, state-aligned curricula–quickly and easily. Gameshow Prep features a question library, and educators also can insert extra graphics, videos, sounds, and information screens.
Lexia Learning Inc. demonstrated an upgrade of its Lexia Early Reading software, Version 3.0. The program now sports a new user interface to engage young children and a centralized management and administrative system, enabling the seamless sharing of information from class to class and grade to grade, Lexia said. Company executives believe the enhancements will make it easier for administrators and teachers to provide more individualized classroom instruction, track student progress, and achieve the Reading First goal of 100-percent reading success. In fact, Lexia Early Reading has been shown in controlled research studies to accelerate the acquisition of phonemic awareness, long considered the foundation of successful reading programs, the company said. Other features include on-screen flags and alerts to identify struggling students and point teachers to their needs; individualized instruction, with complete teacher control over the selection of program levels, activities, and units for each student; Spanish and English directions to support ESL learners; and three security levels to provide students, teachers, administrators, and IT managers with access to the data they need while protecting sensitive student information.
The nonprofit MIND Institute announced a major expansion at NECC, effective between now and January. Its award-winning math education program, Math + Music, will expand to four new states by early next year. In addition to being available in California and Texas, Math + Music will be available in Florida, Illinois, New Jersey, and New York. The MIND Institute is seeking elementary schools to become pioneer sites in those states and plans to have these sites operational by January. Math + Music was developed by MIND Institute scientists for students in grades K-5 to help them exceed state and national learning objectives in mathematics. The program uses music instruction along with computer math games to enhance students’ mathematical and problem-solving skills.
Pearson Digital Learning revealed a totally redesigned and updated version of Math Concepts and Skills, a component of the company’s SuccessMaker Enterprise software. Math Concepts and Skills is designed for kindergarten through eighth-grade students and provides interactive practice and assessment in elementary mathematics foundations. The program features new themes for each grade level, each with new multimedia characters that provide a consistent learning experience, the company said.
Fresh from its recent acquisition of handheld word-processor provider AlphaSmart, Renaissance Learning promoted the release of its new Classroom Response System. The Renaissance Classroom Response System uses radio-frequency (RF) technology and interactive software with a remote wireless Renaissance Responder handheld device. The Responder is used by students to answer questions on quizzes and tests and to help teachers provide immediate intervention through formative assessments with real-time scoring. The system also serves as a full-featured calculator and might ultimately serve as a student tracking locator on campus to provide enhanced school security. The idea is to help teachers provide individualized attention for each student. By using the Renaissance Classroom Response System, teachers can send individual notes and assignments wirelessly to a high-resolution LCD graphical display on the student’s Renaissance Responder, thus eliminating the need to print documents or use a projector or TV screen, the company said.
RM Learning showcased its RM Easiteach software, designed to provide educators with a wide range of curricular teaching tools. Users can build lessons by creating visual and animated models to teach complicated or abstract concepts and processes. Easiteach can be used across a wide range of subjects and grade levels, including math, arts, science, and geography.
Literacy software specialist Soliloquy Learning announced that its The Reading Assistant Manager software was selected as a CODIE Awards competition finalist. According to the company, The Reading Assistant Manager is one of six finalists competing to win the “Best Literacy Software” category, as decided by the Software and Information Industry Association. The Reading Assistant Manager is a new network software program that works with children individually at their own pace to improve their reading skills. It provides a guided oral reading experience to students in grades 1-6 through the use of its propriety “Speech Recognition/Reading Verification” technology. With seven patents pending for this technology, the program listens to students as they read, provides intelligent intervention when they need it, and reports their performance to their teacher, the company said. The Reading Assistant Manager is available for both Macintosh and Windows networks and is sold in packages for five to 50 users. The starting price is $2,000. Discounted upgrade pricing is available to current users.
Step Up 4 Learning Systems Inc., a newly-formed educational services company, has launched a writing instruction program designed to assist schools in meeting state and national writing standards by breaking the writing process down into an easy-to-understand, step-by-step process. 6 Trait Power Write was created by a classroom teacher and is sold exclusively through Software Express. The product is a web-based, highly interactive teaching system that guides students through writing models for essays, research reports, letters, poetry, and short stories. It provides students with the tools they need for organizing their thoughts, writing, and revising, while teachers serve as coaches and mentors throughout the creative process. The program incorporates specific questions for students to address at each step of the writing process. In the evaluation phase, students must answer questions to determine if their copy has met expectations for the Six Traits for effective writing, a national benchmark set by the Northwest Regional Education Laboratory. 6 Trait Power Write is priced at $65 for a single user. For schools interested in site licensing, a one-year online subscription costs $17 per user, and a two-year online subscription is $27 per user. To apply for a free, seven-day trial, visit www.swexpress.com/6traitdemo. http://www.swexpress.com/stepup4learning
Sunburst Technology introduced MyTeacherAssistant.com, a new online portal that reportedly offers 30,000 classroom tools and resources for teachers. MyTeacherAssistant.com takes popular components from Sunburst’s QuickMind.net and organizes them for teachers, who have 24-hour, password-protected access to the site. MyTeacherAssistant.com is available as an annual subscription for $99. Sunburst also announced Key Skills: Phonics Mastery, for students in grades K-3. Phonics Mastery targets phonics instruction and features more than 80 educational activities. The program will be available this fall for $149.95.
Texas Instruments showcased its TI-Navigator classroom learning system. Designed to work with TI graphing calculators already in widespread use, the TI-Navigator system provides wireless communication between students’ calculators and the teacher’s PC, opening a whole new level of interactive learning for students. For teachers, that means students are more engaged. For administrators, the system enables real-time, formative assessment and supports instructional strategies that research shows lead to improved achievement. Navigator features include an activity center that allows students to contribute in real time to a shared workspace that can be projected to the class, generating discussion and collaborative learning. A screen-capture feature allows teachers to view the screens of individual students, groups of students, or those of the entire class to see if they are on task. A quick-polling feature collects impromptu feedback from the entire class to check understanding or generate discussion without prep work from the teacher. And a class analysis feature permits educators to view the results of student assignments, quizzes, and tests immediately, so they can know right away who understood the lesson and who needs additional help.
Texthelp Systems announced that its Read&Write 7.1E Gold software has been adopted statewide in Kentucky. The program is a literacy productivity tool that helps struggling students in grades 3 and up to access curriculum content on a computer and complete reading, writing, and research assignments independently. Read&Write 7.1E Gold serves as a personal reading coach, leveling the playing field for all students with reading problems, whether they’re just learning the language or have dyslexia or other learning disabilities, Texthelp said. It reportedly makes the task of writing much less daunting for struggling students.
Valiant USA, a provider of K-12 science and math-based technology products, launched Version 3 of its MathAmigo K-8 standards-based math software. MathAmigo Version 3 is now compatible with more devices, including desktops, laptops, and tablet PCs running Windows 95 or higher. Designed initially as a software program for use with handheld devices, MathAmigo also operates on all devices running Palm OS 4.0 and above, including the AlphaSmart Dana, and all devices running Pocket PC 2002 and Pocket PC 2003. MathAmigo features more than 3,000 standards-based activities ranging from counting to pre-algebra and geometry, plus randomly generated questions. Version 3 features 60 new math activities, and it allows teachers to plan lessons targeted to each individual student and run these lessons in the classroom as a group. The software gives students immediate feedback on activities through encouragement, hints, and tutorials. MathAmigo also tracks student progress automatically for review. A license for up to 10 users costs $495 for either the grades K-5 or grades 6-8 version.
Vantage Learning unveiled MY Access! 6.0, an updated version of the company’s instructional writing software that allows students to practice and revise their assigned essays online, whether in the classroom or at home. The new version gives feedback specific to a student’s writing style and encourages revision based on that writing style, Vantage Learning said. The software helps teachers integrate technology in their classrooms, encourages more student writing assignments while saving teachers time in scoring written student work, and also sends weekly writing performance updates to district administrators.
Vernier Software and Technology, known for its line of classroom probeware, made several announcements during this year’s conference. On the hardware front, Vernier celebrated the release of EasyLink, a specially designed cable that enables students to connect sensors to Texas Instrument’s popular TI-84 Plus graphing calculators. By plugging EasyLink into the graphing calculator’s USB port, students can connect to 36 individual sensors to collect measurements such as pH, force, dissolved oxygen, light, and more. EasyLink is supported by Vernier EasyData software, which comes pre-loaded on the TI-84 Plus graphing calculator. EasyData supports a variety of data-collection modes and sensors to simplify data collection in the classroom. The product is designed for use in middle school through college. The Vernier EasyLink interface will be available in late August and is priced at $58. The Vernier EasyData application for the TI-84 Plus or TI-83 Plus family of graphing calculators is currently available online and may be downloaded free of charge, the company said.
Also from Vernier comes “Let’s Go! Elementary Science,” a new book featuring 34 classroom activities for students to explore such topics as temperature, motion, force, magnetism, light, electricity, and pressure using scientific probeware. Intended to help teachers integrate more inquiry-based learning activities into their lessons, the book is accompanied by a CD with editable Microsoft Word files of all featured activities. The CD also includes bonus activities from the “Let’s Go! Investigating Temperature” book. The activities in “Let’s Go! Elementary Science” offer cross-curricular ties to math, language arts, physiology, history, social studies, and cultural differences, helping to tie science into other curricular areas, company officials said. Students will learn about the scientific process, including the ability to ask key questions, form a hypothesis, make predictions, conduct experiments, and explain results. The book is sold individually for $30. A Deluxe Elementary Package is also available and includes all probeware and software needed to perform the 34 activities. Sensors and probes in the package include the Go!Temp Temperature probe, Go!Link Interface, TI Light Probe, Go!Motion motion detector, Magnetic Field Sensor, Gas Pressure Sensor, Differential Voltage Probe, Dual-Range Force Sensor, and Logger Lite software. The Deluxe Elementary Package retails for $471. Free sample labs are available at http://elementary.vernier.com.