In the T+L² exhibit hall, hundreds of educational technology companies were on hand to demonstrate the latest products and services for use in schools. Here’s a look at some of the innovations on display in the instructional solutions category this year:
BrainPop, a maker of internet-based educational videos for students and teachers, showcased its diverse library of instructional videos for schools, including its latest feature about the avian flu. This animated film aims to ease growing panic by explaining the origins of the bird flu and helping students understand the nature of the threat. The company also recently announced a major change to its subscription model. For the first time, students who use BrainPOP in the classroom can gain access from their homes to the company’s wide array of animated movies, quizzes, comics, and activities. The 12-month School + Home Access subscription is being offered at an introductory rate of $1,350 per school site, per year for a limited time. In related news, the company announced that it has contracted with public school districts in Palm Beach County, Fla., and Jefferson County, Ky., to provide its services to another 165,000 students.
Discovery Education, a division of Discovery Communications Inc., unveiled an extensive update and redesign of its Discovery Health Connection–a digital health and prevention education resource covering nine critical topics of youth health and prevention education. Discovery Health Connection now includes 16 complete curriculum programs, three Center for Substance Abuse Prevention Model Programs, complete correlations to every state’s educational standards, and more than 100 new literacy lessons. Recently shown to promote significant improvements in reading comprehension in an independent, scientific study, Discovery Health Connection is seeing rapid adoption across the United States just eight months after its debut, including statewide deployments in Wyoming, Florida, Kansas, Utah, West Virginia, and Alabama, the company said.
GTCO CalComp announced InterWrite PRS RF, a new radio-frequency version of its student response system, InterWrite PRS. The system enables students to answer questions and interact in the classroom with wireless “clickers.” Teachers and professors receive instant student feedback, designed to prompt classroom discussions, allow for easier grading of tests and quizzes, generate student assessment reports, and take attendance, among other uses. The new RF version features a two-line LCD display that allows students to see their answers and receive instant notification that they were successfully transmitted to the teacher. The 16-character display also can be used for self-paced testing, allowing students to scroll through a series of questions and answer at their own pace, the company said. In addition to multiple choice and true-false questions, teachers now have the ability to ask advanced numeric questions with positive and negative numbers and decimal points. Using the latest in radio-frequency technology, InterWrite PRS RF does not require a clear line of sight and can be used in any classroom setting, the company said–from the smallest of classrooms to lecture halls with up to 2,000 students.
Inspiration Software and Great Source Education Group, a division of Houghton Mifflin Co., announced a collaboration that combines Inspiration’s visual learning software with Great Source’s line of reading comprehension materials–giving teachers new tools for using graphic organizers to improve reading comprehension. Co-developed by the two companies, the “Reader’s Handbook Integration Guide for Inspiration” provides lesson plans and activity ideas using Inspiration graphic organizers to support the learning strategies found in Great Source’s “Reader’s Handbook: A Guide for Reading and Learning, Grades 6-8.” Inspiration Software also demonstrated the latest version of its flagship graphic organizer and project creation tool, Inspiration 7.6, as well as its Kidspiration product for visual learning in K-5 classrooms.
Learning Through Sports, a publisher of online educational programs that use sports to teach valuable lessons, announced that it will launch STAR Coaching in March 2006 for schools and teams that need training materials to deal with trash talking, fighting between players, difficult parents, and steroid use among athletes, among other challenges. STAR Coaching will help coaches teach their teams about good character and good sportsmanship by using real-world tactics to address these issues, the company said. The company also publishes Kid’s College, a web-based math and reading program that uses sports themes to engage students’ interest, and STAR Sportsmanship, an online role-playing program that teaches students good behavioral skills for school, sports, and life.
Summit Interactive, a provider of math literacy tools, introduced its newest math solution. The Ascend Math Solution combines continuous math assessments, targeted instruction, prescriptive tutorials, and powerful reporting tools into a single service, the company said. The software delivers differentiated instruction in math, based on students’ individual skill gaps and strengths. The program reportedly integrates streaming video for direct instruction, interactive skill-building activities, and a learning management system to give schools and districts the opportunity to extend math learning beyond traditional classroom instruction. Ascend’s automated reporting system is designed to save valuable instructional time by eliminating the need to grade or scan papers or compile time-consuming reports, the company said. The idea is to help math instructors focus more on individual students and to strengthen communication among teachers, parents, and administrators. The program is built for students in grades 4 through adult.
For a comprehensive look at education products and services debuted at major technology conferences throughout the year, visit “Product News Update” at eSchool News Online.