Xandros releases a new desktop Linux solution for schools
Xandros Inc., a publisher of Linux-based solutions for the consumer and enterprise markets, has introduced the Xandros Desktop OS Education Edition. Tailored specifically for schools, this desktop Linux environment comes bundled with applications such as OpenOffice 2.0, which reportedly runs Microsoft Office documents, spreadsheets, and presentations, as well as the Firefox web browser, Skype Internet Telephony, and other programs.
“We are delighted to offer a complete education solution, with a full-featured office suite and other essential applications, at a cost that any school can afford,” said Andreas Typaldos, Xandros CEO. “Through school surveys and test-site feedback, we have assembled a mix of features that satisfy both users and the administrator’s requirements, including VPN [virtual private network] support for secure remote access, Active Directory support to tie school desktops into existing Windows networks, and the ability to remotely deploy and manage user desktops. Our new Education Edition meets all of these needs right out of the box, with no previous Linux user or administrator experience required.”
With built-in anti-virus and firewall software, encrypted home folders, and secure remote access to VPNs, the Xandros Desktop OS Education Edition eliminates the security issues and related frustration associated with using Windows, Xandros claims. Starting at $10 per seat, the solution offers schools a more cost-effective alternate to deploying software on the desktop, according to the company. As an added bonus, through the Xandros education program, participating schools can offer their students and faculty free personal and home use of the software.
Follett releases new asset management technology for education
Follett Software Co. has introduced a new browser-based interface and scanner technology, called Destiny Asset Manager, that is designed to keep track of a school system’s fixed portable assets quickly and efficiently, including books and technology resources.
Using the program’s web-based interface, librarians and other authorized users can immediately track who has a particular asset, where it’s housed, and when it’s due back, Follett said. Designed for the needs of K-12 schools, Destiny Asset Manager allows districts to streamline operations by reducing lost and stolen inventory, maximizing asset use, generating state- and county-based reports, and eliminating the need for multiple management applications. Plus, the product is fast and inexpensive to implement, leaving more time to spend with students, company executives claim.
New program from Carnegie Learning targets algebra readiness
Carnegie Learning, the Pittsburgh-based maker of Cognitive Tutor, has unveiled a new program called Bridge to Algebra, an algebra readiness curriculum for middle and high school students preparing for first-year algebra studies. This research-based curriculum is intended to provide a foundation for struggling students whose past math performance indicates little chance of success in algebra and can be implemented as a full, year-long math curriculum or as a supplemental application for special-education students, at-risk populations, ELL classes, or vocational and technical programs, according to the company.
“Bridge to Algebra is the result of several years of research, market data, and a national trend indicating that a student who fails algebra in ninth or tenth grade is at significant risk of dropping out of high school,” said Dennis Ciccone, CEO of Carnegie Learning. “Recognizing that algebra is the gateway for all higher learning in math and sciences, Bridge to Algebra provides the tools for educators to reach these students early, before they are left behind.”
The blended curriculum is a mix of software, text, and classroom instruction. The software application provides a number of unique features, including practice sets that employ contemporary word-problem scenarios and an on-screen “skillometer” designed to track student progress. Early adopters of the software include the Los Angeles Unified School District, which reportedly purchased the program for use with 12,000 middle school students beginning this semester.
Inspiration Software updates its visual thinking software
Portland, Ore.-based Inspiration Software has launched Version 8 of its popular software for visualizing, thinking, organizing, and learning. Designed to offer one convenient place for students to plan, research, and complete projects, the new Inspiration 8 expands the ways students and teachers can use visual learning to improve achievement and build stronger critical-thinking skills, according to the company.
Inspiration 8 offers expanded visual capabilities, more writing support, and additional resources for integrating the software across the curriculum, the company says. The new version allows teachers and students to integrate video and sound into their brainstorming and concept-mapping projects, search for symbols by keyword, and jump start assignments using new curriculum templates. Enhanced drag-and-drop, transfer, and export features make using the software easier than ever, and a new Word Guide dictionary/thesaurus and automatic spell-checker aim to help students write with more clarity.
In addition, Inspiration 8 users reportedly can access thousands of additional symbols, more than 50 Curriculum Packets, and on-demand training videos free of charge from the company’s web site. Each online Curriculum Packet includes standards-aligned, supplemental instructional units for high-school-level language arts, social studies, and science.
Through a special introductory offer available until June 30, schools or districts that own older versions of Inspiration can upgrade to Inspiration 8 at a reduced cost. Under regular pricing, single copies of Inspiration 8 are $69 and upgrades are $39.95. Volume purchases and upgrades also are available. Educators interested in previewing Inspiration 8 can download a free, fully functional 30-day trial copy from the Inspiration Software web site.
New online courses from PLATO Learning help schools deliver virtual instruction
To help K-12 school systems expand their reach to include virtual schooling, PLATO Learning has developed a set of ready-made online courses in a variety of subjects. Designed to be taught by a school system’s own teachers, the semester-long online courses give schools a way to provide rigorous credit recovery solutions, alternatives for students who are not succeeding in the traditional environment, credit-granting distance learning programs, and home-schooling curricula, the company says.
PLATO online courses–available in Algebra 1A and 1B, Algebra 2A and 2B, English 9A and 9B, English 10A and 10B, Biology Semesters A and B, Physical Science Semesters A and B, Geography Semesters A and B, and American History Semesters A and B–are aligned with national standards in each subject area. Each course provides a comprehensive curriculum, including exemptive assessments, instructional content, cumulative final exams, and state standards coverage reports, PLATO says. To promote the successful use of the online courses, PLATO education consultants reportedly provide both on-site and electronic professional development sessions for teachers.
Each PLATO Course includes two teacher support materials: a Teacher’s Guide and an Implementation Guide. The Teacher’s Guide includes pacing charts, grading sheets, offline assessments, and a scope and sequence; the Implementation Guide helps schools plan for evaluations and access best practices in instructional strategies, coaching, and mentoring.
“Districts across the country are quickly adopting distance learning, virtual schools, and credit recovery programs as part of their high-school reform efforts,” said Mike Morache, PLATO Learning president and CEO. “PLATO Courses are rigorous and designed to be used by schools to offer their students alternative ways to complete academic and graduation requirements. By keeping these students within the school system, districts realize an added benefit–keeping the funds they lose when students drop out.”