Hardware and peripherals

Brother International Corp., a provider of printing solutions, featured its total cost of ownership (TCO) analysis guide. The guide, called “Hidden Cost, Hidden Opportunities: Calculating the Total Cost of Ownership for Hardcopy Devices in Education Settings,” offers readers a six-step process for doing a TCO analysis of printing solutions, so that schools can develop a more long-term and strategic approach to printing and hard-copy output. Brother also offers through its web site the opportunity to do a customized TCO comparison of different desktop office equipment.


Polycom Inc. announced the Polycom Communicator, a Skype-certified device that allows users to operate the unit hands-free or plug into the built-in stereo headphone port for private conversations. The Communicator connects and powers through an integrated USB cable. Polycom also introduced the RSS 2000, an on-demand recording, streaming, and archiving device.

http://www.polycom.com Instructional technology

AOL premiered its free new search engine, StudyBuddy.com. It’s designed to anticipate the informational needs of students and return grade-appropriate, relevant results, according to AOL. Students can use StudyBuddy.com to search by keywords for specific information or browse by subject area. Search results are organized to meet assignment requirements for relevance and for sourcing by media type, such as articles, web sites, photos, maps, and more. Full pages from reference works by World Book and Columbia Encyclopedias, MapQuest Atlas, National Geographic, the Princeton Review, and the CIA World Fact Book are returned with searches, as are Booknotes entries, which provide summaries and study guides for 400 of the most widely read K-12 books. In addition, digital “backpacks”–tools designed to let users save searches–help students easily share information. Parents and students also can customize searches based on grade level. A free essay tool lets students write about any topic and get a free critique in 20 seconds. Plus, Algebra 1 students can take a free practice test for high-stakes exams, available in Spanish and English.


CompassLearning announced the launch of Odyssey Reading Comprehension and Vocabulary, an online reading curriculum for grades 3-8. CompassLearning says its new curriculum is founded on scientifically based research into how students learn and retain information. It reportedly uses artificial intelligence to simulate a conversation between the user and the software program by creating a “person” who responds to the student in the same way a human being might. The company says its new software adds critical elements of engagement to the learning process, touching the emotions of the student and increasing student comprehension through its human-machine interface.


Discovery Education introduced One Place, a digital media management product that offers quick access to online digital media from a single, integrated access point. One Place is designed to help educators manage their online educational content more effectively, so they spend less time navigating multiple interfaces and more time delivering educational content to the classroom. One Place is integrated with a variety of Discovery products and services. Schools also can add online services of their own choosing. Educators and administrators will be able to increase efficiency by using a single user name and password for all digital resources; save time by gaining universal access to all local and licensed digital content; customize the One Place main interface to suit their school’s needs; and stream live feeds of local content, Discovery says.


Sunburst Technology announced a new web-based writing program for students in grades 2-8, called Write Brain. Students can use it to build writing skills through a research-based process of text production that includes word processing, writing strategies, self-evaluation, peer and teacher assessments, and collaborative writing. The program enables teachers to intensify their writing instruction with limited classroom time, providing critical preparations for high-stakes writing tests, Sunburst says. Write Brain features more than 150 writing prompts covering 11 genres of writing and was developed with educator input. Teachers can select from prepared lessons, create their own lessons and writing prompts, or edit existing lessons from their school, district, or the online Write Brain community. Those newly created lessons then can be aligned with or edited to meet state standards.


Thinkronize Inc., developer of the netTrekker suite of safe educational search products, announced that its netTrekker d.i. solution now comes with text-to-speech support. The new feature, called Read Aloud, will automatically read text back to the student or teacher accessing the thousands of resources available through netTrekker d.i., bringing lessons one step closer to truly differentiated instruction, the company said. http://www.netTrekker.com

Projectors and presentation tools

Promethean announced the launch of Promethean Planet, a free collaborative web portal for educators. Promethean Planet provides searchable information to help educators maximize their use of technology, the company said, including detailed maps, scientific diagrams, graphic organizers, videos, web links, and lessons–created by teachers–organized by grade level and subject area, all ready to download for use with Promethean’s Activstudio and Activprimary lesson-development software. Best practices are highlighted in a monthly “Teacher Feature” that will focus on how educators are teaching successfully with technology, and an online forum allows teachers to interact and share experiences with their peers. Promethean also released Activwand, a new device that complements Promethean’s Activpen as another way to interact with the Promethean Activboard interactive whiteboard. Because the 21-inch Activwand makes it easier for special-needs and primary students to reach and touch the Activboard, it enhances pupil engagement and develops motor skills, the company said.


SMART Technologies announced the launch of the SMART Software Accreditation Program, which aims to identify and mark content and software based on its level of compatibility with SMART Board interactive whiteboards and SMART’s family of products. Accreditation will enable customers to confidently purchase software and content from third-party developers to complement SMART’s interactive whiteboards and other products, SMART said. The company also announced support for five additional languages in the latest version of SynchronEyes classroom management software. The new languages are North American Spanish, Italian, German, European Spanish, and Chinese.


TANDBERG unveiled a new Content Server appliance at NECC. According to the company, the Content Server provides organizations with the capacity to access on-demand video presentations, distance-education classes, and professional development training sessions anytime, anywhere. TANDBERG said the server makes it easy to manage and distribute live or archived content to any PC in Microsoft Windows Media, Apple QuickTime, and RealPlayer formats. Its appliance-based, rack-mountable architecture makes for easy deployment and high reliability, the company said. The Content Server also features live streaming video; archiving of video calls; scheduling and ad-hoc call support with dial-in and dial-out capabilities; content creation anywhere; and support for up to five concurrent videoconferences.

http://www.tandberg.net Virtual schooling

Blackboard Inc. announced a new customized eLearning product for K-12 schools, the Blackboard K-12 Starter Edition. The solution is a hosted package featuring a variety of resources for K-12 districts in the early stages of establishing an eLearning strategy. The Blackboard K-12 Starter Edition combines curriculum delivery, professional development, home-to-school connections, and community-building capabilities in one central hub. Blackboard said it has designed the product to enable districts to easily provide classroom materials online without having to know HTML; engage parents by allowing them to view student progress; enable 24-7 access to learning materials in a secure environment; offer innovative testing methods and self-assessments for individualized learning paths; and take advantage of secure, round-the-clock technology hosting.


The Florida Virtual School (FLVS) launched its Virtual School Administrator (VSA) performance management system. In creating VSA, FLVS says it has built a comprehensive solution for tracking the overall performance of an online learning program through monitoring activities in four areas: student performance and data management; student registration and enrollment management; role-based reporting; and communications. The performance and data management tool permits what FLVS calls a “comprehensive information collection infrastructure” that enables administrators to monitor teacher performance, observe teaching techniques, and generate near real-time progress reports.

http://www.flvs.net School and networkadministrative tools

MAXIMUS Inc. demonstrated its SchoolMAX Enterprise software, which provides online access to district information for all stakeholders. Teachers can insert grades and student comments and even take attendance through the interactive system, while principals can analyze student data, pull reports, and keep track of their schools’ reporting and results. The product also offers reports that help superintendents make decisions to drive financial improvements and boost communication with parents. MAXIMUS also demonstrated AssetMAXX, a capital asset and property management system. Asset MAXX reportedly incorporates all necessary capital asset tracking and reporting tools into one web-based solution. It also allows for the tracking of property for insurance purposes, the company said.


NetSupport Inc. announced the release of a new product, NetSupport Protect, a desktop security program that enables school IT staff to prevent users from exploring, changing, or damaging their Windows operating system, installing unauthorized software, deleting important files, or otherwise causing computer havoc. The software can hide files and folders, lock control panels and settings, prevent renaming and deletion of files or folders, prevent file creation by type of file, restrict internet downloads, and control access to USB devices and CDR or DVD drives, the company said.


SchoolDude.com, a provider of operations management solutions for schools, introduced ITAMDirect, a web-based system designed to gather and report about networked hardware and software assets. ITAMDirect supports all aspects of IT asset administration management for ed-tech departments, ranging from monitoring and reporting to planning and life-cycle costing, according to SchoolDude. The system includes SchoolDude’s ITDirect help-desk management system to provide detailed configuration information and asset history for incident resolution, as well as ITAM Software License, which allows users to track software licenses, manage compliance, and easily identify license violations.


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