News from the FETC exhibit hall

Instructional technology

Apex Learning, known primarily as a publisher of online Advanced Placement courses for high schools, announced the expansion of its course catalog for the 2007-08 school year. Aiming to provide a full suite of internet resources for use in online and traditional brick-and-mortar schools, the company now will offer standards-based digital curricula for a range of disciplines, including math, science, English, social studies, and world languages. Apex says its new offerings will give the company a course selection capable of meeting the graduation requirements of most states.

AutoSkill introduced an optional SpanishTutor module for its Academy of Math intervention software. Designed for struggling Spanish-speaking English Language Learners (ELL) in elementary, middle, and high school, the offering was created to meet a rising demand for educational resources devoted to teaching ELL students. “Some students are behind in math, not because of poor math skills, but because they are not able to read and understand the tutorials and instruction,” said Kari Simpson-Anderson, director of product management. “We’re providing Hispanic students with the language support they need to … focus on the math, not the language barrier.” A similar SpanishTutor module is available for AutoSkill’s Academy of Reading software.

Knowledge Adventure has released an updated version of its Kid Works Deluxe creative reading and writing software. Described as an “all-in-one publishing tool,” the program combines a word processor and paint program to help elementary students produce their own media-rich stories. “Kid Works Deluxe has been a staple software program in elementary schools for 10 years,” said CEO David Blumstein. “It has been many years since the program has undergone a major revision, and we felt it was time to take advantage of new technologies to make this program even better.”

Learning Resources, which recently acquired California-based Educational Insights, showcased its new Radius Audio Learning System, a CD-based system for teaching a range of subjects. To use Radius, students insert one of the company’s educational CDs and scan one of the accompanying cards. Step-by-step audio instructions guide students through a variety of activities, and an interactive audio feature provides immediate feedback for self-checking and reinforcement. Radius components, which are sold separately, include Radius Interactive Math Kits for grades 1-2, Radius Interactive Science Kits for grades 35, Radius Reading Strategy Kits for grades 3-5, Radius CD Card Sets for phonics and reading for grades preK-3, and Radius CD Card Sets for English-language learners. Each set reportedly is correlated with state and national standards.

Pearson Digital Learning has released two web-based solutions for helping English-language learners achieve required levels of English proficiency. Following its acquisition of ELLIS Inc. in June, the company has created newly enhanced versions of the ELLIS English-language learning software: ELLIS Essentials Version 2.6 for the elementary grades, and ELLIS Academic Version 5.0 for middle, high school, and adult learners. Through videos that depict real-life situations, as well as embedded assessment and reporting functionality, ELLIS provides self-paced lessons and unlimited opportunities to practice, Pearson said.

Valiant USA, a maker of low-cost interactive robotics solutions for schools, unveiled the Roamer-Too, a new generation of educational robot. There are five robots in the Roamer-Too line, designed for students in pre-kindergarten through 12th grade. Each comes equipped to perform certain functions and display a range of behaviors. In the younger grades, the robots come with interchangeable keypads that depict certain numbers, figures, or symbols. Teachers can use the robots to teach math concepts or other curriculum topics, Valiant says. At higher grade levels, the robots make the leap from an ed-tech tool to one for technology education, serving as a model on which to teach such tech-oriented skills as basic programming and mechanical engineering.

Assessment and data management

Lexmark showcased its Testing & Grading solution, which enables teachers or administrators to prepare test materials, scan and score tests, create reports, and analyze results–all from a single multifunction printer located in or near the classroom. Using the tool, teachers can print their own bubble sheets on plain paper, thus eliminating the expense of buying pre-printed forms. As an added benefit, the information can be exported to many student information systems and electronic gradebooks. The system also can be used to create, print, score, and analyze parent, student, or community surveys, attendance sheets, registration forms, and other school-related documents.

Scantron promoted a new company-wide effort to help school customers turn data into prescriptive action. Through a partnership with Thinkronize Inc., Scantron has integrated its web-based assessments with the netTrekker d.i. internet search engine. As a result, educators using the company’s Performance Series or Achievement Series products quickly can find standards-based instructional resources matched to specific student learning needs, Scantron said. After each assessment is given, educators can view the results for their students and then click an icon to find resources that are applicable to the needs of a particular student or the entire class.

Projectors and presentation tools

AVerMedia introduced the AVerVision SPC300, a new document camera featuring a 3.2-megapixel sensor, 48X zoom capabilities, and video and audio recording. The device also has the capacity for picture-in-picture display and split-screen functions, AVerMedia says.

Bretford announced a new line of technology and media furniture for classrooms. Designed for streamlined mobility and display of AV equipment, the TC12, TC15, and TC35 series of carts allow educators to incorporate presentation tools into their learning environments easily, Bretford said. All of the carts can accommodate a projector and offer an optional flat-panel mount that supports up to a 42-inch monitor. The new carts also include an aluminum pole that extends up to 28 inches for flat-panel viewing from farther distances.

SMART Technologies announced a new height-adjustable mount for its SMART Board 600i interactive whiteboard system. Teachers now will be able to raise the 600i system 20 inches up or down to their desired height. Lowering the SMART Board gives students in early grades easy access to a larger portion of the viewing area, and raising it gives students in the back of the classroom a better view, SMART explained.

Library and reference systems announced two additions to its web site: new resources, such as a brainstorming tool and research organizer, intended to help students with their research projects; and 1-Click Answers, free software that can be downloaded from the company’s site. By pointing your cursor at any word in any program, holding the computer’s Alt key, and clicking, a pop-up window appears with an AnswerTip defining the word or identifying the person in question.

AOL@SCHOOL introduced a new Desktop Sidebar tool that reportedly can interpret the topic a student is working on. It then automatically culls AOL’s library of educator-reviewed, age-appropriate web content for relevant results. The new tool gives students and teachers access to more than 48,000 web resources–each of which has been reviewed, selected, and approved by a team of educational experts. It can be installed on school or home computers at no cost, AOL said.

School administrative solutions

8e6 Technologies featured its Threat Analysis Reporter 1.0, designed to deliver real-time graphical snapshots of internet traffic. The program’s dashboard offers a view of various user-generated threats to the network. The threats are categorized to reflect the entire school and also specific users. Administrators have the ability to create additional gauges on the dashboard; adjust the “threat score” by setting category weights based on policy requirements; and set predefined alert actions based on alert policy settings.

CDW-G and SciQuest, a provider of procurement automation solutions, announced a partnership to offer a new service, called CDW-G e-Procurement, to colleges and universities. The service connects schools to multiple approved-vendor contracts through a single shopping-cart function. By eliminating traditional, paper-based procurement processes, the program aims to save schools money and reduce the purchase approval process from weeks to days, CDW-G says.

CPSI promoted a series of discussions on the Schools Interoperability Framework (SIF), a standard designed to enable school software programs to share data seamlessly in real time, regardless of their manufacturer. The discussions aim to help school leaders understand SIF and how they can leverage the standard to improve operational efficiencies. Each event is free of charge and will feature a guest speaker from a school district that has gone through a SIF implementation of its own to answer questions. For a schedule of discussions, which will be held in cities throughout the United States, see CPSI’s web site.

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