Here’s a roundup of news from the 2007 National Educational Computing Conference exhibit hall, listed alphabetically by company name. Readers also can find news and information grouped according to the product categories listed in the box to the right.
Absolute Software said demand from K-12 institutions for its Computrace Computer Theft Recovery, Data Protection, and Secure Asset Tracking solutions continues to increase. In the United States, 15 of the top 25 largest school districts reportedly are using Computrace to protect their computing assets. In addition, many are expanding their use of the solution each year, including the New York City Department of Education and Tulsa Public Schools, the largest school district in Oklahoma, with approximately 42,000 students. “Over the last two years, there has been acceleration in schools deploying one-to-one student computing initiatives across North America,” said company CEO John Livingston. “We have seen a significant increase in demand for Absolute’s … capabilities in the education market.” Absolute’s Computrace solutions help educational institutions track and recover stolen or missing computers, remotely delete sensitive data, detect unauthorized software or missing hardware, and generate asset reports for upgrades, rollouts, and PC retirement.
Adobe Systems announced the launch of its Visual Communicator 3 software, which enables educators and students to create scripted, television-quality broadcasts. Designed for those new to video, the software is convenient for project-based learning, distance-education courses, and campus-wide newscasts, Adobe says. With this new version, templates and wizards give users the ability to create professional-quality video presentations that can be streamed live over the internet using Adobe Flash Media Server software, or presented via projector, television, or closed-circuit TV system. Enhancements include new set-up wizards, drag-and-drop animated templates, and an interactive “coach” that gets users up and running quickly. Users can preview up to three cameras at once while recording or presenting live with the mini-switcher feature to create interview-style videos in real time.
Agilix Labs, a maker of distributed learning software, unveiled a user-generated, collaborative learning network called BrainHoney. An open learning community in which participants worldwide can instruct and learn from one another, BrainHoney features a media authoring tool that enables participants to create and share learning content related to any topic–including text, animation, and audio clips–at no charge. “BrainHoney is an open-door global classroom, with 21st-century tools that allow every participant to become a student and a teacher, easily sharing what they know and learning about what they don’t,” said Curt Allen, company president and CEO. “This community is not structured to deliver lectures; it’s built to facilitate rich-media discussions, allowing instructional materials to take on a living, growing quality.”
American Education Corp., a provider of research-based, core curriculum instructional software for kindergarten through adult learners, showcased new electronic titles in its flagship product, A+LS, a network-based, K-12 instructional courseware program. One new elective, titled “Career Essentials,” features new titles in psychology and physical science.
ANGEL Learning, a provider of eLearning software and services, named several K-12 schools and districts that recently adopted its ANGEL Learning Management Suite, which offers virtual classes and online professional development available any time, anywhere. Clients range from Tempe Union High School District in Tempe, Ariz., to Kenai Peninsula Borough School District in Kenai, Alaska. ANGEL Learning also announced its membership in the nonprofit Schools Interoperability Framework Association (SIFA), which will allow ANGEL applications to work with SIFA’s common definitions, standards, and rules for ensuring the interoperability of educational software.
Apangea Learning,, which offers a supplemental instructional program called SmartHelp, demonstrated the latest version of its product, SmartHelp 4.0. The product offers differentiated, one-on-one instruction through web-based technology that combines an “intelligent” tutoring system with human tutors. New features in version 4.0 include a motivational system, similar to a credit-card reward point system, designed to inspire students to learn by rewarding progress with points that are redeemable for prizes; and a customized reporting system with a user-friendly graphical interface that provides both a classroom overview and individual student profiles. This information can be captured as a Portable Document File (PDF), JPEG image file, Word document, or Excel spreadsheet, Apangea said.
Atomic Learning, a provider of web-based software training programs for schools and other users, introduced a new product called Atomic Training, scheduled for general release in mid-August. Atomic Training is an online system that combines web-based hosting with a customizable training platform. The product provides schools with an online publishing tool to store, manage, and share digital training resources, such as videos, lesson plans, student projects, and more–making it easy to share information and professional development resources throughout schools and districts, the company says. A key feature of the platform is its ability to track usage, an important element of any professional development program. The system is entirely web-based for 24-7 accessibility and is hosted by Atomic Training, allowing schools to avoid the costs and management of file hosting equipment. Atomic Learning also announced that it is providing training on the new Adobe Creative Suite 3 family of products, including Acrobat 8 Professional, Adobe Flash CS3 Professional, Adobe Dreamweaver CS3, and Adobe Photoshop CS3 software. The company has developed a series of tutorials for educators on these four applications that will be included on the new Adobe Digital Career Teaching Resources DVD. This DVD will be provided with all Adobe K-12 school site licenses, Atomic Learning says.
Audio Enhancement says it designs its classroom-based sound amplification systems with the idea that if students can hear, they will learn more effectively. With a new necklace-like microphone smaller than the palms of their hands, teachers can speak clearly and be heard around the classroom, the company says. This microphone reportedly works well with several different sets of speakers, receivers, and amplifiers.
A provider of enterprise-level technology to the education field, Blackboard announced that more than 50 of its K-12 clients recently upgraded their Blackboard software or acquired new licenses to Blackboard solutions. Districts include Arlington County Public Schools in Virginia, which uses the Blackboard Academic Suite and Blackboard Content System, and Clay County School District in Florida. Individual schools include La Jolla Country Day School in California and the Virtual High School in Massachusetts. According to Blackboard, these districts and schools use Blackboard solutions to empower eLearning communities, deliver high-quality content, and build organizational capabilities. For instance, the North Carolina Virtual Public School relies on “a fully hosted implementation of the Blackboard Academic suite to provide Advanced Placement classes, summer school, and credit recovery programs,” Blackboard says.
Cable in the Classroom, the national education foundation of the cable industry, teamed up with the State Educational Technology Directors Association (SETDA) to produce a survey titled “The Changing Media Landscape: Ensuring Students’ Safety and Success in School and the Future Workplace.” The survey asked states to rank their needs and areas of interest regarding media literacy issues–specifically, knowing how to understand and evaluate media messages and knowing how to use technologies safely and ethically. The states ranked safety as their top media literacy issue. SETDA has released “The Changing Media Landscape Toolkit” in response to the survey’s findings, which can be found at www.setda.org/web/guest/toolkit2007/medialiteracy.
Califone International, a developer and manufacturer of audio-visual and supplemental curriculum products, joined the American Speech-Language-Hearing Association (ASHA) in announcing a collaborative nationwide effort to encourage the safe use of audio equipment in the classroom. In particular, the two organizations are seeking to make educators more aware of the risks of hearing loss that their students may face from improper use of personal MP3 players. So-called noise-induced hearing loss can result from listening too long to audio material that has been amplified beyond safe levels, Califone explains. The company’s product line includes headphones and a new education-focused MP3 player that “tops out” at a decibel level below that of other popular players. The Califone-ASHA campaign has its own web site: http://www.listentoyourbuds.org.
CDW-G released the findings of its “School Safety Index,” a research project benchmarking the current status of public school district safety. Based on 14 elements of physical and cyber security, the survey of 381 school district IT and security directors highlights the indicators of strong district safety programs, as well as the barriers to school safety.
CDW-G’s “School Safety Index” reveals that districts are having greater success with cyber security than physical security. Key findings include: (1) school districts rely too heavily on technical solutions to protect networks and buildings and need to focus more attention on educating students about physical and cyber dangers; (2) tech-savvy students are putting the district network and themselves at risk by sidestepping IT security procedures through measures like proxy servers; (3) districts rely heavily on the telephone to communicate with faculty and parents during emergencies; and (4) a lack of budgeted funds, staff resources, and proper security tools limits districts’ ability to protect themselves.
Centurion Technologies announced an upgrade to its CompuGuard CornerStone software. The latest version is now compatible with Microsoft Vista. The product is designed to maintain the integrity of a computer’s critical configuration settings. It insulates the hard drive with a protective security coating while establishing a temporary work space to record all changes. Upon reboot, these changes are instantly eliminated from the computer, thereby negating the need for costly maintenance and re-imaging, Centurion says.
Certiport, which offers certification programs to validate students’ and employees’ technology skills, launched an Adobe Certified Associate Program for certifying proficiency with Adobe’s Dreamweaver and Flash multimedia, video, graphic, and web design software. Certiport said it hopes these digital communication skills and standards will provide even more valid credentials for entry-level employment.
The Cisco Networking Academy announced an evolution of its core curriculum to keep pace with the changing requirements of an increasingly connected world and the growing demand for a technically skilled workforce in a competitive global marketplace. These new courses fit in with the program’s focus on giving students the skills they need to pursue IT careers in business-critical positions and industries ranging from technology and finance to medicine and entertainment. The newly expanded Networking Academy curriculum provides both entry-level and more advanced students with the expertise they need to succeed in a wide range of careers. The curriculum now consists of two tracks, CCNA Discovery and CCNA Exploration, which address different student segments based on their academic experience and goals. In addition, the Networking Academy’s Cisco Certified Network Professional (CCNP) curriculum has been updated to prepare entry-level and advanced students for careers in enterprise networking.
Cisco Systems and SchoolMessenger, a U.S. parental notification company, announced that more than 50 school districts from coast to coast have adopted their integrated parental notification solution. In addition, SchoolMessenger for Cisco Unified Communications, which was introduced last summer, now includes SMS text messaging to supplement voice and eMail notification to reach a large audience using a range of devices. SchoolMessenger for Cisco Unified Communications is a web-based communications solution that integrates with a district’s existing investment in Cisco Unified Communications, the company said. It is currently in use in 15 states, with the greatest concentrations found in Texas and California.
CompassLearning, a producer of standards-aligned curriculum and assessment tools for pre-kindergarten through high school, highlighted its Odyssey line of products. Odyssey Matemáticas, for example, is a browser-based curriculum for K-4 students whose first language is Spanish, while Odyssey for English Language Learners is a browser-based program to help kindergarteners through adults develop skills in reading, speaking, listening, and writing. Planning to release new material this fall, CompassLearning recently issued the Parent Toolkit, an internet program to promote parent involvement and to serve as a resource on education and technology for school administrators.
Core-ECS, which specializes in web-enabled applications and data warehousing solutions for state education departments and regional school districts, debuted edPortal–an electronic dashboard with a single point of entry, linking individual applications at the data level. Through edPortal, school officials can access a variety of tools, the company says: edOps, a school management solution; edMastery, an assessment tool with real-time measurement; edMiner, a student performance solution; edAcademy, a catalog of professional development tools to increase teacher effectiveness; and iRespond, a wireless scoring and reporting system.
CrossTec announced the release of SchoolVue v9, a classroom management product that puts teachers in networked or web-based virtual classrooms. The new version includes Windows Vista support and allows teachers to disable and pause printing, as well as to limit the number of pages that students can print. Teachers can use SchoolVue to broadcast their computer screens, multimedia files, or individual students’ screens to other participants. The system also enables teachers to record and play back screen sessions, monitor students as they work, and carry on two-way audio and text conversations. In addition, teachers can control a student’s PC to facilitate one-on-one instruction.
CTB/McGraw Hill announced that Acuity Algebra, the newest addition to its Acuity family of diagnostic and predictive benchmark assessments, has been selected as the standard achievement assessment for a RAND Corp. study of the effectiveness of a technology-based mathematics curriculum. The five-year study, funded by a $6 million grant from the U.S. Department of Education, is designed to rigorously evaluate the curriculum. The study’s results will help schools nationwide in selecting the most effective mathematics curricula for their students, the company said.
Dell has partnered with the Conservation Fund and Carbonfund.org, two nonprofit organizations that plant trees in reforestation projects, to start a green directive called “Plant a Tree for Me.” This project aims to offset carbon emissions associated with the electricity generated to power numerous IT products, by asking businesses and consumers in the United States and Europe to donate two dollars for a notebook and six dollars for a desktop, and using the donations to plant thousands of trees. According to Dell, during a single tree’s 70-year lifespan, it can take in 1.3 tons of carbon dioxide from the atmosphere.
Discovery Education announced that content from Planet Earth, the high-definition television series The Discovery Channel co-produced with the British Broadcasting Co., will be featured on Discovery’s unitedstreaming Plus and Science Connection video-on-demand services. The critically acclaimed, 11-part series, which took five years to produce and includes footage from more than 200 countries, will be available to schools by subscription. Educators using unitedstreaming Plus and Science Connection will be able to access Planet Earth videos on such topics as Borneo’s rain forests, the Himalayas, deserts, and the ocean depths. Subscribers also will receive related resources for teachers, including guides, writing prompts, and posters. The introduction of unitedstreaming Plus, building on Discovery’s existing unitedstreaming services, will enable users to access thousands of newly added full-length videos, thousands of additional audio resources, some 20,000 photographs, and more than 27,000 reference articles, Discovery said. In addition, the company announced it plans to provide its unitedstreaming service to all K-12 schools in 18 of the 20 Texas Regional Education Service Centers through the 2011-12 school year.
DyKnow announced version 5.0 of its Vision and Monitor classroom management and collaboration software. DyKnow Vision enables interactive note taking for students and lets teachers instantly annotate presentations. The product works with desktops, laptops, tablet PCs, and interactive whiteboards in fixed, mobile, and distance-education environments, DyKnow says. DyKnow Monitor reduces electronic distractions and helps keep students on task by displaying thumbnail images of students’ computer screens, blocking applications, and blanking screens. The latest versions of these products add support for Windows Vista, the ability to block specific URLs or create student workgroups, and integration with the Blackboard platform, among other features. DyKnow also announced that it has acquired a patent from the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office for DyKnow Vision, and the company recently partnered with Hewlett-Packard Co. to distribute its software.
eChalk announced enhancements to its Online Learning Environment. Version 8.0 includes new lesson-planning capabilities that allow curriculum directors, principals, department heads, and teachers to collaboratively develop and share exemplary lesson plans. Other enhancements include the ability to integrate eChalk’s environment with a district’s student information system, new eMail archiving capabilities that are intended to help school leaders comply with state and federal eMail retention laws, and updated calendaring tools and user interfaces.
Educational Insights showcased Quiz Bowl, a new game based on the company’s Classroom Jeopardy game. Teachers can program Quiz Bowl with questions and answers corresponding to point values in a simple computer-based format. The system comes with two scoreboards and 10 buzz-in controllers. Additional controllers can be ordered.
eLearning Systems International announced the addition of more than 200 science topics to its library of integrated, web-based courses for elementary and secondary school students. Units include biology, physical science, life science, and earth science. The company’s WebLessons simplify the process of using the web as a teaching tool by giving teachers and students instructions, study questions, vocabulary, quizzes, and inquiry-based projects, all centered around rich-media content from online resources.
The new science curriculum follows a step-by-step learning path. Students are introduced to the topic through a situated learning proposition that activates prior knowledge and generates interest. Next, WebLessons guide students through a series of web resources related to the topic. Afterward, students take a short quiz to reinforce their newly acquired knowledge, and then they complete a final written project related to the initial scenario, making the entire activity circular, the company says.
Elluminate, a provider of software for online instruction in real time, announced the latest version of its flagship product, Elluminate Live! v8. Like previous versions, v8 integrates with Blackboard, Moodle, Sakai, WebCT, and eCollege learning management systems, but it comes with new features that include synchronized notes, interactive two-way video, indexed recordings, and more.
ePALS, a producer of collaborative learning products for K-12 classrooms and homes, introduced a free web service for educators, experts, and people seeking answers to education-related questions. Dubbed Ask ePALS, the new service has been launched in collaboration with Yedda Inc. , a social question-and-answer platform. Educators and other users of Ask ePALS will be able to share information and expertise about education issues in a community of interested participants. To facilitate their use of Ask ePALS, people can add a widget to their school web sites, blogs, or home pages that enable easy, interactive access to the service. ePALS, which calls itself the world’s largest community of online learners, also offers In2Books, a research-based online literacy program. Yedda uses an open online environment to connect knowledge seekers and sources of information around the world.
FableVision announced its partnership with Emmy award-winning Toon Boom Animation to jointly develop educational solutions for K-12 and consumer markets. This partnership builds upon Toon Boom’s extensive work in animation technology and FableVision’s understanding of learners, educational technology, and constructivist learning tools, the companies said. “Toon Boom is fully committed to the educational market and our close collaboration with FableVision reinforces our intention to develop easy-to-use, educative, and fun applications for students and schools,” said Joan Vogelesang, president and chief executive officer at Toon Boom. Added Peter H Reynolds, FableVision’s CEO, founder, and executive creative director: “We’re on a mission of creativity and self-expression, providing the tools and support to get kids creating and sharing.”
Faronics, a developer of utilities for controlling multi-user computing environments, demonstrated its Power Save product, which provides system administrators with enterprise-wide control over advanced computer power configurations, the company says. With Power Save, computers reportedly can be configured to shut down, stand by, or hibernate based on CPU usage, disk activity, and application activity, thereby saving on energy costs.
Fourier Systems announced a number of enhancements to its low-cost student computing device, the Nova5000. Designed to fill the gap between laptops and handheld solutions, the Nova5000 now has updated functionality, such as a longer battery life and brighter screen, Fourier says. The battery now runs for eight hours on a single charge, allowing educators and students to use the device continuously over an entire school day. The new LCD screen offers improved brightness and allows users to control the level of brightness with an 11-position scale. This allows students and teachers to use the Nova5000 outside, allowing for more in-the-field data collection, according to the company. In addition, the Nova5000 now supports active directory services, allowing for password-protected, single-user access to network resources; a Compact Flash Modem enables users to get online via a standard phone line to meet the needs of rural, developing, or underprivileged schools that don’t have broadband internet access; and the device comes bundled with ProScope HR software, allowing for the capture and magnification of images up to 10 times their size.
Funds for Learning, an eRate compliance and consulting firm, celebrated its 10th anniversary of providing solutions to meet the needs of eRate stakeholders by releasing an eRate review. The review covers a simple definition of the eRate, requirements and benefits of the program, its integral part in advancing No Child Left Behind, a summary of eRate rules and regulations, and an overview of the program’s future. The review ends by noting that no technology will achieve results if not used as directed and that educational technology is the key to a well-trained, innovative work force, as well as a successful 21st century for the United States.
GenevaLogic announced new enhancements to Vision, its classroom management and monitoring software. Teachers can use Vision to supervise students’ progress, monitor or prevent their web browsing, share computer screens, and remotely control student computers. Vision’s new advanced supervision mode offers teachers enlarged views of all student computers, and the software is now Vista-compatible. The company also says its newly released Teach-Pad software will help teachers perform Vision-based operations quickly and effectively. With five mousepad-like buttons, Teach-Pad lets instructors monitor thumbnail views of students’ computer screens, lock down computers, show selected presentations, stop all activity, or lock all internet surfing.
In addition, GenevaLogic unveiled a new software program, called On-Sight, that monitors and records student online activity and computer use, helping teachers and administrators ensure students’ online behavior conforms to district acceptable-use policies. Custom reports and automatic screen shots provide educators with the information they need to guide responsible student computer use, GenevaLogic says.
Hewlett-Packard Co. announced that it is partnering with SMART Technologies, Adobe Systems, and DyKnow to offer SMART Board interactive whiteboards, the tools to create digital images and video content, and collaborative management solutions, respectively, to schools that purchase HP hardware and solutions. According to HP, these software applications will help schools create 21st-century classrooms to educate a new generation of learners.
Houghton Mifflin Learning Technology (HMLT) announced a strategic alliance with Microsoft, designed to make it easier for K-12 and higher-education students, parents, teachers, and administrators to access HMLT’s educational resources. As part of the agreement, HMLT will develop its next-generation flagship Learning Village instructional web portal on the Microsoft .NET Framework 3.0 and use Microsoft Office SharePoint Server 2007 and the Microsoft Learning Gateway. The alliance opens up opportunities for educators to integrate all of their content, applications, and resources from one central source, HMLT said, using technology to manage and monitor their web-content needs district-wide.
Honestech launched two products at this year’s conference: Claymation Studio, which allows students to turn their video creations into a Toy Story-type movie with animation and claymation; and Rapid Video Blogger, which allows students and educators to post video taken from a cell phone camera or video recorder on MySpace and other blogs easily. Honestech also announced a deal with the Douglas Stewart Co. for Douglas Stewart to distribute Honestech’s software to its network of more than 4,500 academic resellers in the United States and Canada.
InFocus introduced the Learn Big IN24+EP, the newest projector to join the company’s lineup of education-specific digital projectors. Designed with educators and school districts in mind, the Learn Big line of projectors offers several key characteristics for the classroom, including ease of use, reliability, and visual performance, InFocus says. The Learn Big IN24+EP, with SVGA resolution (800 by 600 pixels), and the IN26+EP and IN34EP, equipped with XGA resolution (1,024 by 768 pixels), are built on Digital Light Processing (DLP) technology from Texas Instruments.
Interwrite Learning, formerly known as GTCO CalComp, announced updates to its Interwrite Pad, a Bluetooth wireless device that lets teachers create an interactive whiteboard on any surface. Teachers can thus move among their students while interacting with lesson material displayed by a standard digital projector at the front of the room. Students can use the pad to engage the projected material from their seats. They also can use a clicker device to register confidential responses that the system captures and sends to the board. Related software, recently upgraded, contains interactive content and resources in various subjects, including language arts, science, and math.
Iwatsu Voice Networks (IVN), a Dallas-based telecommunications manufacturer, highlighted its su