Adobe announced its Adobe Photoshop Elements 6 software for the Macintosh platform. Photoshop Elements 6 streamlines photo editing with clean, uncluttered screens that draw focus to the photos and with new tabs that provide simple access to the program’s many capabilities, Adobe said.

Additional enhancements include an improved conversion tool that dramatically converts color images into elegant, nuanced black-and-whites. Customizable layouts allow users to create scrapbook pages, photo books, or greeting cards and burn these to a CD or DVD with no previous experience required. Users also can create personal albums for distributing their photos online. Adobe Photoshop Elements 6 for Macs will run on Leopard (Mac OS X, version 10.5), as well as previous versions of OS X starting with 10.4.8., and is available for an estimated street price of $89.99.

Audio Visual Innovations (AVI), which helps educators make smart audio-visual purchasing decisions and helps them integrate AV technology into their schools, showcased the latest educational products from companies such as SMART Technologies and Varitronics. “We’re not interested in selling boxes; we’re interested in solving needs,” said AVI Vice President Bob Mallory. The company has five SMART-certified master trainers and sells SMART Board interactive whiteboards with unlimited training. AVI also sells sound amplification systems from Front Row, and it’s reportedly one of the largest dealers in the United States when it comes to projectors.

Varitronics has made AVI the sole distributor of its visual learning tools in many states, including Alabama, Florida, and Georgia. Varitronics’ newest product line, called VariQuest, includes a poster maker, awards maker, and cutout maker—the only electronic die-cut machine on the market, AVI says. With the use of VariQuest products, teachers can create cutouts for bulletin boards, laminate special projects, and also design customized awards, posters, and banners.

NBC News is making its top political reporters and experts available to answer questions about the 2008 presidential election from the nation’s students and teachers. “Ask NBC News” is an exclusive feature of NBC News Archives on Demand, a compilation of thousands of primary-source video resources created specifically for classroom instruction. The Archives on Demand are available on HotChalk, a free web-based learning management system for K-12 teachers and their students.

Students and teachers can submit questions about the presidential campaign via eMail to asknbcnews@nbcuni.com or via text message to ASKNBC (275622) by texting ASK and then their question (standard text-messaging rates apply; text message participants must be 18 years or older). Each Thursday, the NBC News political team—including Meet the Press host and Washington, D.C., Bureau Chief Tim Russert, Washington Correspondent Pete Williams, and Chief White House Correspondent David Gregory—will answer one question and make the video available at the HotChalk web site.

In addition to Ask NBC News, the NBC News Archives on Demand features a “Decision ’08” curricular resource offering up-to-the-minute presidential election news. Features include full profiles on the candidates, information about their positions on major issues, video clips of speeches and debates, campaign trail news, historical footage from past presidential campaigns, and political analysis from the award-winning NBC News team. The video-on-demand user interface allows teachers to customize their lesson plans with relevant content to bring the election process and political issues to life in their classrooms, NBC News said.

RM demonstrated its Podium podcasting solution, a PC-based application designed for the education market. The software allows teachers and students of any age to create, edit, and publish podcasts—all from the same simple interface. Besides enabling students to demonstrate what they’ve learned and develop their creativity by using audio to express themselves, teachers can use Podium to communicate with parents regularly by posting class or school updates on the web. They also can publish lesson guides to help students who might have missed sessions through absence or who simply need reinforcement when completing homework assignments.

Podium’s scripting tool, which allows students to assign parts of their podcast to different members of the group, helps facilitate group projects. For example, if students are recording a passage from Shakespeare as one of their podcasting episodes, they are able to color-code the text on screen for different characters, so each person knows when it’s his or her turn to speak.

SAFARI Montage, a video-on-demand and digital media management system for school districts, now integrates with Promethean’s Activclassroom presentation environment, the company said. SAFARI Montage supports the Activboard, Promethean’s interactive whiteboard for schools, with the ability to freeze-frame video and annotate over it by using the Activboard stylus to write notes and highlight information. SAFARI Montage also gives teachers the ability to save, tag, and share Promethean lessons and flipcharts on their district’s central server, so these resources can be accessed over the district’s network. Both the flipcharts and annotated frozen video image files can be integrated into playlists that serve as multimedia lesson plans. These customized playlists can be saved and shared among all the teachers in a district.

SAFARI Montage comes preloaded with educational video titles from leading publishers, including Schlessinger Media, Public Broadcasting Service, The History Channel, National Geographic, Scholastic Inc., Disney Education, the British Broadcasting Co., and more. SAFARI Montage WAN Manager enables educators to control and manage all of their district’s digital video from a central location, allowing them to upload their own video content and easily disseminate it to all classrooms.

School Specialty Media
announced a new online video streaming service for K-12 schools, called Learn360. The service has a flexible backend built specifically for educators, and it provides a growing library of full-length educational videos, as well as thousands of video clips, audio files, and still images that users can access over the internet. The site also lets users add their own content and includes administrative features. All full-length videos and video clips are aligned with state standards. Anybody from a subscribing district, including students, can access the site anytime from anywhere they have internet access. Each video is available in three formats: Flash, Windows Media, and QuickTime.

Content for Learn360 comes from School Specialty Media’s Sunburst Visual Media product line, as well as through partnerships with National Geographic, PBS, Goldhil Entertainment, Standard Deviants, Mazzarella Companies, Monterey Media, Rock the SAT, Lou Reda Productions, Allegro Productions, Twin Sisters, and other organizations. Districts also can customize the site to provide access within Learn360 to other media they already own. Educators can sign up for a free, 30-day trial subscription to the service.

Shining Technology promoted its CitiDISK product, a tapeless backup drive that attaches to a video camera and saves video footage while it is being recorded—making it unnecessary to capture the video on a separate hard drive once the recording process is finished. Because it eliminates the need for this extra capturing step, the CitiDISK is ideal for video production environments with tight deadlines or where time is at a premium, the company said.

The CitiDISK works with virtually any type of camera, and Shining Technology says it is less expensive and has more storage capacity (120 gigabytes) than other similar products. Plus, it does not use a fan, so there is no ambient noise. The CitiDISK has been in existence for about four years and until now has been sold mostly to professional videographers and filmmakers; with its presence at this year’s FETC, Shining Technology is now starting to promote the product to schools.

SMART Technologies announced a new, second-generation version of its SMART Board 600i interactive whiteboard system, the company’s most convenient and affordable system. This new version combines the SMART Board 680 interactive whiteboard, which offers teachers 77 inches of active screen area, with a Unifi 45 projector and the latest version of SMART’s Notebook software. The new system also will cost 25 percent less than the original version.

The Unifi 45 projector offers XGA resolution (1,024 by 768 pixels), 2,000 lumens of brightness, and its collapsible boom protects the system from deliberate damage, SMART said. By touching the board’s display, users can access and control any computer or multimedia application, write notes in digital ink, and save their work to share later—and adding the SMART classroom audio system or USB speakers allows teachers to turn the system into a multimedia center.

The SMART Board 600i interactive whiteboard system begins shipping in February at a suggested education price of $3,299. The Unifi 45 projector also is available as a retrofit kit for SMART customers who already own a SMART Board 680 interactive whiteboard; the suggested education price for this retrofit kit is $2,099.