Summit showcases ed-tech ‘up-and-comers’

A free web site that uses song lyrics to motivate students to read and write, a platform for learning English that adapts to each user, and a "touch interface" for launching digital materials from printed textbooks were among the new and emerging educational technologies highlighted by the Software & Information Industry Association (SIIA) last week during its 2008 Ed Tech Industry Summit in San Francisco.

The annual summit holds special value for developers of educational technology, because some are chosen to take part in SIIA’s Innovation Incubator program. This program highlights nonprofit organizations or young companies that produce creative, engaging ed-tech products or services.

Developers must submit applications to the SIIA’s Innovation Working Group, which then selects the 10 most promising educational technologies to showcase.

Participants benefit from this added exposure, as well as the chance to network with more established ed-tech providers and industry executives. They’re paired with mentors, or "industry veterans … to help guide them in their initial stages of growth and development in the education market," said Karen Billings, vice president of SIIA’s education division.

This year’s participants in the Innovation Incubator program were:
BlueNose Edutainment, an educational web site that uses music, film, and sports as a way of motivating students in grades 6-12 to read and write. For example, students can listen to, read, and interpret song lyrics, and they can submit their own lyrics, song ideas, or song interpretations for prizes. All standards-based lesson plans on the BlueNose web site have been developed by McDougal Littell, a Houghton Mifflin company.

Education Clip Library, an online library of curriculum-focused video clips developed for licensing by educational publishers. The clips are aimed at learners ages 3-19 and cover all major curriculum areas. Each of the 5,000-plus clips has been sourced, selected, and contextualized by education experts and are available in digital format. Multi-lingual commentary will be available for these clips eventually, the company says.

EduTone Xchange, a web-based appliance from VIPTone that manages school data across multiple systems. Users can gain "single sign-on" access to all the applications they need with one secure username and password.

eSpindle Vocabulary and Spelling Tutor, an online tutoring program that focuses on committing words to long-term memory. This patent-pending program delivers individualized practice based on a database of 100,000 words and is designed to work with existing programs.

Go-Joe Reader Program, an interactive, web-based reading activity for grades K-6. Developed by high school math teachers in Brainerd, Minn., the program allows every student in a school district to contribute "food" (the number of minutes they read, which are converted into miles) to propel Go-Joe, an animated elephant, on a virtual journey around the world. Each student in the district contributes to the district’s overall reading goal by "reading to energize Go-Joe." Users can compare their personal, grade-level, or school data with all others in their district. When the program was used in the Brainerd School District, developers reported, more than 2,700 students from 109 elementary classrooms read more than 720,000 minutes in 30 days, enough for Go-Joe to circle the world nearly four times.

Haiku LMS, a learning management system that allows instructors to deliver a full range of curriculum and manage class work online. Educators can organize, manage, and deliver course content, assignments, and assessments; conduct discussions and exchange messages securely; collect homework; grade assignments; and take attendance. Haiku LMS’ design allows users to customize its interface without having to write lines of code.  Users can lay out lessons with images, audio, and video and can rearrange content and columns with drag-and-drop functionality. Features include quick-add assignments, a space for student announcements, a virtual dropbox, a blogging space, online assessments, and a resource library., an online destination that combines fun reading activities and literacy development with social interaction and networking. Children interact with one another and earn points to develop their avatars by participating in literacy activities such as games and interactive storybooks. 

Muzzy Lane’s Game Platform, a web-based gaming platform developed by software engineers and dedicated gamers. The game modules let students test and apply skills in a low-risk environment and challenge them by allowing them to compete with their peers.

Personalized Language Learning Platform, a platform for learning English that adapts to each user. "Smart" technology combines a mix of learning factors–such as the user’s native language, level of education, and age, as well as specific skills in areas such as grammar, reading, and listening–to create a personalized learning program for each student.

Somatic Digital Touchbook, which has developed a technology called Touch User Interface (TUI). This technology creates a "touch screen" out of the printed page by connecting paper directly to digital content that resides on optical media, the internet, or a hard drive. The service allows publishers to leverage their textbooks to drive more users to their interactive assets, improving the user’s experience.

In addition to these 10 participants, SIIA also recognized two other finalists for its 2008 Innovation Incubator program:

GenYES, an online technology curriculum for students in grades 4-12. GenYES participants learn about technology and other 21st-century skills in the context of authentic projects. Students work with teachers to design technology-infused lessons and provide tech support. The resulting collaboration gives students important technical and leadership skills and gives teachers on-site, sustainable professional development.

TutorVista, which provides one-on-one, personalized online tutoring for students from kindergarten through college using technology and a new global teaching force to level the playing field and make education affordable and accessible to students everywhere. Tutors have graduate degrees, undergo months of training, and pass a stringent certification process before they become certified TutorVista tutors; they are available anytime from any internet-connected computer. Subjects include math, English, biology, chemistry, physics, science, and statistics. Unlimited tutoring is priced at $99.99 per month in all subjects.

Participants in SIIA’s Innovation Incubator program said they valued the experience.

"The summit is giving us more exposure and helps us understand what the industry does," said Don Engen, the high school math teacher from Brainerd, Minn., who co-developed the Go-Joe Reader Program. "It helps us meet the people in the industry … with whom we can start to form business relationships."

The Ed Tech Industry Summit also featured the CODie awards–the only peer-recognition awards program of its kind in the industry, which provides an opportunity for companies to earn the praise of their competitors. Winners of the 2008 awards can be found at SIIA’s web site.


Software & Information Industry Association

Innovation Incubator program

Meris Stansbury

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