Our readers’ top ed-tech picks for 2012

Click here to download a PDF of the 2012 Readers' Choice Awards.


BrainPOP offers short, animated, curriculum-based videos that aim to engage students from kindergarten through 12th grade. BrainPOP content can be used in many ways, from introducing a new lesson or illustrating a complex topic to reviewing before a test. All BrainPOP content is mapped to state and Common Core standards and is searchable by topic or standard.

“We know that all students … benefit from highly visual content delivery that utilizes key concepts and academic vocabulary within context,” said Anne Scatchell, a bilingual resource teacher at Glenn Westlake Middle School in Illinois. “I have seen first-hand the dramatic impact that these tools have for my students. The BrainPOP family of products … uses a sense of humor [that] captivates viewers and helps them to relax, making them more open to learning and grasping some challenging material.” Another reader wrote: “This product has made my students excited to take the quiz after the video. How many teachers can say that about their students?”

BuildYourOwnCurriculum (School Software Group)

BuildYourOwnCurriculum is a web-based solution for constructing and sharing curriculum resources throughout a school community. Students can see the standards they’re expected to master, view class activities, and retrieve the resources they’ll need to complete their work. Parents can view curriculum, assignments, and standards from home, work, or the library. Teachers can update and customize their lesson plans in alignment with district standards, and administrators can get instant access to the learning paths for each school, grade, and classroom.

“BuildYourOwnCurriculum has provided the framework to produce a fully articulated curriculum in all areas of study for our district,” said John Whitsett, coordinator of curriculum, instruction, and assessment for Wisconsin’s Fond du Lac School District. “It has allowed us to discard the old three-ring binders [that] were hardly ever used and replace them with an online tool that is dynamic, easy to use, and provides a way of managing curriculum. … We are now able to make better decisions pertaining to resources and methods of instruction. Since we have a well-designed set of expectations, we are able to design effective assessments. This product has provided a way to think about curriculum in an entirely new way.”

DimensionU (Tabula Digita)

DimensionU is a video game-based learning resource for K-12 students. In DimensionU, students can access 3D multiplayer educational video games that help them hone their math and literacy skills, connect with friends, and compete and collaborate while learning.

“We had a campus where lower-level students hung out at a nearby park before school started each day. Most days the police had to be called, and some [students] were carted off in handcuffs,” said Hedwig Pettinger, coordinator of middle school technology for the Garland Independent School District in Texas. “Several of our teachers opened a computer lab and invited these students in to play [DimensionU]. Since these students didn’t have access to this type of program at home, a few decided to try it. Word spread quickly. They went from a handful of students to 30, to 60, to 90 … with additional students waiting in line for a seat. Yes—they were playing a video game. But, they couldn’t win unless they did the math correctly. It was a winning combination!”

eBOARD (eBOARDsolutions)

eBOARD is a modular system of governance software that enables school districts to centralize, communicate, and align their strategic plans, board policies, meeting agendas, rules and regulations, and other important documents online.

“eBOARD makes online board governance easy and stress-free,” said Denise Berkhalter, director of public relations for the Alabama Association of School Boards. “With eBOARD, [we’ve] realized a true cost savings in preparing agendas, recording votes, and taking minutes at our Board of Directors meetings. Reams of paper at board meetings are a thing of the past, and board meetings run a lot more smoothly. So much more information is available on demand to our members. … We’ve used eBOARD for nearly four years now and have seen a notable increase in member satisfaction.”

e-Mentoring for Student Success

In October 2002, the National Science Foundation awarded a five-year grant to the National Science Teachers Association, the New Teacher Center at the University of California Santa Cruz, and Montana State University’s Science/Math Resource Center to develop the e-Mentoring for Student Success (eMSS) project, which pairs beginning secondary science teachers with online mentors. The project now involves more than a dozen states and has expanded to include mentoring for math and special-education teachers as well.

“I have been involved with the eMSS program for the last four years,” said Marc Dembowski, a library media specialist for the Paradise Valley Unified School District in Arizona. “The collaboration among other teachers nationwide has truly been remarkable. Districts do not provide enough time for teachers to work together and collaborate on lessons, ideas, concepts, etc. This program matches new teachers … with experienced teachers to mentor them. There are dialogues and conversations that take place about pedagogy, lesson planning, task analysis, classroom management, and much more. … The eMSS program is head and shoulders above any other mentoring program that I have experienced and seen in person or online!”

Espresso Elementary (Espresso Education)

Espresso Elementary is a cross-disciplinary, interactive teaching and learning site for pre-kindergarten through fifth grade students, filled with thousands of videos and interactive materials designed to inspire children to learn.

“There are many resources that make learning fun for the students,” said Joyce Rosales, a teacher for Florida’s Miami-Dade County schools. “The students really enjoy learning with this product, and I can tell their skills and abilities have grown. … The students log in on the computers in school and at home, using the specific code created for their class. I can make quizzes that the students can participate in online, and I can view the results from my own computer.”

eSchool News Staff

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