Our readers’ top ed-tech picks for 2012

FLRT (MindPlay Educational Software)

FLRT (which stands for “Fluent Reading Trainer”) is a reading fluency tool that has been designed to increase reading speed systematically while ensuring proficient reading comprehension. It includes a library of more than 700 content-rich stories; measures and improves silent reading speed, reading fluency, retention, and comprehension; and reports on reading comprehension skills by class, student, and 18 specific skills, including main idea, context clues, inference, and author’s purpose.

“I am using FLRT with a group of ninth grade students in a reading intervention class,” said Barbara Marsh, district literacy specialist for Ohio’s Bay Village City Schools. “Students were selected for this class based on five years’ worth of poor performance on state test scores. We use FLRT three times a week for about 15 to 20 minutes at a time throughout the school year. The results are phenomenal. We have [seen] 100 percent passing on the state reading test and three years’ growth on the Comprehension Section on the Woodcock-Johnson Achievement Test.”

FluidMath (Fluidity Software)

FluidMath is a teaching and learning tool designed for users of pen-centric platforms such as tablet PCs and interactive whiteboards. It features accurate recognition of handwritten math symbols, allowing teachers and students to share concepts and explore ideas electronically.

“Our Math Department has a cart of tablet slates … that are used by students with this program (and others),” said Arline Pique, director of technology for Ohio’s Indian Hill Exempted Village School District. “Teachers are using this software to bring math to life and truly explore how math works. In the words of one of our teachers using this, ‘With FluidMath, students who understand a concept well can move forward and explore the concept in greater depth, while students who are having more difficulty mastering the concept can continue to practice and explore at a pace more suitable to their individual ability and comprehension level. In addition, FluidMath provides immediate results and feedback for each of its individual users, which ensures that students are not reinforcing incorrect ideas and practices. With the help of this technology, I … can make learning even more meaningful to each and every student.’”


GeoGebra is a free, multiplatform program for teaching and learning math at all levels of education. It covers geometry, algebra, tables, graphing, statistics, and calculus in one easy-to-use software package that has received several awards in the United States and Europe.

“GeoGebra [gives] students a visual understanding of abstract concepts,” said Susan Russo, a math teacher at Holy Name High School in Worcester, Mass. “I use GeoGebra almost daily to demonstrate such topics as curve fitting, linear equations, polygon concepts, symmetry, variables, systems of equations—almost any topic we address can be visually represented by the software. In combination with an interactive whiteboard, students are able to see the answers to the ‘What if…’ questions we pose.” She added: “I am able to give online homework assignments, and many of my students have downloaded GeoGebra at home to investigate on their own. They ask every day if we can ‘GeoGebra’ (yes, it has become a verb in our school)—and students from junior high through calculus have come to think more mathematically because of this incredible software.”

Google Apps for Education

This free collaborative software suite for schools includes eMail, calendar, and word processing programs that allow students to work together on the same document online. Sean Beaverson, secondary technology coordinator for the Bloomington Public Schools in Minnesota, called the software “transformational.”

“I have used it to support the writing process by leveraging the collaborative nature of a document,” he said. “I have helped teachers work to create cooperative assignments in ways that just weren’t possible before. Students create collaborative maps to show the journey of Walk Two Moons or [use] Picasa to share images and get critique from fellow classmates in digital photography class. … It’s—quite simply—great.”

Haiku LMS (Haiku Learning Systems)

Haiku LMS is a cloud-based learning management system for K-12 schools. It’s available for schools, districts, or individual teachers, and its hallmark is simplicity. “We believe that Haiku LMS should require little to no training,” its creators say. “Users familiar with web interfaces should be able to use Haiku LMS within minutes of signing up. Our goal is to make it possible for teachers to maintain a vibrant classroom website in less than 10 minutes of work per week.”

“Haiku LMS has provided our school with a central management device for online learning and online classes,” said Jon Jarc, educational technologist for St. Ignatius High School in Ohio. “Haiku is easy to use, integrates with Google Apps, and is very flexible and feature-rich. It is so easy, we have about 90-percent participation from teachers in our building within three months of starting the school year. It is an amazing product with great support and leadership. It has changed our school. We have 1,500 students, 110 teachers, and 20 staff (along with 200 parents) using it now, and it performs beautifully.”

HealthOffice (Healthmaster Holdings)

HealthOffice helps schools computerize and streamline their health records; track, report, and analyze student health and demographic information; document screenings and deliver better medical care; and manage the Medicaid billing process.

The software allows school nurses “to provide a continuity of care for the students across the county,” said Cheryl Elliot, a school nurse for Horry County Schools in South Carolina. “Having accurate documentation is a lifesaver for the students, as it contains all health alerts related to each student. This [information] transfers with the students as they progress from elementary to high school.”

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