Our readers’ top ed-tech picks for 2012

Kineo (Brainchild Corp.)

The Kineo is a tablet computer designed for elementary and middle school students. Built on Google’s Android operating system, the Kineo acts as an eBook reader with internet access and Flash capability. Its replaceable battery reportedly lasts for up to 12 hours on single charge, and at $299 it costs far less than Apple’s iPad. It also comes with Brainchild’s Achiever! software for practicing math and reading skills either offline or online. Perhaps best of all for educators, the Kineo enables school leaders to specify the applications that students can use on the device by “locking down” the apps they don’t want young children to use.

“We were looking for a tablet that would allow our students to work on skills in areas of need as indicated by assessments,” said Beth Curtis, principal of Verner Elementary School in Tuscaloosa, Ala. “Most tablets lack strong educational content that follows the core standards. I chose Kineo because it is a tablet built for schools with integrated standards-based content, assessment reporting, and prescriptive teaching. My school purchased 60 Kineos, and we are currently using them in our third and fourth grade classes. [The Achiever! software] provides animated lessons and a study mode for self-paced or guided learning. This approach has been a fun and engaging experience for our students, and they can’t wait to use the Kineo. … In just a short time this year, we have already seen tremendous classroom improvement on many of the Alabama Course of Study standards.”

LanSchool (LanSchool Technologies)

LanSchool is a classroom management and monitoring program that supports PCs, Macs, Linux-based devices, and thin clients from companies such as NComputing, Citrix, and more. Using the software, teachers can limit applications or web browsing on student computers; view students’ computer screens and broadcast a screen to the class; and poll students during a lecture with true/false or multiple choice questions. In addition, students can use the software to request help from their teacher discretely.

“I use LanSchool to manage an instructional computer lab in an elementary library,” said Maureen Staple, elementary library media teacher for the Auburn School District in Washington state. “It affords me the ability to boot all 35 computers from a single console and have the lab ready in much less time than before, as well as shut down the lab at the end of the school day. This lab does not have an LCD projector or document camera, but that is no longer an issue [because] I can broadcast my teacher screen to each individual student computer and provide visual modeling. Students can also easily share their work with the entire class without having to relocate to each other’s computers.”

She added: “LanSchool saves me a great deal of precious time, since I can send files and messages, blank screens during direction-giving, and limit website access from my teacher machine. It has saved us money that might have been spent on student response systems, because ‘voting’ is built into the program. This affordable product … greatly enhances my resourcefulness in the lab setting.”

Lexia Reading (Lexia Learning Systems)

Lexia Reading is a technology-based system of differentiated practice, embedded assessment, and targeted reading instruction. It’s designed to advance foundational reading skills for students in pre-kindergarten through grade 4 and accelerate reading development for at-risk students in grades 4-12. Because its embedded assessment correlates closely with other reading tests (such as DIBELS), the software provides educators with actionable, norm-referenced performance data without interrupting the flow of instruction to administer a test. By reducing the need for traditional reading tests, districts can reclaim a considerable amount of instructional time and can achieve significant cost savings, Lexia says.

“This is an excellent product to increase success in reading,” said Beth DePasquale, instructional technology specialist for the Southborough Public Schools in Massachusetts. “I have some kindergarten teachers who use it on a regular basis and some who haven’t yet been able to add it to their routine. I have seen a significant difference between those two groups when they arrive in grade one.”

Livescribe Echo Smartpen (Livescribe Inc.)

Liverscribe’s smart pens record everything you write and hear, so you can replay a lecture from any spot simply by tapping your notes at that point. Teachers are using Livescribe pens to record and post “pencasts” for their students to review online, showing the teacher’s notes as they are being written—and playing the corresponding audio that explains their notes. The latest version of the company’s smart pen, called the Echo, adds more digital storage capability, and it can stream all notes taken in real time to a computer—turning special dotted paper into an inexpensive digital tablet.

“This has proved to be a wonderful tool for me to help my students,” said Mathew McClenahan, a teacher at High Tech Los Angeles Charter School. “I teach both economics and math. I have been able to show and explain the various graphs … to my students while recording my explanations. Students can then go back over the recording at their leisure.” He added:  “It has made a significant difference in how I am able to teach.”

Mangahigh (Blue Duck Education)

Founded by a team of mathematicians and game specialists in the United Kingdom, Mangahigh is a free, games-based K-12 math teaching resource, where students can learn and practice math skills via “purpose-built … games that balance fun and learning,” according to the website. Each game covers certain learning topics and is designed to adapt in difficulty to the ability of each student. The site is intended for students ages 7-16, and its games are based on the Common Core standards. Educators receive their own login, where they can track the progress of their students.

“Mangahigh is a great way to shake up our math classroom while injecting it with a big dose of fun, discovery, and challenge,” said Pierre Renaud, a teacher for the Ottawa-Carleton District in Ontario. “It’s easy for students to work at their own pace and for us to track progress. … We also use the built-in analytics to help inform decisions about where to go next with our students, [and] many students who have computers at home continue their learning there.”

eSchool News Staff

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