Our readers’ top ed-tech picks for 2012

Read 180 (Scholastic Inc.)

READ 180 is a comprehensive system of curriculum, instruction, assessment, and professional development that has been proven to raise reading achievement for struggling readers in grades 4-12.

“I have taught grade 7 reading with the Read 180 program for seven years and have … seen each and every student improve their reading skills and raise their reading Lexile [score] by at least 150 points,” said Christopher Ienello, a teacher for the Lawrence Public Schools in Massachusetts. “I had a student in 2008 who, using the Read 180 program, turned her life around—to the point that she was selected as a National Read 180 All-Star. She … is [now] consistently making As and Bs in all her courses. She credits Read 180 as having given her the tools she needed to succeed.”

SAFARI Montage

SAFARI Montage provides a comprehensive solution for digital media distribution and visual learning. It gives educators a single interface for accessing all visual resources from inside their network or from home. SAFARI Montage servers come preloaded with educational video titles tied to curriculum standards, from content publishers such as PBS, The History Channel, National Geographic, Scholastic, Disney Education, the BBC, and more. In addition, with SAFARI Montage CreationStation, educators can upload and manage their own digital video assets and disseminate these to classrooms. A new Pathways SM module allows users to control, manage, and schedule classroom and district devices.

“We have experienced tremendous success using SAFARI Montage with our ELL students,” said Sharron Bills, director of curriculum and federal programs for the Dimmitt Independent School District in Texas. “The streaming videos cover a huge array of topics, but what is so unique and useful is the ability to let our students hear the material in Spanish, but read [the closed captioning] in English at the same time. There is also the option to embed the video clips, make them permanent links that can be saved in each teacher’s favorite ‘playlist,’ and [share playlists] with other teachers across the district. … Without a doubt, my teachers agree that if budget cuts are necessary, SAFARI Montage is not one of the items they are willing to give up.”

SAS Curriculum Pathways (SAS Institute)

This free online curriculum resource for students in grades 6-12 provides web-based lessons and activities in the core subjects of English, math, social studies, science, and Spanish. Lessons take an inquiry-based approach that is intended to develop students’ higher-order thinking skills, and they are correlated with the Common Core standards.

“With SAS Curriculum Pathways, my students pace themselves when researching, understanding, and learning,” said Katheryn Higgins, an English teacher for Mooresville Graded School District in North Carolina. “Each student can choose how many times to review an activity and when to move on. Inquiries teach students to perform and evaluate their own research, rather than my telling them what they need to know.”

She added that the Writing Reviser module “is especially useful. Not just a spelling and grammar checker, it takes a student’s written work and gives them suggestions for possible improvement in areas such as wordiness, overuse of prepositional phrases, or clichés. … I’ve used it for whole-group instruction, peer editing, and revising in small groups. Writing Reviser and an interactive punctuation program, Punctuation Rules, have increased my students’ willingness to look over their work and have markedly improved their writing.”

Shakespeare In Bits (Mindconnex Learning)

Shakespeare In Bits brings the Bard’s most popular plays to life through animated visualizations, full audio soundtracks, and unabridged text in a single package. Handy translations for antiquated words and phrases are just a touch away, along with study notes, analyses, plot summaries, and other information to help students understand and appreciate the material. Versions are available for Romeo and Juliet, Hamlet, Macbeth, and A Midsummer Night’s Dream via an iPad, iPhone, Mac, or PC.

“I’m using the Romeo and Juliet app to help my eighth graders—many of whom have documented learning differences—read with far greater comprehension than they would’ve had reading the traditional paper text,” said Anna Melville, a middle school English teacher at Harford Day School in Maryland. “The difference in their understanding, enjoyment, and ability to analyze is tremendous. It is a wonderful example of how technology isn’t a distraction but a real, powerful force to help students understand and engage with material.” Another teacher wrote: “In my 14 years of teaching, this is by far the best resource to use with students for teaching Shakespeare. I have had great feedback from my students.”

SimpleK12 (InfoSource Inc.)

SimpleK12 is a subscription-based professional learning network in which teachers can share ideas, collaborate, watch live and recorded webinars and how-to videos, and learn from one another as they strive to integrate technology effectively into their instruction.

Melissa Earnest, a technology resource teacher for Kentucky’s Caldwell County Schools, said she’s “constantly looking for ways to help teachers [use] the technology in their classrooms—not only to help make their lives easier, but to help their students learn.  SimpleK12 has many webinars that are only 30 minutes to an hour long, so they don’t take much time to watch. I have yet to watch one where I didn’t learn at least one new skill!” Another reader said she is “learning something every day, which means my students learn new programs, Web2.0 tools, and technologies long before their peers. I truly believe this is … worth every dollar I spent.”

eSchool News Staff

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