ResponseCard NXT (Turning Technologies)

The ResponseCard NXT offers the same features as other radio-frequency-based student response systems, but it also includes advanced capabilities such as cell-phone style text entry for short answer and essay questions—and a self-paced test mode for individual assessment. The unit also contains an LCD display that indicates responses have been received.

“We have begun using Turning Technologies’ NXT student response systems in our grade this past year and have already seen substantial increases in student engagement, participation, and test scores,” said Brian Wickenheiser, a sixth-grade teacher and elementary technology chair for Minnesota’s Esko School District. “By having real-time progress monitoring, we have been able to help students increase their learning [and] self-evaluation during formative assessments. … Each student is also able to offer [his or her] opinion during a lesson, thereby prompting better small-group collaboration and class discussions. This has increased not only participation, but also the quality of work—each student knows [his or her] effort (or lack thereof!) is being observed.” He added: “The potential and value of this system is incredible—no other one-to-one device can give the versatility that the NXTs can give at only $50 per student.”

SchoolMessenger (Reliance Communications)

SchoolMessenger is a suite of communication solutions for education, including an automated parent notification service, a survey tool, and an anonymous communication service called Talk About It.

“We use the system to alert parents to absences, grade reporting, school events such as open houses or athletic events, and school closings,” said Harold Morgan, chief information officer for Leslie County Schools in Kentucky. “We are able to contact every parent in our district within a time span of about 15 to 20 minutes. [And because it’s] web-based, we can deliver messages from anywhere there is internet service, allowing us to reach out even when our district office might not have power.” Through the product’s survey tool, “we can now get more accurate information on things like how many students have computers, tablets, or smart phones at home. This has proven to be much more effective and reliable than passing out paper surveys to be taken home and retuned by students. It allows us to have more confidence in our decision making.”

Science Starters (Scientific Minds)

Science Starters are web-based, multimedia programs for students in grades 3-11 that follow the “5E” instructional model: engage, explain, elaborate, explore, evaluate.

“As a first-year teacher, the Science Starters have been a lifesaver,” said Kurt Reeves, a high school biology teacher for the West Orange-Cove Consolidated Independent School District in Texas. “They provide the review and remediation that my students need. Teachers in my department say that science assessment scores in our school improved tremendously when they began using the original Science Starters in 2007. They expect an even greater gain with the new, interactive Biology model.”

He added: “I especially like the way the modules give me teacher-guided and video options. I also like the way the teacher-guided option works with a remote presenter. This allows me to move around the room, keeping my students on task, as I lead them through the lesson. The video option, interactive flashcards, and assessments are ideal for independent student study from school or home. Great product!”

Schoology

Schoology is a comprehensive online system for managing lessons, engaging students, and connecting with other educators. It combines the functionality of a learning management system with the utility of a social media network, and schools can import all their documents and course information from Google Docs, Blackboard, and Moodle into the system.

“Ease of use on the teacher side, coupled with the continuous improvement on the company side, make this an outstanding product,” said Mark Garrison, instructional technology coordinator for White Bear Lake Area Schools in Minnesota. “The features—from media alumnus, grading, calendar, and discussions to Google integration—make this the perfect classroom learning hub. It is more than a place to house digital content and host online discussions. It is fully a digital extension of a teacher’s physical classroom.”