How to Transform an Ultrabook into a Powerful Workstation

TransformUltrabook200x300Ultrabooks and super-thin laptops have their advantages—but connecting peripherals isn’t one of them. StarTech.com has solutions for sharing content on HDMI or VGA projectors and monitors from an ultrabook, connecting all your peripherals through one USB 3.0 cable, and otherwise upgrading your connectivity.

Sponsored by: GovConnection

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How to Have Complete Data Protection Without Complexity

DataProtection200x300Protecting your data and networks can be difficult—but it doesn’t have to be. The Sophos Enduser Data Suite combines data, endpoint, mobile, and email protection, all under one license—including mobile device management for all your iPhones, iPads, and Android devices. What’s more, because the software is easy to use, you’ll actually use it.

Sponsored by: GovConnection

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Studies show the value of learning a second language early on

Research shows that learning a second language at a young age has measurable cognitive benefits that correlate with higher achievement in other subjects as well. Here’s a look at some of this research.

There is evidence that early language learning improves cognitive abilities.

Foster, K. M., & Reeves, C. K. (1989). “Foreign Language in the Elementary School (FLES) improves cognitive skills.” FLES News, 2(3), 4. This study looked at the relationship between elementary foreign language instruction and scores on tests designed to measure cognitive and metacognitive processes. The study included 67 sixth-grade students who were divided into four groups that differed by lengths of time in the foreign language program, including a control group who had no French instruction. The analysis found that students who had received foreign language instruction scored higher on tasks involving evaluation, which is the highest cognitive skill according to Bloom’s taxonomy—and the students who had studied French the longest performed the best.

Language learning correlates with higher academic achievement on standardized tests.

Armstrong, P. W., & Rogers, J. D. (1997). “Basic skills revisited: The effects of foreign language instruction on reading, math, and language arts.” Learning Languages, 2(3), 20-31. Third-grade students from were randomly assigned to receive 30-minute Spanish lessons three times a week for one semester. Students in the Spanish classes scored significantly higher than the group that did not receive Spanish instruction in math and language on the Metropolitan Achievement Test (MAT); there was no significant difference in reading scores.

Rafferty, E. A. (1986). Second language study and basic skills in Louisiana. U.S.; Louisiana, from ERIC database. A statewide study in Louisiana revealed that third, fourth, and fifth graders who participated in 30-minute elementary school foreign language programs in the public schools showed significantly higher scores on the 1985 Basic Skills Language Arts Test than did a similar group that did not study a foreign language. Further, by fifth grade, the math scores of language students were also higher than those of students not studying a foreign language. Both groups were matched for race, sex, and grade level, and the academic levels of students in both groups were estimated by their previous Basic Skills Test results and statistically equated.

(Source: www.actfl.org)

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JAR Systems Marks a Decade Charging Devices in Schools

Ten Years after the NetEducation Center’s release, many of the first carts are still in use

TALLEVAST, FL. — Aug. 22, 2014—A decade ago, when teachers used laptops to help students learn, they used furniture called computers on wheels to move the devices around and sometimes to charge them. The founders of JAR Systems felt it was an underdeveloped market with room for improvement, and that’s where the company started—with product and industry research that led to the first JAR Cart.
JAR Systems began with the mission to seamlessly integrate information technology hardware and software for an enjoyable and truly unique teaching and learning experience. They wanted to improve upon existing storage equipment, and sought out a variety of professionals in the education and information technology industries. Consultation with educators and IT professionals allowed them to identify common issues with existing charging carts and they used that information to design an innovative product. Also known as the first JAR Cart, the NetEducation Center hit the US market in 2004.
That first cart had many features that make JAR Carts popular today, including pull-out trays, and sliding doors. The cart also offered a stark contrast to other carts available on the market—literally. It wore the company’s signature bright blue color. Built for quality, longevity, and versatility many of the first JAR Carts sold to the public are still being used in schools around the United States.
They also developed The Intelligent Charging System, which is now one of their most popular features. Unique to JAR Carts, the Intelligent Charging System is able to automatically monitor devices and distribute power where and when it is needed. This ensures that devices charge as quickly and efficiently as possible, and that customers don’t have to do a thing. With the intelligent charging feature in JAR Carts, customers find that their devices charge up to 60 percent faster than when stored in other carts. The intelligent charging system can also improve battery life as it measures demand for power, turning off when charging is complete.
“From consulting with educators and IT professionals, we saw a need for charge and store carts to evolve beyond the requirement of how many devices can it hold,” said Axel Zimmermann, one of the company’s founders. “Now, after ten years of working directly with schools to manage and overcome challenges we’ve been able to help many add value to their mobile device deployments and to see their choice of carts as a critical component of a complete mobile classroom solution.”
After a decade of work and experimentation, the company has expanded their product line from that single cart to a line of more than 10 models that can accommodate nearly any need. Whether educators are looking for carts with remote management capability, or a cart designed for storage and charging of electronic devices without taking up much room, JAR Systems can help solve any IT problem. The company even offers a wall-mounted cabinet.
About JAR Systems, LLC: JAR Systems LLC specializes in charging solutions for mobile technology. Founded in 2004, the company has spent the last decade focused on providing smarter, more versatile ways to charge and secure ever-evolving technologies. During this time JAR Systems has consulted educators of all kind to develop products that support and streamline how mobile technology is used for learning. The company’s goal is to deliver products that will work efficiently and dependably for many years down the road. For more information, visit www.jar-systems.com.

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Use these 4 apps for phonics, art exploration, and more

This round-up ensures you won’t miss any of our weekly highlighted apps

app-augustEach week, we feature a new App of the Week on our website and in our newsletters. These apps are for students or educators and offer a range of uses.

But one thing is certain: educators and students are using apps now more than ever.

Here’s a round-up of the apps we’ve featured over the past month. Check back each Monday for a new App of the Week. And don’t worry–if you miss one, you can find a summary of recent apps at the end of each month.

1. Create art like never before

Name: Drawing Desk
What is it? With more than 1,000,000 users worldwide, Drawing Desk is bundled with 4 different drawing modes named as Kids Desk, Doodle Desk, Sketch Desk and Photo Desk, each dedicated to give unique experiences.
Best for: Students and teachers
Price: Free; in-app purchases available

(Next page: 3 more apps)

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High schools need to weld academics with practical skills

When students leave high school, do they have skills that will help them in real-life situations?

hs-skillsI’d like to propose a sweeping overhaul of the United States public education system effective immediately.

This may seem overblown, given that I’m proposing it in response to a bill from Pep Boys that I resent having to pay. The air conditioning in my car stopped working this week and the gentleman said I needed a new compressor, the procurement of which set me back $1,286.

It’s probably legitimate, but I wish I knew for sure. I wish I knew what a compressor looks like or what it does or how complicated, expensive and time-consuming it is to replace.

(Next page: What would an overhaul look like?)

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Five ed-tech trends to watch for the new school year

These trends have important implications for K-12 education this year—and beyond

five-trendsThe “maker movement” makes waves in K-12 schools, and school leaders try to navigate a data privacy minefield while also bracing for online testing: These are among the top ed-tech trends to watch for the new school year.

Last week, we counted down the top five ed-tech stories to watch for 2014-15. Here, for your convenience, we’ve assembled these stories in one place. (Click on each of the headlines below to read the full story.)

How are you approaching these trends in your own schools? What other ed-tech stories will you be watching closely this school year? Share your thoughts in the comments section below—we’d love to hear from you.

maker-movement5. The ‘maker movement’ makes waves in schools.

As the new school year begins, “maker spaces” are cropping up in countless schools and libraries nationwide. Here’s why the maker movement has quickly grown in popularity—and how it helps meet a critical need in schools.

 

data-privacy4. Schools grapple with data privacy.

After the high-profile demise this past spring of inBloom, a controversial nonprofit organization that aimed to build a national, cloud-based student data system to improve education, school leaders face a puzzle: How can they balance the privacy concerns of stakeholders with the need to collect and analyze information about their students?

 

one-to-many

3. From 1-to-1 to ‘one to many’

No. 3 on our list of top ed-tech stories for the new school year is the trend toward students using many different devices while at school, which has important implications for how K-12 leaders design their networks.

 

broadband2. The eRate gets a facelift.

No. 2 on our list of key ed-tech trends for the new school year is the dramatic overhaul of the eRate, the nation’s school wiring program. While there will be more money available for Wi-Fi networks and other internal connections, support for voice-related services will be phased out over five years—and here’s what these changes will mean for schools.

 

online-testing1. Schools brace for online testing.

Next spring, new state exams tied to the Common Core standards in reading and math will be given for the first time in more than 40 states—and there are big questions about whether schools and their students will be ready.

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MindPlay Helps School Administrators Promote Student Improvement on Common Core State Reading Assessments

MindPlay Virtual Reading Coach® and RAPS® 360 accurately predict students’ performance in reading at the beginning of the year and promote improvement in time for assessments

Tucson, AZ, Aug. 27, 2014 – Two award-winning web-based reading programs from literacy publisher MindPlay help K-12 school administrators predict now which students will pass the reading portion of Common Core State Assessments. This information enables them to act immediately to promote improvement as needed by spring testing. Schools can use either the Common Core State Standards-aligned MindPlay Virtual Reading Coach® (MVRC) or RAPS® 360 to test their students’ reading performance immediately. In a recent district predictability study in Texas using RAPS and MVRC, the programs were up to 92% accurate in predicting students’ performance on the assessments. The programs were found similarly accurate in predicting student performance on state assessments through studies in other states as well.

When administrators have this information early, they can intervene to promote student improvement in reading in time for the state assessments and check students’ progress as they go. Once they know which students are “Critical” and at risk of not passing, they can have their school assign their own intervention or use MindPlay’s MVRC to help those students improve their reading skills. Based on years of research and successful case studies, MindPlay guarantees student progress when using MVRC with fidelity. MindPlay guarantee that 90% of students will gain one or more grade-levels in reading or they can receive their money back. Fidelity is defined as using the program four days a week for 30 minutes each day for a full school year.

The validity of RAPS 360 and MVRC as predictors of student performance on the State of Texas Assessments of Academic Readiness (STAAR) was put to the test independently by a South Texas school district over the 2012-13 and 2013-14 school years. District and school administrators considering the acquisition of MVRC and RAPS360 wanted to analyze the ability of the products to both promote improvements in STAAR performance and to predict performance on the STAAR assessment.

The district’s analysis found that the RAPS360 diagnostic test embedded in MVRC is able to predict whether or not a student meets or fails to meet STAAR grade-level benchmarks. Among the 234 students whose test results were available for both years of the study, 92.9% of those who were classified as “Critical” by RAPS 360 also failed to meet STAAR grade-level benchmarks. Likewise, 81.1% of those who were classified as “Meets” by RAPS 360 also met STAAR grade-level benchmarks.

The school district also found a statistically significant positive correlation between number of minutes that students used MVRC and positive change in meeting or exceeding annual growth targets. Of the students who used the MVRC product for 30 hours or more as recommended by MindPlay, 65% experienced a positive improvement in reading moving from “Does Not Meet” to “Meets” or from “Meets” to “Exceeds” between the 2012-2013 and 2013-2014 school years.

“MindPlay provides school administrators with an easy way to identify students who are not likely to pass their state reading assessment at the beginning of the year,” said Judith Bliss, President at MindPlay. “It only takes 15 minutes to test a whole class at once to gain to such valuable information! Multiple usability studies in several states have shown that student scores on our diagnostic reading test in both RAPS 360 and MVRC are an average of 89% accurate in predicting students’ meets or fails to meet scores on state assessments.”

RAPS 360
MindPlay’s RAPS 360, a Reading Analysis and Prescription System, is a diagnostic reading assessment program that automatically tests and diagnoses basic reading skills and weaknesses for a single student, a classroom, the entire school or school district population. It measures student reading behaviors using eight diagnostic tests. The tests include: Comprehension Screening Assessment, Phoneme Segmentation, Word Meaning and Recognition Assessment, Phonics-Decoding/Encoding Assessment, Eye Tracking Assessment, Natural Fluency Assessment, Expected Fluency Screening, and the Pause-Assisted Fluency Assessment (Reading Connected Text Assessment). These assessments are grouped into three test sets that provide either detailed diagnostics or a quick progress check. Depending on the test set and student performance, students may take as few as one or as many as six assessment and diagnostic tests.

RAPS 360 is adaptive and automated based on student performance. Students simply follow the testing sequence as it is presented while the system adjusts and responds based on their answers. The program develops student prescriptions for improvement and generates automatic reports for individuals, classes, schools and districts. The RAPS 360 program is both sold alone for schools that only want the assessment or who have their own reading intervention, or is included within MVRC, for schools that want a complete reading solution.

MVRC
While MVRC is great for a preventive action or intervention, it can help all students improve their reading. MVRC automates for teachers the process of assessing reading skills and differentiating instruction. It provides students with direct instruction that targets their specific and unique barriers to build accuracy and achieve fluent reading. The research-based program, which won a BESSIE Award this year, applies expert teaching methods. Students receive feedback targeted to help them understand and fix each error.

All stories within the Web-based MVRC are assigned Lexile® ratings by MetaMetrics®. MindPlay’s Lexile text complexity ratings are consistent with Common Core State Standards. MVRC helps students improve their reading skills measurably in 40 hours or less by differentiating instruction for each student. Using explicit and direct instruction by reading specialists and speech pathologists, students work at their own pace. The program helps all students improve their reading, and is endorsed by CASE for students with special needs, and is appropriate for dyslexic, struggling readers, and intermediate to advanced English language learners. MVRC provides instruction in six essential reading components: Phonemic Awareness, Phonics, Vocabulary, Grammar for Meaning, Comprehension, and Fluency.

Assessment and progress monitoring are embedded into MVRC. The program collects and records all data into a central reporting system in real time. Teachers can see what students are doing instantly as it happens from the report pages. The program provides reports at district, school, classroom, and student levels. Student data can be exported to a .CSV file, which can be imported into Excel. Teachers and administrators can customize and export the reports they need to evaluate student progress.

Pricing and Availability
MVRC and RAPS 360 are available online now. For information and ordering, schools and districts can visit MindPlay at www.mindplay.com, or education resellers. The programs are available from any computer with Internet access. Volume pricing is available for schools to purchase MVRC or RAPS 360.

MindPlay, Inc.
More than 30 years ago, Founder Judith Bliss started the MindPlay Company to create a solution to overcome the challenges of learning to read. Her goal was to help struggling learners succeed in school and life, after overcoming her own reading disabilities. MindPlay’s mission is to develop, publish, and distribute cost-effective learning tools that support individual growth and skill development. The curriculum includes clear objectives, inviting graphics and modern technological innovations. MindPlay educational software programs appeal to multiple learning styles, identify individual student needs and differentiate instruction. For more information, please go to www.mindplay.com.
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App Partner Facilitates the Launch of New Educational iPad App for Kids

[Brooklyn, N.Y., August 27, 2014] – App Partner, a Brooklyn-based mobile application developer, has completed the iOS programming for a just-launched app, NGAkids Art Zone for iPad. The app was produced in collaboration with Al Jarnow of Protozone, Inc. and Donna Mann of the National Gallery of Art, Washington.

“We are thrilled to have worked with the National Gallery of Art and Protozone to develop the NGAkids Art Zone app,” said Drew Johnson, co-CEO and founder, App Partner. “At App Partner, we are big believers in working with clients to develop ‘apps for good.’ This educational iOS app for iPad is a perfect example of how mobile apps can be used for such an end – and enables children of all ages to become familiar with major works of art while also encouraging their own artistic self-expression in an intuitive, child-friendly, easy-to-navigate interface.”

Now available on the App Store, the NGAkids Art Zone app is optimized for children between the ages of nine and eleven, but it’s fun for kids of all ages. The app contains eight interactive activities inspired by works in the collection of the National Gallery of Art, plus a sketchbook for freehand drawing and a personal exhibition space where users can save and display art created with the program.

High-resolution graphics, careful attention to detail and exposure to a variety of subjects, painting styles and techniques help convey an authentic understanding of the artistic process and reinforce their familiarity with the fundamental elements of art. Unexpected animation and audio features further enliven the program and help make learning fun.

To learn more about the app, visit: http://www.nga.gov/content/ngaweb/education/kids/kids-app.html#parmain_columnheader

To download NGAkids Art Zone for iPad, visit: https://itunes.apple.com/us/app/ngakids-art-zone/id904766241?ls=1&mt=8

About App Partner
App Partner is a Brooklyn-based mobile app developer specializing in the design, development and deployment of intuitive, user-friendly apps for iOS and Android. The company works with clients to guide them through the entire mobile app development process – from conceptualizing and design through programming, testing, submission and post-launch support and app updates. App Partner’s collaborative, communication-driven process has resulted in the successful launch of more than 200 mobile apps for clients that include large, multi-national corporations, leading universities and well funded startups.

For more information, visit www.apppartner.com or follow the company on LinkedIn, Twitter (@AppPartner) and Facebook.

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