NECC 2009: Instruction, Assessment, and Collaboration

necclogomerAmerican Education Corp., publisher of the A+nyWhere Learning System, announced that it has released Spanish I B, a new world language course for its online courseware system. Spanish I B is the second full-semester course component (Spanish I A is the first) of an integrated, yearlong course of study for students in grades 9-12. Included in the courseware is a Spanish-to-English and English-to-Spanish dictionary. The content and concepts of the Spanish I B course are based in part on the National Standards in Foreign Language Education, developed in cooperation with the American Council on the Teaching of Foreign Languages. Spanish I B offers an advanced focus on vocabulary, pronunciation, reading, and writing of the Spanish language. The 72 lessons, divided into 18 weekly units, cover a variety of topics and build on the conversational and grammatical skills that were introduced in Spanish I A.

AverMedia, a provider of presentation and surveillance technology, announced the AVerPen Interactive Collaborative Learning Solution. The AVerPen is a device that combines the features found in interactive whiteboards, wireless slates, and student response systems–offering mobility, simultaneous teacher-student engagement, and immediate feedback from virtually any surface in the room, the company says. Starter sets include one teacher pen with four student pens, all able to work simultaneously. Teacher pens can control all AVer+ Software features, as well as activate, limit, or expand student pen functions, and the pens fully integrate with AVerVision Document Cameras. The AVerPen is expected to be available in September.

Buzan Online Ltd., a U.K.-based company, is expanding its reach to the United States. The company’s focus is the iMindMap, software that provides a graphic technique to harness a person’s full range of cortical skills–word, image, number, logic, rhythm, color, and spatial awareness. Buzan Online says this allows users to think in a more effective and brain-friendly way, giving them an advantage over individuals stuck in “old-fashioned linear thinking patterns. Now, you can see the whole picture and save time by becoming more efficient.”

Calypso Systems demonstrated a wide array of multimedia technology solutions for schools, including hardware interfaces, IP-based controllers, and sound amplification systems. At NECC, Calypso also announced the winners of its Be Heard grant program, which will award WCM-RF sound-field reinforcement systems to three schools: Holly Grove Elementary School in Holly Springs, N.C.; McWhirter Elementary School in Webster, Texas; and Lawrence Central High School in Indianapolis. The three grants are worth a total of $120,000, Calypso said.

Certiport announced the latest version of its worldwide digital literacy certification program, the Certiport Internet and Computing Core Certification (IC³). The newest version, dubbed IC³ Global Standard 3 (GS3), is the third installment of the regularly updated standard. Ratified last year by the Global Digital Literacy Council, the new standard reportedly received input from more than 400 subject matter experts from around the world. Certiport also launched an Adobe Certified Associate certification exam for Adobe Creative Suite 4. The new release comes as the Adobe certification program has experienced huge growth, Certiport says. The surge in examinations has been fueled in part by initiatives in Florida and New York to integrate the certification into career and technical education programs.

CompassLearning announced an update to its Odyssey High School courseware, including eight new high school courses: English III and IV, Algebra II, Trigonometry, Chemistry, Physics, U.S. History I (to 1850), and World History. The new release also boasts a reporting feature that enables teachers and administrators to display, save, and print information related to test results, time on task, attendance, and enrollment, the company says.

CTB/McGraw-Hill released Acuity UnWired, new clicker integration software for the company’s Acuity InFormative Assessment solution. Acuity UnWired lets students take Acuity assessments using student-response devices provided by Qwizdom and eInstruction. Teachers can immediately act on assessment responses and generate standards-aligned Acuity reports.

Curriculum Advantage unveiled the latest version of its Classworks instructional software for grades K-12, Classworks Web Edition. Classworks provides individualized instruction in math, reading, language arts, and science to bring at-risk students to grade-level proficiency, accelerate learning for mainstream students, and help English learners build fluency, the company says. With Classworks Web Edition, teachers can deliver differentiated instruction for crowded classrooms, multi-tiered interventions and progress monitoring for Response to Intervention programs, and tutoring for dropout prevention. Classworks Web Edition includes 6,000 new activities, and each activity is tagged by learning style so teachers can select what modality works best for each student. The updated version also features a new search engine, allowing teachers to search by publisher, keyword, state standards, district pacing guide, learning style, or grade level.

Curriculum Associates showcased its new BRIGANCE Head Start System, launched at the Head Start National Association Conference this spring. Created to meet the needs of Head Start programs, the system is designed to prepare every child for school success by providing quick and easy screening, developmentally appropriate activities, and ongoing assessment and monitoring of student skills, the company says.

Discovery Education announced a new curriculum alignment service that collaborates with school districts on their goals for integration of digital content into their day-to-day classroom instruction. Discovery Education also has partnered with PBS, the Chicago Sun-Times, and Pearson Education/BBC Worldwide to expand the media library of its Discovery Education streaming video-on-demand service.

Disney Online Kerpoof Studios, which focuses on the development of interactive online entertainment, says its goal is to provide rich, engaging web activities that go beyond most of today’s “passive, mindless offerings,” delivering an interactive tool that lets children be creative and productive while playing online. The activities provided on allow children to create artwork, movies, freehand drawings, cards, and more in a variety of themes and styles. Children also can print or eMail their creations.  More than 60 Kerpoof backgrounds are available, ranging from cartoon worlds to historical worlds and animal habitats. Kerpoof Scholastics is a resource page for educators, providing lesson plans and ideas on how to use Kerpoof to enrich classroom activities. Schools have access to subscriber services free of charge.

eChalk, which helps school leaders, teachers, students, and parents safely use the web to connect to learning, information, and each other, released a case study from Corpus Christi Independent School District (CCISD) in Texas. Moving their district online with eChalk has transformed communication and led to greater collaboration, CCISD officials say. According to the district, a pilot program implemented in its middle schools has increased parent involvement, raised test scores, and reduced disciplinary problems within a single school year.

EduPlatform showcased its Classroom Manager, an all-in-one software solution that facilitates teaching and learning in wired or wireless network environments, one-to-one computing programs, and computer centers such as those found in libraries or labs. The company’s Lesson Builder application helps teachers create engaging lessons by merging and sequencing files from commonly used digital resources, such as Web 2.0 technologies.

eInstruction unveiled two new products that represent the next generation of its student response technology: vClicker Mobile Edition (ME) and the CPS Pulse. vClicker ME is a virtual response system that runs on web-enabled mobile devices students already use, such as personal computers, laptops, iPhones, and BlackBerries. Using vClicker ME, a student can participate in a lesson, take a test, or complete an interactive team challenge from anywhere without having to invest in a separate clicker device, eInstruction says. For users of eInstruction’s Classroom Performance System, the new CPS Pulse enables up to 1,000 students per class to answer multiple choice, numeric, and short text-answer questions while teachers collect responses in real time. To support educators with the implementation of these and other 21st-century learning tools, eInstruction also launched eI Community, a new online community for K-12 and college educators to share and discuss best practices, lesson plans, and more.

Elluminate has expanded its role as a provider of online learning platforms and meeting spaces by launching a new social learning network for education, called LearnCentral ( A free and open resource for professionals in the global education community, LearnCentral provides social networking and collaboration tools for members to find and connect with others, share content and best practices, create and maintain a portfolio of learning content, meet in real-time virtual rooms, and hold and attend events. Upon joining LearnCentral, each member receives a free Elluminate vRoom, a virtual meeting room for up to three participants or locations. The network is moderated by Elluminate’s social learning consultant, Steve Hargadon, founder of Classroom 2.0 and director of the Consortium for School Networking’s K12 Open Technologies Initiative.

ePals announced that it has partnered with the International Baccalaureate (IB) program to implement and manage a customized, hosted online learning community for IB students, educators, alumni, and other stakeholders. The new site will use safe and collaborative communication tools to create authentic learning experiences and interactions on a global scale, ePals said. The rollout will be multi-phased, ultimately enabling members of the worldwide IB community in 2,600 schools and more than 130 countries to connect, share, and collaborate online.

Epson demonstrated its PowerLite Presenter, a solution for schools that cannot afford a full complement of audio-visual technology. The projector, which lets teachers show classroom video without additional equipment, comes with a surround-sound option, microphone input, and “plug-and-play” connections–allowing for quick setup that doesn’t require IT help, the company says.

Houghton Mifflin Harcourt demonstrated its Learning Village, Destination Math, and Destination Reading products. Learning Village is a curriculum management solution that connects educators to best practices, instructional strategies, lesson plans, and resources to support measurable student achievement. Destination Reading and Destination Math are used as supplemental instructional resources to support core instruction–either for practice, remediation, or acceleration, or as a way to provide individualized or small-group instruction in an engaging, interactive learning environment. Both programs also provide a learning management system that tracks students’ performance over time.

InFocus unveiled a new interactive projector technology, called LightBoard. Currently undergoing beta testing, the system offers a cost-effective, flexible, and portable solution for schools by eliminating the need to purchase and install whiteboard hardware and by freeing presenters to interact with the content from around the room, InFocus says. “The limited hardware requirements of InFocus LiteBoard make it easier to install and share among classes, while also redefining how educators experience the technology. We’re extremely happy to be among the first to beta test this new technology,” said Jim Hirsch, associate superintendent for academic and technology services at the Plano Independent School District in Texas.Consisting of the LiteBoard projector and wand, the InFocus IN3902LB and IN3904LB interactive system will work on any surface, so there is no need to mount whiteboard hardware–and there are no limits to the size of the display, the company says. The wand works by detecting patterns in the projected image that the human eye cannot see, then communicating with the projector over a radio frequency to triangulate exactly where the user is pointing. All information is passed to the computer as standard USB mouse clicks and coordinates, enabling the LiteBoard to be used with any operating system and software that uses computer mice.

it’s learning, a Norway-based learning platform provider, is bringing its individualized learning system and training services to U.S. schools and universities. With nearly two million users worldwide, it’s learning provides a web-based platform, tools, and training that enable students and teachers to plan, author, collaborate, and deliver multimedia learning experiences. Users can integrate original, free, and commercial content into the it’s learning library. The platform supports different learning styles by allowing students and teachers to create and deliver text, images, sound, and video for lessons, collaborative projects, assignments, online discussions, tests, or presentations. Students can save these digital files to an ePortfolio to show their work to parents and other interested parties, and teachers can use the materials to instruct and assess students. Other features include differentiated user interfaces, plagiarism-control tools, blogs, project forums, discussion boards, audio-video conferences, secure messaging and eMail, grade books, progress reports, and a Software Development Toolkit. Pricing is based on an annual license for each student and teacher; parent and mentor accounts are free.

Key Curriculum Press introduced The Geometer’s Sketchpad Version 5, a math software program that reportedly offers 100 new features and updates to help support a hands-on, visual approach to mathematics instruction. The new edition extends its application across several curriculum topics. Expanded algebraic capabilities allow teachers and students to explore a broader variety of subjects, and improved presentation capabilities offer a faster, clearer, and more dynamic demonstration tool, the company said. A new Learning Center, with step-by-step tutorials, classroom-ready activities, and student-friendly tips delivered through comics and videos, reportedly makes it easier for teachers to use the new version. Sketchpad Version 5 starts at $70 for a single-user package, with volume discounts available.

Publishing company KidsWrite has coached elementary-school classes through the process of writing, illustrating, and compiling books that are published and made available on the company’s web site. The collaborative self-publishing effort also has a news feature: KidsCafe, a social networking site where students can chat about their latest literary works.

LEGO Education has added a new product line to its robotics solutions, called TETRIX by Pitsco. A new metal building system, TETRIX offers unlimited design and real-world application possibilities for students, the company says. The patented hole pattern enables TETRIX parts to be connected in a number of angles to a variety of elements. A special connector enables TETRIX to work with the LEGO Technic building system. The TETRIX Robotic Education Base Set includes more than 550 parts and comes with a user guide that covers building a basic robot body, wiring and using a remote control, designing gear assemblies, and building arm mechanisms and end effectors.

Lexia Learning Systems announced Lexia Reading version 6.0. The latest version of Lexia’s reading software makes implementation faster and easier, the company says. A new Auto Placement feature helps students quickly begin using Lexia Reading at their individual skill level, while new Auto Promotion functionality automatically advances students to increasingly challenging levels. There is also a new command-line installation feature for simpler distribution of the software to multiple Windows computers.

Livescribe showcased its digital pen, the Pulse Smartpen–which enables users to capture everything that is heard and written, listen to recorded audio by tapping on their notes, transfer notes and recordings to a computer to play them back, search for words within handwritten notes, and share notes, drawings, and recordings as Flash movies or PDF files. Students can use the Pulse Smartpen to record classroom discussions and lectures, review their notes, and share them with classmates. There are a variety of ways teachers can use the device, including providing notes for students who are absent, recording student presentations, administering tests, and sharing feedback with parents.

Lumens announced the availability of the Lumens DC265, the first portable visual presenter with the power of a desktop model designed for use in K-12 education, the company says. Along with a 6x optical zoom, the Lumens DC265 provides UXGA resolution, capturing up to 46 percent more image detail than SXGA–all reportedly easily controlled with single-touch, one-button auto focus.

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