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FETC 2010: Instruction & Assessment

Promethean BoothAmerican Education Corp., a provider of research-based, core curriculum instructional software for kindergarten through adult learners, will release a series of virtual science and math labs later this year.

Brainchild, a publisher of educational assessment and intervention programs, launched the Brainchild Academy Concept, a multimodal method of combining print and digital resources with face-to-face instruction. Students work through three stations: (1) Brainchild Achiever! for diagnosis and assessment, (2) Brainchild’s handheld Study Buddy for instruction, and (3) use of Achiever! worksheets or supplemental print materials for reinforcing instruction with a teacher or tutor. This three-station method keeps a classroom of students occupied and focused on the core instructional content while the teacher is free to assist and guide her students through the process, Brainchild said.

For a pilot project in which digital content replaces traditional textbooks as the core instructional material, teachers in the Indianapolis Public Schools are using Discovery Education to access streaming video, images, and other digital media, all aligned with district pacing guides. This pilot project, which is occurring in 12 district schools, features digital media, curriculum alignment services, professional development, and hardware from Discovery Education. The company’s media collection reportedly includes more than 5,000 videos and 41,000 digital video clips, all aligned with state standards. The content is searchable by keyword, content area, and grade level. Discovery Education and Comcast’s Indianapolis Region are supplementing this content and extending students’ learning beyond the school day through Discovery Education On Demand By Comcast, which makes the content available to Comcast subscribers online or on cable TV, free of charge.

Educational software company DreamBox Learning had Mickelle Weary, a member of its Academic Team and a National Board Certified Teacher, lead a panel session titled “Using Virtual Manipulatives to Support the Development of Number Sense.” Participants in Weary’s session shared their ideas about the value of using virtual manipulatives for teaching numeric concepts and skills, as well as how to use and evaluate virtual math manipulatives in a classroom setting. The company also showcased its DreamBox Learning K-2 Math product.

GradeCam, which sells a classroom-based solution for conducting frequent assessments, now offers an online version. When a paper-based test is scanned with a document or web camera, GradeCam Online compresses the image and sends it to a server for analysis by its proprietary advanced image recognition code. Item-by-item results are displayed immediately and stored for generating real-time reports. GradeCam Online also integrates with all electronic gradebooks, its maker says.

“As with any application that is web-based, the district-wide implementation of GradeCam Online is so much easier because there is no software to install and upgrades happen automatically,” said Tami Porter, co-founder of GradeCam. “With an automated assessment process, teachers can collect information every day about each of their students’ learning needs. With the new online version, continual monitoring of student progress toward skill mastery, which is a proven strategy for academic success, is much easier for classroom teachers to implement.”

Gravic showcased its Remark Office OMR product, which collects and analyzes data from plain paper forms. Using any software package, users can design and print their own “fill-in-the-bubble” forms for conducting surveys, tests, and evaluations. The user then scans those completed forms in Remark Office OMR, which supports a variety of image scanners. An analysis package tabulates survey results and grades exams to produce professional-looking reports and graphs with the click of a button. The reports can be exported to various formats, including PDF, HTML, Excel, and Rich-Text Format.

iParadigms, which is best known for its plagiarism detection software, Turnitin, demonstrated PeerMark, a new product that facilitates peer review of student work online. With PeerMark, students turn in drafts of their papers online, and the instructor creates a list of questions to focus reviewers’ attention. Once students are assigned papers to review, they can mark up their peers’ work using a customizable palette of online tools. When students get their own paper back, they can rate the feedback they’ve received. PeerMark is now part of iParadigms’ WriteCycle product suite, which includes Turnitin and a paperless grading system called GradeMark. The goal of the software suite is to encourage better writing habits, iParadigms said—such as more original student writing and revision.

Learn360, a media-on-demand service for K-12 educators, unveiled version 3.0 of its service, which includes new content and improvements in speed and accessibility. All of the company’s content now can be integrated easily into podcasts, presentations, learning-based activities, and quizzes, Learn360 said. In addition, the company has partnered with National Geographic, allowing users to download more than 200 video titles from National Geographic Digital Motion. The collection includes footage from around the world on such topics as nature, wildlife, people and cultures, history and archeology, current events, and exploration.

Learning Plans on Demand (LPOD) demonstrated its new diagnostic assessments that tie directly into hundreds of embedded tutorials for personalizing learning. Teachers can use LPOD to make instructional plans based on students’ individual needs, such as those required for a “Response to Intervention” (RTI) approach to instruction. LPOD automates the RTI process, from assessing students’ needs to generating the learning plans—and it does so for remediation or accelerated instruction. The system includes assessments and tutorials for mathematics, language arts, reading, and science at any grade level from kindergarten through high school. All content is aligned with state standards, and test questions are available in open-ended or multiple-choice formats. The system also includes reporting features to help administrators analyze curriculum gaps and school or district performance over a wide range of variables.

NBC Learn, the educational arm of NBC News, introduced its Cue Card Media Player, which allows teachers to search through more than 10,000 digital media resources covering all subjects using a standards-based search engine. Teachers and students can save, share, access, and annotate these resources either online or offline. Educators who subscribe to the service by April 15 will get an additional school year for free with their 2010-11 subscription.

NetSupport demonstrated version 10.5 of its NetSupport School software, which gives teachers the ability to instruct, monitor, and interact with individual students, pre-defined groups, or the entire class in a networked computing environment. The latest version includes classroom PC monitoring, real-time presentation and annotation tools, a customized testing suite, internet and application control, automated lesson plans, print management capabilities, instant messenger control, content monitoring, desktop security, and a new audio monitoring feature (which is useful for language classes in particular).

Nystrom, a social studies curriculum provider, introduced StrataLogica, a web-based product that delivers age-appropriate, curriculum-based social studies content. All Nystrom wall maps, globes, atlases, charts, and outline maps are available digitally. Powered by the Google Earth application programming interface (API), Nystrom content is presented in an interactive format. Teachers can focus on specific content to guide students, and multiple resources are available for students to use for homework and projects. StrataLogica can be used on a computer, for projecting in class, or with an interactive whiteboard (accredited by SMART and Promethean).

Interactive technology provider Promethean has teamed up with SAFARI Montage, which sells video-on-demand and digital media management products for schools, to announce a new educational repository that helps teachers create and store their digital lesson plans, align them with state standards, and share them with other teachers in their district. Teachers who use Promethean’s ActivClassroom system now can integrate SAFARI Montage resources into their lesson plans and classroom activities.

Qwizdom “tweeted away” more than $30,000 in interactive learning systems during the conference. “Tweetaway” prizes included a set of 24 Q2 Student Response Remotes with a Q7 Tablet, Connect software, and WizTeach tools, which allow users to annotate, draw, and explain a concept while working within a web browser or other application.

School Specialty Intervention discussed its individualized, responsive intervention solutions to help close the achievement gap in K-12 reading and math. The company’s products include the Academy of READING, a software program intended to help struggling students; Response to Intervention: The RtI Package for the Academy of READING, a solution that gives schools and districts a single, web-based tool for implementing the RtI framework; Wordly Wise 3000, which provides systemic vocabulary instruction and helps students at all grade levels develop the link between vocabulary and reading comprehension; and Explode the Code, which helps young learners learn to read with direct phonics instruction.

SMART Technologies showcased its SMART Response CE interactive student response software, which enables student assessment without remotes. The Response CE is the latest in the company’s line of interactive response systems. Instead of handheld remotes (clickers), students can use their computers and SMART Notebook SE (Student Edition) software to answer questions. SMART Response CE allows teachers to add various types of assessments to their lessons. The software tallies and grades students’ responses automatically, and feedback is available instantly so teachers can assess student comprehension and adjust their lessons accordingly. Response CE can be used alone or as part of SMART Classroom Suite of interactive learning software. The program supports short answer, numeric response, yes or no, true or false, multiple answer, and multiple-choice questions. The suggested price of SMART Response CE for a classroom containing up to 40 student computers is $999, although licenses are available that serve different numbers of students.

Texas Instruments unveiled its new TI-Nspire Navigator system, which enables wireless collaboration in math and science classrooms. For teachers, the system is a way to gauge students’ understanding and foster student engagement. For students, it’s an interactive tool that enables them to become more responsible for their own learning, TI said. The system connects TI-Nspire and TI-Nspire CAS handhelds equipped with a wireless cradle to the teacher’s laptop and projector. Teachers can assess student progress instantly through tools such as a quick poll and screen captures. With the knowledge gathered from these tools, teachers can adjust their instruction to make sure all students understand the concept at hand before moving on to the next topic. Donald Worcester, a math instructor and curriculum leader at Florida’s Winter Park High School, is one of about two dozen educators who have piloted the TI-Nspire Navigator system in recent months. Worcester said he’s seen an increase in engagement and collaboration as students delve more intently into math concepts.

Turning Technologies demonstrated a version of its ResponseWare software for the iPhone and iPod Touch. The software allows students to answer questions posed by the instructor and view the results of class polls or quizzes, all on their iPod or iPhone. Students also can text their questions to the instructor, and the software disables student-to-student texting to keep students focused on the lesson. The company also added a screen to its basic ResponseCard device.

Vernier Software & Technology introduced a scaled-down version of its flagship product, LabQuest, which is a portable data-collection device for hands-on scientific exploration. Vernier’s new LabQuest Mini features the same abilities of the LabQuest, but without the screen; students can connect the device to a laptop, desktop, or netbook computer through a USB port to view the data. Like the LabQuest, the Mini can perform 100,000 measurements per second and contains five sensor ports that are compatible with 54 sensors, Vernier said. It sells for less than half the cost of the full LabQuest, at $149. Vernier also announced a volume discount on the LabQuest itself, which normally sells for $329; now, you can buy eight or more of the devices for $299 each.

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