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News from the T+L exhibit hall


Software that helps teachers personalize instruction for every student, helps parents stay connected to their children’s education, and helps administrators track progress toward key learning goals dominated the discussion in the T+L conference exhibit hall. Here’s a roundup of what we saw and heard.

aal, a provider of district-wide student information systems, highlighted its web-based eSIS software, which offers features such as Teacher Assistant (a desktop gradebook designed by teachers), as well as curriculum tracking, health and wellness tracking, electronic payment processing, secure online access to grades and course information for students and parents, and access from a smart phone or other wireless handheld device. Optional components that are available for an additional cost include Student Services, which helps educators manage and report on students with special needs; Virtual Education, which maintains information about students taking online courses; and eSIS On Demand, a fully hosted version of the solution.

Aerohive Networks, creators of cooperative control wireless LAN (WLAN) architecture, discussed Pender County Schools of North Carolina’s deployment of Aerohive’s WLAN solution. According to the company, the district selected Aerohive for its manageability, performance, and resiliency at total solution cost below other products it evaluated. The district’s seven elementary schools, five middle schools, three high schools, and an early college high school educate more than 8,400 students every year. Aerohive’s Cooperative Control technology combines an enterprise-class access point, known as a HiveAP, with a suite of cooperative control protocols and functions that bring all of the benefits of controller-based architectures but without the cost and complexity of traditional controllers or overlay networks. This design makes it possible for multiple HiveAPs to self-organize into groups, called “hives,” that share control information between HiveAPs to provide functions such as fast layer 2/layer 3 roaming, cooperative RF management, as well as security and mesh networking. In addition, unlike controller-based networks that create a single point of failure, HiveAPs work together to recover from hardware and system failures without requiring redundant systems. Read the full Pender County Schools case study. Aerohive’s HIveAP and HiveManager.

Ascend Math demonstrated its online tool for closing math achievement gaps by providing personalized instruction. The software, which can be used at school or from home, combines assessment with targeted instruction, prescriptive tutorials, and reporting tools. According to the company, it can diagnose deficiencies and strengths in individual students, assign instruction and practice using proven lessons, deliver post-instruction testing, adjust each student’s learning path with formative assessments, and address federal accountability requirements. Ascend Math has been proven to help students achieve grade-level gains of two years or more in a single semester, its maker says.

BoardDocs, a paperless governance solution, released a case study showing how the Bremerton School District in Washington state is using BoardDocs for its online governance. District officials say they especially like the fact that BoardDocs is compatible with mobile devices such as the Apple iPad. BoardDocs helps school boards significantly improve the way they create and manage packets, access information, and conduct meetings, while saving on paper and printing expenses; but it also dramatically increases transparency with the public, district leaders say—making access to current information quick and easy.

Britannica introduced SmartMath, which provides math practice, differentiated instruction, and progress tracking to help students improve their math skills and test scores. SmartMath is individualized, self-paced, and supplements any elementary school math curriculum, Britannica says. It also provides instant reporting. A free 30-day trial is available.

CallingPost promoted its automated voice messaging service for education. The service includes emergency notification, employee reminders, parent reminders, absenteeism notification, sports team messages, club fundraiser messages, bus delay information, back-to-school reminders, news release deployment, and alumni news. CallingPost has delivered more than 150 million messages for more than 65,000 clients, the company says.

Desire2Learn showcased its Learning Suite for Schools, which includes a learning management system for administering online and blended-learning programs; an ePortfolio solution for showcasing student work; a Learning Repository for managing professional learning communities and teacher collaboration; and analytics tools for using data to drive improvement. Desire2Lear recently announced that its Learning Suite has received Gold-Level Certification for accessibility by the National Federation of the Blind.

Edline discussed how its self-titled online web site and gradebook solution for grades K-12 makes it easy to communicate information that parents need to guide their children, helping them become partners in raising student achievement. Edline can host a school home page or supplement an existing school web site with class, team, and club home pages. In its first full year of using Edline, Alabama’s Bayside Academy has seen its annual mailing and labor costs to the 550 families it serves decrease by almost $10,000, according to the company.

For the past six months, EducationCity.com has conducted a pilot program with more than 50 schools to review the company’s Learn English module for English-language learners; the results were released at T+L, finding that 77 percent of teachers saw improvements in their students’ English confidence. Developed for third through fifth grade students, Learn English is available for $375 for a one-year subscription. It’s one of many products from the company, which offers online learning games and activities for students and interactive whiteboard activities for teachers. EducationCity.com provides math, language arts, science, and math curriculum and assessment content for grades K-6 in more than 14,000 schools. Free trial versions are available.

ExploreLearning demonstrated its Gizmos, which are interactive online simulations for math and science education in grades 3-12. Students can use Gizmos to interact with and explore hundreds of math and science topics, ranging from heredity to trigonometry, and teachers can use these virtual manipulatives as “what-if” tools to help student move beyond memorizing to understanding, the company says. The Gizmos include inquiry-based lessons, assessments, and reporting tools, and they are correlated with state standards and more than 200 textbooks.

Follett Software announced that Rockford Public School District 205, the second largest K-12 district in Illinois, has adopted the company’s Destiny Library Manager and Destiny Textbook Manager products. During the 2009‐10 school year, the district was seeking library and textbook management resources as part of what Chris Taskey, information services coordinator for Rockford, described as a “technology systems overhaul” that also included a new student information system. Rockford purchased the two Destiny browser‐based solutions last spring—the library product replacing the district’s outdated library management system, and the textbook product representing a conversion from an inventory maintained in a spreadsheet. Destiny Library Manager, which helps libraries work more efficiently, is now fully implemented throughout the district’s 52 libraries, and Taskey confirmed that Rockford’s librarians are “very happy with the new system.” Following a complete textbook inventory over the summer, the implementation of Destiny Textbook Manager is well underway, and district officials expect to save money by keeping better track of books. Follett, which recently acquired student information system provider X2 Development Corp., will hold its next user conference March 9-11 in Chicago.

Infinite Campus, an SIS provider, said it received a “Strong Positive” rating in Gartner’s report: “MarketScope for K-12 Student Information Systems in the U.S., 2010.” The company’s customer base includes more than 10 percent of the nation’s 500 largest public school districts, four state-edition clients, and the Bureau of Indian Education.

Kramer Control Systems, a provider of audio-visual solutions, introduced the Kramer Konfigurator, an application that maintains control driver libraries, creates room control macros and protocols, and automatically generates HTML files where applicable. Kramer also highlighted its Site-CTRL product, which offers real-time network monitoring and control of all Kramer master room controllers and the AV equipment connected to them, according to the company. A downloadable version can monitor and control up to 100 Kramer master room controllers.

PNC Equipment Finance is giving U.S. school districts the opportunity to use IBM Thinkpads for teacher systems, one-to-one computing projects, or laptop learning labs at a discount of hundreds of dollars for each system. PNC is bundling the Thinkpads in groups of 50, 100, and 250 units. The offer is subject to availability, credit approval, and signed lease documents. For more information, contact Robert.heimbrock@pnc.com.

PrepMe discussed its online test-prep tool for college readiness, which uses an adaptive algorithm to meet each student’s individual needs. Every student receives an updated course schedule with a personalized weekly lesson plan and quizzes, so students can focus on the skills they need to master in order to maximize scores on the ACT or SAT, the company says.

Schoology, a digital classroom solution, showcased its learning management system and social network. These are free, web-based services that provide class profiles and web pages; assignments and events; online tests, quizzes, and drop boxes; gradebook and attendance tools; student usage statistics and course analytics; and mobile applications. Add-ons, such as system customization, support packages, training, integration, and storage, can be purchased as well.

SchoolReach, a communication solution for fostering parent involvement, discussed its Cyberbully Hotline—an interactive, toll-free service that enables a school or district to create a custom greeting with instructions to callers. Once a student calls and leaves a message, that message is immediately converted to an audio recording (WAV file) and sent via eMail to the administrator(s) assigned to handle harassment incidents. The recipients often include school principals, counselors, school resource officers, and others skilled at working with such incidents.

Skyward, a provider of school administrative software, demonstrated its most recent release—the Response to Intervention (RtI) Module. According to the company, the module allows schools to manage their RtI activities without creating more work for administrators and teachers, because it pulls information that is already entered into Skyward databases—such as test scores, assignments, attendance, and discipline—to help educators monitor their students’ progress toward meeting intervention goals. Using their Skyward GradeBook, teachers can apply student’s assignment grades or assessment scores directly to RtI progress monitoring, eliminating redundant data entry. School leaders then can analyze this information to evaluate the outcome of interventions. The new RtI module is available as an add-on feature within the Skyward Student Management Suite.

SmoothWall Inc. highlighted its intelligent web security solution that puts the user in control of security, according to the company. SmoothWall provides content analysis, anti-malware, web site signature scanning, traffic tracking, and advanced reporting services. Users can block all undesirable content, protect against fast-evolving web-borne threats, prevent the use of anonymous proxies, monitor web activity in real time, provide enterprise-class filtering without compromise, and interpret web usage, SmoothWall says.

The STEM Academy, a national nonprofit education program designed to improve science, technology, engineering, and math literacy for all students, highlighted its hands-on STEM activities and maps to national standards (ITEEA, ABET, NCTM, and NSTA), maps to six career clusters and 16 programs of study, and its corporate fund matching program. STEM Academy content features a blended-learning approach that includes video tutorials, textbooks, and hands-on exercises that can be integrated into traditional academic courses.

SunGard Public Sector launched Plus 360, an integrated suite of software products for student information, learning management, special education, and financial and human resources. This district-wide solution is designed to help teachers, administrators, and parents support student achievement anytime, anywhere, SunGard said. All products within Plus 360 can be implemented as stand-alone systems or deployed to work together.

Tandem, a software-as-a-service company, provides different options for publishing school and district calendars online. School web sites can embed a scrolling list of “upcoming events,” or they can redirect users from a calendar button or link to the Tandem URL the company provides. Tandem also allows parents to receive event updates for specific groups, as well as automatic updates by eMail, text message, and/or their digital calendar when details change.

TIGed, a web-based suite of tools that lets users integrate the TakingITGlobal.org online community into the classroom, debuted at T+L. According to the organization, TIGed is designed to help educators create private virtual classroom spaces and global collaborations with other schools; contribute activity ideas and search for lesson plans in the Activities Database; tailor content and post assignments using teacher moderator features; and share school successes and challenges on educator discussion boards. The tools are linked to curriculum standards and adaptable to any technology available in a school, TakingITGlobal said.

Unite Private Networks, a fiber-optic network provider, can install a private wide-area network (WAN) for school systems via dedicated fiber lines to every facility, says the company. This custom, point-to-point fiber solution is eRate-eligible and can be configured to a district’s specific needs, with features such as voice over IP, central server delivery, central data storage, alarm systems, distance learning, HVAC control, video, back-office software, and more.

A new software program called WordXPress, created by Grammy-winning songwriter Barry DeVorzon, helps students in grades four and up build their vocabulary. The software acts as a dictionary, thesaurus, and more, and it also allows users to match rhyming words and sift through words with either positive or negative connotations. Concerned over the deteriorating state of vocabularies among kids, DeVorzon’s company also has launched a global initiative called “Save the Words.” To get the campaign off the ground, the company is granting free, 1-year licenses to any accredited school interested in using the program in the 2010-11 school year. For more information, contact info@wordxpress.com or call WordXPress at (866) 848-8484.

yolink, a new search tool, recently launched for education—and it’s free. Users can search inside links, and search text for multiple terms and concepts, and yolink also includes a citation tool.

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