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New ed-tech products target classroom instruction

Classroom instruction was the focus of many new products introduced at recent ed-tech conferences.

Software designed for touch-screen tablets, and new programs for teaching reading and math, were among the many products unveiled at recent ed-tech conferences. Some providers of curriculum software also highlighted new research to support the efficacy of their products.

New tablet-based products

Capitalizing on the growing use of iPads and other tablet computers in education, the California-based nonprofit MIND Research Institute released ST Math Touch, a version of its ST Math visual learning software for students in grades K-5 that is optimized for use with touch-based tablets.

ST Math software has been shown to roughly double annual growth in math scores, particularly in schools with historically low achievement levels, MIND says. ST Math Touch works with most tablet operating systems, including iOS, Android, and Microsoft devices. It provides a multisensory experience for students with natural, gesture-based computing.

“The visual approach MIND has been pioneering is a perfect match for touch screens and provides a game-changing use of manipulatives, guided and made rigorous through software, through all of elementary school math,” said Andrew R. Coulson, president of MIND’s education division. “In this way, students literally see how the math works and learn new concepts by direct experience, before dealing with math’s abstract representations.”

Another new educational software program for tablet computers is Inspiration Software’s Inspiration Maps, which brings its visual mapping tools to Apple’s iPad. With Inspiration Maps, students in grades 6-12 can use the same mind-mapping and outlining tools they might already know from Inspiration to create visual diagrams and outlines that help them clarify their thoughts, organize and analyze information, integrate new knowledge, and learn to think critically using iPads, the company said.

McGraw-Hill Education now offers five high school math and science textbooks designed specifically for the iPad, and the company expects to double its offerings for the iPad during the year. The titles will be sold through Apple’s iBookstore. The initial group of McGraw-Hill Education titles made available as digital textbooks for Apple’s iBooks platform includes Common Core State Standard editions of Algebra 1 and Geometry, as well as Biology, Chemistry Matter and Change, and Physics Principles and Problems.

Research on ed-tech efficacy

MIDA Learning Technologies disseminated the results of an 18-month, mixed-methods study of the efficacy of its Espresso Elementary product in second-grade classrooms at 10 Pennsylvania schools. The study suggests that Espresso Elementary, which uses a multisensory approach to teaching, has helped students’ performance in math: The students in the experimental group “significantly outperformed” those in the control group on a post-test, the company says. Teachers, meanwhile, reported higher levels of engagement among students in the classrooms using Espresso.

Scientific Learning also released the results of a study suggesting its software has helped improve achievement. From 2006 to 2011, the St. Mary Parish Public School System in Centerville, La., posted double-digit gains in fourth grade proficiency levels on the Louisiana Educational Assessment Program (LEAP) tests, the company said.

Fourth graders who used Scientific Learning Corp.’s Fast ForWord and Reading Assistant software improved their LEAP test scores in English language arts, math, science, and social studies, according to a five-year longitudinal study. The district also improved its eighth grade LEAP scores, increased its fourth grade promotion rates, reduced the number of students requiring special education services, and narrowed the achievement gap.

“In five years, our fourth grade students have made remarkable gains, outpacing their state counterparts in English language arts as well as math and science,” said Superintendent Donald W. Aguillard in a press release. “Fewer fourth graders are struggling below grade level, and more students are meeting promotional standards than ever before. Across the curriculum, students are clearly benefitting from our continuing efforts to help them improve their reading and learning ability through the Fast ForWord and Reading Assistant programs.”

Adaptive Curriculum, meanwhile, promoted an Arizona State University study revealing that “deep conceptual learning methods” can help students meet more rigorous math and science standards, such as those found in the Common Core standards. These deep conceptual methods include discovery learning, multiple representations, analogies, and challenge-based learning.

New English/language arts programs

Empowering Writers announced the release of its newest resources, The Essential Guides to Writing, for grades 2-5. The guides cover Common Core requirements and use a month-to-month format to address the standards-based teaching of writing skills in a practical, manageable way, the company said.

EPS, the literacy and intervention division of School Specialty, unveiled a new blended learning solution, called MCI, that provides literacy intervention for struggling readers in middle school and beyond. MCI, short for “Making Connections Intervention,” combines teacher-led, face-to-face instruction with individualized online instruction to maximize the depth, intensity, and effectiveness of the intervention, according to School Specialty.

iParadigms demonstrated its new automated translation technology that enables Turnitin, the company’s plagiarism detection service, to identify potentially plagiarized content that has been translated from other languages. With the introduction of multilingual translation technology, Turnitin is able to take assignments written in a variety of non-English languages, translate them into English, compare them to Turnitin’s content databases, and highlight any matches found in the assignment, the company said.

MindPlay has announced a new curriculum product for teaching K-12 reading, called MindPlay Virtual Reading Coach (MVRC). MVRC is designed to help students improve their reading skills in 30 hours or less by differentiating instruction for each student. The program is delivered over the internet and helps teachers by providing virtual human reading specialists and speech pathologists.

PCI Education, a provider of resources for students with special instructional needs, announced the launch of PCI Reading Program-Level Three Software, a new online component to its PCI Reading Program, a reading series for students with intellectual disabilities. Designed to complement the print edition of Level Three, Level Three Software delivers interactive lessons to help students master decoding through a suite of engaging virtual games. The online, subscription-based software covers the same concepts presented in print and focuses on building phonemic awareness and phonic skills.

Other instructional technology news

Archipelago Learning introduced new enhancements for Study Island, a web-based instruction, practice, and learning program. New features include virtual science labs for middle and high school students, embedded Khan Academy videos, and a district dashboard for administrators.

DimensionU announced that Connections Education, a provider of online curricula and virtual-school solutions, has extended its contract with the company. The contract provides all Connections Education students with DimensionU’s educational video games. The agreement gives access to standards-aligned math and literacy games for elementary through high school students enrolled in Connections Education’s Connections Academy virtual schools nationwide. In the 2011-12 school year, 22 Connections Academy virtual public schools are operating in 21 states, serving more than 40,000 students from across the U.S.

RevolutionK12 introduced Revolution Geometry, which features more than 25 topic areas and more than 100 concepts, all aligned with Common Core standards for teaching high school geometry. Each topic area includes a review of foundational skills and concepts, pre- and post-tests, mentoring sessions, and interactive and engaging off-line and online activities, the company said.

SAFARI Montage announced the release of three new, free-of-charge content packages filled with digital resources for grades K-12 from the libraries of three U.S. governmental agencies—the Library of Congress, the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, and the National Park Service. These new packages bring an additional 1,000 still images, video titles, primary resource web links, PowerPoint presentations, and PDF documents to the SAFARI Montage video streaming system, the company says.

Turning Technologies has announced a strategic alliance with BrainPOP. BrainPOP’s animated content now will be able to operate seamlessly with Turning Technologies’ student response systems for immediate assessment of student learning, the companies say. BrainPOP subscribers who also have Turning Technologies’ student response devices will be able to present BrainPOP quizzes to their entire class and use ResponseCards to gather real time responses to the assessments from every student.

Vernier Software & Technology has developed new lab equipment and sensor technology for use in science classrooms. The Projectile Launcher and Polarizer/Analyzer Set help students investigate physics concepts, while the Constant Current System and Chemical Polarimeter aid students in chemistry experiments.

The Projectile Launcher ($289), which includes a launcher, six steel balls, hand pump, goggles, and accessories, helps students investigate concepts in two-dimensional kinematics, Vernier said. The Polarizer/Analyzer Set ($99) is an extension of Vernier’s Optics Expansion Kit, and it allows students to study light polarization by conducting experiments such as testing Malus’s law. The Constant Current System ($49) is a combination current sensor and power supply that eliminates the need for a separate power supply when performing electroplating and electrolysis experiments in chemistry. The Chemical Polarimeter ($499) measures the rotation of plane-polarized light caused by optically active substances such as organic, inorganic, or biological compounds.

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