Seven new ed-tech tools to know about

These seven tools were on display at major education conferences in the last month

ed-tech-toolsIn just the last month, Austin has hosted two major ed-tech conferences: the Texas Computer Education Association (TCEA) conference and the South by Southwest Education conference (SXSWedu).

You can find our full coverage of TCEA 2014 at this link, but here are some leftover announcements from that show—along with new ed-tech tools and products that caught our eye from SXSWedu as well.

(New tools are listed in alphabetical order by company name)

Amplify makes its education tablet more rugged

During SXSWedu, Amplify announced a partnership with Intel Education to offer a more ruggedized tablet built for K-12 schools. The new Android-based tablet will be available for the 2014-15 school year and will feature a more durable design that can withstand drops and spills; a break- and scratch-resistant screen made of Corning Gorilla Glass; an advanced, dual-antenna Wi-Fi radio; front and rear cameras; and a tethered stylus.

The new device is part of the Amplify Tablet System, which also includes instructional content, device management software, and support.

The tablet will come preloaded with third-party education content and tools, including eTextbooks from the CK-12 Foundation, a graphing calculator, Encyclopaedia Britannica, EverFi’s digital literacy curriculum, Geogebra, Google Apps for Education, Merriam-Webster Dictionary, Project Noah science tools, public domain eBooks, and the Gooru education search engine.

Tools like Eyes on Teacher and App Blocker make it easy to manage student devices during class, Amplify says.

Pricing for the Amplify Tablet System—including the tablet, software, content, and support—will be $199 per year for three years.

Brainhive eBook library requires no startup costs for schools

While Brainhive technically isn’t new (it launched in 2012), we thought it deserved a mention here because of its innovative, “buck-a-book” model for giving students access to thousands of eBook titles: Schools pay a dollar for every eBook that students “check out” of its online library, with no annual subscription fee required. That makes it easy for schools to start using the service right away.

Schools can set up the system so that students have access to eBooks for three, seven, or 14-day periods. Every student gets his or her own username and password, so students can read eBooks on multiple devices simultaneously—and the system synchs their place in a book automatically, so they can start reading on a new device where they left off using another one.

Brainhive includes tools for note taking, citation, and encouraging “social” reading (for instance, students can rate books they’ve read, add books to their list of favorites, and share this list with their friends). Teachers also can set up online book clubs within the system. Brainhive contained 6,500 eBook titles—a mix of both fiction and nonfiction—from some 30 publishers as of press time.

Filament Games unveils new digital science game bundles

Filament Games, a developer of digital games for education, has come out with a number of stand-alone games for teaching civics, science, and math. At TCEA, the company announced that it soon will sell entire collections of middle school science games that schools can purchase as a bundle.

The new product line is called PLEx, which stands for Play, Learn, Experiment. The first of these bundles will be available this summer. It focuses on life science and includes the games “Reach for the Sun,” in which students take on the role of a plant and must balance their resources to grow and reproduce; “Fossil Forensics,” in which they collect and analyze fossils, making connections between them to note evolutionary similarities; “Crazy Plant Shop,” in which they learn about plant genetics by operating a shop that specializes in rare and exotic breeds of plants; and “Cell Command,” in which they learn about cell anatomy and functions by commanding a “cell ship.”

The games will include curriculum materials and classroom management tools to make implementation easy. The company is also developing earth and physical science bundles.

Learning.com app now includes 21st-century skills assessments

At TCEA, Learning.com announced a major upgrade to its mobile app.

The company had launched its app for Android and iOS devices last fall, giving students and teachers access to its EasyTech lessons in technology skills via tablet computers. Now, the app includes assessments as well, meaning teachers can deliver a full range of 21st-century skills instruction and assessment on mobile devices.

McGraw-Hill lets students study abroad, without leaving campus

Hoping to do for language studies what it has already done for political science, McGraw-Hill Education launched a new computer game at SXSWedu called Practice Spanish: Study Abroad.

The 3D, multi-player game simulates a study abroad trip in Spain, tasking students to use Spanish vocabulary to find their classes, buy souvenirs, interact with a host family, and even seek medical attention for a classmate.

“Short pre-task vocabulary and grammar activities will prepare you to complete the challenges,” McGraw-Hill said. “In the multi-player setting you will have the opportunity to interact with your fellow classmates from within the game, providing you with the opportunity to speak Spanish with your real-world classmates from within the virtual setting.”

Odysseyware launches all-new user interface for its online courseware

Online curriculum developer Odysseyware has created an all-new experience for users, including a redesigned student interface that is now more intuitive and works well with mobile devices, the company says.

Besides being the portal to Odysseyware’s complete online courseware for grades 3-12, its Career and Technical Education (CTE) curriculum, and its assessment and remediation tools, the interface features a new “notes” tool for enhanced student-teacher communication; day-planning functions to boost productivity; and more flexibility to suit different learning styles.

Odysseyware also has added two more courses to its online CTE curriculum: “Introduction to Agriculture, Food, and Natural Resources” and “Introduction to Science, Technology, Engineering, and Mathematics.” These bring its total CTE offerings to 41 courses in seven career clusters—and the company says it will add another 14 AG and STEM courses in early 2014.

Spanning Backup protects schools’ Google Apps data

With a growing number of schools using Google Apps for Education, a service from Spanning Cloud Apps could help protect them against the inadvertent deletion—or malicious destruction—of information contained in these apps.

Spanning Backup for Google Apps offers automatic or on-demand backup of information in Gmail, Contacts, Calendar, Sites, and Drive, with a user interface that is so easy, students and teachers can resolve their own data loss issues, the company says.

The cost of the service is determined per user, per year, for an unlimited amount of data: $15 per year for staff and $10 per year for students, with a minimum of 50 users. Spanning expects to offer a similar backup service for Microsoft 365 for Education by the end of the year.

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