FETC 2014: 5 ways to find better apps

Tech expert says better apps come from sharing, not presenting

apps-learning-FETCThere’s a growing movement among educators to go beyond naming “cool” apps; a backlash against the often-overwhelming lists of ‘100 Greatest Education Apps Ever!’ Instead, educators want apps that truly make a difference in the classroom—and the best resource? Their own know-how.

“Too often I was asked to lead professional development [PD] sessions where I’d have to list a bunch of apps specific to, say, administrators or to science teachers. And it would take me forever and I honestly didn’t have any better idea than they did,” explained Jamie Averbeck, tech integration coach for Wisconsin’s Ashwaubenon School District, during the 2014 Florida Educational Technology Conference (FETC) in Orlando.

“I thought: Why am I doing this? Why am I finding apps when teachers and administrators can do it themselves and probably better find what they’re looking for?” he mused.…Read More

Technology helps manage teacher quality initiatives

To meet the requirements of a new state law, 22 of Florida’s 67 school districts have adopted an online system called FASTe.

Across the country, states and school districts are grappling with how best to evaluate teachers and administrators in a way that is rigorous, yet fair—and gives them opportunities to grow professionally. That’s true in Florida, too, where the passage last year of Senate Bill 736, the Student Success Act, requires Florida school districts to revamp their evaluation systems for teachers and school leaders.

To meet the requirements of the new law, 22 of Florida’s 67 school districts have adopted an online system called FASTe, the Formative Action System for Teacher Effectiveness, from Winter Park, Fla.-based Performance Matters. The company was on hand at the Florida Educational Technology Conference to showcase its FASTe platform.

Performance Matters describes FASTe as “an easy-to-use online platform that connects student outcomes to educator actions.” Among the most recent Florida districts to purchase FASTe is Citrus County, which launched a pilot implementation in selected schools in December and plans to roll out the online platform across all 23 schools this fall.…Read More

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.…Read More

Companies aim to help schools create digital learning environments

A number of companies introduced new mobile learning products at recent ed-tech trade shows.

As more schools make the shift to a digital-based teaching and learning environment, a number of new products and services have emerged to help ease this transition.

From digital content collections intended to help educators personalize instruction for every student, to learning management systems that contain built-in analytics to help students succeed, here’s an overview of some of the latest offerings.

Personalizing instruction…Read More

Controlling costs a key selling point for ed-tech vendors

A key selling point for ed-tech companies is how their software can help schools save money during a tough economy.

For many of the companies exhibiting at recent educational technology conferences, a key selling point was how their software or services could help schools save money during a tough economy.

For instance, Wilmington, N.C.-based Education Management Systems, which makes the Windows-based Meals Plus suite of K-12 cafeteria software, demonstrated a new module that offers real-time analysis of the financial health of school meal programs, so food-service managers can control their costs more easily.

The module, called Financial & Statistical, provides a full array of financial reporting options for reviewing the current fiscal year, as well as statistical reports that can compare costs from year to year, from site to site, or other key metrics.…Read More

A growing trend in school AV solutions: Convergence

Interactive whiteboard makers are releasing projectors, and projector makers are releasing student response systems.

School audio-visual solutions seem to be converging, with major suppliers of AV products releasing their own versions of solutions offered by competitors in an effort to keep pace. Interactive whiteboard makers are releasing projectors, and projector makers are releasing student response systems—making nearly every supplier a one-stop shop for presentation tools.

For instance, ELMO USA now offers a student response system (SRS), which it demonstrated at the Florida Educational Technology Conference in January . Available in 24- or 32-unit bundles, ELMO’s SRS devices operate on the 2.4GHz radio frequency, with a range of about 50 feet. The software that drives the system works on Windows XP, Vista, or 7 computers.

In another example of this convergence, Promethean unveiled its own version of an interactive tabletop surface at FETC, the ActivTable. Like other companies’ interactive tables, it’s aimed at elementary and special-needs students in particular—but it includes several unique features as well.…Read More

New software facilitates assessment and data management

Gradecam’s software uses an ordinary document or web camera to automate data entry into any electronic gradebook.

During recent ed-tech conferences, a number of companies introduced software intended to make assessment and data management easier for schools.

For instance, CTB/McGraw-Hill has introduced a program called TerraNova Common Core, a national achievement test that represents a field-tested, valid, and authentic measure of the Common Core State Standards (CCSS), the company says. It is available in reading, English language arts, and mathematics for grades 3-8. TerraNova Common Core offers a full range of item formats in one test, including multiple choice, constructed response, extended-constructed response, and integrated performance tasks. Through this “one test” approach, educators can compare student results on national and Common Core standards across grades and ability levels.

GradeCam demonstrated its software that helps automate the testing process, allowing teachers to get instant feedback from pencil-and-paper tests. The software uses an ordinary document or web camera to automate data entry into any electronic gradebook. Students fill in answers for multiple-choice tests using a pen or pencil, then swipe their test under a document or web camera—or the teacher can do this after collecting the tests.…Read More

Online tutoring, speech therapy among new eLearning solutions

FLVS' online tutoring is tracked by the minute, so students only pay for the time they use.

New options for online tutoring and speech therapy are among the latest eLearning solutions introduced during recent ed-tech trade shows.

For example, the Florida Virtual School (FLVS)—a pioneer in online instruction—announced new online tutoring and professional development offerings at the Florida Educational Technology Conference in January.

FLVS is now offering online tutoring for math and science for any student, not just those taking an FLVS course. FLVS online tutoring is available whenever students need it, the school says: any time, any place, 24 hours a day, 365 days a year. All students need to participate is a computer, smart phone, or other mobile device and access to the internet.…Read More

Teachers: Budgets block classroom technology access

Ninety-one percent of teachers said they have access to computers in their classrooms.

Despite advances in digital learning tools and efforts to close the ed-tech access gap, school budgets remain one of the biggest barriers to classroom technology access, according to a national PBS LearningMedia survey of preK-12 teachers.

Although ed-tech advocates campaign for technology’s seamless integration into instruction, only 22 percent of teachers surveyed said they have the “right” level of technology in their classrooms.

Sixty-three percent of teachers said budgets continue to be barriers to classroom technology access, and in low-income communities, 70 percent of teachers reported budgets are their main obstacle. Aside from funding, teachers reported that unfamiliarity with technologies (8 percent), a lack of knowledge about where to find proper technologies or a lack of training (8 percent), technologies’ incompatibility with current curriculum (7 percent), slow/poor/no internet connection (6 percent), and other various reasons (9 percent) as barriers to classroom technology use.…Read More