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An Educator's Guide to Technology and the Web
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July 19, 2005

Table of Contents

Free Resources: National Geographic News
More News from NECC: LeapFrog Enterprises Introduces FLY Pentop Computer
More News from NECC: LeapFrog SchoolHouse Releases New Version of LeapTrack Assessment & Instruction System
More News from NECC: Knowledge Adventure Launches Math Blaster—Master the Basics
More News from NECC: Knowledge Adventure Introduces Reading Readiness Software
More News from NECC: Educational Insights Adds Features to Classroom Jeopardy!
More News from NECC: BrainPOP Offers Standards Correlation Service
More News from NECC: Market Data Retrieval’s K-12 Technology Review Highlights Current Trends and Future Projections
More News From NECC: A New Version of SMART Technologies’ SMART Ideas
More News From NECC: Adobe and Olympus Team to Bring Digital Photography to the Classroom

Free Resources: National Geographic News

Here's another free resource we found thanks to the Internet Scout Project's Scout Report, whose July 15, 2005 edition we'll quote here. (Click on the link above to read the whole July 15 issue. It's a great, eclectic resource.):

"... the National Geographic News site ... provides access to many of the day's most compelling news, including updates on the Space Shuttle launches and new archaeological discoveries. The news stories are thematically organized around such familiar topics as animals and nature, health, and th environment. The feature section titled 'Pulso of the Planet' is a nice find, along with the 'Offbeat' area, which offers a bit of lighter news coverage, such as the news of a grizzly bear-sized catfish caught in Thailand."

Being from the National Geographic Society, the news site is wide ranging, and both educator and student friendly. Click HERE to go the the site.

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More News from NECC: LeapFrog Enterprises Introduces FLY Pentop Computer

LeapFrog Enterprises has introduced the FLY pentop computer, a new learning platform that combines the power of computer interactivity with the lowest cost classroom media - pen and paper. The device is an affordable, portable personal learning tool that helps build critical learning skills for students of all ages, according to the announcement. LeapFrog has initially developed the platform for use in classrooms, learning centers, after-school enrichment programs, and take home programs.

The FLY pentop computer offers a range of innovative applications for tweens (grades 3-8) to learn, communicate, and game. Through software applications, it enables students to choose, launch, work in, and be coached in multiple applications in math, reading, language arts, science, and social studies.

The paper/software applications allow tweens to get homework assistance in math or spelling, translate words into Spanish, interactively master key concepts from school textbooks, play baseball games with interactive collectible playing cards, compose music, and more.

Initial learning applications include the following:

* FLY Through Math: Multiplication and Division: an interactive math homework pad designed to help students master their own multiplication and division homework. The product provides self-directed help with a student's math homework and gives real-time feedback on demand. For example, a student will be able to write a long division problem, and the FLY pentop computer will offer hints to help solve it, step-by-step, but will not give the answer. It will confirm when the task is complete. The product comes with a reference guide and an 8 ½ x 11 notebook with 40 pages of graph paper. Refills will also be available.
* FLY Through Spelling - an application that incorporates classroom-specific spelling lists and generic grade-level spelling lists to help students learn and practice their weekly spelling lists. This application makes memorization of spelling words more meaningful, resulting in higher test scores, according to the announcement. Included with the product are five spelling games, a 70,000-plus word list, and incentives where students can earn FLY bucks as they play and then cash in for interactive pets at the Spellbot Store. The product includes an 8 ½ x 9 game pad with 54 pages and an information and reference guide. Refills are sold separately.
* FLY Through Spanish Translator - An English-Spanish dictionary that allows students of all ages to write and touch a word in English, and hear it translated in Spanish.
* Test Prep Package -a test-prep package for math, science, and social studies for grades 6-8. This application directly correlates with over 90 percent of all grade 6-8 math, science, and social studies textbooks across the country, giving students the ability to pick a text and chapter, and then play games answering questions focusing on the key concept in that chapter, according to the announcement.

The FLY pentop computer comes with a sampling of a wide range of possibilities at hand. Games include FLYmatch, Hang (hangman), and FLY Tones (a music game). The user will also find several tools built in to the FLY pentop computer, such as a calculator, a scheduler, a note pad, and a map of North America. Finally, the package contains special stickers that spring to life when activated by the FLY pentop computer, and a carrying case for the FLY pen.

A range of accessories will be available for the FLY pentop computer, including FLY Game Pads, Stickers, FLY Notebooks (three sizes), FLY catcher case, a re-charger and speakers.

The FLY pentop computer will be sold in consumer electronics sections at retail stores beginning in Fall 2005. The suggested retail price for the FLY pentop computer is $99, with the suggested retail pricing for applications ranging from $4.99 - $34.99.

For more information and to view an image of the FLY pentop computer, click HERE.

Source: LeapFrog Enterprises, Inc., http://www.leapfrog.com/

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More News from NECC: LeapFrog SchoolHouse Releases New Version of LeapTrack Assessment & Instruction System

LeapFrog SchoolHouse has announced the release of Version 4.0 of the LeapTrack Assessment & Instruction System. The LeapTrack system, for grades K-5, supports teachers with formative assessment and differentiated instruction in reading, math, and language arts. Assessment and instructional content in Version 4.0 are now comprehensively aligned with every state's content standards. Other new features include reporting options such as the Parent Report, a take-home report for parents, available in Spanish, that offers analysis of their child's mastery of skills as well as areas that need improvement, according to the announcement. The system also has enhanced classroom management software and delivers personalized, standards-based learning paths for every student. It generates more than 20 student progress reports that can be used at the classroom, school, district, and home levels.

The enhanced system includes updates to many of the skill cards and also delivers hands-on student learning experiences that merge standards-based content with interactive LeapPad and Quantum Pad personal learning tools. It is designed to prevent learning gaps for at-risk students with LeapTrack alerts that highlight student need for early instructional intervention, the announcement states. The system also meets the needs of mixed-ability classrooms, providing a useful resource for English language development and pull-out instruction.

For more information and an interactive demo, visit http://www.leaptrack.com.

Source: LeapFrog SchoolHouse, http://www.leapfrogschoolhouse.com

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More News from NECC: Knowledge Adventure Launches Math Blaster—Master the Basics

Knowledge Adventure has announced the expansion of its signature Math Blaster academic software series with the release of Math Blaster—Master the Basics. The new school program gives teachers an engaging way to help students achieve math confidence and improve math scores through standards-correlated practice and play, according to the announcement.

Geared to students ages six-12, the software supports educational objectives by way of a creative, Imaginary universe that must be saved. Using intuitive math games incorporating addition, subtraction, multiplication, division, fact families, and equivalents, students receive—at their own pace—instruction through thousands of practice problems in order to master everyday math skills, increase problem-solving and mental math abilities, and boost math confidence.

As a supplemental curriculum solution to existing classroom textbooks, the Math Blaster content is correlated to the National Council of Teachers of Mathematics (NCTM) standards as well as to individual state standards. It also provides automatic progress tracking for each student so teachers can provide additional instruction to help students gain mastery of specific concepts.

Source: Knowledge Adventure, http://www.knowledgeadventureschool.com

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More News from NECC: Knowledge Adventure Introduces Reading Readiness Software

Knowledge Adventure has introduced Reading Readiness, the first in a new series called Knowledge Adventure Solutions. Reading Readiness is a content-rich early reading system that gives teachers the adaptive learning tools needed to build phonemic awareness and phonics skills for children in primary classes, according to the announcement.

With Reading Readiness, teachers can select from more than 30 different phonics activities to create customized lessons for their students. Ranging from letters and sounds to word building, spelling, and decoding, the systematic lessons help students learn the skills they need at their own pace, the announcement states. Using the built-in classroom management tools, teachers can track progress of each student skill by skill, correlated to state standards. A series of specially designed in-class/take-home readers, detailed progress reports, and take-home skill-building materials foster parental involvement to track and share each student's reading accomplishments.

Features include the following:

* Customizable lessons that can be set for the entire class of for a group of students based on skill level
* Over 70 lessons to address more than 30 early reading skills
* Adaptive learning technology to keep students challenged, engaged, and working at their level
* Pre and post tests to provide benchmarks to monitor student progress skill by skill, correlated to current standards so that teachers can immediately address deficiencies as well as recheck mastery.
* Supplemental books for students and school-to-home tips to link parents to their children's ongoing reading program and reinforce classroom learning
* Collaborative teacher materials that provide classroom management tools with in-class exercises and additional classroom projects that adapt to any curriculum or textbook.

Source: Knowledge Adventure, http://www.knowledgeadventureschool.com

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More News from NECC: Educational Insights Adds Features to Classroom Jeopardy!

Educational Insights has added features to its Classroom Jeopardy! game. A new base unit and the Classroom Jeopardy! Link make it easier to incorporate Jeopardy game play into teaching and review, according to the announcement. Games can be more easily created with the Classroom Jeopardy! Editor software and downloaded to the cartridges via the Jeopardy! Link.

The new Classroom Jeopardy! consists of all components needed to write, save, and play games, including the Classroom Jeopardy! Link, Classroom Jeopardy! Editor game creation software, three wireless Player Remotes, one wireless Host Remote, an electronic Scoreboard with three erasable name cards, wireless antenna, power adapter and cords, a guide, and a pre-programmed game cartridge with five sampler games plus extra storage space for creating custom games.

Educators can join the free site at http://www.classroomjeopardy.com to download games. Educators who uploads games to the site can win a free cartridge.

The Editor software enables users—teachers and students—to see the total number of category and clue/response cells in a game round, and provides point-and-click navigation for editing. Using the peripheral device Jeopardy! Link, educators download the new game to a Classroom Jeopardy! cartridge. The cartridge plugs into the back of the Classroom Jeopardy! scoreboard and the game is ready to begin.

The new version of Classroom Jeopardy! retails for $499.99. Educators who wish to upgrade original Classroom Jeopardy packages by adding the Classroom Jeopardy! Link can do so by purchasing the unit as sold separately for $79.99. Also available for purchase are pre-programmed cartridges in the areas of elementary and middle school language arts, science, mathematics, and social studies.

Source: Educational Insights, Inc., http://www.educationalinsights.com

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More News from NECC: BrainPOP Offers Standards Correlation Service

BrainPOP has announced the introduction of a new standards-correlated search service on its Website. The new search tool will allow teachers to sort through more than 500 BrainPOP topics by state, grade level, and subject and will provide them with specific indications as to the degree to which BrainPOP content conforms to any given state's educational standards. The BrainPOP Website offers subscribers access to a wide array of standards-based animated, educational movies for grades K-8.

BrainPOP believes that standards are designed to encourage the highest achievement of every students, by defining the parameters of knowledge, concepts, and skills that students should acquire at each grade level. The implementation of this new service reinforces the company's commitment to providing educational products that evolve to meet the demands that are placed on teachers and schools, according to the announcement.

This new service is available to BrainPOP subscribers and can be accessed in the Teacher section of BrainPOP.

Source: BrainPOP, http://www.brainpop.com

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More News from NECC: Market Data Retrieval’s K-12 Technology Review Highlights Current Trends and Future Projections

U.S. public schools continue to invest broadly in technology to improve teaching and learning, according to a new technology report, The K-12 Technology Review 2005, released by Market Data Retrieval (MDR) at the National Educational Computing Conference (NECC). Investments in hardware comprised the largest component of technology budgets during the 2004-2005 school year. However, there was also significant spending on data management systems to help districts meet the reporting requirements of No Child Left Behind (NCLB) and to provide educators with detailed student-level information for individualized instruction to improve student achievement.

Mobile technologies have become increasingly popular, with laptops now available in 54 percent of all schools, accounting for 17 percent of the total computer inventory (compared with only 13 percent the prior year). The availability of wireless networks has more than quadrupled in the past five years, and wireless connectivity is now available at 45 percent of schools. This year's report also includes data on other classroom technologies, including projection systems (in nearly one-half of all schools), digital whiteboards (in 30 percent of schools), video-streaming (in 30 percent of schools), and digital photography equipment (in two-thirds of schools).

In addition to providing a snapshot of technology spending and use at public schools, The K-12 Technology Review 2005 also includes new sections on purchasing practices, requirements, and preferences, as well as on teachers' use of e-mail. Other key findings of the comprehensive report are:

 

Technology Spending and Trends
• Well over three-fourths of all districts reported that 2005 budgets remained the same or increased over 2004 levels.
• Projections for 2006 indicate that roughly 70 percent of districts expect their budgets to be the same or higher than in 2005. However, 15 percent expect decreases by 10 percent or more, and another 10 percent of districts project decreases between 5 percent and 9 percent.
• The most important technology need for 2006 is for more hardware or hardware upgrades, and the top technology investments planned are for computers for student use and network and infrastructure upgrades.
 
Purchasing Practices, Requirements, and Preferences
• Nearly one-half of all schools now use online purchasing for instructional materials and supplies, a significant increase over prior years.
• Districts purchase technology from a variety of sources, with direct purchases from the provider being most prevalent (79 percent). Other popular ways to buy are through a co-op buying agency, consortium, or regional education center and from retailers.
• Most large districts are required to purchase technology-related products from a preferred vendor list, while most small districts have no such requirement.
• The majority of districts have identified one hardware brand for new purchases in order to reduce support issues. Dell is cited most frequently (by 43 percent of districts), followed by HP/Compaq (by 19 percent) and Macintosh (by 17 percent).
• One-third of districts are required to purchase only software/online content that was backed by scientifically-based research.
 
Teachers' Use of E-Mail
• Virtually all teachers have personal school-based e-mail accounts that can be easily accessed in their classrooms (by 95 percent), homes (by 55 percent), and other locations.
• During the past year, 15 percent of teachers ordered an education-related product as a result of an e-mail advertisement—three times more than five years ago when only 5 percent did so.
• Teachers are most likely to respond to e-mail messages offering an education-related product or service from companies with whom they've done business in the past (44 percent) and from those which they had requested information (34 percent). However, teachers appear to be somewhat open to e-mail offers from other sources.
• More than one-half of teachers have ordered an educational product over the Internet during the past year. The most common items were books, but the range of products ordered was extremely varied.
• Free shipping, sample products, and other no-charge incentives that might be offered by education marketers were most appealing to the majority of teachers.

The K-12 Technology Review 2005 is based on results of three separate surveys conducted during the 2004-2005 school year. A school survey was completed by technology specialists from more than 22,000 schools between October 2004 and March 2005. Additional surveys were completed by nationwide samples of districts and teachers in May 2005. The report sells for $195 and is available in PDF format.

To learn more about MDR's research reports or to order reports, visit http://www.schooldata.com.

Source: Market Data Retrieval, http://www.schooldata.com

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More News From NECC: A New Version of SMART Technologies’ SMART Ideas

SMART Technologies Inc. announced at NECC SMART Ideas software 5.0 for the Microsoft Windows and Mac OS X operating systems and Tablet PCs. SMART Ideas software enables students, teachers, and administrators to create multilevel concept maps using unlimited levels, colorful symbols, connectors, clip art, and multimedia files to reinforce concepts visually, organize lessons, and plan projects, the announcement states.

Concept mapping is gaining popularity as a visual learning technique that appeals to all ages and grade levels across various curricula, according to the announcement. Recent research findings support that concept mapping is an effective cognitive tool applicable not only to classroom teaching, but also to other areas of education - including planning and assessment at the district level.

New features in this version of SMART Ideas include the following:

* Enhanced, three-dimensional Global view: Get a complete view of your map and how concepts relate to one another.
* Improved content management: Use Style Collections for quick access to symbols, basic and deluxe connectors, clip art, and interactive Cliplets. With menu bars and thumbnail screens more discreetly organized into tabs, more mapping space is now available.
* More intuitive Outline view: See the text-based outline of an entire map, including multiple levels. Help students make the connection between visual diagrams and written text by switching between Diagram and Outline views.
* Presentation view: Remove toolbars for a larger screen area during presentations.
* Stickies: Place sticky symbols and clip art inside other symbols to demonstrate relationships. For example, students can place relevant objects in shopping carts or baskets during matching exercises.
* Expanded language support: Switch between languages (English, French, and Spanish).
* Legend creation: Add legends to emphasize meaning in symbols and their relationship to information.
* New drawing and text-formatting tools: Copy symbols and colors, and apply styles quickly throughout maps using new Auto Color and Auto Size features.

SMART Ideas software 5.0 is available at a suggested list price of $199 for an individual license. Volume discounts are available. Not-for-profit educational institutions and teachers may purchase the software for $59 for an individual license, or $29 per copy for an order of 100 copies or more. A school license provides unlimited copies for individual K-12 schools and is available for $2,499.

A copy of SMART Ideas software is included with every SMART Board interactive whiteboard and Sympodium interactive lectern. Educators who already have SMART Board or Sympodium products may download a copy of the software free of charge from http://www.smarttech.com/support/software/index.asp#ideas.

SMART Ideas software 5.0 is available directly from the SMART Website or from authorized resellers of SMART products. For a free 30-day evaluation of SMART Ideas software, additional information, specifications or a list of authorized resellers, visit http://www.smarttech.com/smartideas.

Source: SMART Technologies Inc., http://www.smarttech.com

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More News From NECC: Adobe and Olympus Team to Bring Digital Photography to the Classroom

Adobe Systems Inc. and Olympus Imaging America Inc. announced at NECC 2005 a marketing partnership to deliver digital photography solutions to K-12 schools. The solutions, available through Adobe authorized resellers, combine photo editing and organization tools with Olympus digital cameras and accessory kits.

The Adobe and Olympus solutions are designed to meet a variety of educational needs from basic classroom instruction, to specialized applications such as yearbook, newspaper and sports photography, according to the announcement. They come with Adobe Photoshop Elements 3.0 software for perfecting, transforming, organizing, and sharing photos, and a choice of Olympus digital cameras and accessory kits in a variety of configurations.

In June 2003, Adobe launched the Adobe Digital Kids Club (http://www.adobe.com/education/digkids/), a program designed to promote the use of digital photography in schools. The program provides teachers, parents, and students with essential digital photography resources such as expert advice, training, lesson plans and curriculum ideas, a community to share best practices, and a showcase for student work. More than half a million visitors come to the Adobe Digital Kids Club site each month. The partnership with Olympus is an extension of the program.

The solutions are available on a build-to-order basis from Adobe authorized resellers. The solutions come with Adobe Photoshop Elements 3.0 and a selection of Olympus camera models. Olympus is also supplying special educational kits consisting of accessory items including an additional 256K xD picture card, a USB Reader/Writer (xD Picture Card Reader), a carrying case or gadget bag, four AA-size Ni-MH batteries and changer (for applicable camera models) and a 2-year extended warranty.

Source: Adobe Systems, Inc., http://www.adobe.com; Olympus America, Inc., http://www.olympusamerica.com

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