The Columns That Support the Structure

We hate to be pushy. It’s kind of rude.

But in fact, that’s one of the missions of a technology publication … to push—appropriately and convincingly—technology-based tactics, services, and resources that can help readers accomplish their own missions.

That’s why, at their best, articles in educational technology publications like Multimedia & Internet @ Schools not only describe innovative products, services, technologies, and phenomena but also tout them, push them, and persuade and even cajole readers to use them. Pushy, yes.

But we like to think that’s why you read the articles, that you don’t mind being made to feel a little uncomfortable for not trying out the new.

I tend to focus on the feature articles here in Editor’s Notes, but that can give short shrift to our regular columnists. “No fair!” as my young daughter would say.

After all, they are as pushy as any of our feature writers, laying out their ideas, opinions, and knowledge for you issue after issue and thereby supporting the mission of this publication.

So this time, let’s see what they’re up to.

This Month in the Columns

Linda Joseph, a looooongtime MMIS columnist whose Cyberbee character scours the internet for web-based, subject-specific resources, discusses sites where kids can study the current state of farming and agriculture in our country and across the globe.

If it sounds tame, it’s not! The impact of agribusiness on all of us is an issue of vital importance. See Seeds of Change on page 17.

Stephen Abram … arguably our pushiest columnist … persuasively urges understanding and embracing relevant new phenomena in his forward-looking Pipeline column.

See what he has to say this time about the New Social Literacies on page 21.

Warning—he prefaces his column with these words: “So, despite the likelihood I’ll encourage some slings and arrows … I want to highlight an emerging, important new literacy—online social literacy.”

Mary Alice Anderson, another longtimer at MMIS with her Media Center column, wants you to get your students out and about using GPS technology and geocaching.

And yes, she argues, there are good reasons for media specialists to push this idea. Find out how and why by reading Geocaching for Fun and Learning on page 32.

Mary Ann Bell has been examining the myriad technology-based modes of communication, with an appreciative but somewhat iconoclastic eye, in recent Belltones columns.

This month, she reduces blogging to its essence in Celebrating Communicating: Blogging Redux on page 36.

That’s my push for you to read this month’s columns.

Now, one last push, if you don’t mind: Be sure to look at the program for our Internet at Schools conference coming up next month. It’s on pages 29–31.

New Round of Enhancements for H.W. Wilson’s WilsonWeb Service

H.W. Wilson has announced new enhancements to its WilsonWeb service, including improvements to the WilsonWeb Mobile interface, expansion of the “My WilsonWeb” individual user account functions, increased customization, and more.

Highlights include:

• Record previews.  Users can preview individual records without navigating away from the “brief display” search results screen, by mousing over the new “quick view” icon.  The pop-up “quick view” includes important fields such as Abstracts, Title, Author, Source, Publication Year, and Subject.  The preview vanishes when you mouse away from the icon.
• Zotero compatibility. FireFox users will now be able to use the Zotero pane with their WilsonWeb databases.  Zotero is a popular tool that helps users collect, organize, cite and share their research sources.
• Custom background images.  Add your own background image to the Search, Browse, and Thesaurus screens: your school crest, a holiday image, a campus view, or whatever suits your fancy.  You can also choose images selected by H.W. Wilson-a rotating sequence of colorful backgrounds that changes each time the user logs into WilsonWeb.
• New tools for the “My WilsonWeb” individual user accounts.  WilsonWeb users can now access any embedded “widget” added to the WilsonWeb interface from their “My WilsonWeb” individual user accounts.  (Formerly, widgets were only visible on the search results screen.)  They can also now create folders to organize their “My WilsonWeb” notes, as well as email notes from within “My WilsonWeb.”
• ReadSpeaker text-to-speech converter enhancements. WilsonWeb’s ReadSpeaker now allows users to highlight sections of text for listening, and regulate the speed of narration. Available on WilsonWeb full-text databases, the ReadSpeaker “text to speech” converter lets users listen to articles as streaming audio, or download as MP3s for playback later.  ReadSpeaker usage stats are available in WilsonWeb statistics reports for library administrators.
 • WilsonWeb Mobile enhancements.  The WilsonWeb Mobile interface-designed for use on smart phones and other devices-now allows libraries to add up to 3 custom links. At the bottom of the search results pages, new search boxes have been added, allowing users to launch new searches without returning to the main search screen.  Additionally, Wilson Mobile usage statistics are now available for administrators, and the interface has been adapted to work with Shibboleth Authentication.
• An all-in-one WilsonWeb login screen.  Libraries can direct all users to a single, convenient webpage for authentication, whether by user ID and password, patron ID number, barcode number or library card number, or any of the Shibboleth access links (UK Federation, SWITCHaai, InCommon, and EduID.cz).

Pearson Launches Pearson Common Core Website

Pearson has announced the debut of Pearson Common Core, a website that offers complete and cohesive support to implement the new Common Core State Standards and provide the easiest possible transition, according to its announcement.

The website, at www.pearsoned.com/commoncore, is intended to help the 40 states (plus the Virgin Islands and District of Columbia) that are gearing up for the transition to the new Common Core State Standards, providing access to a comprehensive set of resources to facilitate the changeover to the new standards. 

Pearson has developed an array of integrated solutions that include Aligned curriculum and iPad-ready eTexts, Assessment, Data Management, Teacher Professional Development, and Overall School Improvement.

Pearson’s support will provide solutions including:

  • Teacher training – Strategic planning with districts to evaluate needs and develop customized programs. Available now to prepare for the transition are face-to-face and online workshops with video training modules that address specific implications in the standards for how to approach subject area content and the teaching of skills and strategies related to: Math and English Language Arts, assessment of learning, special populations, and practices/behaviors that students will need to demonstrate to show that they can apply their knowledge.
  • Instruction – Newly-developed common core curriculum programs, including performance assessments; enhancements to Pearson’s existing instructional materials for college and career-readiness and alignment with the new standards which will be available at no charge; digital and virtual courses, as well as a concentrated focus on mobile learning with new iPad-ready eTexts for grades 6-12.
  • Assessment – Formative assessment to monitor student performance and progress throughout the school year, providing critical information on how, when, and where to target remediation and instruction throughout the transition. With this data, educators gain a complete picture of student achievement and personalize the learning experience to increase positive student outcomes.
  • Data Management/Systems – Integrating technology systems for student performance data management to provide classroom and longitudinal data. Systems connect all entities, providing information and tools to make meaningful comparisons and seamless transitions that take students from early childhood to college and workplace readiness.
  • School Improvement – Solutions offered through Pearson’s America’s Choice, offering a combination of professional development, technical assistance, and high-quality materials.

DreamBox Learning Math App Now Available in Google Web App Marketplace

DreamBox Learning has announced it has released an education app in the Google Apps Marketplace, Google’s online storefront for Google Apps products and services. 

The app, called DreamBox Learning Connect, securely integrates with DreamBox Learning K-3 Math, an adaptive web-based learning tool for young students.

With DreamBox Learning Connect installed, teachers, administrators and principals now have one-click access to their DreamBox Teacher Dashboard for access to student and classroom performance data.

The Google Apps Marketplace makes it easy for the more than 3 million businesses and the thousands of educational institutions using Google Apps to discover, purchase and deploy integrated web applications and related professional services.

By integrating with user account and application data stored in Google Apps, these cloud applications provide a simpler user experience, increase efficiency and reduce administrative overhead.

Pearson has announced an update to PowerTeacher Mobile, the free app that allows teachers to monitor student progress anytime, anywhere with the Apple iPad. Developed by Pearson, PowerTeacher Mobile 1.1 features the enhancements that teachers have most requested and is designed to make grading on-the-go easier.

This release includes over 40 new capabilities and is now nearly twice as fast as the initial version of the app which was released in October of 2010.

PowerTeacher, the online gradebook component of PowerSchool and Chancery SMS student information systems, provides the latest technology for standards-based grading.

With its companion iPad app, PowerTeacher Mobile, teachers are no longer limited to their desktop or laptop when using the gradebook.

They can record student scores and make observations about student progress from anywhere in the classroom, at the gym, on the playground, at a sporting event, or while on a field trip.

Available for free download in the Apple iTunes App Store, PowerTeacher Mobile integrates seamlessly with the PowerTeacher gradebook.

With Version 1.1 of the iPad app, teachers can more quickly, easily, and securely create and score assignments, view student groups, manage class rosters, and view student demographics.

The layout and access to key features have also been improved in PowerTeacher Mobile 1.1, particularly for the student scoresheet. Numerous new sections have been added to the Help Pages, including new Teacher Tool and Reporting Term sections.

A more detailed list of the new features in PowerTeacher Mobile 1.1 is available on the School Systems website.

Inspiration Software Launches Webspiration Classroom

Inspiration Software, Inc., has launched Webspiration Classroom, the online writing, visual thinking, and collaboration tool for students and teachers.

Webspiration Classroom combines the power of visual thinking with innovative collaboration tools, offering students and teachers 24/7 access to an online environment where they can work independently, with their peers, and in groups, to develop and strengthen their writing and thinking skills.

With Webspiration Classroom, students use visual thinking and outlining techniques to build writing skills and analyze, synthesize and comprehend information.

With 24/7 access, students can apply proven learning methods such as webbing, concept mapping, and graphic organizers at school, at home, or anywhere they have access to the internet, extending their learning time to develop their thinking and writing skills.

With Webspiration Classroom’s collaboration tools, students work with their classmates and teachers to develop essays, papers, and reports, gaining deeper knowledge and a stronger understanding of the concepts they are learning.

Students actively engage in learning as they collaborate on group projects, share documents for peer review and receive guidance from teachers throughout the entire learning process.

Webspiration Classroom incorporates everyone’s contributions and feedback in one document, keeping the process organized as students produce and publish their work.

All Webspiration Classroom documents are automatically saved and backed up in the cloud, giving students and teachers 24/7 access to an engaging, safe and reliable online environment for learning, sharing and collaboration.

Students can sign in from home, the library, the coffee shop – anywhere they have internet access – to develop their projects and invite their classmates and teachers to review their work, as well as to provide their own feedback on other students’ projects.

Assignments can be delivered, revised, evaluated, and returned online, keeping work accessible and organized. This streamlined work process between teachers and students increases the instructional time and keeps the focus on learning.

Webspiration Classroom is available in one-, two- and three-year subscriptions in packages designed for both classrooms and individual educators.

Every Webspiration Classroom subscription includes unlimited documents, unlimited collaboration and anytime, anywhere access.

Account subscriptions include access to online support materials, including lesson plans, examples, a Quick Start Guide, a Help Center and implementation tools, which allow students and teachers to take full advantage of Webspiration Classroom’s capabilities.

One-year Classroom Subscriptions start at $110 for a 10-pack, $300 for a 30-pack, and $360 for a 40-pack. Larger purchase options and school-wide subscriptions are available by contacting Inspiration Software at sales@inspiration.com.

Individual educator subscriptions are $39 for one year, $75 for two years and $110 for three years. A free 30-day trial subscription to Webspiration Classroom is available at www.inspiration.com/Freetrial.