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Academy Bridges Special-Needs Reading Deficits: Egli


Egli web file 2 Reviewer: Jacqueline Egli

Position: Executive Director/Principal

School: Bridges Academy, Winter Springs, FL

Number of Students in School: 90 students

Products: Fast ForWord, Reading Assistant

Reviewer’s Note:

Bridges Academy provides academic opportunities for children with specific learning needs and learning disabilities.


Ninety-nine percent of our students have reading deficits. To accelerate each student’s learning and reading success, we created a three-pronged reading program that combines direct instruction with two educational software programs, Fast ForWord and Reading Assistant.


Students love the programs, because they are individualized. Students can see their progress and experience success quickly. This carries over to their day-to-day reading, which builds confidence and motivates them to achieve.

Teachers like the programs because students show significant improvements in their reading skills. In a study at our school, students using the programs showed an average gain of one year and three months over a three-month period.

Learning Curve:

The programs are easy to use, but to achieve success quickly, it is critical to implement the programs with fidelity and strictly adhere to the recommended protocols.

How We Use It:

We use both software programs as part of our daily two-hour reading block. Our three-pronged reading program combines research-proven curriculum methods and technology with hands-on learning strategies.

1.  Direct instruction - Each day, students participate in direct instruction programs, assigned by the teacher, to learn the mechanics of reading.

2.  Foundational skills - Students work on intensive, adaptive exercises in Fast ForWord 50 minutes a day to build brain fitness in the areas of memory, attention, processing, and sequencing. These exercises accelerate learning by improving students’ ability to capture, process, and retain information.

3.  Practice - In addition, two to three times a week, students spend 20 to 30 minutes working on Reading Assistant to strengthen their fluency, comprehension, and vocabulary. The software uses advanced speech verification technology to “listen” to each child as he or she reads aloud, providing one-on-one guided oral reading support. Students say reading to a computer feels safe and non-threatening, so they are encouraged to take risks. Teachers and students can also review performance records and audio of each reading session.

What’s Ahead?:

One challenge is finding enough time for students to access Reading Assistant every day. We plan to add more laptops to our classrooms, so students will be able to work on the program three to five times a week.

Reviewer’s Notes:

The ongoing focus at Bridges Academy is to close the academic gap so students can transition into a more traditional educational setting. By giving students the foundational skills, the direct instruction, and intensive reading practice, our school has helped them close reading gaps and become more confident, engaged readers.

 In the 2010-11 school year, three students left our school to attend college and 17 students moved to traditional schools. Many of these students made five years of improvement in their reading skills in only two years at our school.

Chicago Manages iPads: Talha Basit

Talha Basit2Reviewer: Talha Basit

: Client Computing and Software Systems Manager

District: Chicago Public Schools, IL.

Number of Students in District
: 400,000

: Absolute Software — Absolute Computrace, Absolute Manage and Absolute Manage Mobile Device Management


As our school district values integrating technology into the learning experience of our K-12 students, we have deployed more than 10,000 Apple computers. Our students have the opportunity to use technology in the classroom to enhance their learning across our 675 elementary, high school and charter schools. The challenge for our IT staff was how to manage these computers, as well as an initial deployment of 5,000 iPads.

Our goal in using Absolute Software’s three products was to enable our IT administration team to deliver a fast, cost-effective and secure computing experience for our users – freeing our administrators, teaching staff and students to focus on actually using the technology for education purposes. We needed to be able to quickly pinpoint the locations of our devices, administer software and patch management, implement a power management policy and download quick reports on all of our devices. Overall, our goals were to keep track of our mobile inventory, secure our assets, update them, distribute software and reduce IT support costs and time.


Before Absolute Manage, the whole process of managing our devices was painful. Our Help Desk would receive a large volume of support calls, and this all changed when we started using the suite of Absolute products. We can now remotely manage, patch and totally remediate a system, we’ve been able to reduce support calls by 70%. I would say Absolute’s solutions have been well received not only by our IT staff, but also by the students and teachers who use each device.

Further, with the aid of Absolute Software’s Computrace product, we have successfully recovered over 350 laptops. This has directly resulted in substantial cost savings, and we’re able to show this value directly to board members and administrators as well.

Learning Curve:

Absolute Manage is very straightforward to use. That was one of the reasons we chose it over other products in this category.

How We Use It:

We use Computrace to help track, secure and recover the 40,000 Mac laptop computers deployed across our network of schools. We’ve already seen the ROI of installing Computrace, with more than 350 laptops returned to us.

We use Absolute Manage as our computer lifecycle management solution on all of our Mac computers. We are able to use Absolute Manage as a full-featured asset management solution, allowing us to provide a lightning fast rollout and even implement a Power Management policy.

We also keep track of our entire 5,000+ iPads that are distributed district wide to students, teachers and administrators using Absolute Manage Mobile Device Management. Having access to this type of tracking software for the iPad was one of the reasons we were able to commit to using iPads in our district.

What’s Ahead?:

In addition to our major rollout of iPad devices, we plan to integrate our data into our largest asset inventory database so that our IT staff and school staff can easily see all of their assets, including their iPads. We will also be expanding our usage of the Absolute Software product line to more Macs, and potentially PCs as well.

Online Professional Development: Assist. Supt. Julie Rolling

Ascd2 Reviewer:
Julie Rolling

Position: Assistant Superintendent, Learning Teaching and Family Support

District: Puget Sound ESD, WA (PSESD)

Number of Students in District: 383,000

Products: ASCD PD Online


I wanted to offer a variety of K-12 professional development to meet educators' range of needs. Given Seattle's traffic issues and educator's busy schedules, driving to a region workshop is not feasible for most. So, having the opportunity to access online, high quality, professional development on their own time and in the location of their choosing was critical.


Each year the number of classes taken has increased significantly and the response has been very positive - the content is very high quality, relevant to their teaching setting and convenient way of learning new information to better serve students. Educators appreciate hearing from experts, and applying what they’ve learned to their own setting, as well as being able to work at their own pace.

Learning Curve:

The online sessions are very easy to use.  PSESD simply surveys educators to gather needs and offers technical assistance as needed. We rarely hear of problems with the use of the product. We offer continuing education and graduate credits from local universities to make the learning connect to recertification goals.

How We Use It:

Online classes supplement the in-district professional development that educators already receive. These classes often fill a need for individual teachers that is different than the needs of their entire staff. For instance, many new teachers find the sessions on classroom management helpful, and others offer another learning opportunity for a topic that has great depth, like differentiated instruction. Experts, like Bob Marzano, have come in to work, and then we utilize the online classes prior to or after the face-to-face sessions to help educators deepen and apply learning.

What's Ahead?:

We will survey educators in the region and offer classes that meet their needs. We will also continue to offer existing classes that are popular, as well as new sessions based on the changing needs of the region. Furthermore, we would also like to connect with individual districts to see if we could partner to offer sessions based on their improvement goals.

CoveritLive for Class Discussions: Art Titzel

Art headshotReviewer: Art Titzel

Position: 8th grade American Cultures Teacher

District/School: Derry Township School District, Hershey Middle School, PA

Number of Students in District/School:  3,500/900

Product: CoveritLive


1. Extend classroom discussions to live events such as presidential debates, state of the union, and other events that would normally be classroom discussions. 

2. Use as a way to hold moderated evening review sessions prior to exams.

3. Connect with classes from around the world. 


Most students love the opportunity to connect with one another outside of school—even for academic purposes. Some parents expressed shock that their child would spend his/her own time to seriously discuss the current events online.

Learning Curve:

CoveritLive is relatively easy to use. There are numerous options for creating a live event, but CoveritLive provides easy to use tutorials in their Support Center. Events need to be created in advance. I also recommend creating a practice event with a few of your colleagues prior to going live with students.

How We Use It:

I save relevant links and create polls with questions I want to ask during the debate. CoveritLive allows Debate1
you to pre-plan an event with audio, images, video, links, polls, and pre-written text. The more content you add ahead of time the better.  

Once the pre-planning is done I copy and paste the embed code into my class Wiki, where students access the event. I always announce to the students when the event will go live and how long it will last. When time arrives I launch the event and begin to moderate the student comments. Time goes very quickly during an event because as a moderator you are commenting, approving student comments, direct messaging students who did not follow posting expectations, adding media content, and generally guiding the discussion.  

It is possible to allow a certain number of people to post comments without moderation. Most of my students respect the expectations and comment appropriately, because they know this is a class event that is archived for replay. The next day in class we typically take time to discuss the actual event and our CoveritLive event.

Whats Ahead?:

I want to continue to use CoveritLive for involving students in relevant live events outside the classroom, such as the upcoming 2012 election debates and election night, as well as for connecting with other classes from around the world.  

Goodbye Textbooks—Hello Netbooks: Gary Brantley


GB_1 copy Reviewer: Gary Brantley

Position: Chief Information Officer

District/School: Lorain City Schools, OH

Number of Students in District: 9,600

Product: Acer Aspire One Netbooks running eReaders


We want to make sure our students and staff have the ability to access content and data on demand. We wanted to replace traditional textbooks with digital experiences.

Reviewer’s Notes:

We worked as a team, and included all stakeholders in this netbook initiative. We wanted everyone at the table, which allowed everyone to feel that they had some ownership in this project.


The community and stakeholders were very excited when we rolled out this 1:1 program. Support has always been very positive, and we expect this to continue.

Learning Curve:

Students transitioned into this program relatively smoothly. The learning curve for our teachers was somewhat steep. We provided professional development. We will continue to provide opportunities for staff development, both now, and in the future. We are committed to digital learning and the tools necessary for student success.

LS_5 How We Use It:

The netbooks have replaced books for our students and staff. We’ve eliminated our traditional textbooks. All of that content now resides on the Acer netbooks.

What’s Ahead?:

Our program now runs in grades 6-12, so we would like to expand it to more grades. We will strive to put the best tools in the hands of students and staff.


Tech Helps Kids Do Important Things: Cheryl Arnett


Cheryl Arnett Reviewer: Cheryl Arnett

Position: Second Grade Teacher

District/School: Moffat County School District/Sunset Elementary School, Co.

Number of Students in District/School: 2,400/300

Products: Microsoft Office, Mouse Mischief, PhotoStory 3, Shoutlearning.org, Epals, Bing.


The objective of my project, encompassing all the technology listed above, was to engage my second grade students in meaningful learning by giving them opportunities to explore real world topics. They were encouraged to share their learning with others, including a world audience, and participate in service projects. The students learned that even at a young age they could make a difference and have a voice.


One of my students said it best, “Even little kids can do important things and make a difference.” Every adult visitor to our classroom, including experts, news reporters, substitute teachers, and the principal remarked on the students’ depth of knowledge, vocabulary, and confidence in discussing real issues. Parents reported that their children were excited about school and sharing their new knowledge at home as they made connections to real world situations.

Learning Curve:

The learning curve was adjusted as I put aside units and lessons I had taught in the past and, instead, took into consideration current event opportunities and the passions of the students, creating new lessons that would incorporate the different technologies. The lesson began with a standard or skill, and the available tools. Even at a young age, the students knew technology could be used to answer questions, and they were excited to use the technology tools to research meaningful real world topics. It was not necessary for me to have the answers to all their questions. We learned together.

How We Use It:

Gramcam We covered core skills and content, but we did so in the context of real life settings and subjects, using technology as the tool. We used Skype and flip cameras as students learned history by interviewing grandparents then producing a video using Windows Live Movie Maker and burning DVDs.

Students learned to create a brochure while studying the deer population in our city, using Microsoft Word. Students also Used Microsoft PhotoStory3 to create visual presentations of lessons, and Mouse Mischief to develop quizzes to test the knowledge of their peers.

What’s Ahead?:

Our school is using collaboration time to share innovative ideas and help other teachers make the transformation in their classrooms. The district is supporting innovation as well and exploring the best ways to use and incorporate technology for all students in all classrooms. Five local teachers have been selected to attend the Microsoft Partners In Learning US Innovative Education Forum in Redmond, Washington.

edmodo Collaboration & Communication: Andy McKiel

Andymckiel Reviewer: Andy McKiel

Position: K-12 Curriculum Coordinator

District/School: St. James-Assiniboia School Division

Number of Students in District/School: Approximately 8500 students

Product: Edmodo


Our administrators were looking for better ways to communicate student learning between school and home. Our teachers have been looking for opportunities to encourage their students to work collaboratively in online spaces in a safe and secure environment. Our students would like to have access to social networking tools within the classroom.


Edmodo has enabled our administrators to highlight events that are taking place within the school community. Our teachers have found that Edmodo has been a great tool to enable their students to demonstrate their learning and provide their peers with descriptive feedback. In addition, our teachers find that the secure nature of posting notes and assignments within Edmodo groups encourages their students to take more risks (safely) than if they were posting their thoughts and ideas more publicly to a blog.

Learning Curve:

Our staff has found Edmodo to be extremely easy to implement. We began our district implementation with a one hour webinar that could accommodate up to 50 self-selected teachers/administrators. Over thirty participants took part in the webinar, and we were able to highlight the many features of Edmodo, and provide participants with the details they needed to get started the very next day.   

How We Use It:

Many of our schools use the calendar feature within the Edmodo groups and communities to highlight upcoming events and activities. Classroom teachers are posting assignments and providing their students with descriptive feedback based on the work that they submit through Edmodo. Our teachers also share their questions and success stories with teachers in other schools throughout the district.  

What’s Ahead?:

We're currently focusing our efforts on increasing the number of teachers and students within our district who are using Edmodo to connect and collaborate. By encouraging our teachers to share their success stories, and describe the value that Edmodo has added to the teaching and learning that takes place within their classrooms (and beyond), we've found that other teachers are eager to get started.   

Reviewer’s Notes:

We've been thrilled with the positive impact that Edmodo has had in our classrooms and schools, and can't say enough positive things about Edmodo. This is an incredible tool for communication and collaboration, and the fact that it's free and easy makes Edmodo a tool that no teacher should be without...

RM Slate 1:1: James Monti

RM Slate
Jim2 Reviewer:
James Monti

Position: Director of Technology

District/School: West Warwick Public Schools, RI

Number of Students in District/School: 3,500

Products: RM Slate


We wanted to move toward ubiquitous wireless access everywhere in the district.

We knew that touchpad technology was the direction we wanted to move towards, but we were skeptical about moving to a non-flash environment. We also wanted a tool that we could use with Aspen, our SIS.


Students as young as kindergarten age have been using RM Slates. We know they're getting used extensively, because the most popular message our helpdesk has received is: "How do we clean dirty finger prints from the screen?" We love that type of helpdesk question.

Learning Curve:

By using the RM imaging services we were able to simply hand the tools out to students and teachers after a minimal run through for each machine. Students and teachers were able to use the machines qiuickly, and the Slates were pretty intuitive, regardless of user age.

How We Use It:

The Slate fits perfectly onto tabletops for our wheelchair bound students. It was fabulous that we could use existing assistive technology software. We started to use the RM Slates for some state testing at the 4th and 8th grade levels. Then we dropped the Slates into the classrooms, where they've been used non-stop by the teachers and students.

What’s Ahead?:

We want more! We want to find funding sources to purchase a Slate for every teacher and administrator for use with Rhode Island's new Educator Evaluation System.

KUNO 1:1 Android: Drew Markel Assist. Principal

  Drew Markel

Position: Assistant Principal

District:  Crothersville Community Schools, Crothersville, IN

Number of Students:  550

Product: KUNO Tablet with CurriculumLoft Explore 1 to 1


We wanted Android-based tablet environment for 1:1 to give each student a managed Internet and network capable device. We also wanted teachers to upload their current curriculum in a cloud environment so that building lesson plans will be as easy at home as it is at school.


All stakeholders were excited about the plan to implement a 1:1 initiative. The project is fully supported by the Board as well as teachers and students.

Learning Curve:

Many students are already acclimated to using touch-screen-based technology. The use of the KUNO was not a hard transition for the students to make at all. We added school-wide wireless in preparation for the project. We want our students marketable in today’s workplace.

How We Use It:

We are a rural, high poverty area. This means that many students don't have the means to obtain WiFi, or broadband access due to cost as well as location. We needed a way to allow for students to have their curriculum downloaded to a device that could be taken home with them and accessed later. The KUNO and CurriculumLoft Explore1to1 allowed for that “sync” to take place in the school where Internet access is available. The students can later return home and access that information, even if they don’t have Internet access.

What’s Ahead?:

We will be running a project parallel to the KUNO tablet project installing a complete VDI (Virtual Desktop) Solution. We will utilize CISCO UCS servers running virtual clients. These virtual instances will be available both on the students Wyse thin clients in a lab or classroom setting and in virtual instances on the KUNO.  All virtualization will be managed using the VmWare suite of products with an EMC storage array.



Disclaimer: The opinions expressed in Best in Tech Today are strictly those of the author and do not reflect the opinions or endorsement of Scholastic, Inc.