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Judge Upholds NCLB Law

Ed_gl_nclb_logoA challenge to the No Child Left Behind law was dismissed yesterday by Judge Mark R. Kravitz of the Federal District Court in New Haven, CT. The law suit by the state of Connecticut was over whether the Federal government could force states to spend their own money to comply with the law. Connecticut Attorney General has said he would appeal the decision. More info at the N.Y. Times.

Double-Duty DVD

Sk26h570d_front_copyIf you’ve ever tangled with a mess of cables trying to get a DVD player to work with a monitor, Westinghouse’s SK-26H570D LCD HDTV-DVD is for your classroom. This 26-inch TV has a full DVD player built in and doubles as a monitor for class viewing. It has a pair of HDMI connectors and AutoSource technology that turns the screen on when an external player is activated. The DVD TV costs $600.
Specs: 1,366 by 768 resolution, 800:1 contrast ratio, two 10 watt speakers.
Bottom line: Forget about trying to get a DVD working with a monitor because this TV has a player built in.

New Research-Based Evaluation of School Leaders

Valed1No school initiative starts without the support of their school administrator, but how can schools evaluate school leadership? Vanderbilt University announces a program that evaluates school leadership using six core components related to student learning, including high standards, rigorous curriculum and performance accountability. Six additional evaluation areas measure leadership skills like planning, advocating, and communicating.  The program, The Vanderbilt Assessment of Leadership in Education (VAL-ED), will be distributed by Discovery Education. VAL-ED was field tested in 100 elementary schools, 100 middle schools, and 100 high schools in 53 districts in 27 states to show how a principal's performance compares with their peers nationwide.
Details: The VAL-ED leadership assessment takes just 20-25 minutes, in either online or pencil and paper formats. The assessment instrument has 72 questions that evaluate 72 behaviors.
Bottom line: A quick and easy tool to measure abstract leadership skills.

Time to Upgrade Windows XP

WindowslogoI know it’s not something that administrators look forward to, but it’s time to upgrade every Windows XP computer in your school. That’s because Microsoft released the Service Pack 3 for XP today, and at over 300MB it’s a whopper. We suggest you download it, put it on your network and install the software from there. An overview of the free software is available at http://www.microsoft.com/downloads/details.aspx?FamilyID=68c48dad-bc34-40be-8d85-6bb4f56f5110&displaylang=en
Details: consolidates over 1,000 previous updates for security and reliability.
Bottom line: Get the latest software for your computers with the XP Service Pack 3.

Seeing Really is Believing

Wdss_a_2Rather than filling a chalk board with odd sketches, arrows and arcane formulas, Vernier’s Wireless Dynamics Sensor System (WDSS) lets students discover the laws of motion for themselves. The small device is chock full of sensors, wirelessly communicates with a Bluetooth-equipped computer and comes with the analysis software needed to make Newton’s laws come alive in nay science classroom. At $250, the WDSS is a valuable and versatile teaching tool that can enrich any school’s science curriculum.

About the size of a notebook power adapter, the 6.5-ounce WDSS has digital sensors for force, altitude and a 3-axis accelerometer inside. Together they can track the motion of any object and can help teach valuable concepts, including gravity, centripetal force, how pendulums work and much more. With several threaded attachment points, the device can be easily mounted on everything from a bicycle wheel to a roller coaster.

Because it uses a Bluetooth radio to move data, there are no clunky cables to get in the way. While the WDSS can hold up to 240,000 data points internally, when it’s time to move the data you need to have a Bluetooth-equipped computer nearby to receive the data. The device has a 30-foot range.

Wdss_screen The key to the device’s teaching abilities is its Logger Pro Software, which receives the data, consolidates it into columns and graphs it. On top of letting students predict what will happen and compare the results, the WDSS can help find the right equation to represent it and even link to a video of the experiment. This can make the experiment come alive for the entire class when shown on a large screen monitor or projector.

With seven suggested labs, including the forces you feel on a rollercoaster, it’s ready for the classroom; there are many imaginative projects on Vernier’s Web site. The best part is that all the data and graphs can be exported to Microsoft’s Office programs so that students can quickly write up their results as lab reports.

On the downside, you can’t connect extra sensors to the WDSS – such as for temperature or humidity. By contrast, Vernier’s slightly more expensive LabQuest system is a handled that connects to a variety of off-the-shelf sensors and has a built in screen to view data and graphs.

Vernier Wireless Dynamics Sensor System
www.vernier.com/ (888) 837-6437

+ Reliable sensors
+ Excellent analysis software
+ Includes labs and exercises
+ Bluetooth radio beams data

- Requires nearby computer to download, analyze and display data
- Can’t add other sensors to WDSS

New High School Literature Resources

Perspective_2 It’s spring assessment time! I know -- those words make all of our skin crawl a bit, and wading through the quagmire of assessment tools can be tricky since it’s hardly one size fit all. But, if you’re shopping for a resource that helps kids get the classics, you might check out Pearson’s Perspective, a remediation tool that’s been around for a while and has added high school Literature Teachers Guides from its imprints like the Penguin Group. The product also now includes the APerspective blog, which has news, hints and tips on using Perspective.
Bottom line: The new Literature Teachers Guides introduce students to work from classics like Charles Dickens and William Shakespeare within the Perspective framework, which includes built-in assessment tools.

Germ-Free Keyboard

SilverboardIf dirty hands covered with germs scares you as much as it does me, Seal Shield’s Silver Seal antimicrobial keyboard is good medicine. It's the first keyboard that sanitizes itself and could help stop kids spreading colds to each other. The device’s entire surface is covered with a special silver compound that kills bacteria without using any harsh chemicals. The price is $60.
Specs: 106-key keyboard, numeric keypad, germ-proof coating
Bottom line: Stop bacteria with a keyboard that kills germs.

Free Online Computer Literacy Training for K-12 Teachers

TeknimedialogoTraining teachers adequately is one of the oldest challenges for schools, and yet it’s still the most important piece in getting your pricey tech used properly. To help (at least with a handful of teachers), Teknimedia offers FREE online access to its PCIC3-Getting Ready for IC3 courseware. This series gets K-12 teachers ready for Internet and Computing Core Certification (IC3). The program has multimedia lessons, interactive exercises, quizzes, and end-of-course tests.
Details: Includes 100 hours of instruction; approved by Certiport and covers 100% of the IC3 exam objectives. Up to five teachers per K-12 school building eligible to receive the free training.

Projector All-in-One

Ip60eEvery so often a classroom device comes along that impresses me because it rethinks a standard way of teaching and running lesson. By combining a flat bed scanner with a high-power projector, Avio’s ip 60e is a breakthrough product that can help teachers teach and students learn. The projector’s three LCD panels deliver 3,500 lumens of light and its scanner produces sharp 4-megapixel images without fumbling for a document camera. Just put the sheet of paper you want projected onto the scan bed, and it's on screen for the whole class to see. At $8,500, it’s quite expensive.
Specs: 1,024 by 768 resolution, 3,500 lumens, can store 32 images internally
Bottom line: ditch the clumsy document camera with Avio’s ip 60e’s built-in scanner.

NCLB, Next

Ed_gl_nclb_logoIf you're uptight about the next No Child Left Behind (NCLB) legislation making its way through Congress, you're not a alone. On top of quicker communication with parents of failing children, NCLB is expected add a standard way to measure and report graduation rates so that meaningful national statistics can be compiled. At the school level, these changes are likely to result in greater recordkeeping and reporting requirements for staff and administrators.
Bottom line: Expect more paperwork from the next NCLB law.

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