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A Pre-Pre-SAT?

Readistep_color_logoThe College Board is readying a new standardized test for eighth graders to assess their development towards college level skills and abilities. Called ReadiStep, the test can help teachers and administrators evaluate students for proficiency and make sure they’re on the right track for college. The pencil-and-paper test has three sections: reading comprehension, writing and math and is based on the standards in the English Language Arts and Mathematics College Board Standards for College Success.  The test will be available for its first use next fall.

Adobe’s Digital School Collection, Now in Session

School_collectionWhen I told you about the new Creative Suite from Adobe I spent some time explaining the new and upgraded apps that make up this digital toolbox. Adobe is now doing this set of programs one better by adding a ton of school resources in the Digital School Collection. Perfect for K-through-12 schools looking to do everything from teach kids how to work with images to creating a complex Web site, Digital School Collection comes with Photoshop Elements 7, Premiere Elements 7, Soundbooth CS4, Acrobat 9 Pro and Contribute CS4. A big bonus is the DVD that's chock full of lesson plans, tutorials as well as a slew of tips and tricks. In other words, it’s everything a school needs to bring it into the 21-st century as far as media goes. Adobe has a program that charges $24,750 for a 250-seat license for the suite.

Speeding up Young Readers

Rocket_readerHow about instead of telling poor readers to slow down, tell them to read faster? I know it sounds like a recipe for disaster, but RocketReader Speed Reading 8 is a proven plan for speeding up reading speed and comprehension for both lagging and leading readers. The program uses artificial intelligence techniques to eliminate the bad habits that slow kids down while building vocabulary and reading speed. There are lesson plans, more than 500 reading selections with comprehension quizzes as well as preparation for SAT tests. A single use license costs $129 although a school can reduce that to $20 for 50 students. A district or large school can get the program for 2,000 students as low as $6 per student. Reading Rocket works with PCs, Macs and Linux computers and a 10 day free trial is available.

Prices Worth the Journey

JourneyedHow would you like to save hundreds of dollars on software without compromising quality and support? I thought so, and JourneyEd’s Web site is a great place where K-through-12 students, teachers and staff can save big. For instance, rather than spending $500 for a full version of Microsoft Office Professional 2007 or $150 for the Student version, JourneyEd has it for $120 and throws in a 2GB flash memory stick as a deal closer. The site is well organized and has a good assortment of products available for immediate delivery, but the best part is that if you’re buying for the whole school, the Dallas, Texas-based company can set up a volume license that can save even more.

Push Button Tests

Got_itHow many teachers have thought about incorporating a wireless student response system, but have gotten caught up in the cost and complexity of setting one up? Califone’s Got It! wireless interactive student response system can easily transform a classroom from using paper tests to push-button response. Got It! sends the class’s responses to the teacher’s computer where they are processed and analyzed. It can create six different reports on class progress, including scores, activity and full semester grades. This system can not only show who knows what but which students need remedial help or advanced work. You’ll have to wait until the beginning of the next school year to get Got It!, which will be available in either 24- or 40-person packs.

What is ... A lot of Fun

JeopardyNeed a little motivation to help keep the excitement up for teaching your next class? Try Classroom Jeopardy StandardsLink Teachers’ contest. Through the end of the year, teachers can test their knowledge of math, language arts and science every week to win Classroom Jeopardy games and $25 coupons for the classroom. The more you play, the greater your chances of winning the grand prize of a Classroom Jeopardy StandardsLink event at your school and other stuff. The big prize will be announced on January 16, 2009.

Timeline City

TimeplotI have a confession to make: I love the ability of a timeline to convey a lot of information in a small space. That’s why when I stumbled on MIT’s Timeplot site, I nearly fell off my chair. Timeplot uses historic and live data as well as the latest that the Web has to offer to compile an interactive timeline. There’s a plot that overlays energy imports, the price of gas and electricity that could make for a great social studies or economics lesson. Just run the cursor over any point and the actual numbers pop up. My favorite, however, is one that shows the ups and downs of immigration with respect to the American population. There’s even a place that explains how to build your own Timeplot.

Digital Test Prep

CrammerWhy waste valuable instruction time with drilling students for upcoming tests? LeapFrog’s latest educational gadget gives kids the test preparation and individual attention they need with the Crammer Study and Sound System. The 4.6-ounce handheld comes with 1GB of memory and students can download their choice of 16,000 questions in math, science and social studies. Aimed at grades three-through-eight, kids or entire classes can make their own flash cards and the device has a 10,000 word Spanish-English translator, a digital music player and thousands of new quiz questions can be downloaded. The system works with Macs and PCs and costs $60.

Directions Not Included?

Floss_netHere’s a school scenario that’s all too familiar in the classroom today: You have access to dozens of free educational programs installed on your system or over your institution’s server but not a manual to be had. Floss provides access to downloadable manuals for a wide variety of software, including OpenOffice, Audacity and WordPress. The best part is that the site has the documentation for the OLPC XO notebook as well as the Sugar software it’s based on.

The Quiet Leader

Mitsubishi_fl7000_45angle_2The two things I look for in a large venue projector, like that for a lecture hall or auditorium, are lots of light and quiet operation. Mitsubishi’s FL7000U excels at both and can fill a 20-foot screen with brilliant 1,920 by 1,080 resolution and 5,000 lumens. With all that light at its disposal, the FL7000 runs at a remarkably quiet 29dB of fan noise.

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