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A Smarter Way to Teach Math

Smartmath Does this sound familiar? Either math education programs are too simple with cartoon like graphics or are too complex for your students. Britannica’s SmartMath is versatile enough for first through sixth grade classes. Based on the Planetii program, SmartMath is divided into 91 individual skill topics and correlates to established math standards. There are 35,000 practice questions and can track students’ progress.

Document Cameras, Big and Small

Document cameras come in all shapes and sizes these days, from tiny fold-up devices to large tabletop models capable of high definition video with all the bells and whistles. Here’re two from the FETC show that caught my eye.

Vp1_img_lg_1 If most document cameras are too big and bulky to get up close and personal with things you want on screen, AverMedia’s VP-1 scales everything back to create a truly portable device. Small and light, the VP-1 is about as portable as visualizers get these days yet has a high-quality auto-focus lens, 2-megapixel camera and 8X digital zoom. Still, the whole thing weighs 2.4 pounds and folds up for storage or travel, making it great for sharing among classrooms in a school. It costs $450 and the company is at booth 268.

PS660 By contrast, the Lumens PS660 Desktop HD Visual Presenter is large and proud of it because its image quality and array of features makes it one of the most capable cameras around. It has a 15X zoom lens, HDMI connector and pan mode that allows lets teachers to go from page to page in a book. The best part is that it doesn’t care if you use a PC or Mac and it has been tested with display equipment from Hitachi, SMART, Promethean, Mimio and Polyvision. The PS660 costs $1,995 and Lumens is at booth 561

Gaming by the Numbers

Dimensionm Tired of dealing with bored kids whose attention is fixated on a Gameboy or Playstation game and not on the algebra you’ve written on the board? Try teaching through a game, like Tabula Digita’s DimensionM MultiPlayer 2.0, a computer game that can sneak in math instruction while the kids think they’re playing. I know it sounds sneaky but it works. Students can play alone or against each other in a series of missions that correspond to over teaching 200 math concepts and skills. Aimed at 3- to 12-graders, the program is aligned to state standards, can introduce and reinforce concepts and track a student’s progress.

Instant Data

HWUN3 Are you disappointed by your school’s WiFi network’s range and throughput or are WiFi-connected computers not exactly reliable? Rather than just complain about it, you can do something by using Hawking Technologies’ Hi-Gain HWUN3 add-on networking adapter, which combines 802.11n wireless with a strong antenna that can boost a network’s range six-fold, according to Hawking. Despite being small and light, the HWUN3 has the latest encryption for rock solid security, connects with just about any desktop or notebook via a USB connector and works with both PCs and Macs. The device should cost about $60.

Test Time

21stCSA Grading Collapsed The latest from FETC is Learning.com’s assessment tool that’s aimed at gauging the skills of 5th and 8th graders. Called 21st Century Skills Assessment, the software is based on all 24 ISTE NETS-S 2007 standards for decision making, critical thinking, creativity and research. All its results are a psychometrically validated blend of interactive, performance-based questions that allow students to perform tasks in simulated applications, and multiple choice, knowledge-based questions. The program can prepare individual, class, school or district level reports on performance. The company is at booth 101.


 

Power to the Classroom

PowerAgents large 300 dpi Are your school’s power bills out of sight at the same time you can see hundreds of tiny lights on computers blazing away at the end of the school day? The two are related, and Lightspeed Systems Power Manager can help a school use less power, cut its bill and reduce its impact on global climate change. It’s hard to believe but an idling desktop PC can use upwards of 50 watts of power, or about what a light bulb uses. Plus every watt used equals heat that might be a bonus in the winter, but needs to be cooled in the summer. Power Manager monitors every computer on a network and lets a school and district IT staffer put any or all to sleep, cutting power use to next to nothing. Administrators and IT managers can produce detailed reports of energy savings for budgeting meetings. The software costs $10 per system, an amount that can be paid off quickly by eliminating its wasted energy use. See it at booth 1642.


 

Moby Sighting

Fetc_09-bpedu-300x254 I personally didn’t see him, but rumor has it that BrainPOP’s animated robot Moby was seen on the floor at FETC. If you missed him, try to get to the company’s seminar on livening up the classroom with their short educational videos. The company is at booth 567, and Pamela and Matthew Garrity will show how technology can make instruction more interesting on Friday from 10:30 to 11:30 in room North 310H. The presentation is “Just Say ‘No’ to Boring.”

Promethean Opens Up Its Software

Promethean_logo While the attention is usually on Promethean interactive whiteboards, the key to making them fit easily into any classroom and school’s curriculum is the company’s innovative portfolio of software. The company is now letting districts extend the programs by releasing a software developers kit that contains all the base applications and tools for customizing them. This way a district can modify the software to make it fit their style of teaching, integrate online resources or mesh better with their networking infrastructure. For FETC visiters, Promethean is in booth 513

Share and Share Alike

Logo-angel_learning_footer I have a problem with most classroom planning programs: they are islands of information that don’t allow teachers to share their lesson plans or they make it so difficult to move and view that most don’t. The new version of Angel Learning’s Lesson Plan Builder takes classroom management to a new level with the ability to share all aspects among teachers. Teachers have the choice of starting from scratch by creating a custom template or they can streamline the process by using the program’s 8-step Understanding by Design (UBD) process. Based on the instructional ideas of education theorist Madeline Hunter, UBD makes quick work of creating a lesson plan. If you’re at the show, Angel Learning is at booth 346.

All-in-One Digital Authoring

Elearning suite If you’re like me, you have a slew of favorite digital authoring tools that don’t exactly play nice with each other, but Adobe’s Captivate4 eLearning Suite puts it all at your fingertips. With the latest versions of Flash, Dreamweaver, Photoshop, Acrobat Pro, Presenter, Soundbooth, Bridge and Device Control, rich media for classrooms are within reach. The key is that anything you do in one program can easily move to any of the others without losing anything. It’s just as good for creating a .pdf of a field trip permission form as making a media-centric Web site, and the suite includes a wide variety of templates for use in schools. The program costs $1,800, Adobe has an online seminar on the new product,and Adobe will mail you a free trial DVD. On the downside, the program only works with PCs. See it at booth 1013.


 

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