Now in its 23rd year, Technology & Learning's Awards of Excellence program honors the best in educational applications and solutions for the K-12 market. Ranging from scientific probeware to network management tools, and from writing assessment to professional development offerings, this year's winners are an impressive lot.
T&L would like to offer a special thanks to the following San Francisco Bay Area schools and coordinators who made the judging possible: Oakland's Bishop O'Dowd High School (Paul Jackson, coordinator); Antioch's Deer Valley High School (Michael Wade, coordinator); and Fremont's Our Lady of Guadalupe School (Renee Ramig, coordinator).
Each title was evaluated by a team of educators/judges — as well as by the editors of Technology & Learning. Judges rated programs for quality and effectiveness, ease of use, creative use of technology, and suitability for use in a school environment. From the pool of winners, several were chosen for special recognition with "Top" awards, and for a second year, a group of Legacy Award winners has been selected. Please join us in congratulating the winners of the 2005 Technology & Learning Awards of Excellence.
Judy Salpeter, former editor of Technology & Learning, now serves as a consultant, freelance editor, and program chair for T&L events.
Curriculum Mapper (WestJam Enterprises)
Several programs on the market focus on student achievement and accountability, but Curriculum Mapper breaks new ground in the way it applies Heidi Hayes Jacobs's curriculum mapping model to allow teachers and administrators to view the curriculum from a school or district and analyze how the pieces fit together. "This is a great tool to document curriculum expectations and track progress toward goals," wrote one judge. "It's comprehensive yet not intimidating," said another. They loved the way this software allows everybody in a district to see what groups of students have covered already, which gaps need filling, and how schools in other districts approach the same material.
Web-based; for pricing information, call (800) 310-4555. (Educator tool)
Elluminate Live! Academic Edition (Elluminate)
The judges were enthusiastic about this Web-based audioconferencing software, which allows distance learning instructors to supplement asynchronous communication with real-time interactions. Whether being used as a standalone meeting tool or an add-on to a virtual courseware program such as Blackboard, Elluminate Live! makes it possible for teachers to lecture, hold office hours, or facilitate oral discussion between students while projecting virtual whiteboard displays, Web pages, or PowerPoint slides. Other features of this user-friendly program include record-and-playback options and quick polls and quizzes.
Mac/Windows/Linux; Web-based; for pricing information, visit www.elluminate.com. (Grades K-12)
InterWrite SchoolPad (GTCO CalComp)
Like other management systems, InterWrite SchoolPad makes it easy for teachers to project a computer screen for class discussion. In this case, however, the computer in question is a diminutive Bluetooth-equipped tablet device. With the InterWrite SchoolPad, teachers or students can take notes on documents using an electronic pen, share their solutions with one another, project results from anywhere in the room, and much more. This package gets high marks for its easy and effective interface — and for the "cool factor" that makes for great classroom interactions.
Windows/Mac-based hardware/software package; $497. (Grades K-12)
Questia Classroom (Questia)
Questia Classroom combines an extensive prescreened library of academic resources (consisting of more than 50,000 full-text books and 400,000 journal, magazine, and newspaper articles) with teacher management tools for assigning and monitoring students' work and student tools for organizing and annotating the information they find in the library. The judges gave it a thumbs-up for its easy operation, intuitive interface, and great resources.
Web-based; for pricing information, call (888) 950-2580. (Grades 9-12)
Schoolfusion (Centrifuge Solutions)
The judges praised Schoolfusion as "excellent — very easily customized" and "one of the best tools" they had ever seen for school and district Web site development. This powerful tool makes it easy for teachers or administrators to build and maintain online portals featuring interactive calendars, assignments, announcements, and more — without any knowledge of HTML or programming. If a district chooses, SchoolFusion will host the Web pages as well, offering security and decreasing the load on the district networks.
Windows/Mac; Web-based; for pricing information, call (800) 906-0911. (Grades K-12)
Xplorer GLX: Graphing Datalogger (PASCO Scientific)
The Xplorer GLX takes scientific probeware to a new level of power and ease. Central to this easy-to-use solution is an integrated, handheld minicomputer with built-in and add-on sensors and probe interfaces, making it possible to measure temperature, sound, voltage, and much more. The software allows users to analyze, graph, annotate, and display the resulting data on the device's LCD and to send it to a printer without needing to go through a larger computer. Additional options include the ability to plug in a mouse or keyboard or connect to a computer for data exchange with other programs. The judges gave it high marks all around.
Hardware/software package compatible with Windows/Mac; $299. (Grades 9-12)
Tinkerplots Dynamic Data Exploration (Key Curriculum Press)
Tinkerplots makes graphing understandable to elementary-grade students. Introductory videos, sample activities, real-world data sets, reference cards, and demonstration files make it easy for teachers and students to get up and running. Simple starter questions — for example, "Is your backpack too heavy for you?"-challenge students to think critically and make use of Tinkerplots' many analytical and display options to become mathematical problem solvers.
Windows/Mac CD-ROM; for pricing information, visit www.keypress.com/tinkerplots/. (Grades 4-8)
Read other articles from the December Issue
District Data Analyzer (Excelsior)
District Data Analyzer (DDA) works with Excelsior's Pinnacle System and a variety of other input sources — including student information systems, curriculum management tools, and state or district assessment data — to track student progress from year to year, analyze standardized test results, and identify district-wide trends and needs. Unlike a number of more expensive data warehouses, DDA can run online using minimal bandwidth or offline on a laptop computer. The judges saw it as a powerful and effective tool.
Web-based for Windows; for pricing information, visit www.excelsiorsoftware.com. (Grades K-12)
Prosper Assessment System (Pearson NCS)
This comprehensive test generator and assessment system makes it easy for teachers to create exams from test item banks, add custom questions to tie in with classroom lessons, and use scanning technology to capture and analyze student results. Offering immediate and detailed feedback about individuals and groups of students and tied to specific learning objectives, the Prosper Assessment System is designed to "help educators implement true formative assessment strategies in their classrooms and schools."
Windows CD-ROM; for pricing, visit www.pearsonncs.com. (Grades K-12)
SchoolNet IMS (SchoolNet)
An integrated management system that, as one judge put it, "makes record keeping a simple task rather than a separate job," SchoolNet brings together powerful tools to assess, analyze, and individualize instruction. With a variety of tools to support formative or benchmark assessment, SchoolNet makes it easy for teachers and administrators to locate, create, and manage standards-based curriculum, upload content from third-party publishers, and generate a variety of reports on student and school progress.
Microsoft SQL/Oracle; for pricing information, e-mail firstname.lastname@example.org or call (866) DATA-DRIVEN. (Grades K-12)
SoftChalk LessonBuilder (SoftChalk)
LessonBuilder makes it easy for teachers to create appealing online lessons without needing to be programmers or Web designers. Using an editor that feels much like a word processor and a choice of preprogrammed style sheets, educators can build visually appealing interactive Web lessons that incorporate pop-up text annotations, quizzes with six types of questions, word searches, digital flashcards, and interactive games. LessonBuilder automatically packages the resulting lessons for delivery via Internet, Intranet, or CD-ROM.
Window/Mac CD-ROM; $295 individual classroom pricing. (Grades K-12)
Criterion Online Writing Evaluation (ETS)
The judges were impressed with this Web-based application, which evaluates student essays and provides feedback in the form of a holistic score and comments. Although nobody would suggest removing the human audience from the editing and feedback loop, tools like Criterion provide an important supplement to help students in a classroom setting develop crucial writing skills. In addition to providing immediate feedback to the writer, the program offers detailed diagnostic information for teachers — along with the opportunity to add their own comments to student essays in the form of pop-up notes.
Web-based for Windows or Mac; $15 per 12-month student subscription. (Grades 4-12)
PLATO Writing Process and Practice (PLATO Learning)
Another writing program that was popular with the judges, PLATO Writing Process and Practice breaks down writing instruction into easily practiced subskills and assesses student progress with pre and post tests. Flexible enough to be used for everything from remediation to acceleration, this software will be a welcome addition to any secondary grade classroom where writing skills are emphasized.
Web-based; for pricing information, visit www.plato.com. (Grades 6-12)
Reading Assistant Version 3
Described by an experienced evaluator as "one of the best programs I have seen to help with reading fluency," Soliloquy Reading Assistant uses speech recognition technology to assess and assist students as they read aloud. The program — which also reads to the child — offers help with pronunciations and word meanings. Praised by the judges for its outstanding use of emerging technology to address important learning skills, Soliloquy Reading Assistant is easy to learn and to use.
Windows/Mac CD-ROM; $229 standalone, $2,000 for the network version. (Grades K-8)
Visual Thesaurus 3.0 (ThinkMap)
English teachers and their students will love this simple but powerful tool. A virtual dictionary, thesaurus, and more, Visual Thesaurus offers definitions and synonyms for more than 145,000 English words, along with flexible word mapping tools that feature links to a variety of related terms. It makes particularly effective use of digital technology to help users categorize and explore word relationships, get help with the spelling of words they're unsure of, and locate Web resources related to those words.
Windows/Mac CD-ROM or Web delivery; for pricing information, visit www.thinkmap.com. (Grades K-12)
Fathom Dynamic Data Software (Key Curriculum Press)
From the same company as Tinkerplots, Fathom offers older students a visual way to interact with and analyze data. The software, which makes it easy to graph and manipulate data, test mathematical hypotheses, and create simple simulations, is a great tool for secondary and post-secondary math and statistics classrooms. "The documentation, online movies, and quick reference guide" make it easy to learn the program, said one judge, who also dubbed it "an excellent tool for both kinesthetic and visual learners."
Windows/Mac CD-ROM; for pricing information, visit www.keypress.com/fathom. (Grades 8-12)
Froguts Subscription Service (Froguts)
A realistic but light-hearted virtual dissection tool, Froguts allows science teachers to supplement or replace the scalpels, formaldehyde, and yucky dissections in science labs. With an easy-to-use graphical interface, Froguts makes it possible for students at a wide range of ages to manipulate tools and zoom in on details while dissecting a frog, squid, owl pellet, starfish, or cow eye. This is an annual subscription service with at-home and at-school access for an entire school. Additional dissection options are promised in the coming year.
Windows, Mac or Linux CD-ROM; $300 per year for school-wide license. (Grades 5-12)
LearnerLink Math (HOST Learning)
This online, standards-based instructional management system is designed to help elementary and middle school teachers assess their students' math abilities and create prescriptive lessons based on their needs. These lessons are based on content created by LearnerLink's publisher as well as third-party resources — from textbooks to supplemental materials — owned by the school and correlated to the standards by HOSTS. The judges appreciated how easy it was for teachers to customize program options and to access the Web-based information from school or home.
Web-based; for pricing information, visit www.hosts.com. (Grades K-8)
Science Bulletins (American Museum of Natural History)
The American Museum of Natural History continues to add great resources to its award-winning Web site. Science Bulletins, geared to an older audience than Ology (see the Legacy awards) makes excellent use of photos and streaming video, interactive data visualizations, and in-depth essays to introduce secondary school students to recent discoveries in the fields of biodiversity, earth science, and astronomy. Weekly news updates and feature stories about working scientists help bring science to life in a cutting edge way.
Web-based; free. (Grades 9-12)
Waterford Early Math and Science, Levels 2 and 3 (Pearson Digital Learning)
This multifaceted collection of math and science activities was a big hit with the judges, who loved how well it encourages hands-on exploration and inquiry-based problem solving while reinforcing basic math and science skills. Each level offers a full year of individually paced, self-adjusting software that guides students and provides teachers with important assessment data. In addition, books, videotapes, CDs, and audiocassettes are available for take-home reinforcement.
Windows; Visit www.pearsondigital.com for pricing. (Grades K-3)
Destination Success (Riverdeep)
Designed to improve achievement levels for students with a wide range of abilities and needs, Destination Success provides individualized, standards-based reading and math instruction and assessment. "The record keeping and testing features are great, and the tutorials are very well designed," wrote one judge. "I think any student would be engaged and would learn and retain the information covered by this program."
Windows/Mac CD-ROM; entry price is $250 for 30 students/one license. (Grades K-12)
testGEAR for SAT (Bridges Transitions Co.)
The judges found this "thorough and practical" test prep program to be a great tool for helping students review for the SAT exam. An online learning system that features diagnostic tests and lessons customized to each student's needs, testGEAR offers test-taking strategies, practice tests, and detailed diagnostic reports that help students, teachers, and parents see how each student performs in relation to national norms.
Web-based; license varies with school size. Visit www.bridges.com for pricing. (Grades 10-12)
Camtasia Studio (TechSmith Corp.)
The judges were impressed at how easy it was to create a full-motion video recording using Camtasia Studio. Any actions taken at the computer — stepping through a PowerPoint slide show, for example, or demonstrating a new instructional program — can be captured, edited, and published, along with a voice track and the optional use of a camcorder to insert additional footage. It offers a great way to create "just in time" training modules for students and educators alike.
Windows CD-ROM; $149. (Grades 6-12 and adult)
Macromedia Captivate Software (Macromedia)
Another powerful tool for recording on-screen activities, Macromedia Captivate allows Windows users to create interactive Flash simulations complete with text captions, narration, animated effects, interactive hot spots, rollovers, and more. In addition, the software offers branching, scoring, and tracking options to turn demos into lessons with feedback for the learner.
Web-based for Windows; $199. (Grades 6-12 and adult)
Visual Communicator 2 (Serious Magic)
An all-around tool for creating digital videos, Visual Communicator Pro offers templates, royalty-free graphics and music, prerecorded transitions, a teleprompter, and other assistance to beginners who want to create professional-looking videos in record time. A particularly appealing feature is the ability to swap in a virtual background — still or video-based — to create live action/animation blends or to transport a student news reporter to the scene of any event for which footage is available.
Windows CD-ROM; for pricing information, visit www.seriousmagic.com. (Grades 6-12 and adult)
Grab Todd's Cash (InCharge Education Foundation)
If you're looking for an engaging way to teach high school students about financial management, this program is it. A CD-based adventure that will appeal to the video game generation, Grab Todd's Cash uses graphics, animation, and competition to get students involved in learning about budgeting, credit, and smart buying decisions. The judges found it to be "informative, accurate, relevant" — and lots of fun!
Windows CD-ROM or Web; free. (Grades 9-12)
Think Like a Historian: Primary Sources CD-ROM (Colonial Williamsburg Foundation)
Created through a partnership between the Colonial Williamsburg living history museum and Pearson Scott Foresman, Think Like a Historian uses primary source materials to introduce elementary grade students to historical research. Oral histories, video clips, virtual field trips, images that can be manipulated for closer analysis, and a variety of other well-designed activities and in-depth teacher materials make for an engaging and comprehensive look at history as a process.
Windows/Mac CD-ROM; $39.95. (Grades 4-5)
Apple Learning Interchange (Apple Computer)
Apple's online educational environment, Apple Learning Interchange (ALI), is "designed to support professional educators as they strive to improve the quality of teaching and learning." The judges were impressed at the wide array of curriculum ideas and success stories featured — complete with valuable details such as sample projects, lesson plans, and video showcases. Whether you're curious about the impact of 1:1 laptop initiatives nationwide or looking for advice about digital videography or Web design, ALI can help.
Web-based; free. (Grades K-12)
ACTIVStudio II (Promethean)
Using the ACTIVboard electronic whiteboard and pen, teachers and students are able to write and annotate information for the whole class to view or move graphic objects around on the screen as part of a large-group discussion. ACTIVotes software is a great way of compiling student opinions or quiz answers and displaying them in graph format. The T&L judges declared ACTIVboard and its accompanying software to be "really exciting" and "a fantastic product to engage students!"
Hardware/software combination for Windows/Mac; for pricing information, visit www.prometheanworld.com. (Grades K-12)
DyKnow Vision 4.0 (DyKnow)
This easy-to-use classroom presentation and evaluation tool, designed for computer labs and 1:1 classrooms, got a thumbs up from our judges. Rather than expecting young learners to take detailed notes at record speed during a presentation, teachers can transmit their lesson notes and illustrations to student workstations where the students can annotate, elaborate on, or personalize them. The teacher can also view or display individual student screens, poll the class, and monitor or converse with students electronically as they work.
Windows server-based, optimized for pen-input devices; license is $460 per user. (Grades K-12)
SynchronEyes 5.1 (SMART Technologies)
Another great program that allows teachers to view or share student screens, monitor individuals as they work, or take control of their computers remotely to guide them through a particular task, SynchronEyes computer-lab instruction software was a hit with the judges, who found it "clean, quick, and easy to use." One popular feature allows educators to set up controlled chat environments for individuals or groups.
Windows/Mac CD-ROM; not-for-profit educational institutions may purchase lab license for $779. (Grades K-12)
TI Navigator (Texas Instruments)
For high school math classes and other settings in which TI graphing calculators are used, TI Navigator offers a great way to create low-cost classroom networks. Each TI Navigator device makes it possible to connect as many as four TI graphing calculators remotely to the teacher's computer and to one another. In this way, teachers can send quizzes, take polls, demonstrate problems, facilitate peer exchanges, and transmit information to — or collect and grade data from — each student's calculator screen. Small plug-in keyboards make it possible to use the graphing calculators to take notes or send messages.
Wireless network system; for pricing information, visit http://education.ti.com. (Grades K-12)
TI-Smartview Emulator Software (Texas Instruments)
"TI continues to make easy tools that allow the teacher to focus on teaching math rather than teaching students how to use technology," wrote one judge about both TI winners. TI-SmartView is a simple but effective tool for projecting the screen from a TI-84 or TI-83 graphing calculator for whole-class viewing. Teachers can display multiple representations of graph, table, and equation screens simultaneously; magnify details; prerecord a series of key presses for playback in class; and tap into a number of preloaded demonstrations of the capabilities of the graphing calculators.
Windows/Mac computer with projector and TI graphing calculators; $135. (Grades 8-12)
T&L's Legacy winners are products that have built upon previous successes. Many of their predecessors earned awards in years past, and their current versions held up well under scrutiny by this year's judges.
Atomic Learning (Atomic Learning)
Atomic Learning's "relevant, effective, well-organized, and content-packed" online tutorials — on everything from Kidspiration to PowerPoint, Microsoft Word to Adobe Photoshop — continue to impress judges. With five to ten new tutorials per month and a clear understanding of the needs of K-12 technology users, Atomic Learning is likely to remain popular with education technology buyers in the years to come.
Web-based; licenses start at $1.25 or less per user, visit www.atomiclearning.com for pricing. (Grades 9-12)
Classroom Jeopardy! Link (Educational Insights)
The current iteration of this classroom favorite is even more school friendly than the previous version. With Jeopardy! Link it is easy to author questions and answer keys at the computer and download them onto a Classroom Jeopardy! cartridge for hours of play. It is also possible for teachers and students to exchange game files with peers over the Internet.
Hardware/software package compatible with Windows/Mac; $499, $79.99 for link alone. (Grades 3-9)
Go! Motion (Vernier Software & Technology)
Following in the tradition of last year's Go:Temp! and other Vernier award-winners from years past, this program makes it easy for students to gather and analyze scientific data with help from sensors and user-friendly software. Go! Motion offers a motion sensor, GUI software, a helpful manual, and a variety of great experiments and lesson ideas that tie in with curriculum standards.
Windows/Mac; for pricing information, visit www.vernier.com. (Grades K-12)
eLibrary Science (ProQuest Information and Learning)
A comprehensive and intuitive resource for teachers and students, eLibrary continues to grow and evolve. Featuring more than 440 magazines and journals, reference books, images, and Web resources, eLibrary Science impressed the judges with its varied search options, extensive database of age-appropriate content, and great use of streaming video.
Web-based; subscription varies from $795 to $1,495. (Grades 9-12)
KnowledgeBox (Pearson Digital Learning)
KnowledgeBox is another program that continues to grow and appeal to students and educators. With units on elementary grade language arts, math, science, and social studies, KnowledgeBox has movies, hands-on activities, engaging stories, and other materials for self-paced learning tied to standards-based curricula.
Windows, Mac, Web-based; visit www.pearsondigital.com for pricing. (Grades K-5)
Ology: Earth (American Museum of Natural History)
As with the other offerings in AMNH's award-winning OLogy Web site, this online resource features stories, games, interviews with scientists, and a variety of other kid friendly activities to help bring science to life. The judges loved the new earth science offerings with their "great graphics and fun activities on and off the computer" — not to mention their appealing price tag.
Web-based; free. (Grades 4-5)
Read-It-All Summer (LeapFrog SchoolHouse)
Like other Read-It-All offerings before it, Read-It-All Summer features LeapFrog's user-friendly Quantum LeapPad tablets, high-interest, low-difficulty interactive books, and skill cards to help struggling readers learn and grow. As in previous years, the judges were impressed with the engagement, entertainment, and learning value of LeapFrog SchoolHouse's offerings.
Standalone software/hardware package; starts at $778. (Grades 4-8)
World History: Ancient and Medieval Eras (ABC-CLIO)
Ancient and Medieval Eras is a great new addition to ABC-CLIO's World History series, which won a Technology & Learning award several years ago. The judges loved this "beautifully designed site" with its interesting activities, great graphics, and rich resources, all aimed at teaching secondary grade history.
Web-based; $599. (Grades 9-12)
NetOp School (Crosstec)
A Technology & Learning Awards of Excellence winner in 2002, NetOp School continues to improve and impress. Version 4.0 adds video and audio chat capabilities and a new test center with sophisticated tools for generating tests and surveys to its already impressive array of options. The judges appreciated all the powerful ways this program provides to manage networked computer labs and classrooms.
Windows; for pricing information, visit www.crossteccorp.com. (Grades K-12)
PowerSchool Premier (PowerSchool, a division of Apple)
The judges were enthusiastic about the current version of PowerSchool's Web-based student information system. Although it is an Apple program, PowerSchool is platform independent and can be accessed through the Web from Windows and Mac networks. Its intuitive interface; flexible options for teachers, parents, and administrators; and strong data analysis capabilities all earn this SIS high marks.
Windows/Mac, Web-based; for pricing information, visit www.apple.com/education/powerschool. (K-12)
R3000 MSA Internet Filter (8e6 Technologies)
Over the years, 8e6 Technologies has impressed our judges with its effec-tive and robust filtering tools. The current version of the R3000 MSA Internet Filter is geared to schools and small business of up to 2,500 users. The "techie" judges approved of its powerful, easy-to-install features and the degree of control it offers network administrators.
Windows, Web-based; for pricing information, visit www.8e6.com.
Seminars on Science: The Ocean System (American Museum of Natural History)
One of the latest offerings in AMNH's online professional development series, The Ocean System features all the components that have impressed judges in the past. These include the collaborative learning environment, rich multi-media resources, and close working relationship participants develop with their instructors and museum scientists who are experts in their field.
Web-based; $445 for six-week course ($50 discount for early registration). (Grades 8-12)
The following products were selected by T&L readers as the best pioneering software offerings from the 20th century.