Put to the Test(2)
Retail Price: Free, some accessories require points.
DESCRIPTION: WeeWorld is a 2D virtual world with charming
avatars and a playful culture. Anyone, anywhere over the age
of 13 can create a WeeMee and start playing.
HOW TO USE IN THE CLASSROOM: Virtual Worlds give students
and adults a place to explore identity, develop opinions,
and make new friends. WeeWorld shows an alternative to
some of the more adult sites. It is a mainstream social networking
site with more than 24 million "WeeMees" worldwide, and
some of the most engaged users. The average age on
WeeWorld is 19 with a second bump at 30.
PROS: WeeMees decorate their fantasy rooms with brightly
colored wall paper, musical instruments, book shelves, and DJ
turn tables. Avatars are cute, not sexy, and selected WeeMees
serve as red carpet hosts to greet newcomers. WeeMees
engage in pretty innocent role playing, games, forums, and
other interactions. They create virtual families and work
together to solve problems such as putting an end to chain
emails. By far the most popular forums are for making friends
and role playing, but community, causes and politics, style, and
music are also strong draws.
CONS: There is a commercial aspect to the product. Players
can purchase brand-name apparel. WeeMees shop, decorate,
and define themselves by their looks and accessories.
However, when they become active in the community, they
begin to define themselves by what they say and what they do.
OVERALL IMPRESSION: WeeWorld is very easy to use—just
point, click, and save. The community and the aesthetic offer
an alternative place for role playing and community building to
other virtual worlds.
PRODUCT: ADOBE CREATIVE SUITE 4 MASTER COLLECTION
Retail price: $999 single license educational pricing
DESCRIPTION: Adobe Creative Suite 4 includes graphic editing,
audio editing, video editing, PDF creating and editing,
Flash creating and editing, Web page
design, and editing software (13
HOW TO USE IN THE CLASSROOM:
With Adobe Creative Suite 4, a class
could produce a radio broadcast, a TV
broadcast, design a school newspaper,
newsletter, or animated Web site for a
school district. Any type of communication
that a school would need could be
produced with this software.
PROS: This is an excellent collection of
software that allows the end user to
create any type of multimedia. Even
though the cost of this software is rather high, the amount of
power that one has with it makes it a very good value.
CONS: It took more than 2.5 hours to install all the software
even on a very good computer (dual core
processor 3.6 MHZ 4MB RAM), so a school would
need a powerful workstation computer to run
effectively. In-service training is required (as with
OVERALL IMPRESSION: Any student learning
these products will have a huge advantage both
in higher education and in industry, making the
software an excellent value for any school. The
products of Adobe Creative Suite 4 are high
quality and very professional and will make
administrators, staff, and students proud to
have it represent the school.
PRODUCT: SAS CURRICULUM PATHWAYS
Price: Based on student population, but about $5-$8 per student per year.
[NOTE: Due to errors in the review
process, some product inaccuracies
were published in the October
2008 issue. Below is the corrected
DESCRIPTION: An online instruction
system that covers five basic
core areas of the curriculum.
HOW TO USE IN THE CLASSROOM:
An instructor can assign the
ready-made lessons to a class or an
individual student and assign it to them to be completed and
submitted online. The instructor can also use the blog to
share best practices using SAS Curriculum Pathways with
other teachers within a school. The teacher can add "flags" to
bookmark resources and add notes to lessons.
PROS: The interface is easy-to-use. I like the blog feature.
The ability for the instructor to set flags (make personal
comments) is also good.
CONS: The program is set up so that the
instructor's login automatically connects
to her specific state standards. The program
displays the entire state standards
for the subject you are looking at (for
example, if you are looking at a physics lesson,
the program displays the entire state
physics standards rather than just the part
of the standards that the particular lesson
refers to). It would be helpful if when an
instructor selected a lesson for remediation,
the program went to a specific standard correlation rather
than the entire standards for the subject area in question.
OVERALL IMPRESSION: There are many products like this
on the market, some with more features that are less expensive.
However, this latest release of SAS Curriculum
Pathways comes with some good features, such as the blog
and flags, new student tutorials and audio inquiries, interactivities,
and Web inquiries.
PRODUCT: ROSETTA STONE CLASSROOM VERSION
Retail Price: See Web site
DESCRIPTION: Rosetta Stone provides both foreign-
and English-language learners with selfpaced,
interactive multimedia tools for skill development.
Version 3 has modules to teach 21 languages.
HOW TO USE IN THE CLASSROOM: Rosetta
Stone Hebrew (Levels 1, 2, and 3), the product
reviewed here, provides sequenced language
instruction using three kinds of "dynamic immersion"
PROS: An intuitive user-friendly graphical interface
invites students to explore, then choose an activity.
Guided instruction and immediate feedback
enables students to set their own pace. Users have their own
login, enabling the program to record the work they do and
"bookmark" where they leave off so they can continue from
the same spot at next login. Students can preview lesson materials
without responding, replay words and video clips as often
as they choose, and move forward or backward through the
lessons. It is aligned with state standards.
CONS: There is no on-screen keyboard enabling students to
click on keys in response to question prompts. Instead, students
must affix Hebrew letter stickers to the keyboard. Those stickers
can be removed easily and without them the writing lessons
are hard to complete. While activities are both engaging and
motivating, they're not gamelike (this could be viewed as a
plus). Activities are better suited to upper elementary or older
students able to take charge of their own learning.
OVERALL IMPRESSION: Although it's a bit pricey, the product's
immersive, interactive, self-guided sequenced multimedia
approach can support regular class instruction and independent
PRODUCT: PULSE SMARTPEN 1GB
Retail Price: $149
DESCRIPTION: Pen computer.
HOW TO USE IN THE CLASSROOM: Student can use the
smartpen to take notes and record what the teacher is saying at
the same time. Because the smartpen is also a "computer," it can
also act as a calculator. The smartpen would be useful in a foreign
language class where the student not only writes down the
translation for the word, but could also record the instructor
speaking it. In a science or math class, students can write down
the solution for a problem and could record the teacher's explanation
behind the solution.
PROS: The device synchronizes
the notes being taken
with the audio that is recorded.
By tapping anywhere on
the written page, the student
can recall the audio that
coincides with the written
notes at that point. It automatically
translates a small
set of words from the numbers
zero to nine from
English into Spanish, Swedish, Arabic, or Mandarin.
By writing a word in English in their notebooks,
students can see and hear correct translations
from the Pulse smartpen. Livescribe now sells
notebooks in packs of four—so about $5 per
notebook or $20 for four 100-page notebooks.
In addition, prior to the holidays,
Livescribe will allow users to download
the dot pattern and print their own
dot paper for free.
CONS: The smartpen is thicker than many people prefer and
does not translate writing to text. The company is working with
several partners to make this feature available for consumers
later this year. The smartpen casing is anodized aluminum so it
is resilient, but could be susceptible to damage in a trying
OVERALL IMPRESSION: I like this product and wish it were
more in the $50 range, since the cost of the paper does drive
up the TCO for K-12 schools. While the recorded audio
enhances any student notes, the smartpen would especially
benefit those with good note-taking skills.