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News and Trends(21) - Tech Learning

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from Technology & Learning Affordable computers, FETC highlights, social networking with Twine, and using Bookr for simple online slideshow creation. Low-Cost Computers on the Rise Ripple effects of the One Laptop Per Child Foundation's development of the XO computer (see review) continue to spread
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from Technology & Learning

Affordable computers, FETC highlights, social networking with Twine, and using Bookr for simple online slideshow creation.

Low-Cost Computers on the Rise

Ripple effects of the One Laptop Per Child Foundation's development of the XO computer (see review) continue to spread with the increasing number of affordable computing devices now on the market. In addition to the XO and low-cost offerings from Dell, HP, Lenovo, Asus, and Intel, comes the $199 (after $100 rebate) Linspire Linux desktop PC available now from Sears.com. Developed by Linspire, Inc., makers of Linux operating systems, and PC manufacturer Mirus Innovations, the new device is equipped with 1 GB of memory, an 80 GB hard drive, a Ubuntu-based Linux distribution, multimedia support, keyboard, speakers, mouse, a modem, the DNR software delivery service, and more. Missing: a monitor, which users can buy from Sears beginning at around $300 if they don't already have one. Stay tuned for continuing good news on the affordable hardware front.

FETC in a Nutshell

Trends spotted at the Florida Education Technology Conference in January include the following:

  • Spotlight on Science. In step with the nation's renewed focus on Science, Technology, Engineering, and Math—as evidenced in "The Gathering Storm" report, the recent America Competes legislation, and other initiatives—a host of new science products were unveiled at the show. Discovery, Vernier, Adaptive Curriculum, Pearson Digital, and PASCO are among the companies rolling out (or soon releasing) new software and hardware offerings for schools.
  • Educator Portals. HP's new Teacher Experience Exchange joins Discovery, Apple, and others in providing a tool-stocked Web community to help educators network and share professional resources online.
  • Going Digital. Yes, textbooks are finally at the tipping point and presenting customizable, digital alternatives, such as Holt, Rinehart and Winston's new Teacher One Stop. Watch for a wave of growth in the coming year.
  • Low-Price Hardware. Laptops, thin clients, handhelds, and subject-specific tools—the watchword is budget-friendly. Watch for rev i ews and other comprehensive coverage in T&L in the coming months.
  • Simplification. Scaling back on features, vendors are moving toward clean and straightforward in their latest product designs. Word on the playground is that too many tools are still "boxed up in the closet" for lack of professional know-how.

Quote of the Month

"Today, the workforce in the entertainment industry is no longer the 'Boys Club'."

—Kellie-Bea Cooper, founder of The Better Mouse Trap, an animation studio and school, on the growing number of females joining the computer-animation and visual-effects fields. From the Dallas Morning News article, "Virtual Bridge Spans Gender Gap in Computer Animation," by Stella Chavez.

The Next Level of Social Networking

Social networking goes Web 3.0 with a variety of sites designed to help users reach the next level in organizing and sharing information. Getting the lion's share of buzz is the imminently-launching Twine, from Radar Networks, which harnesses artificial intelligence to move beyond the capabilities of MySpace and Facebook, creating what founder Nova Spivack terms a "semantic graph." With Twine, users can post home pages, connect with others and create "twines" of information on any subject via text, images, and videos. The site's underlying database uses cross-reference meta-data to interpret and automatically categorize information into useful, structured forms. Freed from the drudgery of hand tagging information, students, educators, and media-center specialists may soon find Radar Networks' Twine playing a key time-saving role in their lives.

Web 2.0

By Larry Ferlazzo

Bookr may be the most accessible way for students of any age or ability to create an online slideshow. While it certainly doesn't have many of the bells and whistles of similar sites, it more than makes up for it by being easy to use.

First, students go to the site and type a term in the Tag search box—"Greece," for example. Soon, they'll be scrolling through Flickr photos of Greece. If you have uploaded specific photos to Flickr that you want students to use, they can also search by the Flickr user name.

Next, students drag and drop a photo onto a blank slide and type the text they want to accompany it, making a maximum of six slides per show. When they're done creating the slideshow, they click Publish This Book, type in a teacher's e-mail address or their own, and the url address of the slideshow will be sent. The link can then be posted on a blog or Web site.

My students have made slideshows of New Orleans and natural disasters and included written essays.

Other sites allow you to upload your own photos, search all images on the Web (not just in Flickr), add audio, and look much prettier. But with Bookr, my Beginning English Language Learners figured out how to use it in less than a minute and can complete a slideshow in half a class period. You can't beat that…

Larry Ferlazzo teaches English Language Learners and native–English speakers at Luther Burbank in Sacramento, California. His blog highlights new education Web sites.

E-Rate Averages

Above are the average E-rate discount rates by category, based on the 23,000 school district funding requests of the 2007 Funding Year. More information is available at www.FundsForLearning.com.

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