T&L News(125) - Tech Learning

T&L News(125)

Week of: April 14, 2008 Digital Disconnect What we have here is a failure to communicate. Made in Japan It's no puzzle that games improve students' mental abilities. A First Look at HP's New Mini Hewlett-Packard enters the ultra-portable student computer market with its new HP
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Week of: April 14, 2008

  • Digital Disconnect
    What we have here is a failure to communicate.
  • Made in Japan
    It's no puzzle that games improve students' mental abilities.
  • A First Look at HP's New Mini
    Hewlett-Packard enters the ultra-portable student computer market with its new HP 2133 Mini-Note PC. Technology & Learning reviewers had a chance to give it a pre-announcement test drive.
  • First Look: Sibelius
    Sibelius Student is the latest in a long line of music education software products from the UK-based company. Basically a scaled-down version of the flagship Sibelius music notation software, Student sells for hundreds of dollars less than the full version without stripping away the most useful features.
  • Blogging Their Way to English
    Some English language learners at Luther Burbank High School are blogging their way to increased English proficiency.

Digital Disconnect

In it's fifth annual survey of more than 367,000 educators and students, Project Tomorrow found a growing "digital disconnect" between what role technology should play in the classroom and how well schools are preparing students for the workplace. While 66 percent of school administrators think their schools are "doing a good job preparing students for the jobs and careers of the future," more than 40 percent of middle and high school students said teachers actually limit their use of technology. In addition, 45 percent of middle and high school students indicated that tools meant to protect them, such as firewalls and filters, actually inhibit their learning. The survey is chock full of other interesting feedback on student technology usage.

Made in Japan

Can cell phones, Game Boys, and other personal devices actually make people smarter? Is there really a role these small, ubiquitous, and flexible machines can play in the classroom? The Japanese seem to think so. Game manufacturer Nintendo first pioneered what is known as the "brain fitness software market" in 2005 with titles like Brain Age and Big Brain Academy. Based on the research of Ryuta Kawashima, a neuroscientist at Tohoku University, the theory behind the games is that daily puzzle practice helps adults maintain their mental abilities.

The Nintendo DS is a natural device for this sort of brain game. Students can take this handheld console almost anywhere and fit a little gametime into their busy days. With dual screens that can accommodate left- and right-handers, a microphone for speech recognition, and handwriting capabilities, the DS lets players use multiple senses to solve the puzzles. A typical starting exercise is a Stroop Test—which presents conflict-the player might see the word "red" in blue type and have to speak the correct word into the microphone. The game measures the response time to judge how a player is improvingover time at handling the conflicting messages.

Brain Age has sold more than 11.7 million copies worldwide. Its success led to a slew of other education products. This past January, Benesse Corp released an 18-title series for middle school students that covers Japanese, math, English, science, and social studies. The software is linked to most of the major textbooks used in the market. For example, a relevant English the DS screen, saving the student the grief of lugging the text around and providing contextually relevant practice as needed. Textbook publisher Yamakawa Shuppansha in partnership with Namco Bandai Games has also begun to publish several titles that deal with Japanese and world history.
—Lee Wilson

HP Introduces the New Mini-Note, the Latest in Ultra-Mobile Computing

Priced at just under $500, Hewlett-Packard's new 2.5-pound 2133 Mini-Note PC is certainly lightweight and compact—adults can hold it in one hand much like they would a book or small purse. But our 1st-grade student reviewer still gave it the two-hand clutch. The QWERTY-style keys, at first glance, look oversized, as the keyboard itself is slightly smaller than standard. The touchpad is also smaller, which meant some readjustment for adult finger movement but that wasn't a problem for the student reviewer. The 8.9-inch display is obviously small but bright.

Unlike many of the other education ultra-mobile devices, the Mini-Note comes equipped with features you would expect from a full-fledged notebook: built-in Wi-Fi (Bluetooth optional), a range of internal storage options, and Windows Vista preinstalled. Our student reviewer liked how quickly Flash-laden sites like Noggin.com loaded, something that wouldn't happen if the Mini-Note didn't pack computing punch. Of course, many of the features in the Mini-Note are more appropriate for the higher end of the K–12 market, which is why its clamshell is brushed aluminum and not Day-Glo green or purple. HP also intends to market the Mini-Note to business and mobile professionals.

But the device certainly looks ready for the rough-and-tumble handling it will get once in the hands of students. The keyboard sports a clear coating that protects the finish and the printed characters. The display is scratch resistant. Magnesium hinge brackets secure the clamshell design. HP's 3-D DriveGuard protects the inside—it sends a signal to shut down the hard drive upon sudden shock or movement.

One major element of the HP Mini-Note offering to consider is the new Teacher Experience Exchange, professional development site, co-sponsored by Microsoft, that serves as a one-stop resource and teacher community. HP also expects to provide free online training courses.

www.hp.com/go/teacherexperience

PROS: Powerful computing punch in a small package.

CONS: Cramped touchpad.

VERDICT: For users who need full computing power with a very lightweight and flexible format, the Mini-Note will do the job.

First Look: Sibelius

Sibelius Student is the latest in a long line of music education software products from the UK-based company. Basically a scaled-down version of the flagship Sibelius music notation software, Student sells for hundreds of dollars less than the full version without stripping away the most useful features.

Company:Sibelius
System Requirements: Windows: XP/Vista; 512MB-plus RAM; 100MB hard disk space; CD-ROM. Mac: OS X 10.4 or later; 512MB-plus RAM; 100MB hard disk space; CD-ROM drive.
Price/Grade: $99 per unit; 3-12.
Pros: Incorporates the most popular and useful features of the full version of Sibelius (including MIDI data input) without the full version's price tag.
Cons: Limit of 12 instruments per score. No small concert band or small jazz band templates. No built-in scanning support.

Any Sibelius-family notation file can be opened and edited in Student as long as the score has 12 staves or fewer. This allows teachers to create assignments in the full version for students to complete using the Student version. The low cost of the Student software also makes it a cost-effective alternative for teachers to use at home when preparing lessons and worksheets. Missing from the program, however, is the ability to import MusicXML files, though Student will export to the MusicXML format.

Two of the more intriguing features imported from the Sibelius full version are the fully loaded Ideas Bin and the ability to synchronize video to a composition. The Ideas Bin is essentially a filing cabinet for musical ideas and is loaded with short musical motifs that can be pasted into any composition, allowing almost anyone to create interesting and unique compositions. Student comes with around 300 clips, though new clips cannot be added.

Using the video tool, a user can time-sync video to a composition allowing for real-world applications such as creating a synchronized soundtrack to a student-made video. While students compose, they are able to see the video in real time on the screen, letting them coordinate hits in the musical score with visual cues in the video.

Note entry and editing with Student is very easy and intuitive. In general, users should find Student to be more user-friendly than other competing notation products. Most commonly used actions are found in the well-planned pull-down menus, while the vast majority of actions can also be executed using special key combinations along with input from a MIDI keyboard.

While Student is very good, it is not perfect. Primary among these issues is the lack of ready-made templates for concert band or small jazz band ensembles. There is also no way to create and save custom templates.

But Sibelius Student is an excellent music notation software program that's more than adequate for all but the most demanding of musicians. Whether used in a lab environment or as a study aid, Student shines at helping students learn to write music and have fun doing it.

By Chad Criswell

Blogging Their Way to English

Some English language learners at Luther Burbank High School are blogging their way to increased English proficiency. Some three dozen English language learners in Larry Ferlazzo's English classes are communicating with 200 other students worldwide. Though there are many differences among the students, they all share one thing in common—learning English as a second language. Individual students share stories and images about their lives and the places they live and everyone else gets to comment. Right now the exchanges are relatively free form as students get to know one another and familiarize themselves with the technology. The participating teachers plan to begin to structure the blog by asking students to post about certain themes or answer specific questions. Ferlazzo's students find the blog a nice change from more traditional classroom activities. While they enjoy communicating with other teens around the world, some also find it a bit intimidating to communicate with students who may know more English than they do. But the blog is a great motivator. As Ferlazzo point out, it both provides students with a real audience with which to communicate and the opportunity to practice all aspects of the English language – reading. listening to voice threads, gathering meaning, writing posts, and recording their own voice threads, with the opportunity to work on pronunciation. Other teachers at Burbank are intrigued by the activity in Ferlazzo's classes and are considering trying blogging with their own students.

Source:The Sacramento Bee

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