KODU FOR THE PC (WWW.MICROSOFT.COM/KODU) - Tech Learning

KODU FOR THE PC (WWW.MICROSOFT.COM/KODU)

Microsoft released a technical preview of Kodu for the PC, an online game creation technology that enables children to design, build, and play their own games. The core of the Kodu project is the programming user interface. The language is simple and entirely icon-based. Programs are composed of pages, which are broken down into rules, which are further divided into conditions and actions. Price: Contact company for pricing. Category: gaming softwar
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INTEL CLASSMATE PC

The Classmate PC is the latest version of the netbook designed specifically for K-12 use. The new model combines a compact netbook with a user-friendly tablet, making this product ideal for school 1:1 programs. The most dramatic upgrade is the convertible aspect: Rotate the display 180 degrees and fold. The netbook is now a fully functional tablet with touch-screen capabilities. The screen also automatically adjusts from portrait to landscape modes.PROS: The new hardware design features and software offerings show considerable thought and consideration for the student-user experience. Most impressive were the swivel screen, which turns the PC into a tablet; the Blue Dolphin interface, which brings the learning tools right to the student without their having to wrestle with Windows; and the Webcam, which works in both tablet and clamshell mode. The handle and rugged casing should give teachers comfort in handing this machine over to children.CONS: The student reviewer had a hard time figuring out how turn the device on at first (lower-left-hand-side switch). The touch screen is more difficult to use for those who are used to a “feather touch” screen. Intel developers explained that the “palm-resistant” technology makes it possible for students to write in applications using the tablet mode. Depending on the application, this can be either a hassle or a feature. The problems were mostly solved when using the included stylus or fingernail. Note to developers: Get a tether on that stylus!OVERALL IMPRESSION: An impressive upgrade of an already strong product. Switching the device from clamshell to tablet and back again is more than a novelty. The design gives the Classmate much greater versatility as a learning tool.www.intel.com Price: $200–$500 (price set by OEMs depending on configuration, etc.)—Kevin and Nora Hogan

PREPARING FOR STANDARDIZED TESTS

The Preparing for Standardized Tests program is designed to improve student performance on the reading and math sections of the PSAT, ACT, and SAT exams. The program is a collection of interactivewhiteboard lessons that engages students in mastering essential college readiness and provides them with advanced test preparation. Students can practice answering questions with standardized tests and the guided practice lessons and learning tools of Promethean’s ActivClassroom. Price: Contact company for pricing. Category: test prep

HELP MATH FOR ELL AND SPECIAL NEEDS

Digital Directions International has significantly enhanced their HELP Math for ELL and Special Needs program by integrating a diagnostic-prescriptive tool. This comprehensive and adaptive tool allows the teacher to pretest students to better individualize instruction. The grade-level and adaptive pretests save teachers time by auto-generating custom learning pathways to provide a seamless link between diagnostic assessments and prescriptive interventions. The new assessments not only target grade-level deficiencies, but also identify and help remediate gaps in students’ foundational/prerequisite skills. Price: Contact company for pricing. Category: assessment

BLACKBOARD CONNECT FOR TEACHERS

Blackboard Connect for Teachers is used as a platform for outreach to parents concerning urgent situations and academic issues regarding their children. Now teachers can harness that same capability to better involve parents in their child’s classroom performance. Using the service, teachers can reach parents wherever they are with phone messages, and parents no longer have to wait for a quarterly report card to discover that they need to intervene in their child’s academic performance or behavior. Price: Contact company for pricing. Category: teaching tools

Put to the Test: PRODUCT: CO:WRITER 6 FROM DON JOHNSTON

Co:Writer 6 enables students who struggle with writing and spelling to work at their own pace. The latest version teams with a companion application, like a word processor or Web browser, to help users build and write correct sentences.PROS: Flexibility and support for guided independent work are key features of this latest version. The word window is always active and displays on top of the companion program’s window, so it’s easy to see recommended words as you compose an email or blog or write a document in your word processor. Students having difficulty with written words can receive audio feedback, because the program optionally reads word choices and completed sentences. Co:Writer will also read aloud menus and dialogbox contents. In addition to three main dictionary options, there are dozens of topic dictionaries from which to choose. Several video tutorials introduce new users to the product.CONS: Unfortunately, most districts will find the application too expensive to install on every school computer. Instead, they will reserve access to students with special needs or IEP/504 plans, thus reinforcing the divide between students receiving mainstream education and children who have trouble accessing the general curriculum. This outcome, it should be noted, is not a fault of the program per se.OVERALL EVALUATION: Co:Writer 6’s strength lies in its ability to create a writing environment tailored to individual users’ needs. Struggling readers and writers both young and old and individuals with poor or illegible handwriting, developmental delays, physical disabilities, and learning challenges can use its word-prediction power to become better writers. While it falls into the category of assistive technology, it’s flexible enough to meet the needs of all students.www.donjohnston.comRetail price: Single licenses start at $325; network unlimited site licenses, $1900/volume discounts.—Carol Holzberg

THE IDEA OF AMERICA

Through The Idea of America, a new interactive, fully digital, Web-based curriculum, students will learn lessons from history and the principles of U.S. citizenship by exploring 65 individual case studies of the nation’s most important historical events, debating issues that changed the United States, listening to the perspectives of contemporary historians, and accessing primary-source documents of enduring significance. Price: The Idea of America: Survey, 6-year online license, $73.97; The Idea of America: Survey, 1-year online license, $36.97; The Idea of America: Modern, 6 years, $71.97; The Idea of America: Modern, 1 year, $34.97 Category: history

THE PAR ASSESSMENT TOOLKIT

PAR released the PAR Assessment Toolkit for the iPhone. The PAR Assessment Toolkit provides mental health and education professionals with a comprehensive collection of clinical shortcuts on their mobile phones. The application includes a date calculator, which can quickly calculate the deadline for a referral set-up; a score conversion chart, which converts between T scores, z scores, percentiles, and standard scores; an age calculator, which enables the clinician to obtain a patient’s exact age in years, months, and days; and a stopwatch, which counts down from a specified amount of time or counts up from zero. A mental age determiner and a bell curve are also provided.Price: free through June 1, 2010 Category: health

Mac or PC?

Our tech plan calls for laptop purchases to be made over the summer. We were set to go with PCs, but now a committee member has asked about Apple's new Intel-based Macintosh computers. Should we reconsider? The recent trend in school purchasing has been to buy Windows-based machines. PCs are cheaper