ThinkHelpDesk.com is an online ASP help desk that can be used to track service requests. The service sends an email to the appropriate tech when the client files the request and sends the client emails whenever the tech updates or closes the service ticket. PROS: The solution is simple to use; it requires little if any training. Messages can be posted to the staff. A mass-email wizard allows users to send out mass emails about problems or outages. Many useful hard-wire reports are included, such as the ability to print open and closed service tickets. The program also tracks assets if they are entered into the program. Because this is an ASP-type program, it requires no local server space, and backup and program maintenance are performed by ThinkHelpDesk.com. All the data from the help desk can be exported to Excel.CONS: If the district Internet connection is down, users do not have access to the program. However, because it is an ASP solution, the school can still access the help desk from any functioning alternate Internet connection.OVERALL EVALUATION: The program’s price structure makes it fair to both large and small districts: You are charged by the number of buildings you use it in. Most districts use a help-desk program of some type; some are more expensive than ThinkHelpDesk.com, and not many are less. This simple-to-use help desk flows the way educators think, reducing the need for training and maximizing the effect this program will have on a school’s efficiency.www.thinkhelpdesk.comRetail price: $59 a month for the first location (school in a district) and $7.99 for each additional location (school in a district)—Joe Huber
The new eBeam Edge is the next-generation hardware version of Luidia’s eBeam interactive whiteboard system. Like previous eBeam systems, it works with standard computers, projectors, and a variety of input devices to transform existing whiteboards and writing surfaces into interactive whiteboards. Users can present, annotate, and interact with projected content while capturing the results, which can be shared over local networks and the Internet. This means that teachers can use the device as they would any other interactive whiteboard, but since it will work on any surface, they can also project onto, for example, a map or another image and “write” on it, something they cannot do on a traditional interactive whiteboard.PROS: The Luidia eBeam is lightweight (less than four ounces) and easily fits in a laptop case. The receiver device covers an area of up to five feet by nine feet, requires only one pen, and is extremely easy to set up and calibrate. The software has an easy-to-use, unique navigation interface. It uses the same software as the Luidia document camera and the Luidia Interactive tablet and interfaces with these devices.CONS: None.OVERALL EVALUATION: All the Luidia products use the same software and interface, so they’re beneficial and economical when it comes to professional development. Also, the eBeam Edge uses a single pen and “electronic color,” a more sensible approach than that of other whiteboard systems.www.luidia.com4Retail price: $899.95
Saywire is a safe, social learning community that provides access to a single network where teachers, staff, and students can reside and work together. There is no public access. Saywire provides teachers with a platform in which they can safely communicate and collaborate in their traditional and virtual classrooms. PROS: This product is a solution to the problem many districts face regarding the safety of social networking in a school setting. Using Saywire, students and teachers are able to communicate with each other. Teachers can set up pages for classes, offer homework help, organize threaded discussions, give assignments, and check homework.CONS: Our district has had to take away the students' ability to build pages at our junior high school, because it was being abused. [Editor's note: Saywire does include tools that allow administrators to set a plethora of permissionbased controls, based on how that school or district wishes to operate.]OVERALL EVALUATION: I like this product, but I especially like the idea of the product. It was tough to get people on board at our district, but with correct implementation, it can be a powerful tool.https://saywire.com/contact company for pricing
AVerPen combines the features of interactive whiteboard technologies in a mobilecollaborative learning solution all usable with virtually any surface in the room. Teacher pensare able to control all features as well as activate, limit, and expand student pen functions. PROS
allows administrators to transfer student-information-system (SIS) data to a handheld device. Because data can be accessed from a handheld immediately, the information may be used for everyday discipline, student-conduct incidents and histories, emergency preparedness, and security. Each user is issued his or her own passkey, and data can be synchronized as often as needed.PROS: The Principalm+ transfers information without using a third-party server. The software transfers data to most handhelds, including smartphones, BlackBerry smartphones, and PDAs, and soon to Apple iPhones. Users can add customizable fields. The data-download sets can be customized, such as downloading just phone numbers and health information for a teacher going on a field trip.CONS: None.OVERALL EVALUATION: One of the biggest problems administrators have is that all the student data we collect are never where we need them when we need them. Principalm+ solves this problem. Administrators can use Principalm+ to check the discipline record of a student at the site of an incident rather than having to wait until they get back to the office. They can look up a locker combination on the spot, or even a parent’s phone number. This type of application is long overdue.www.discoverysoftware.comRetail price: Based on per-student, per-module model.
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
Supporting English Language Learners in Math Class was developed for mainstream classrooms with one or more ELL students and includes three main components: a DVD of teachers and students in action, a twobook series for grades K-2 and 3-5, and a facilitator’s guide that supports widespread implementation of effective strategies.PROS: The DVD and the books show real teachers interacting with real students. From this the end user will be able to gain insight into how to apply these ideas in his own classroom to help non-English-speaking math students comprehend math concepts.CONS: Other than the DVD, there is not a lot of technology in this product. Most of the information is in the two books included in the box with the DVD.OVERALL EVALUATION: The large amount of information in the books makes this product a good value. The material is explained in such a way that even the educator who is not proficient in math can understand and apply it in his own classroom.www.MathSolutions.comRetail price: $45.95—Joe Huber
Dell introduces the Latitude Z, a 16-inch laptop with the security, wireless, service, and support options of the Dell Latitude family. The tapered design starts at slightly more than half an inch thick (14.5 mm) and 4.4 lb (2.0kg). Backlit wide-screen, high-definition 16-inch LCD with integrated 2 MP autofocus Webcam provides a larger visual workspace for viewing several files at once and for easy collaboration both in and out of the office.PROS: “Easy Scan and Copy” allows users to use the built-in Webcam as a scanner to capture documents to PDFs. There is also a cordless inductive docking station available. The overall design is very professional. It also has a feature that allows users to assign several applications to a “quick launch” bar on the right side of the screen.CONS: To reduce weight and thickness, there are no built-in speakers or optical drivers. This is not necessarily a negative, but it should be noted that these devices are add-ons.OVERALL EVALUATION: This is an excellent choice for anyone looking for a sleek, lightweight box that can do the work alongside the big boys. Even though the box is only half an inch thick, this 32-bit powerhouse packs enough computing power to handle those large spreadsheets and databases. Unlike those on some laptops, the touch of the keyboard is smooth and effortless, and the backlit keys are a nice feature. Everything about this computer says three things: power, speed, and elegance.www.dell.comRetail price: Starts at $1,799—Joe Huber
The AVerPen Interactive Collaborative Learning Solution (www.avermediausa. com/presentation/averpen) combines collaborative learning with mobility, simultaneous teacher-student engagement, and immediate feedback, all from virtually any surface in the room; teachers needn’t carry a static board or a bulky slate. AVerPen starter sets include one teacher pen and four student pens that can work concurrently. Teacher pens control all AVer+ software features as well as activate, limit, or expand student-pen functions, and they fully integrate with AVerVision document cameras.