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
AVerPen combines the features of interactive-whiteboard technologies in a mobile collaborative-learning solution-all usable with virtually any surface in the room. Teacher pens are able to control all features as well as activate, limit, and expand student-pen functions. PROS: The product is lightweight and easy to use. It lets teachers use any hard surface as a wireless slate, and with the class pack, several students can interact at the same time (as many as 60 student pens can be registered). The screen can be split so that each user can work in his or her own section. Using the built-in keypad on the pen, teachers can ask any yes-no, true-false, or multiple-choice question and display results on the screen. In the transparent mode, you can annotate on existing documents. CONS: The pen is more expensive than a student-response system, but because it adds key elements of an IWB in a mobile, collaborative solution that includes assessment, it is a cost-effective alternative to a full IWB, SRS, and slate solution. OVERALL EVALUATION: The AVerPen is a good value in that it combines several 21st-century classroom products in one. If your school has AVer document cameras (the pen is compatible only with AVer), this product is an excellent addition to the classroom. [ED note: Aver does not market the pen as an SRS.]www.avermedia-usa.com/presentationRetail price: Starter pack, $799.99—Joe Huber
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
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 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
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
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.
RAPS is a 100 percent computerized diagnostic readingassessment program that automatically tests basic reading skills and diagnoses weaknesses in a single student, a classroom, or an entire school population.PROS: The product does an excellent job of testing all components of a student’s reading phonemic awareness, phonics, fluency, comprehension, and grasp of vocabulary-word meaning. It automatically develops an individual learning plan for each student, measures progress to determine if remediation has been successful, determines if appropriate resources are available to assist students who need accelerated progress, sets data-driven goals, and matches timelines to high-stakes testing. It monitors students’ progress continuously throughout the year and allows importing of demographic data.CONS: As with most assessment programs, the staff must be willing to dedicate sufficient professional-development time to fully benefit from this program’s many features.OVERALL EVALUATION: Most schools are looking for a program that will improve students’ reading; RAPS360 not only does this but does it using a data-driven decision-making process.www.mindplay.comRetail price: Varies by type of installation.
Study Island is a Web-based system for assessing students’ progress according to state standards. The service automatically addresses students’ deficiencies, provides a variety of reports, and works with several student-response systems without requiring that additional software be installed. Students are given electronic assignments to complete to state standards; if they are proficient enough, they can move on to another standard. Students who do not show proficiency receive a remediation assignment; if they do not pass it, they are given a second, easier assignment. Along the way, the system generates reports on students’ progress that can be emailed to teachers and parents.PROS: Study Island is a very good product and easy to use and has excellent reporting capabilities. The fact that there is no additional software to install is a bonus.CONS: Since the system can be accessed outside of school, a student could get help from a parent or a peer and an incorrect report on the student’s proficiency could be generated. To use the system effectively in the classroom, schools must ensure that there are enough computers for all students and that students who need remediation are given enough time to receive it within the normal school day.OVERALL EVALUATION: Study Island is an excellent way to ensure that students work to state-standard proficiency.www.studyisland.comRetail price: Varies according to product selected and school size; see Web site for further details.