ZULAWORLD.COM - Tech Learning


ZulaWorld.com is a new online destination where kids ages six and older can spend hours exploring the galaxies in fun and challenging ways. ZulaWorld.com was developed in collaboration with IBM by the creators of the award-winning TV series The Zula Patrol. Inside ZulaWorld.com, users create their own avatars, fly their own spaceships, and make intriguing discoveries about how things work as they explore the cosmos. Students team up with their peers, parents, and teachers to solve problems, play games, and immerse themselves in the ZulaWorld community. Price: Basic levels are free; subscription unlocks additional levels: $5.99 (one month), $29.99 (six months), and $49.99 (one year). Category: science
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Bretford Manufacturing, Inc.

Bretford Manufacturing, Inc. (www.bretford.com) has added six new 4:3 and 16:9 format Video View wall-mounted projection screens. The new 4:3 TVShape Video View models are calibrated to the standard TV size, so viewers see an image that looks correct, whether they’re in a classroom or a conference room. The new screens have a 1.0 gain for the best all-around viewing surface.


DreamBox Learning K-2 Math is an interactive math curriculum for grades K-2 that is built on a standards-based mathematics curriculum and presented in a fun, adventure-style interactive game. The program presents in-depth math lessons that develop computational fluency, conceptual understanding, and problem-solving ability. DreamBox analyzes a student's individual responses and dynamically customizes the content and sequence for each child. The program keeps track of the student’s progress and remediates and accelerates the student as needed.Pros: The graphics and audio are attractive enough to hold students’ attention for the intended grade level. The vocabulary is also age-level appropriate. The action on the screen will hold the student’s attention, but does not distract from the lesson. The program readily adapts itself  to the individual student’s learning style and pace. The areas covered are based on NCTM standards. Students are given continual positive reinforcement as they move through the tasks. The online dashboard is a great standards-based report card on the students progress through the program. Online support provides teachers and parents with tips on how to transfer math skills to everyday life. Progress emails are automatically sent to parents every time the student uses the program.Cons: The program would benefit from some type of administrative module that handled  security and reporting for classroom use.Overall Impression: This is a great example of one of the many Web-based learning tools out there. Because it is Web-based, updates can be done automatically so schools can ensure the curriculum is linked to the latest standards.Retail Price: $12.95 per month per student, volume discounts available 


The Online Applied SMART Board Course is the first in a series of online applied training courses being developed by a group of former teachers and AV presentation professionals. The course, hosted by avatar “Mrs. Blossom,” comes with built-in LMS administrative facilities that allow school districts to facilitate purchases, allocate courses to teachers, and track individual teacher progress toward completion. The course is priced low enough to allow individual teachers to purchase it on their own as well as administrators to purchase it for their entire school district. Price: $69.95 Category: professional development


This software allows users to read, create, and share children’s picture books online. BigUniverse.com currently has more than 1,200 books from publishers and includes quizzes and leveled reading. Products include Big Universe Reader (hundreds of children’s fiction and nonfiction books); Big Universe Author (create, print, and publish animated e-books), and Big Universe Community (safely share your bookshelf, recommendations, and published books with your peers only or with other members). Price: Lite account with three day trial of home, Free; home monthly subscription, $8.95; home 12-month subscription, $79.95Category: reading


Fluency Tutor is an online software solution for students developing, and teachers assessing, oral reading fluency. The product incorporates passages that align to MetaMetrics Lexile Framework for Reading and includes tools for practicing, assessing, and measuring fluency. Students listen to passages being read aloud with textto- speech voices and practice their own reading. When ready, they record assessments for teachers to listen to and mark. Several graphical reports are available to show students’ progress. PROS: The software allows teachers to select exercises of the right difficulty for each pupil and to record his or her progress. Teachers can evaluate the fluency errors made, words correct per minute, and level of prosody (expression of reading) for every student. The system is also available to teachers and students at home. CONS: To be truly effective, the product requires complete buy-in from all reading teachers. A school must also have enough computers available for students to practice and take assessments. OVERALL EVALUATION: Every school should have a program like this Fluency Tutor to help students learn to read. This one is as good as, or better than, most I have seen.www.texthelp.comRetail price: Starting at $2,245 per school, first year; $745, each year after. Discounts available for multi-year purchase.—Joe Huber

Product: www.novlet.com

Novlet.com is a Web application that supports what the site describes as collaborative nonlinear story writing. Using Novlet.com, reader-writers add passages to the narrative anywhere they want. If the user doesn’t like any of the continuations that have already been written, he or she can start a new story line. The stories can be written in a variety of languages, including some obscure ones, such as Bislama.PROS: Novlet.com gives students a chance to practice writing skills on a Web site and to feel that they’re “publishing” something online. Students can write alternative endings to classics or create their own stories.CONS: It’s tough to go back and edit your own passage; since other users have already added passages and hidden drafts, you wind up altering the plot of the story. Talented student writers may feel that this limits their creativity. Also, writers are discouraged from editing one another’s passages. If a writer thinks another’s passages are poorly written, she is encouraged to post a comment or send a message.OVERALL EVALUATION: The application is designed for collaboration, which means that writers of all abilities are invited to participate. That can be positive or negative, depending on your point of view. If you have an active inner journalist or inner English teacher, resisting the temptation to edit may be difficult.www.novlet.comRetail price: free

Promethean ACTIVBoard in NY

District: ODESSAMONTOUR CENTRAL SCHOOL DISTRICT Odessa, NY; an 851-student districtType Of Whiteboard: Promethean ACTIVBoard (the 78-inch ACTIVboard is $1,795), www.prometheanworld.comWhy whiteboards?The district wanted to build 21st-century classrooms that included projectors and sound. Technology director Myron Rumsey says, “Whiteboards speak to every learning style.”We chose these whiteboards because ...“Promethean’s integrated solution was what we were looking for,” says Rumsey. “The company is focused on educators and listens to teachers.” Rumsey liked that regional consultants work with teachers free. “For a small district, that’s fantastic.”What do you like about the whiteboards?“With whiteboards, teachers have all the tools they need,” says Rumsey. “The whiteboards can adapt to it—even if they change their lessons on the fly.”What don’t you like about the whiteboards?“Like any technology, some teachers have a steeper learning curve and can get frustrated.”Have teachers integrated the whiteboards successfully?“Some teachers use them all day long. Our most seasoned teacher, who has been here 35 years, told me that last year was the most exciting year she’d ever had.”Any advice for schools that are considering whiteboards?“We asked teachers to tell us why they wanted one and how they’d use it. A year later, they showed the rest of the teachers what they were doing. That’s the culture you have to create.”


The Teachcape XL delivers content to professional-learning communities—from video-based case studies, to instruction by experts, to learning resources, to discussion boards, to interactive learning exercises. Teachers log on individually or in small groups to work on these exercises. After that, they receive a visit from an administrator or team supervisor, who collects data on their instruction and with whom they can discuss their progress. Users can select content from more than 10,000 resources. PROS: The training part of the product shows real teachers using the product in their own classrooms, so the instruction that teachers get is peer instruction. This has proven to be one of the best ways to learn. The instruction decisions are data-driven and collected on small handheld devices, so interruption of the learning process is kept to a minimum. Teachers can access the instruction when they have time, since it is online.CONS: None.OVERALL IMPRESSION: This program solves one of the major problems of professional development: getting experts in front of the classroom teachers. By using the technology in Teachscape XL, classroom teachers can view successful examples of what is being discussed. Using message boards and other technology, they can discuss in real time the problems they may run into with peers and experts.