Retool for Fall

A selection of the latest technological products for language educators

Last month’s International Society for Technology in Education (ISTE) conference was the biggest yet, with nearly 20,000 people converging on Atlanta to learn about the latest trends and developments in educational technology.

“From the playgrounds, where attendees engaged in hands-on activities and explored interactive technologies, to our three stellar keynotes, ISTE 2014 was buzzing with high energy and enthusiasm,” said Brian Lewis, ISTE CEO. “Coming together as a community dedicated to empowering connected learners in a connected world, we broke all kinds of records, from conference registration numbers to international participation to an astonishing 496,000 Tweets to our hashtag.”

Among the many new offerings were the following:
Waterford Institute was a proud recipient of this year’s ISTE 2014 Best of Show Awards. It revealed its new Waterford Early Learning in the Cloud-an award-winning, research-based preK–second-grade reading, math, and science curriculum designed to deliver personalized online instruction tailored to each student’s individual learning needs.
With this new release, Waterford’s nearly 8,000 learning activities have been fully converted to the cloud, meaning its full content is hosted online and available with the use of only a web browser. No installation is required. This move to the cloud provides teachers worldwide increased access to content and ease of use in running reports.
Moving to the cloud also helps alleviate the increasing burden on IT infrastructure, effectively reducing costs across all major areas of a school’s technology budget: maintenance, staffing, hardware, and software. Frequent, automatic product updates now happen as soon as they are released.

Waterford’s Reading, Math & Science in the Cloud is also 100% aligned to Common Core Standards. Updates to the software sequencer and a new CCSS search feature combined with printable teacher materials that offer tips for teaching each standard and suggest relevant reading, math, and science lessons make this new release a powerful classroom curriculum. Now teachers can search activities by standards and build whole-class or small-group lessons to reinforce curriculum.
The updates also bring teachers and administrators new and improved reporting at the student, class, school, and district levels. Providing teachers and administrators with insights into student progress, student growth, and areas of difficulty not only helps build a personalized learning environment in schools and classrooms but is also an incredibly valuable tool in bringing parents and teachers together to review student progress.

Fascination First
Pearson announced a new learning initiative, Fascination First, in collaboration with Microsoft Corp. The program puts a complete K–12 learning system in teachers’ and students’ hands.

“Fascination First combines the immersive and collaborative capabilities of the Windows platform with Pearson’s collection of interactive courses,” explained Margo Day, vice president, in charge of U.S. education at Microsoft. “As schools continue to transition to the digital age, Fascination First will be instrumental in helping educators transform learning experiences while also giving students the technology and tools needed to keep them engaged.”
At its core is the Pearson System of Courses, an all-digital, comprehensive K–12 system of learning and teaching that is designed to empower teachers to create an interactive classroom where students engage with teachers and one another to establish the routines and rituals that prepare them with the deeper learning skills and academic mastery required to be college and career ready. It uses a series of research-based rituals and routines for practicing instructional strategies that promote positive student academic behaviors.

The program consists of two systems of courses — one for English language arts and one for math. It includes simulations, games and interactive tools for math, and a full spectrum of reading, writing, speaking and listening and language activities for English language arts. Professional development resources for teachers are built in, as is an assessment system that includes technology-enabled items that mirror next-generation high-stakes assessments and provide students with real-time, immediate feedback.

Included is Pearson’s iLit tablet-based reading intervention for grades 4–10, which is designed to help teachers accelerate student progress to gain two years of reading growth in a single year.

Odysseyware launched its largest combination of new courses and learning resources ever, including:

• Common Core — A full math and ELA Common Core curriculum for high school and middle school students, designed from the ground up to not only cover the Common Core essential and supporting standards but also to align with and support the Common Core pedagogy.

• Career and Technical Education — Six new high school CTE courses provide students with opportunities to prepare for post-graduation career success. Two new middle school career-exploration courses introduce younger students to nine popular career fields. With this addition, Odysseyware now offers 62 CTE courses.

• Twenty Interactive Virtual Labs — Designed to give students an authentic laboratory experience, virtual labs help students complete classic lab experiments in an exciting new way.

• High School Test Prep — Test prep courses that prepare students for the ACT, GED, HiSET, and TASC (Test Assessing Secondary Completion) by providing prescribed pathways to graduation or college readiness — including embedded assessment and multiple practice tests that are representative of the formats used in the various tests.

• Blended Learning Video Library — More than 250 engaging new direct-Instruction videos provide step-by-step guidance to help each student learn at his or her own pace and address diverse learning styles.

In Brief
WriteToLearn demonstrated the next generation of its online writing software, to be launched this fall, which will have a “card-based interface” and an extra 80 new college- and career-ready writing prompts and activities.

Edmentum announced new high school math and ELA courses built to the Common Core Standards and optimized for mobile devices for its Plato Courseware and EdOptions Academy, a virtual-school solution.

It has also streamlined the user experience to enable students to manage their assignments and view their progress more easily.

Learning Upgrade announced that it is offering every school in the nation 20 free online licenses of its Common-Core-aligned lessons that help struggling students in grades K–8 succeed in reading and math using music, videos, and online gaming.

The company’s CEO, Vinod Lobo, claims that after just one year of using its courseware, average scores on California’s state test rose from 853 to 905 at Perry Elementary School in San Diego.

LearnZillion introduced a premium version of its free video library of Common Core tutorials featuring customizable lesson plans developed by exemplary teachers and targeting math and ELA for grades 2–12. The premium content will be available this month for a per-building fee.

myON has expanded its personalized digital literacy platform to include tools that support close reading. The myON platform now includes more than 7,000 digital books with embedded assessments, and features capabilities such as highlighting and note-taking as well.

Promethean has added assessment and data analytics tools to its ClassFlow software, a cloud-based platform which is free for teachers, but Promethean will charge schools for the enterprise version it is releasing this fall.

However, innovation was not confined to ISTE, and the summer also saw the following developments:
See-N-Read is promoting its Reading Tool and the ColorTAG Study Recall System.

The Reading Tool is an innovative reading intervention tool for struggling readers which features an exclusive research-based and classroom-tested design that helps readers reduce word and line skipping by improving control of their fields of vision, increasing focus and comprehension, and reducing distractions on a page. As readers gain competence and confidence in their ability to concentrate on content rather than laboring just to keep their place on a page, there is a direct and positive impact on fluency and comprehension.

The ColorTAG Study Recall System is a quick and easy way to identify the main idea and its supporting details in text when reading or writing. Users learn to systematically organize, retrieve, and retain key information presented in text. ColorTAG’s innovative design utilizes specific practical strategies to identify the main idea and to easily distinguish it from supporting details (often confused with each other by readers or writers). This enables the user to “zero in” on the essential information in the text.

See-N-Read Learning Tools are endorsed by neuropsychologists, psychiatrists, psychologists, and vision, reading, and ESL specialists.

Reading Kingdom has updated its patented, adaptive, Common-Core-aligned online reading and writing program for K–3.
The program features Dr. Marion Blank’s patented “6-SIM” Six Skill Integrated Method, which uses innovative techniques to teach all the reading and writing skills in an integrated fashion so that they complement and reinforce each other while fostering comprehension at every level.

The program was created by Dr. Marion Blank, a world-renowned literacy expert on the faculty of Columbia University, where she developed and directed the Light on Literacy Program, and her son Jonathan Blank, the creator of the first Flash video-encoding software, who has licensed technology to leading companies as Google, Adobe, Sony, Autodesk, and Quark.

Virtual Village Classroom launched its cloud-based writing program, Weekly Writer, for K-8 students. It promotes the “three E’s” — enjoyment, engagement and enthusiasm for learning in the classroom. Designed to support the integration of the Schoolwide Enrichment Model, it uses technology to infuse a more engaging brand of learning into the regular curriculum.

Weekly Writer is a 36-week-curriculum resource that focuses on proper writing instruction and critical thinking skills. Its goal is to empower students to ask great questions so they think inside and outside of the box.