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An Educator's Guide to Technology and the Web
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October 24, 2006

Table of Contents

Cool Links: “Resources for Finding Real-Time ‘News Photos’ on the Web”
Free Resources: Field Trip Earth
Thomson Gale Applies Lexiles to Databases
Pearson Knowledge Technologies’ WriteToLearn Version 2.0 Debuts
Discovery Education Introduces New Multimedia Learning Products in Key Subject Areas
GTCO CalComp Announces InterWrite PRS v.4.10
Soliloquy Learning Launches Soliloquy Reading Assistant 4.0
Pearson Assessments Launches Prosper Version 4
The Scoop on Google for Educators
Discovery Education to Create Lesson Plans Featuring unitedstreaming and Google Earth
ETS Releases Criterion v6.2

Cool Links: “Resources for Finding Real-Time ‘News Photos’ on the Web”

Gary Price and his ResourceShelf team are so concise and so "on target" with this particular ResourceShelf item on finding real-time news photos that we just have to point you to it. Go to Resources for Finding Real-Time ‘News Photos' on the Web and you'll be one click away from sources at Yahoo, Ask.com, and Lycos that can lead you to great visual prompts for discussions, assignments, whatever, on current events.

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Free Resources: Field Trip Earth

Field Trip Earth, a project of the North Carolina Zoological Park, is a great place for a "wild" experience, billing itself as "the global resource for teachers, students, and proponents of wildlife conservation." Through the site, you and your students can get involved in field-based wildlife conservation projects ongoing around the world. From the site:

Some of the projects are "live," meaning that research activities, and one or more research scientists, are currently active in the field. These projects are featured prominently on the site. Projects that are not "live" are archived so that students can continue to access the relevant articles, photos, videos, and other materials. All of the projects, though, are similar in that they provide classrooms and others around the world the opportunity to interact meaningfully with wildlife researchers and other conservation experts. Students and other users can read researchers' field diary entries, direct questions to the researchers (and read their responses), listen to recorded satellite telephone calls and other communications, see video taken in the field, and discuss conservation issues with them. In a sense, students can use the interactive resources of Field Trip Earth to become part of the research team itself.

There's much more about the project and activities in a series of articles "About Field Trip Earth" at the site. And then there are the field trips themselves! Examples include: Przewalski Horse Recovery in Mongolia; Carnivores of Sri Lanka; Paradise in Peril: The Chilkoot River region of southeast Alaska … and more.

Click HERE to go to the Field Trip Earth site.

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Thomson Gale Applies Lexiles to Databases

Thomson Gale has announced the addition of Lexile measures to its periodical content. As the most widely adopted reading measure in use today, Lexiles provide a common scale for matching reader ability and text difficulty, allowing easy monitoring of student progress and ensuring reading comprehension.

Thomson Gale databases that currently have Lexile measures include Student Resource Center and Opposing Viewpoints Resource Center. Student Resource Center offers access to award-winning content based on national curriculum standards, including a premium selection of original reference, overviews, critical essays, a massive archive of primary source documents, and periodicals and full text from newspapers that are updated daily.

Opposing Viewpoints Resource Center draws on the social issues series published by Greenhaven Press, as well as core reference content from other Thomson Gale and Macmillan Reference USA sources, to form an online library of current event topics - the facts as well as the arguments of each topic's proponents and detractors.

Thomson Gale is planning to provide Lexiles for other databases as well, such as InfoTrac and Thomson Gale PowerSearch, with the expectation that more than 9 million articles will be scored by early 2007.

Lexiles are part of reading and testing programs at the district, state, and federal levels. More than 20 million students received a Lexile measure during the 2005-2006 school year. For more information on Lexile measures, visit http://www.lexile.com.

Source: Thomson Gale, http://www.gale.com

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Pearson Knowledge Technologies’ WriteToLearn Version 2.0 Debuts

Pearson Knowledge Technologies has announced the launch of an updated version of WriteToLearn, a Web-based learning tool that helps students develop writing and reading comprehension skills. WriteToLearn Version 2.0 now contains more than 100 reading passages and 100 essay topics, as well as enhanced administrative tools. With WriteToLearn, students practice essay writing and summarization skills, and their efforts are measured by Pearson's Knowledge Analysis Technologies (KAT) engine, which automatically evaluates the meaning of text by examining whole passages. Students receive immediate, specific feedback on their work, and teachers can monitor student efforts individually or as a class.

The new reading passages in WriteToLearn include 80 selected readings from Pearson Prentice Hall's middle grades textbook programs, "Science Explorer" and "World Studies." New topics come from widely used literature textbooks and from aligning WriteToLearn to writing assessments in states such as Washington and Texas. In addition, with enhanced administrative functionality, schools can now locally manage WriteToLearn teacher accounts, creating and editing logins and passwords.

WriteToLearn is available through a trimester, semester, or annual student subscription and can be purchased from Pearson Prentice Hall, Pearson Assessments, and Apple (as part of the Apple Digital Learning Series for middle and high school language arts). For more information, visit http://www.writetolearn.net.

Source: Pearson Knowledge Technologies, http://www.pearsonkt.com/

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Discovery Education Introduces New Multimedia Learning Products in Key Subject Areas

Discovery Education has announced the addition of more than 150 new VHS, DVD, and CD-ROM titles to its Discovery School line of multimedia educational products. The titles include engaging animated series for math, social studies, and language arts curricula. The new Discovery School products offer educational content in formats all teachers can use in their classrooms. New titles available for Fall 2006 include the following:

Math:

Number Crew - This animated math series targets students in grades K-1, introducing them to the concepts of numbers, place value, shapes, and patterns. Featuring sing-along audio, 3-D animation, interactive software, and graphic learning tools, the episodes can be viewed in English or Spanish. The CD-ROM format also includes software for student assessments.

Language Arts:

Pendemonium - This series, meant for students in grades 3-8, follows the activities of the "pentastic" foursome - seemingly ordinary writing implements named Florentina, Arturo, Buzz, and Penny - as they try to stop Dark Marker from taking over the world by solving clues based on good grammar. Discovery School also offers a comprehensive elementary language arts video series that covers all the key areas of curriculum: reading, writing, viewing skills, listening and speaking skills, and media literacy.

Social Studies:
Journals Through History - Social studies teachers and their students in grades 3-5 can explore the ancient civilizations of Egypt and China through the eyes of kids whose journals offer a guided tour of their countries. Part history, part geography, and part journal writing, these animated series are designed to make the ancient world relevant to today's students.

Science:
Elements of Science - This series covers biology, chemistry, and physics for students in grades 9-12. Each segment of the multi-part programs introduces learners to a key concept in a way that's easy to understand and interesting to watch, according to the announcement.
Students in grades 3-5 and 6-8 take detailed looks at the plant kingdom in the Science of Plants 3-Packs, which explore the diversity of the plant kingdom and the processes behind plant growth and reproduction.

The Discovery School product line covers a broad range of core-curricular topics in subject areas for elementary and secondary education, and all Discovery School products are correlated to state standards and include complete lesson plans, MARC Records, and closed captioning for easy integration into existing curriculum. Specific content, ordering, and pricing information is available at http://www.discoveryschool.com.

Source: Discovery Education, http://www.discoveryeducation.com

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GTCO CalComp Announces InterWrite PRS v.4.10

GTCO CalComp has announced the release of InterWrite PRS Software version 4.10 for use with the company's InterWrite PRS system. The latest version of InterWrite PRS software now supports over 14 global languages and is compatible with Windows, MAC OS X, Intel MAC, and Linux. InterWrite PRS 4.10 also showcases a new user interface making it easier for educators to use PRS "clickers" and software to receive student feedback and assess comprehension of a subject matter.

Features of the newly released InterWrite PRS 4.10 Software include the following:

* Sleeker and updated user interface with new graphics makes PRS easier and more intuitive to use
* Localization of the software and all help/user guides into Spanish (Mexican and European), Brazilian Portuguese, European Portuguese, Korean, Polish, Croatian, Czech, Hungarian, German, Italian, and French.
* New roster "wizard" to easily merge any class roster into PRS
* Easy to use tool to create Gradebooks from your class roster files.
* The ability to include high/low range values for numeric answers
* The ability to save screen captures of questions for "No Lesson" sessions
* Take InterWrite PRS with you! - Run InterWrite PRS from a USB Memory drive.
* New option in the PRS Blackboard module to download a PRS roster for all students, regardless if they have registered their clickers.
* Support for the new Intel Mac and Linux operating systems

InterWrite PRS software allows users to create quizzes and lessons within the PRS software, using Microsoft PowerPoint slides or by importing questions developed by leading textbook publishers. InterWrite PRS software also offers a set of grading, reporting, and data management features, such as the ability to export student results to leading learning management systems like Blackboard Learning Systems, WebCT and WebAssign.

For more information on InterWrite PRS 4.10 and InterWrite's Interactive Classroom, visit http://www.gtcocalcomp.com/educators.htm.

Source: GTCO CalComp, http://www.gtcocalcomp.com

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Soliloquy Learning Launches Soliloquy Reading Assistant 4.0

Soliloquy Learning, Inc., has announced the release of Soliloquy Reading Assistant Version 4.0, an enhanced version of the company's signature reading program that combines advanced speech recognition technology with scientifically-based interventions to help elementary and secondary students strengthen their reading fluency, vocabulary, and comprehension.

The new developments in Soliloquy Reading Assistant 4.0 include:

 * Web Delivery - Soliloquy Reading Assistant will now be available for use online from any PC or Macintosh computer with Internet access, and will be maintained on secure Soliloquy Learning servers.
* Predictive Reporting - New reporting capabilities allow teachers and administrators to evaluate fluency scores, and to leverage Soliloquy Reading Assistant's extensive database to predict end of year fluency performance against national norms.
* Speech Recognition Enhancements - Improved acoustical models adapt uniquely to each individual after a short one-time read of a few sentences.
* English Language Learner (ELL) Support - Teachers have the option of enabling a Spanish dictionary for ELL students to view and hear vocabulary descriptions in Spanish.
* New Middle School and High School Content - Soliloquy Reading Assistant is now available with 149 science and social studies passages on topics prevalent on high stakes tests.
* Enhanced User Interface - Students are guided through proper learning processes, and motivated to read both more and better by Soliloquy Reading Assistant's unique PowerPoints reward system.

Soliloquy Reading Assistant works by having students read e-books into a computer using a standard headset and microphone. Through its proprietary speech-recognition technology, the program "listens" and recognizes when readers stumble or make mistakes on specific words. When a student struggles, the program assists him/her by reading the word clearly, meanwhile making records in the background for later review. When they do not know a word's meaning, students can simply click it to gain access to a context-sensitive definition, pronunciation, and photographic memory aid. As they read along, students can have Soliloquy Reading Assistant read the story to them or record and play back their own readings, while they accumulate PowerPoints which are earned for fast and accurate reading and correct answers to comprehension questions. These points are then logged into a users' account and can be incorporated into a rewards program in a classroom.

As a student progresses through Soliloquy Reading Assistant's e-books, the program builds comprehensive records of what each student has read, his/her speed and accuracy on each reading, and of the specific words and segments of text with which the student experienced difficulty. Comprehension questions are given during, and at the end of certain passages, to develop and test the student's ability to understand what he/she has just read. The program records each student's reading passages. These recordings can be accessed later by teachers, or sent home to parents as MP3 files.

Soliloquy Reading Assistant is available for students in grades 1-12, plus adult remedial reading programs. For elementary students (grades 1-6), reading content is drawn from children's stories, poems, and expository passages to build literature appreciation. For secondary students (6-12), content is drawn from science and social studies subjects required by many state standards.

Source: Soliloquy Learning, Inc., http://www.soliloquylearning.com

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Pearson Assessments Launches Prosper Version 4

Pearson Assessments has launched the newest version of its Prosper assessment system. Prosper version 4 includes new reports that allow teachers and school administrators to identify at-risk students and standards that require instructional intervention. New networking capabilities make for easier software installation and management and sharing of data throughout a school. Enhanced imaging capabilities allow educators to easily score performance items and compare them to objectives.

First launched in 2004, the Prosper assessment system features tools teachers can use for creating, scoring, and analyzing classroom tests while minimizing the administrative burden.

Using the new "Standards-At-Risk" report, teachers and school administrators can pinpoint standards that require additional instructional intervention, while the added "Learner Instructional Targets" report allows teachers to identify students who need remediation to keep them on track for meeting learning goals. In addition, these reports offer teachers an objective tool for guiding discussions about student performance at parent-teacher conferences.

The assessment system can import state learning standards from Prosper's "Academic Standards Library," allowing administrators to compare student progress toward learning goals. They can select their own groups for the new "Demographic Comparison" report to show where specific groups of students are on the path to achieving standards.

Developed to be installed on a building network, Prosper version 4 is locally-deployed on the school's servers, making it easier for administrators to aggregate student data and view it from a building administration perspective, according to the announcement. With Prosper's enhanced imaging capabilities, test results scanned using an OpScan iNSIGHT scanner can be presented directly on the computer screen, and the new "Review Wizard" combines scores so that teachers can produce rubrics and analyze and score performance items as well as selected response items.

More information about Prosper is available online at http://www.pearsonassessments.com/prosper.

Source: Pearson Assessments, http://www.pearsonassessments.com/

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The Scoop on Google for Educators

On October 11, Google very quietly launched Google for Educators, a site that pulls together access to and, in a sense, annotates a whole bunch of Google features, tools, and resources in a way that will make them easier for educators to find, understand, and use for teaching purposes. We only found out about it a day later, so it was indeed a "quiet launch."

Not surprisingly, two places that were on top of this news the actual day of the launch were the SearchEngineWatch blog and, of course, Google itself. So here are two links you can follow to find out quickly about Google for Educators:

Google For Educators, & Become A Google Certified Teacher—a brief SearchEngineWatch blog report.

and

K-12 Educators Put New Google Resource Center to the Test—an announcement posted in the Google Press Center

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Discovery Education to Create Lesson Plans Featuring unitedstreaming and Google Earth

Discovery Education has announced it is working with Google to offer a series of lesson plans for teachers that connect the power of Google Earth and Discovery Education's flagship service, unitedstreaming. The jointly created materials launch in conjunction with Google's new "Google for Educators" Web site (http://www.google.com/educators) that was introduced October 11. (See The Scoop on Google for Educators.)

Educators can now help their students gain a deeper understanding of the world by blending unitedstreaming's broadband videos with Google Earth's cutting-edge geography content.

To do this, Discovery Education and Google Earth have created detailed lesson plans for elementary, middle school, and high school students focusing on a range of topics covering social studies, language arts, math, and geography. The specific titles are:

- All Quiet On The Western Front
- The American Revolution
- Geometry At Work: Architects
- Great Explorers
- Great Monuments of the World
- My Summer Vacation
- The Red Badge of Courage

Special tutorials have been created to provide advice on integrating Google Earth with digital instructional services such as unitedstreaming, and teachers from the Discovery Educator Network will conduct teacher trainings on how to bring these resources to life in the classroom. In addition to the Google Earth content, three additional lesson plans focusing on advanced geometry concepts are designed to take advantage of SketchUp, Google's 3-D modeling and visualization software.

All lesson plans and the educator tutorial will be available to teachers online at http://www.google.com/educators and http://www.unitedstreaming.com.

Source: Discovery Education, http://www.discoveryeducation.com

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ETS Releases Criterion v6.2

ETS has announced that it has released Criterion Online Writing Evaluation v6.2, introducing enhanced user features and feedback analysis, as well as upgrades to the e-rater scoring engine, the technology upon which the service is based.  

 The Criterion service, part of ETS's System 5 suite of K-12 products and services, is an online learning tool that uses automated scoring technologies to evaluate student essays. Through the Criterion service, students work independently to write and submit essays on an assigned topic. The service then generates a score and an in-depth analysis of errors and suggestions for improvement on multiple basic elements of writing — grammar, usage, mechanics, style, and organization and development. Students can review the comments, visit a Writer's Handbook for more information, and revise their work. Teachers can view student essays and Criterion feedback, and can add their own comments directly into an essay using pop-up notes or through an online message board.

Criterion v6.2 includes a number of upgrades to ETS's proprietary e-rater scoring engine, including the ability to detect run-on sentences and missing commas; expanded sentence fragment detection; and analysis and feedback regarding the technical quality of a student's thesis statement, as well as how well that statement reflects the assigned topic.

Other enhancements to Criterion v6.2 include:  

* User experience enhancements, such as a split-screen window during the revision phrase, so that students can refer to the Criterion service feedback while they are revising their essay for resubmission.
* Additional resources in tabs for students, instructors, and administrators. The resources allow users to quickly reference information online, including manuals, quick access guides, training refresher videos, and resource guides. 
* Technical enhancements like a Systems Requirements Check that evaluates whether a new computer's settings are compatible with the service, and an easier method for users who forget their passwords.  
* Report enhancements that make reports generated through the service more robust and helpful to teachers and administrators.

For more information about the Criterion service, visit http://www.ets.org/criterion. An online tour is available at http://www.ets.org/criteriontour.html.

Source: ETS, http://www.ets.org

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