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November 13, 2007

Table of Contents

MindPlay Announces Fluent Reading Trainer
Soliloquy 4.1 Available
YALSA Announces Avatar Contest
Free Resources: Tool Factory Podcasting Grant Deadline Approaching Launches Forecast Snapshot Tool for Google Maps
NBC News and HotChalk Launch Digital Election Resource for Education
AASL Digital Institute Opens
Tom Snyder Productions Releases New Version of Science Seeker

MindPlay Announces Fluent Reading Trainer

MindPlay has announced Fluent Reading Trainer (FLRT), a program that works to increase reading speed while ensuring comprehension in any student who can decode. Designed as the next step to reading success for students who have used MindPlay’s My Reading Coach, or for any student who has mastered decoding, Fluent Reading Trainer helps increase reading speed while improving fluency, enhancing visual memory, and building silent reading skills and comprehension.

The program works by having students read stories. Teachers either hand-select these stories by category or have them presented at random. Accompanying questions test comprehension. Single line reading improves eye-tracking and reading speed. Multi-line activity translates newly acquired reading speed to a full page of text. Throughout, the reading passages focus on sight word activity to improve automaticity of high frequency words embedded in stories. The program also aims to keep students challenged while reading at their own pace by providing assignments that are individualized to match each student’s unique abilities.

Fluent Reading Trainer can be used with beginning readers, struggling readers, average readers and English Language Learners alike. It can be used for classroom instruction or as remedial help. The program contains an expandable library of 500 content-rich authentic stories from grade levels 0.5 to 12.0 with 10 to 16 questions that correspond with each reading selection. Each passage is designed to be read in six minutes or less, allowing most students to complete three stories in a class period.

FLRT also provides teachers and administrators with management and tracking. Reports are available on student or class performance and success by question type, improvement statistics from baseline/initial testing date to current date, effective words-per-minute rate by individual student or for the entire class, and sight/high-frequency words for students who are struggling. Reports are available in PDF format so they are email-able to parents or they can be printed out in color or grayscale for improved data visualization.

Fluent Reading Trainer comes in multiple formats including a networked version or Internet hosted by MindPlay. Costs start at $350 per workstation for the networked version or $250 for 5-9 connections of the internet version. FLRT is available on any recent web browser with Flash Player 9 or later. Volume discount pricing is available.

Source: MindPlay,

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Soliloquy 4.1 Available

Soliloquy Reading Assistant 4.1 updates the reading fluency program with easier software installation, support of Windows Vista, simplified reports that allow teachers to keep better track of student progress, and updated speech recognition software. New licensing options allow more simultaneous users in a school district and district license allocations to specific schools.

The program provides students with a one-to-one guided reading experience. The students read material onscreen, using a standard headset and microphone. Proprietary speech recognition technology enables the software to recognize when readers hesitate or make mistakes on specific words. When a student struggles, the program assists or corrects the reader by repeating the word clearly while creating a record for teacher review.

Additional program features include vocabulary assistance and comprehension questions. The program can “read” stories aloud to students; the modeled reading can be compared to student reading to help improve pronunciation and intonation.

Soliloquy Reading Assistant is available for students in grades 1-11 and for adult remedial reading programs. For grades 1-5, the reading content is drawn from children’s stories, poems and expository passages. For grades 5-11, the content is drawn from science and social studies subjects required by many state standards.

Soliloquy Learning, Inc.,


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YALSA Announces Avatar Contest

The Young Adult Library Services Association (YALSA), a division of the American Library Association, invites librarians to showcase their creativity and their library’s technology resources in a “Create Your Own Avatar” contest. The winner and up to five finalists will win $100 in books and other materials from YALSA.

An avatar is an icon that individuals create for use as an online personal representation. Avatars are often used in Web forums, instant messaging or online gaming.

All avatar entries must be original work; librarians are encouraged to team up with their TAG (Teen Advisory Group) members or other teens in creating an award-winning avatar.

Entries must be sent to by midnight on Jan. 4, 2008. Entries must also be accessible online. Contest details, official rules and an entry form can be found at  

The contest is open to YALSA members or registered attendees of the Gaming Night held during the 2008 ALA Midwinter Meeting in Philadelphia.

The winner and up to five finalists will be announced at YALSA’s third annual Gaming Night on Jan. 11, 2008.


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Free Resources: Tool Factory Podcasting Grant Deadline Approaching

Tool Factory will choose four winners for the Tool Factory Podcasting Grants program on December 30, 2007. Each will receive a free site license to Tool Factory Podcasting and all of the digital media accessories needed to start a school podcasting program.

To apply for a grant, submit a podcasting lesson plan. Applications will be judged on the effective integration of podcasting in the curriculum, the effective use of all of the resources provided by the grant, a high degree of student involvement, creativity and fun. Details on the grant program and helpful hints to make your application stand out can be found online at  

For educators new to podcasting, a free five-minute podcasting tour and 30-day trial version of Tool Factory Podcasting are available online at  

Grant winners will receive one Tool Factory Podcasting site license ($1,000 value), three Olympus digital voice recorders ($600 value), three headsets and microphones ($40 value), Clip Art Station (school subscription, $400 value), Worksheet Station (school subscription, $400 value), Web Page Station (school subscription, $400 value), and Tool Factory’s Simple Guide to Podcasting book and CD-ROM ($20 value).

Tool Factory,  

Back to Contents... Launches Forecast Snapshot Tool for Google Maps has announced the launch of the new Forecast Snapshot. The tool integrates with Google Maps and provides current conditions, 3-day forecasts, weather news headlines, and radar or satellite images for every location on Earth.

The Forecast Snapshot is unique because it combines the most popular weather information in one interface, the announcement states. Other tools provide forecasts, current conditions, or radar; Forecast Snapshot provides all of them for both domestic and international locations, selected by ZIP code or city and country search. offers a range of downloads for all types of online users. The site offers mini-applications that can be used on Yahoo!, Google, Mac OS X, Windows Vista, Web sites or blogs, Internet Explorer, Firefox, Opera, and the iPhone. All downloads are simple, free, and available through the Download Center.

Source: AccuWeather, Inc.,

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NBC News and HotChalk Launch Digital Election Resource for Education

NBC News in partnership with HotChalk has announced the launch of a comprehensive digital curricular resource on American presidential politics.

The Decision ’08 resource , designed specifically for classroom instruction, offers up-to-the-minute presidential election news through a video-on-demand user interface, allowing teachers to customize their lesson plans with compelling and relevant content to bring the election process and political issues to life, according to the announcement. 

This will be of particular value in enriching political understanding of 17 and 18 year old students, who are preparing to vote for the first time.

The Decision ’08 resource will include current news reports from Telemundo, NBC’s Spanish language television network. These Spanish-language clips will give teachers with limited-English students additional venues for keeping them involved with the electoral process.

The new Decision ’08 resources are available exclusively within the HotChalk Learning Environment ( a k-12 learning management system.

HotChalk streamlines millions of teachers’ activities, allowing them to develop unique lesson plans, locate and integrate curriculum materials, manage assignments and grading online, and share information and communication with students and parents, who also have access to this free, safe community.

The dynamic political features offered by NBC News through HotChalk, which can be incorporated into lessons for any grade level and subject, will be updated weekly through Election Day 2008 and include:

* The Daily Trail - Up-to-the-minute breaking news and political analysis pulled daily from NBC News comprehensive political coverage, interviews, campaign speeches, and debates.
* Meet the Candidates – Full candidate profiles including candidacy announcements, major speeches, campaign trail news, and candidates’ positions on major issues. Full and unedited “Meet the Press” interviews with the 2008 presidential candidates will also be available.
* Presidential Debates and Conventions – Clips and coverage from the primary and presidential debates and the nominating conventions. 
* What’s At Stake – In-depth look at the key issues of 2008, including foreign policy, education, immigration, healthcare, the economy, national security, and the environment. These special features will include sample lesson plans created by teachers for teachers.
* Campaigns Past – Historical footage from past presidential campaigns including archival speeches and interviews, debates, conventions, election night coverage, and inaugural and concession speeches. This section will also include historic campaign advertisements.

The Decision ’08 content is part of the larger venture of NBC News and HotChalk to bring true “e-learning” to the classroom and set a new standard in how education is offered and consumed, the announcement states.

On HotChalk, teachers and students have access to over 70 years of NBC News digitally archived content, through a 21st century Web-based, visual platform consistent with the way students consume information today. Created in collaboration with historians, textbook authors, and other experts on a wide range of topics, thousands of video, film, and radio resources; mini-documentaries; text resources; primary sources; and images are designed to engage students in active learning and provide primary source materials that exceed what is available in traditional instructional materials.

Access to all NBC Video Resources is free to all educators and students through January 31, 2008. To access this resource, go to

Source: HotChalk,

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AASL Digital Institute Opens

The American Association of School Librarians (AASL) launched its first Digital Institute, “Minding Your Students’ Future,” as part of the AASL e-Academy online offerings.

The Institute focuses on the future of learning in school library media programs and offers a variety of digital sessions captured during the 13th annual AASL National Conference & Exhibit held in Reno, Nevada, in October 2007.

Among the highlights are clips from the Opening General Session with Dan Pink and a session on the “Standards for the 21st-Century Learner” presented by Cassandra Barnett and Barbara Stripling. The Institute also explores topics including teaching information literacy, research, podcasting, and book challenges.

“Minding Your Students’ Digital Future” is available in a complete package of 10 sessions (podcasts, video, vodcasts) for $99 for AASL members. The non-member price is $199. Participants receive a certificate of completion worth 10 contact hours.

Registration is open at  


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Tom Snyder Productions Releases New Version of Science Seeker

Tom Snyder Productions has released a new version of its software series, Science Seekers. The program, produced in collaboration with the American Museum of Natural History and supported by a grant from NASA, engages students in learning and applying core science content to solve realistic problems.

With this collection of three peer-assisted learning programs, real scientists guide students who gather and analyze data, working in teams to complete missions. This instructional format—where students watch engaging video footage to learn about their mission, collaborate in teams to evaluate information then draw from new understanding to complete their mission— enables students to develop a deep understanding that will serve as a foundation for applying science in the real world, the announcement states.

Science Seekers is enhanced with new features such as a built-in word list for contextual vocabulary instruction and title-specific mission booklets that encourage collaboration between students and support content-area reading. Other new features of Science Seekers include text-captions for hearing impaired and ELL students and support for interactive whiteboards, projectors and Macintosh or Windows platforms.

The updated, standards-aligned Science Seekers titles are The Changing Earth, Ecosystems in Balance, and Safe Groundwater. In addition to focusing on a specific curriculum topic, each title comes with a comprehensive Teacher’s Guide, assessment materials and answer keys.

Source: Tom Snyder Productions, Inc., a Scholastic company,

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