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Technology an
Educator Can Love

The Education World Tech Team discuss its favorite new hardware and software. Can the technology work for you too? Included: More than twenty technology tools for teachers and tech coordinators.

This month we asked members of the Education World Tech Team: If you're a tech coordinator, what's the best new hardware or software you've introduced to your school or district this year? If you're a teacher, what's the best hardware or software you've used this year? How does that technology improve teacher productivity or student learning?

"The best pieces of software I've introduced this year," said Lucy Gray, "are

"We're just starting to use these pieces of software, but I can tell you a bit about how I'm using them," Gray said. "I use Comic Life mostly for posters and instructional guides. ArtRage is open source, I think, and my fifth graders have been creating self-portraits with the program, which has very realistic paint tools. Finally, I've been using RapidWeaver to create Web pages for myself, and I love its ease of use. You can create a Web site by selecting various page types (photos albums, blogs, html, and so on) and various design templates. The result is a very polished site that's easy to maintain.

"Two things come to mind when we talk about technology hits of the year," said Katy Wonnacott: "Kidspiration and United Streaming, an educational digital video library.


Recommended Hardware and Software

* Administrator's Plus
* AmpWinOFF
* ArtRage
* Comic Life
* Edline
* Firefox
* GoodSync
* GradeQuick
* HandyAid
* iLife '09
* iPod
* iSiloX
* Kidspiration
* NVU
* OneNote
* RapidWeaver
* RemoteScope
* RoboForm
* SnagIt
* United Streaming
* USB thumb drive
 

"I had worked with Inspiration in the past and have several intermediate and junior high teachers sold on the program," Wonnacott noted. "I was fortunate this year to get some software money from our terrifically supportive parent group and purchased Kidspiration. The primary teachers were hooked almost immediately. The easy interface, the text to speech option, and the webbing format make this a great piece of software for early writers.

"United Streaming was also part of that purchase and, although it has been slow to take off with our teachers, those who have used it really like the ease of search and download. Some of the movies are short and just right for a quick introduction to a topic or for clarification of a point. This program is somewhat expensive. We had, in the past, been part of a local consortium for movies for our schools. That went away and we were left with some fairly good, but often old, movies. United Streaming has an expansive library in a well organized database and online instructions make it very easy to use."

The best software John Simeone has seen to date for his lab is iLife '09. "This Apple software," Simeone said, "contains 4 separate programs; iTunes, iMovie HD, iDVD, iPhoto, and Garage Band. Each of those programs is accessible from the other, so whatever changes you make in any one program is reflected in the others. Students enjoy music creation with Garage Band, and even students who have no musical background at all can produce a fine project that they can easily burn to a CD using iTunes. The creative movie making suite of iMovie and iDVD are outstanding and easy for any age student to use to create movies and burn to DVD. Students who use the program in my school are mostly seventh graders, and they are able to produce their own music and videos while using the software."

In John Anchan's district this year, "NVU is in and Dreamweaver is out" when it comes to Web development. Why? Anchan provides this comparison of the two programs:

  • Dreamweaver: Constant upgrades, flimsy upgrades; superfluous frills and bells; extremely expensive for students to buy, expensive for a lab to keep upgrading. Overkill for teachers who use technology; good for multimedia technologists.
  • NVU: Awesome Web developing freeware! Small footprint, easy download, no need to worry about upgrades or hard drive space or insufficient memory. User-friendly icons and drop-in features. Does most (if not all) that one needs to build a Website. Small, stable, secure, and FREE. Students do not need to be concerned about giving their life history before downloading a demo that expires in 28 days. Miniscule memory and hard-drive space. Lovely interface. Did I mention it's FREE?

Anchan also recommended Firefox, a program recently installed on all student workstations. "Students love it," Anchan notes. "You also can have portable Firefox on your USB thumb drive to carry around -- preventing temporary files being left on a public machine. And again it's FREE!"

Not familiar with Firefox? See the Education World Techtorial Using Firefox: An Open Source Web Browser for more information.

Another new addition in Anchan's district are mandatory USB thumb drives. According to Anchan, "they're awesome little critters; no more floppies, or temperamental CDR or CDRW, or unpredictable servers. All students have them -- and they love them."

Anchan also offered the following recommendations for tech coordinators:

  • GoodSync from RoboForm, a free synchronizing software. Awesome! Allows automated sync between multiple computers and USB portable drives.
  • RoboForm, an automated sign-in application on USB thumb drives. Absolutely wonderful! Log in to hundreds of password sites with only one password. No keyloggers to worry about. Fast and secure.
  • iSiloX. A superior reader and offline browser for the Palm handheld. Whether text, PRC, or a regular HTML Website, iSiloX does it for you. Stable and compact, even the files are reduced by 60 percent from a normal PRC. Great for eReader materials.

"But the winner application for the year," says Anchan, "is AmpWinOFF. This automation application has multiple settings that allow a computer to shut down, restart, and so on, following one or more set tasks (defrag, scan viruses, run anti-spyware). Set it and don't waste time staring at the screen. Just go to bed or read a book. Best of all, it's FREE!"

"We've introduced a new grading system and reporting system to our teachers, students and parents," Fred Holmes told Education World. "Our administration uses a program called Administrator's Plus. This year, we bought the two companion programs, GradeQuick and Edline.

"GradeQuick is a grade book program that is tied to Administrator's Plus and allows the office and staff to send grades and attendance back and forth. Edline is the Internet portion of the three programs, which allows teachers to send assignments, grades/reports, and messages to both parents and students. Parents are able to see their child's grade and assignments.

"Another program I now use as a network administrator is called RemoteScope, "Holmes added. "It allows me to connect to our computers no matter what building they are in, and either view what a student is doing or take control of the students' computer. This has saved me much time from having to be physically present to solve a software problem for a teacher. Now, teachers can just let me know that there is a problem and I can remote in from my console and work on the computer."

"This year, we began using Microsoft OneNote," said Bob Reich. "The software allows students and teachers to collaborate and share information via our network connections. Students can be invited to join shared sessions in which information becomes a two-way process rather than just teacher to student. The software also allows students to include graphics and sound bites with their printed data to further their understanding of the information. Teachers can prepare information ahead of time, include links to Websites and files, and share it electronically with the students. Through the use of a flagging system, information can be categorized and sorted according to the specific needs at the moment. Students can sort out vocabulary, related facts or formulas from the mix of all of the data they may have acquired. OneNote also allows students using tablet PCs to write directly into the program using a stylus. The stylus can be used for editing as well. I keep my entire class notebook in OneNote and, with the shared session capability or via e-mail, I can restore a student's entire notebook for the year in a matter of seconds. We have only begun to explore the many facets that this program has to offer and will continue adding features as the year progresses."

"The best software we introduced this year has been Techsmith's SnagIt," said Art Lader. "Our teachers have been using it to create high-quality screen captures (both static and animated) for their students. I have been using it to do the same for my colleagues. SnagIt is inexpensive, easy to use and instantly improves teacher productivity."

"In my third grade classroom, I've actually gotten some use out of my personal iPod," Stew Pruslin told Education World. "I have a number of books on tape as well as some famous speeches. And when the kids aren't around, I have some classic Van Halen."


Who Are They?

The Education World Tech Team includes more than 50 dedicated and knowledgeable educational-technology professionals who have volunteered to contribute to occasional articles that draw on their varied expertise and experience. The following Tech Team members contributed to this article:

* John Anchan, associate professor and director of education, University of Winnipeg,Winnipeg, Manitoba, Canada
* Lucy Gray, middle school computer science teacher, The University of Chicago Lab Schools, Chicago, Illinois
* Fred Holmes, high school LanManager/Webmaster, Osceola Public Schools, Osceola, Nebraska
* Art Lader, teacher, Aiken High School, Aiken, South Carolina
* Stew Pruslin, teacher, J. T. Hood School, North Reading, Massachusetts
* Bob Reich, technology coordinator, The Janus School, Mount Joy, Pennsylvania
* John Simeone, computer teacher, Beach Street Middle School, West Islip, New York
* Katy Wonnacott, teacher, Signal Hill School, Belleville, Illinois
 

Article by Linda Starr
Education World®
Copyright © Education World


Last updated 10/02/2011


 

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