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Product Focus

Netbooks were the subject of a lot of attention in education about two years ago; many saw these inexpensive, compact versions of laptops as the devices that would finally enable one-to-one computing to become commonplace in K12. Today, even though new devices have appeared—namely, tablets like the iPad—and taken much of the spotlight in the discussion, netbooks remain a viable and inexpensive option for creating a one-to-one program.

While most schools are under increasing pressure to improve the STEM education of their students, finding more effective—and cost-effective—ways to teach science concepts can be a challenging task. But as with many dilemmas in education, the right technology, when properly implemented, can be a big part of a successful strategy.

The processing speed, memory size and overall computing power of PC s have advanced at an exponential rate over the years, and the pace shows no signs of slowing. The result for many users—those in K12 schools in particular—is that the power of new computers is far greater than most require for the majority of applications. As a result, a number of desktop virtualization products have appeared in the last several years, which divide a single PC into multiple workstations.

Just like Web sites for businesses and organizations, school Web sites have gone from being a daring novelty to an absolute necessity. But the challenging task of designing, updating and maintaining a school Web site has also changed over the years. At one time, developing a site involved many hours of work by school or district IT staff , or it meant hiring a design company to custom-build a solution, but today, there are a large number of Web site developers catering specifically to the needs of K12.

Student response systems, which use wireless remotes and sophisticated software to enable teachers to poll their students, are growing in popularity. Several new manufacturers have entered the market just this year, and a number of companies that make interactive whiteboards, slates, audio systems, document cameras and other technologies are also increasingly making response systems, designing all these devices to work together in the classroom.

The current generation of edugames—computer based video games intended for educational use—stands in stark contrast to the drill-and-practice CD-ROM games of the past. While the earliest games were most often tightly focused on topics with clear right or wrong answers, such as math equations, spelling words or historical trivia, today's technology has allowed the latest generation of game developers to branch out to design games in interdisciplinary and creative subjects, including writing, history, literature, biology, business, personal finance and more.

In the United States and around the world, interactive whiteboards continue to be one of the largest and fastest-growing segments of classroom education technology. According to market research firm Future- Source Consulting, more than 300,000 interactive whiteboards were sold in the United States and 750,000 globally in 2009, which represents an increase of 34 percent over 2008. The firm also forecasts a 27 percent increase over 2009 this year, to nearly 1 million units sold worldwide.

Despite the growth of electronic communications, Web based document solutions and digital data systems, paper documents remain a vital part of K12 administration. Bubble sheet exams, parent communications, student academic and disciplinary records, and a wide variety of other communications still relies on paper, but technology has revolutionized its use. Using paper forms, assessments and other documents once required multiple devices such as printers, scanners, copiers and fax machines, as well as third-party companies to scan exams.

The digital modern update of the overhead projector, visual presenters continue to be one of the most popular segments of K12 education technology, as educators find more ways to use them in classrooms across content areas and grade levels. When used with a projector or monitor, these devices enable educators to display everything from documents to dissection specimens, even microscopic objects through the lens of a microscope.

Math instructional content translates well into software, as is evident by the high and ever-growing number of titles available. It covers all grade levels and ranges from assessments and interventions for struggling students to edugaming titles designed to reinforce concepts or provide further challenges for gifted students. But math software is not limited to such circumstances; programs that are supplemental to curricula and designed to integrate into everyday classroom instruction are also a large part of the industry.