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Innovations Abound

With a steady incline in technical know-how, educators are using software in more creative ways.

First of all, CD-ROMs are so last century, and the World Wide Web is in. Second, a slow economy has left districts frugal or at least bracing for tight software budgets this coming year.

And lastly, big company mergers are making some administrators gnaw their nails, wondering if mergers will mean they'll have to spend more for software.

These are a few trends that school administrators and the Software and Information Industry Association saw this past school year.

"Because the education technology market has matured, educators are beginning to leverage their investment: moving from access to integration mode, and from technology adoption to educational innovation," according to the SIIA Trends Reports 2001. "Today, educators are sophisticated enough to be asking the fundamental question: 'How can technology help me better achieve core teaching and learning goals?' "

In California, Debbie Abilock agrees. She's the curriculum coordinator and director of Technology, Library and Curriculum at The Nueva School, pre-K - 8, in Hillsborough. Educators are using more "old favorites" in novel ways, Abilock says. For example, she says Inspiration software, which was previously used as a "rigid" pre-planning tool/outline for school projects, is being used as a "pre-planning tool" to Stage Cast Creator, another program that teaches students about programming. "They [educators] are inventing new uses for software they have had," she says.

Many school vendors are also using graphical user interbases, which, for example, allows a child to tap into many sources of information, says Sally Trexler, library technology coordinator for Allentown, Pa., school district. OPAC software can connect to online subscriptions allowing a student to search the term "dinosaur" and find a list of search engines that could offer other resources. "It's opening up their eyes to a myriad of sources to get their information," Trexler says. "It's like one-stop shopping. ... The search is executed in the product's own search engine."

So "Last Century"

Administrators agree the CD-ROM trend of years past seems to be on its way out. CDs that need to be physically flipped in CD towers pale in comparison to the anytime, anywhere access of the Internet, administrators say.

"[Districts] are going to more Web-based, districtwide audiences," Trexler says. "It eliminates the fuss and muss with servicing and responding.

As far as the slow economy since mid-2001 goes, it has forced some districts to hold on to what they already have. "We're not running out to buy new stuff," Trexler says. "We have good basic standard reference resources, like encyclopedias, dictionaries, periodicals, newspapers."

"We're being very picky on what we buy," agrees Jeffrey Gibson, technology supervisor for Wisconsin Rapids Public Schools in Wisconsin. "There's no widespread installations. It's more targeted and pilot-oriented."

Karen Billings, vice president of the education division of SIIA, adds that if schools do wait to purchase software, a main reason is that schools want to understand the new No Child Left Behind legislation better. "Educators are not sure exactly what levels of funds are coming from the state, and how they will be able to spend it," she says.

Phyllis DiBianco, library media specialist of N.Y.'s Scarsdale High School, says applications might not be updated in light of the slow economy. "People might hold on to (Windows 2000) for a year or two," for example, DiBianco says. "A lot is driven by the industry. I think there was this hype to always update, but it may have been more bells and whistles."

John Brim, section chief for the instructional resources evaluation services for the Department of Public Instruction in North Carolina, adds that the coming year will be financially worse for his state's districts. "Generally, the discretionary instructional resources will shrink, and they won't buy as much as they have been," Brim predicts. "There will be less purchasing of major large ticket items, [such as] a comprehensive expensive package that requires renewals."

And recent mergers and acquisitions, such as Riverdeep acquiring assets of the Learning Co. and partnering with Harcourt, have some administrators worrying. "We've got these big companies buying little companies," DiBianco says. "It's kind of frightening. ... The competition for products is not there and it's driving up prices. ...I just think [vendors] have to try to make it available to places that don't have a lot of money and that's most of our school districts."

Angela Pascopella,, is associate features editor.


Adobe Acrobat 5.0, $249

Adobe Acrobat 5.0 allows users to work more efficiently as individuals and with teams, by including features for digital signatures, secure documents, electronically fillable forms and network maintenance. The new version allows users to annotate changes, reviews and comments, and to share them online. The Web elements include Web-distributed authoring and versioning, as well as XML support.

If users create Adobe Portable Document Format files in Acrobat 5.0, documents can be shared online and then viewed and printed using Acrobat Reader across various hardware and operating systems.

Both Mac and Windows versions are available.


EReader, $299

The EReader, for Macintosh and Windows, adds spoken voice, visual highlighting, document navigation or page navigation to any electronic text. The software can also integrate content from any source-the Internet, a word processing files or scanned-in text-and combine it with the most powerful features of talking and reading software.

The program lets users: select volume, speed and pitch of the reading voices; choose speech and highlighting speeds and increments; change the default font, style, color and size of the text; control movement through the text (automatic and manual stepping); and take notes and receive speech feedback while typing.

Citrix Systems

MetaFrame XP, $250 and up

Citrix MetaFrame XP for Windows offers IT departments growth and management capabilities for large-scale applications and is designed to support up to 100,000 users on 1,000 or more servers. The software provides users secure access to Windows applications from almost any device, over any connection-wired, wireless or the Internet.

Offered as a product family with server, MetaFrame XP features enhanced centralized system management capabilities, increased leverage of the Internet (including LANs, WANs, Internet, extranets and intranets) and more flexible application access.

Clear Course

ClearCourse Construction Kit for Educators, $249

The ClearCourse Construction Kit for Educators is a set of course management software tools created to help schools create media-rich courses and lessons.

Nascent Index, one of four main parts to the kit, breaks down course content into general ideas and specific bits of information; the outline format allows users to quickly browse through vast amounts of information. The AutoTest feature is an assessment item generator that automatically generates 17 question formats, which teachers can modify to suit their needs.

Also included in the kit is the ClearCourse Tutor, a utility that allows users to view a read-only version of a project for practice. The ClearCourse Builder allows educators to link projects to create a full course with templates from this multimedia authoring tool.

Coda Music

Finale 2002, $300

Coda Music's Finale 2002 enjoys a 50 percent academic price, and it is the most popular notation/sequencing suite on the market. More advanced arrangers, composers and school band leaders will find the $300 a wise investment.


Virtual PC for Mac, $199

Virtual PC for Mac delivers PC compatibility by enabling users to run multiple Windows operating systems directly on a Macintosh computer.

Among new benefits is the product's support of a wide range of PC operating systems and applications including Windows, Linux and PC-DOS; its ability to run multiple operating at the same time; its integration with the Mac OS including drag-and-drop file transfer, as well as copy and paste between Mac and PC applications.

New features include support for Mac OS 9 and Mac OS X in one application, virtual switch in Mac OS X to network between Virtual PCs running on the same Mac, and the ability to share removable media storage devices.

Encyclopedia Britannica

Encyclopedia Britannica 2002, $39.95 to $69.95

Encyclopedia Britannica 2002, available on CD-ROM and DVD, is a comprehensive, all-in-one reference source. The Deluxe Edition (for Windows only) is two CD-ROMs with generous helpings of audio and visual material throughout. The Standard Edition runs on both Mac and Windows and has all its information on one disc, but without multimedia enhancements. The expanded Edition DVD, in separate Mac and Windows versions, includes the most multimedia.

Enterprises Computing Services

ECS Student Assessment Reporter, $4,995/year

ECS Student Assessment Reporter allows districts to consolidate current student demographic data and state-supplied test scores into a centralized, Web-based system, so test results can be presented in report and graph formats. All student test scores are arranged by new school and teacher/classroom groupings.

Users select the desired report or graph from their secure Web sever to access the results. Online help guides the user through three security levels: district, administrator and teacher. At the teacher level, data from current students would be available for the teacher to identify both group and individual student needs. Administrators can access all classes, and districts can update the database as students go through drop-add or change schools within the district.


BrainCogs, $149.95 (single computer) $349.95 (10 computers)

BrainCogs is designed to be an interactive coach for learning and studying. Featuring a "cognitively challenged" band of musicians whose members serve as tour guides throughout the program, the CD-ROM develops a story-based context for learning as well as a parallel track of curriculum-based material.

Through about 10 hours of animation and activities, the software helps students develop a personalized plan to enhance the five cognitive processes (a.k.a. "brain cogs") involved in preparing for and taking tests. After completing the program, students receive a personalized plan highlighting strategies that work best for them.

Follett Educational Services

TextLink, $995 (single-user license) $1,495 (multi-user license)

Using TextLink, schools can reduce the cost of replacing lost and stolen textbooks. The latest Windows version 4.20 includes several new features, including improved reporting, enhanced textbook circulation and increased inventory management capabilities.

With barcode scanning technology, districts can assign and track textbooks by student, classroom and individual sites. TextLink calculates fines and due dates, streamlines record keeping, tracks the condition of textbooks and facilitates collection management and replacement.

Fortres Grand

Fortres 101, $59/single license, $570/100 per building license

Fortres 101 is a software program designed to protect, monitor and maintain computer files, programs and systems. It provides complete security for public-access computers, preventing users from altering Windows, downloading dangerous programs and installing or removing software. Files cannot be moved, renamed, modified or deleted and only specific software titles may be run under Fortres 101. All hard disc browsing can be blocked.

Interactive Solutions

MovieWorks and MovieWorks Deluxe 5.0, $99

Interactive Solutions has released MovieWorks and MovieWorks Deluxe 5.0 for the Macintosh, and for the first time, Windows platforms. Included in the Macintosh versions of MovieWorks and MovieWorks Deluxe 5.0, is support for the extensive library of QuickTime transitions, including unrendered dissolves/fades and scrolling text.

MovieWorks is a suite of applications that work together to create short- to medium-length multimedia productions, including Web movies, personal and corporate videos, dynamic slide shows, and multimedia presentations.

In addition, general improvements have been made and the product is now available as a hybrid.

Kurzweil Educational Systems

Kurzweil 3000, $539 per seat (for 5-unit lab pack)

The Kurzweil 3000 is a scanning, reading and writing solution to help increase reading speed and comprehension for students with learning disabilities or reading difficulties.

The program can read virtually any scanned document or other electronic file on a computer or the Internet, using synthetic speech. Also, words are highlighted in a contrasting color to the reading unit making tracking easier. New or unfamiliar words can be defined using Kurzweil 3000's electronic dictionary, or broken down into syllables using the syllabification tool.


LessonLab Digital Libraries, Pricing varies ($100,000 average cost for district pilot)

LessonLab creates digital libraries that archive various teaching methods in classrooms throughout the country. To facilitate teacher collaboration, the company videotapes actual classes, digitizes the tape along with supplementary teaching aids such as overhead projections and Web links, and presents this information online along with transcripts of teacher-student dialogue. This open forum allows administrators to offer comments and suggestions on a teacher's classroom activity, as well as allowing teachers a view of their own performance and the students' response.

Using the LessonLab Builder application, educators can then design lesson plans, hone their classroom techniques and participate in discussions with their peers.


Flash MX, $199 (education price)

Flash MX is the latest version of the Macromedia Flash development environment. With support for video, application components and accessibility, the new product enables the creation of rich Internet content and applications.

The latest version simplifies the process of visual authoring for users who want to use a rich client technology for their applications.

New features include: video support: users can import any standard video file supported by QuickTime or Windows Media Player and manipulate video objects, and make them interactive using scripting; dynamic loading of images and sound: the program loads external JPEG and MP3 media files during runtime, which results in smaller file sizes and the ability to modify the content without having to reauthor it; and new graphic design tools and color mixer enhancements make creating, editing, and using colors and gradients easier with consistent color selection models and interfaces.


Windows XP, $199 for each computer, $189 for additional licenses

Windows XP represents the convergence of Microsoft's consumer OS line (Windows 95, 98 and Millennium) and its business OS line (Windows NT, 2000) in terms of code stream.

Windows' new XP version of the OS is visually bold and clean, and it does many things differently than before. Search-related tasks will get grouped into a Search Companion dialog box, for example, and files can be arranged by groups.

Older programs will run once users choose the proper "Application Compatibility Mode."

Office XP features a host of built-in tools. For instance, Send for Review distributes a document to multiple parties, tracks their responses, then collects all edits and comments for compilation with a single click. Refreshable Web Query lets users search out, and then embed into various documents, pieces of data that remain alive and linked to the Web.


Palm Reader Pro, $10

This software allows users to read eBooks from Palm's Digital Media site ( While a basic version comes with Palms, most users will want to spend the $10 to upgrade to the pro version. Palm Reader Pro comes with Webster's New World Vest Pocket Dictionary, a tool that's accessed simply by holding the stylus on a word for a few seconds. Palm Reader Pro runs under Palm OS 3.0 or later and needs at least 225K of free memory.

Power on Software

Now Up-to-Date & Contact, $119.95-$129.95, 49.95 (upgrade)

Now Up-to-Date & Contact helps users organize their schedule and contacts, and then keep it up-to-date by issuing reminders and synchronization with a Palm-compatible handheld computer.

Users can manage their own schedules and contacts-or share them with small groups or large organizations. The software's built-in server lets users schedule meetings inside a district office or even district-wide.

Supported applications include Microsoft Office 2001, Microsoft e-mail products for Macs, Eudora and other major e-mail products and applications.


Toast 5 Titanium, $89.95

Toast 5 Titanium, the newest of Roxio's CD-recording software programs, allows users to create, store and share digital content and movies on discs.

Students can save their files on inexpensive CDs instead of using up valuable hard-drive space. Teachers might use it to burn CDs with a field of information for students to take home or use for individual projects. Toast 5 Titanium can also be used to make digital movies and turn them into DVDs playable on any DVD player. Those who wish to categorize digital photos can use Toast 5 Titanium to create thumbnail catalogs, which students and teachers can use to search for specific pictures and create slide shows.

Scientific Learning Corp.

Fast ForWord Reading, $850, or $3,250 for five discs

Fast ForWord Reading is the newest addition to Scientific Learning's system of technology-based training programs designed to build language and reading skills. The program targets all students who are learning to read by focusing on the key skills that enable students to become fluent readers.

The program cross-trains core reading skills, including decoding, spelling, syntax, grammar, sentence comprehension, vocabulary, organization, memory, passage comprehension, phonology, morphology, word recognition and fluency.

The exercises adjust automatically to a student's skill level, and the program provides regular updates to the student and the teacher on each student's progress.

Symantec Corp.

SystemWorks 2002, $69.95-$99.95

Norton SystemWorks 2002, a problem-solving suite designed to help keep PCs running at optimal performance levels, has several new features. Included in the suite are: Norton AntiVirus 2002, Norton Utilities 2002 and Norton CleanSweep 2002; GoBack3 Personal Edition, a tool that allows users to restore healthy system configurations and lost or damaged data; and Process Viewer, which provides a detailed list of all currently running applications and can be used to determine system resources use.

New script blocking technology in the AntiVirus component protects against known and unknown threats without the need for virus definitions. Common script-based threats that arrive via e-mail are automatically blocked and users are

kept alerted to virus-like behavior.

Trivantis Corp.

Lectora Publisher Enterprise LMS Edition 2002, $295 (single license), $995 (10 licenses), $2,195 (50 licenses)

Trivantis Corp. has released Lectora Publisher Enterprise LMS Edition 2002. The latest release of Lectora includes a number of enhancements designed to make content development and publishing easier and faster than before.

Among the improvements are: printing of chapters, sections and pages: users can print hard copies of their work during development and after publishing, making it easy to review their work when a computer isn't available; courses as templates: any course can be saved as a template for further use; tests can be subdivided into an unlimited number of sections: and educators can design tests that correspond to curriculum subdivisions such as textbook chapters, or specific resources such as videos, projects, lectures and handouts.

Waterloo Maple

Maple7, $129 for student edition

Maple7 software is designed to explore and visualize mathematical concepts, develop technical applications, and share information through the Internet, Excel, MATLAB and other programs. Its worksheet environment lets users create reports, presentations and interactive technical documents for teaching. The new version offers a broad range of new differential equation solvers, complete units and dimensions management, enhanced Web connectivity and free resources through the online Maple Application Center.


WebCT 3.5 Campus Edition, $5,000-$29,000

WebCT 3.5 Campus Edition is a tool designed to facilitate the creation of Web-based educational classrooms. WebCT can be integrated with school-wide portals and student information systems.

Text- and image-based icons can link to single pages of content, internal links within the course, external Web links, a WebCT tool (such as the calendar and quiz pages) or a course module. The software doesn't include any advertising from within the course pages. WebCT also features a storage mechanism for holding the course content, internal proprietary e-mail (so a teacher receives all e-mail related to a specific class together), assessment and evaluation tools and a selective release option that allows control over when students can access content.

Wireless Generation

Wireless Generation's mobile assessment tool, $20 per student per year, discounts for more than 5,000 students and/or for 3 years or longer

This software allows teachers with handheld units to do mobile classroom assessment on their students. Teachers can complete a Running Record report while strolling down the aisles. Automating this task and other bookkeeping functions allows teachers to provide individualized reports for administrators, parents and teachers.