Readers' Choice Top 100 Products
In each issue, District Administration presents the products, books and materials that we think are important to our readers, culminating in a year's-end Top 100 Products.
This year, however, we wanted to make our Top 100 Products different by having you, our readers, choose, as you know these products from firsthand experience. Using the comments, ratings and suggestions that you posted on our Web site, we are proudly able to share the Readers' Choice Top 100 K12 Products of 2007-08. In addition, we've included books and materials that would enhance any administrator's professional library. For me, as products editor, this process was similar to a blind date, not knowing what products our readership would favor, but I've fallen in love with the list and think you will, too.
It's always difficult to limit any list like this to just 100, because there are so many wonderful products. For those that didn't make this year's list, though, we're already collecting comments from readers for next year's issue. And we're seeking more products for review, and readers' comments, to determine our next Top 100 Products.
SPOTLIGHT AND TRENDS
We know from the district spending study that DA commissioned by independent research organization Martin Akel & Associates that school spending continues to be strong, especially in the area of technology. Looking at the 2007-08 Top 100 winners is a great way for school administrators to see trends in the educational marketplace that can help guide spending decisions. We share specific trend information in each of our three categories-hardware, software and the Internet-and here is an overview of what we found.
Top 100 product trends include putting computing more in the hands of educators and students, enhancing Internet interactivity, and developing better presentation tools and safety and security products.
More companies are finding value in joining forces, and some companies, such as those that manufacture whiteboards, have found it beneficial to run the software of other companies. Talk of $100 computers has raised interest in handheld devices, such as laptop-like models, graphing calculators and interactive tablets.
There's an interesting contest in the projector market between 3LCD, which uses three LCDs to produce bright natural images, and DLP (Digital Light Processing) by Texas Instruments, which uses a DLP chip containing a rectangular array of up to two million microscopic mirrors. Both technologies have representation on our list.
It has become difficult to find the division between software and the Internet, and our product categories cross over for many reasons. While stand-alone software on a local computer remains popular, the trend is toward "nothing but Net." Driving this blurring of categories are the many, varied opportunities to use assessment and online databases that these education products can easily provide.
Common product promotion themes include interactive Internet connections, 24/7 availability and support, NCLB compliance, standards-based testing and assessment, and online educator portals. The need for safe and secure schools has created more products for buildings, e-mail, network and Internet safety, as well as better ways to protect against drugs and intruders.
Products using languages other than English have become increasingly important. Therefore, it is difficult to find a product without a Spanish component or module, with Chinese and other languages to follow in future releases.
And taking advantage of company grants or free trial offers continues to be a good way to see if a product is right for a district. Many times these trials can be extended up to a year. District leaders taking this "seeing is believing" route can help sell the need for a particular product or solution. Long-term win win partnerships can develop with educational product companies when trials turn into real-life district examples that can be shared. It never hurts to ask whether use of a product by a district has value to the company as well.
NEW FOR 2008
DA's new products blog, The Royal Treatment, covers products, stories and interviews. It is more than sharing what's new in educational products and news from conferences and shows; it is real-time information, covering everything from hardware to assessments to security, with plenty of gadgets and stories too. We also know that seeing a product and trying it out, or getting a demonstration of it, gives us a better understanding of whether it will be useful to our audience. Now we can share more of that, as well as the stories we hear that may not find their way into the pages of our magazine. New online posts, frequent updates to our online products' database (www.districtadministration.com/products), the new blog, and monthly additions to New Products in the magazine make DA the best source for information on new products for school district management.
DA APPRECIATES YOU!
District Administration appreciates your comments and suggestions for helping to make this Readers' Choice Top 100 K12 Products of 2007-08 issue possible. We would also like to thank the administrators, educators, vendors, and corporate representatives who make our visits to educational conferences and technology shows productive and valuable.
Ken Royal is products editor.