Focus on Productivity
When most people think of technology in schools, theyprobably envision teachers making high-tech presentations, or students sittingin front of computers. But teachers and students alike can benefit from severalsoftware programs that need never make an appearance during class time. Somesuch products can help teachers decide the different ways to instructindividual students; others can manage tasks such as class registration. Thismonth’s Focus On examines some of the software titles that are available tohelp teachers prepare for class, assess their students’ abilities, and keeptrack of student performance.
AbleSoft,Inc. offers a classroom administration system, lesson planner, and report cardgenerator all in one with Teacher’sToolbox 4.0. Teachers can use the software to create schedules, to designseating charts, to monitor attendance, to create tests, and to file studentreports. Version 4.0 allows teachers to import and export files from MicrosoftWord and Excel, and the software also supports the exchange of files withrSchool.com, an online education community.
Another AbleSoft product is Teacher’s Internet Tools, software designed to help teachers makethe best use of the Web. It includes a Web page creation program for teachersand students with no knowledge of HTML, and an Internet image library full ofgraphics for school Web pages. Also featured is rSchool Detective, softwarethat analyzes student essays and gives teachers links to Web pages from which astudent may have plagiarized.
AbleSoft’s Teacher’sToolbox Suite 4.0 is a comprehensive package containing four programs,including Teacher’s Toolbox 4.0. It also offers Library of the Future, ThirdEdition, which contains the complete and unabridged texts of over 3,500historical and cultural works.
Forteachers who use a Macintosh operating system, Microsoft offers Microsoft Office 2001 for Macintosh,which features a new, simplified interface and support for key Appletechnologies. The package includes Microsoft Word for word processing,Microsoft Excel for databases, PowerPoint for multimedia presentations, andEntourage for e-mail. Since the new software package shares the same fileformats as Office 2000 for Windows, cross-platform compatibility is seamlessand hassle-free. Office 2001 also offers compatibility with other Macintoshapplications, making it easy to import AppleWorks word processing documents andFileMaker database files. Customers can use Excel’s tools to analyzeinformation in a FileMaker database, while Excel 2001’s FileMaker Pro importwizard and Word 2001’s data merge manager allow customers to import FileMakerdata for analysis or to conduct a mass communication.
Microsoft Entourage, the suite’s e-mail and personalinformation manager, facilitates communication and organization. It includes asetup wizard, a calendar that serves as the Office-wide timekeeper, and anaddress book that can be used to conduct a mass communication or to simplifytasks, such as addressing letters. Through Entourage, educators can schedulereminders, organize links and tasks, devise color-coded categories, and easilyimport documents from other e-mail programs. The software supports multipleusers and Internet standards. It can also be synchronized with a hand-held unitfor data exchange.
Alsofor teachers who use a Macintosh operating system, Power On Software hasdeveloped a Mac-compatible version of its contact management and schedulingproduct, Now Up-to-Date & Contact.This software provides teachers with tools to organize their schedules andstudent information from school or home. It keeps track of names, addresses,phone numbers, notes, history, and other information. Now Up-to-Date canauto-forward a to-do list to help users keep track of meetings, and QuickDayalarms remind users of daily appointments.
Now Up-to-Date & Contact includes Now Web Publisher, previously only available as aseparate package. The latest version of the software also allows users tosynchronize information with a Palm-compatible computer, thereby extending thehandheld computer’s capacity with additional fields.
Foradministrators seeking a district-wide curriculum management solution, Web Notes version 2.0 from MetaVueCorp. is an Internet-based application that enables districts to publish,organize and manage curriculum correlated to the various subject-areaframeworks they use. Using an innovative interface, WebNotes incorporates arelational database that allows districts to publish and catalog their owncurricula online. Administrators throughout a district can work independentlyor in groups to create, search for, and work with collections of resourcesbased on educational standards.
Educators can enter multiple curriculum frameworks, and cancorrelate frameworks to lesson plans, activities, local assessments, and otherframeworks. Online authoring tools allow districts to upload the frameworksthey work with so they can create curriculum resources that best suit theirneeds. Web-based lesson plans, activities and resources can be updated onlineeasily and regularly. Since the service is Web-based, there’s no need forsoftware installation or maintenance.
Withnew technologies come new methods for testing students. Several softwareproducts exist to grade and assess students’ performance. For example,ClearLearning’s Test Pilot Version 3is an educational testing and survey product that scores and reports tests,secures data, reduces administrative time, and eliminates manual systems. Theproduct gives teachers direct access to all the data so that they can download,analyze and report on students’ test results in numerous ways.
The system can be used to design and administer tests forany grade level. It features easy online editing, which allows for instantpreviews of tests and surveys being designed. It also lets teachers andadministrators share tests in the development stage. Teachers can select anoption to interrupt and resume tests, and can delimit specific groups ofquestions for the software to score. The software, which works on any serversystem, automates a traditionally paper-intensive process, saving time andlabor. It can also enhance the learning process by individualizing assessmentsand reporting, and by accommodating self-guided instruction.
Version 3 also allows flexibility in question grouping andthe use of random variables. Users can create their own groups of questionsfrom among all of their questions, so that specific groups of students answerspecific categories of questions. Randomization allows assorted questions froma designated pool to be integrated into individual tests, so that no twostudents are taking the same test. New design features for math tests enablecertain questions to build on previous answers. For example, an algebraic solutionfor “x” in one problem may be required to accurately solve the next problem.
NCS’ examSYSTEM IIis designed to connect a standard Windows-based PC with an optical mark reading(OMR) scanner to create an easy-to-use scoring system. The software can be usedfor teacher-created classroom tests, practice tests at the district level, orcollege and university quizzes and exams. The software accommodates tests withup to 360 questions and up to 10 responses per question. The scoring systemsupports a variety of multiple choice, true or false, matching, and complexobjective-based test constructions, allowing teachers to build testsappropriate to the subject matter. Test scores can be exported to NC InteGradePro gradebook software or other gradebook programs, and can also be printeddirectly onto answer sheets.
Once answer sheets are scanned and scored, reports may begenerated for select groups of students. There are six report formats to choosefrom: individual test results, individual item responses, item analysis,relative frequency distribution, absolute frequency distribution and test scoredistribution. Each report generates test statistics, such as mean and medianscores, T-scores, Z-scores, stanines, upper and lower quartile,Kuder-Richardson 20 and 21 calculations, item difficulty factors, and highestscore and lowest score. The software includes an interactive CD-ROM trainingprogram and a full year of telephone support.
Anotherproduct for teachers who give multiple choice exams is Exam Manager, from Liaison International. This software enablesstudents to study for exams or take graded quizzes, which can be administeredover a LAN, over the Internet, or on paper. Three types of users will benefitfrom Exam Manager: administrators, faculty and students. The administrator isthe gatekeeper of Exam Manager, with the ability to create different useraccounts and to assign different competency and difficulty levels to individualusers. Faculty users can create their own questions and exams, incorporatingpictures and text, and can assign time limits and implement a grade curve foreach exam. Students can either take timed and graded quizzes or review examswith instantaneous feedback and explanations.
A grade log keeps track of students’ scores, and isaccessible by teachers and by the individual students themselves. Exam Managerworks well not only for testing, but for assessing student performance: it letsstudents review materials and receive individualized diagnoses of theirweaknesses. After student scores have been saved, Exam Manager will generateitemized grade reports for teachers and parents.
Foreducators who desire flexibility and ease in test creation, the Saxon Test Generator will create testseither based on templates or designed entirely by teachers. The software canautomatically generate unlimited versions of a single test, with problems informats such as short answer, free response, or multiple choice. The softwarecan be used to generate worksheets for speed drills or remediation, or tocreate a placement test containing problems across grade levels. Teachers canadjust the spaces between problems to give students enough space to show theirwork.
When generating different versions of a math test, the SaxonTest Generator ensures that each form of the test will have the same problems,but different values. Previously created versions of tests can be saved for usein different classrooms or during other semesters. The CD-ROM is easy to use,with simple step-by-step directions. The program is designed to make printingquick and easy, and an answer key is generated with each test.
Foreducators who wish to assess their students’ abilities without cutting intoclass time, the Sophia Web-basedassessment tool can be accessed from any Internet-connected computer. Theprogram allows instructors to easily create surveys, which are then deliveredto students and employers. Sophia will process the responses in a relationaldatabase, and provide insightful reports to help students improve. Thanks toSophia’s immediate feedback, instructors can quickly adjust teaching toclassroom situations, and re-survey whenever they like to measure theirteaching effectiveness. The program can be used to profile students throughtime, to assess curriculum, to document student demographics, and to chartacademic progress.
Anapplication suite from SCT is designed to make course registration of largenumbers of students efficient and easy. Banner2000,a system designed for higher education, can register up to 54,000 students at amulti-campus university for 10 courses apiece in a single hour. By contrast, itnormally takes a large research university one to two weeks to complete thisnumber of registrations. The program is designed to handle even peak studentregistration and Web-grade inquiry activity, even with a high user load on theuniversity system. Banner2000 will also work with distance learninginstitutions’ registration needs.
The complete Banner2000 suite includes administrativesystems for student information, financial aid, finance and accounting, humanresources and payroll, and alumni development. The self-service solutionsinclude Web for Students, Web for Faculty and Advisors, Web for Employees, Webfor Alumni, and Web for Executives. SCT will also work with WebCT and CampusPipeline to pursue the distance education market and allow students, facultyand staff access to all aspects of their campus.
Finally,we look at Tom Snyder Productions’ latest presentation tool, mPOWER 4.0. The software, designedspecifically for teachers, students, and administrators, helps develop projectson any topic by combining backgrounds, text, custom graphics, digital photos,digital and analog video, sound, charts, and more. Each product comes with aCD-ROM with graphic clips and media files, as well as a comprehensive user’sguide.
New features of the versatile software include one-buttonconversion to HTML, streaming video, support for QuickTime 4.0, increasedspeeds, MP3 playback, and animated GIFs. The software has been streamlined forease of use, so that teachers and studentsalike can create engaging multimedia reports. Students can learn toorganize multiple forms of information in formats that go beyond thetraditional structure of a written paper. With the networked version of thesoftware, up to 50 users can employ the program simultaneously.
Teacher’sToolbox Suite 4.0
MicrosoftOffice 2001 for Macintosh
NowUp-to-Date & Contact
Power On Software
TestPilot version 3
National Computer Systems,Inc.
Liaison International, Inc.
Saxon Publishers, Inc.
Assessment Research, Inc.
Tom Snyder Productions
This article originally appeared in the 12/01/2000 issue of THE Journal.