Update created in response to customer feedback 

Just months after unveiling their new user new OW web finalinterface, which includes a highly anticipated Notes feature, Odysseyware has added even more refinement to their online curriculum platform.

“Our product development team put in long hours to make sure our improved Notes feature is as sleek and user-friendly as possible,” said Beth TeGrotenhuis, the president and COO of Odysseyware’s parent company, Glynlyon. “We’re thrilled with the results, and I hope our customers will be too.”

The previous version of Odysseyware allowed teachers to write notes in an individual box on lessons. Although customers appreciated this ability, teachers asked for a way to leave multiple notes in a single assignment. They also wanted to extend this function to students. Responding to this user feedback, Odysseyware gave customers what they asked for.

With the redesigned Notes feature, both students and teachers can now write multiple notes directly in the margins of every assignment. This allows teachers to create more context-specific notes, and saves students the hassle of flipping between tabs to study more effectively. For intuitive organization, teachers’ notes appear in red while students can choose from a variety of note colors. All notes can also be printed for offline learning.

“The feedback we receive from customers is valuable to everyone at Odysseyware. It helps us make our content even more student-friendly,” said TeGrotenhuis. “We always welcome ideas to enhance Odysseyware, and the Notes feature is just the latest example.

For more information, visit odysseyware.com.

Companies demonstrated products built around the Next Generation Science Standards and designed to engage students in science activities

Source: eSchool News

wa logo

Nearly 10,000 science teachers and curriculum specialists gathered in Boston earlier this month for the organization’s National Conference on Science Education. In conference sessions and the exhibit hall, much of the talk focused on the NGSS and how to integrate these successfully into teaching.

Created by a group of 26 states in an effort supported by NSTA, the National Research Council, and Achieve Inc., the voluntary standards identify important scientific ideas and practices that all students should learn by the time they graduate high school. As of press time, 11 states and the District of Columbia have formally adopted the standards.

NSTA has created a new website, NGSS@NSTA, which it calls a “hub” for science teachers to find NSTA-approved resources to help them implement the standards. Many conference exhibitors touted new science curriculum products geared toward the standards as well.


And during a live demonstration that generated quite a buzz, Wildlife Acoustics launched an iOS-powered “bat detector” app.

About the size of a key fob, the company’s Echo Meter Touch is an ultrasonic module that plugs into an iPhone or iPad. When used with the free Echo Meter Touch app, it creates a fully functional spectrogram viewer, allowing students to listen to and record bats in real time.

“Echo Meter Touch has student discovery stamped all over it,” said product manager Sherwood Snyder in a press release. “It’s an innovative way for teachers in one-to-one and flipped learning classroom environments to get students excited about biology.”

The app identifies a bat’s species by capturing ultrasonic sounds, giving students an opportunity to learn more about the bats they’re monitoring. A GPS tracking feature automatically tags all recordings with location information.

Read the full article.

NewPanache_Lgo-medIf you read our friend Vicki Bigham’s  ”She Snoops for Scoops” column in EdNET Insight, you may have noticed some familiar names this week! Here’s what she had to say about our team:

And Jacob HansonPR With Panache!, is especially proud of his sister this week. Alison DeNiscoDistrict Administration, published a story that includes Jacob’s sister, Ali Alowonle, 4th & 5th grade exceptionally gifted teacher, and her Gifted Ed Director, Diane Rundquist,Minnetonka Public Schools. Jacob shared that Alison has been doing articles on gifted education and that this one spotlights how the state of Minnesota is really behind those programs, highlighting the work that is being done in the navigator program there. Some of you may recall meeting Ali in one of the PR With Panache! media suites at a conference—that’s where I first met her. However, as reported in my scoops in January, she is also the mother of new twin girls and actually has three little ones now age 2 and under, so we may not be seeing Ali out at the conferences any time soon. But do check out the nice article.  It is worth reading—and it will make brother Jacob very pleased!

Update your address book!

In more news about PR with Panache!Sue Hanson and her awesome team at have a new address! They have moved to Buffalo, Minnesota, and she reports they couldn’t be happier! All phone numbers and e-mails stay the same. Even though we don’t use postal mailing addresses much anymore, you should know where Sue and her colleagues are:

1715-1/2 Pulaski Road
Buffalo, MN 55313

Thanks for the shoutout, Vicki – what a nice way to start our weekend!

Source: Boston Business Journal

wa logoThe idea that a technological device could recognize different types of birds by their birdsong just as well as a human could was considered impossible in the early 2000s — until Concord resident Ian Agranat built it.

It wasn’t perfect, he said, and the idea didn’t ultimately hold up as a consumer product.

“From a business point of view, it was a disaster because the customer acquisition costs far exceeded whatever you could make on it,” he said.

But that was the foundation for Maynard-based Wildlife Acoustics, which has now sold more than 16,000 animal-sound recorders to more than 1,000 organizations in 66 countries, including Antarctica.

Earlier this month, the company started shipping its newest product, the Echo Meter Touch, which turns most iPads and iPhones into bat-detectors, using hardware and software. The technology can record bat sounds, track bat locations and accurately identify the type of bat species in seconds.

Bats, Agranat said, are important pollinators for several tropical fruits and they’re crucial to pest control because they eat mosquitoes.

“We hope this product will open people’s eyes a little more to really appreciating how fascinating these creatures are,” he said.

Agranat is a technologist who previously founded a software technology company that was acquired for $33 million by Virata Corp. in 2000.

He spent nearly $1 million investing in his original birdsong device. Then, he realized animal-recording devices could be used to identify various types of animal species for organizations like the U.S. Forest Service, which is responsible for protecting endangered species across millions of acres of land.
“It was clear there was a need for commercial, low-cost, weather tight, low-powered autonomous systems for recording and monitoring wildlife, and software to analyze the data you’ve collected,” he said.

In 2007, Agranat’s newly launched business started selling its first product, the Song Meter SM1 recorder.

Today, Wildlife Acoustics sells its weatherproof recorders to government agencies, researchers affiliated with non-governmental organizations, zoos or aquariums, and environmental consulting firms. The company also sells software to analyze the data that has been recorded.

The bio-acoustic monitoring devices record all types of animal sounds ranging from birds and frogs to bats, whales, dolphins, elephants and rhinos.

Some organizations use the devices to detect whether certain plots of land are home to any endangered species, which could eventually dictate how that land might be used, Agranat said.

Wildlife Acoustics has been profitable for the past five years, Agranat said. The company had a few investors in its early stages, though Agranat was the primary investor. He declined to disclose revenue information.

Source: THE Journal

myoncwThe Colorado BOCES Association with two other organizations to make 4,000 digital books available to students and their families for a reading trial this spring and early summer.

From April 14 to July 31, educators, students and families will be able to access the e-books from Capstone’s myON platform.

“The books are enhanced with flexible reading supports that include an embedded dictionary, professionally-recorded audio, and text highlighting to support readers at all levels,” according to a news release. “Books on the myON platform are available for online or offline reading, in and out of school on computers, tablets and mobile devices.”

The association and its partners, myON and eNet Colorado, have launched the program in an effort to reduce summer slide, according to information released by the groups.

“We are excited to promote and support reading for students of all ages and to provide access to over 4,000 on-demand digital books for this spring and summer reading program,” said Dan Morris, executive director of eNet Colorado, in a prepared statement.

In 2004, only two districts had full-time gifted programs; today, 15 districts offer these services

The number of full-time academic programs for gifted students has grown substantially in Minnesota over the past 10 years—a rare case amid a lack of federal funding and recent cuts to similar programs nationwide. The programs are benefitting districts financially thanks to Minnesota’s open enrollment policy that allows students to attend the school system of their choice.

In 2004, only two districts in Minnesota had full-time gifted programs. Today, 15 districts offer these services statewide, and more are on the way, says Wendy Behrens, gifted and talented education specialist at the Minnesota Department of Education. The growth originated with legislation in 2005 that provided new funding for gifted programs. In 2012-13, the state allocated $11.4 million for these programs.

Minnesota is one of 21 states that allow students to transfer to schools outside their district through open enrollment, according to the Education Commission of the States. Many Minnesotan parents move their children to schools that have better gifted services—and the state’s per-pupil funding follows, Behrens says.

“The years of pull-out programs being the primary vehicle for gifted services are over,” Behrens says. “District leaders realize if they don’t offer programming to meet student needs, but surrounding districts do, parents will follow the services.”

This fall, Bloomington Public Schools, a large urban district, will launch the state’s first full-time high school gifted program, which will focus on STEM subjects. Beginning in ninth grade, students can take two courses per semester at a local community college, and can graduate from high school with an associate degree in engineering.

In 2009, Minnetonka Public Schools created the full-time Navigator Program that enrolls “exceptionally” gifted second- through fifth-grade students with IQs of 140 or above. The program began with two self-contained gifted classrooms and 42 students in two elementary schools; today the program boasts six classrooms and 115 students in the two schools—57 percent of whom enrolled from outside the district.

Navigator classes move at a fast pace, since most students understand material quickly and can move on to applying those skills to real-world projects, says teacher Alison Alowonle.

“It’s critically important that these students have an opportunity to struggle before they go to college,” says Navigator program coordinator Diane Rundquist. “It stretches the cognitive muscle when you hit a problem and have to try a different path. We want them to fail in this safe context.”

Gifted programs in U.S. schools differ greatly in scope, as almost all decisions around these services are made at the state or local level, says Nancy Green, executive director of theNational Association for Gifted Children. Some 16 states do not require any gifted services for students, according to the association.

“To have a strong gifted program, the district needs to have high expectations for all student learning,” Green says. “In many Minnesota programs, especially in Bloomington, we see this in place.”

Promethean Planet Earns Prestigious Education Industry Recognition

Promethean-Logo-headerPromethean Inc. (USA) a leading provider of educational technology & training, today announced that Promethean Planet (www.prometheanplanet.com) was named a finalist for the 2014 SIIA Education CODiE Awards for Best Collaborative Social Media Solution for Educators.

The SIIA CODiE Awards are the premier award for the software and information industries, and have been recognizing product excellence for 29 years. The awards have over 75 categories and are organized by industry focus of Content, Education, and Software.

This year’s program features 31 Education categories, several of which are new or updated to reflect the latest industry trends and business models. Winners will be announced during a special awards dinner at the nation’s leading education technology conference, the Education Industry Summit, in San Francisco on Tuesday, May 13.

Promethean Planet is a global teaching, sharing and support community for educators.  It offers more than 1.7 million members a place to share with and learn from other educators around the globe, access to a wide variety of professional development resources, opportunities for collaboration and sharing among peer groups with common interests, and tools that create a personalized Planet experience for each member.

“We are pleased to have Promethean Planet recognized as an SIIA Education CODiE Award Finalist for providing teachers with a supportive community where they can collaborate with others around the globe,” said Jim Marshall, CEO of Promethean. “This award underscores the importance Promethean places on partnering with educators to provide the differentiated instruction that motivates students to learn.”

“This year’s finalists are breaking ground with new business models and innovative products. We are pleased to recognize the best in educational technology with these 119 products,” said Karen Billings, vice president of the SIIA Education Division. “I look forward to honoring them all in May at the Education Industry Summit.”

Details about each finalist are listed at http://siia.net/codies/2014/finalists.asp

enet logoeNetColorado, in partnership with the Colorado BOCES Association, and myON, a business unit of Capstone—the leading provider of personalized literacy solutions for PreK-12—are co-sponsoring a digital reading trial during the spring and summer months. The trial launches on April 14 and ends on July 31.

During that time, educators, students and families will have unlimited access to more than 4,000 enhanced digital books from Capstone, the world’s preeminent publisher of classroom and library books. The books are enhanced with flexible reading supports that include an embedded dictionary, professionally-recorded audio, and text highlighting to support readers at all levels. Books on the myON platform are available for online or offline reading, in and out of school on computers, tablets and mobile devices.

“We are excited to promote and support reading for students of all ages and to provide access to over 4,000 on-demand digital books for this spring and summer reading program,” said Dan Morris, executive director of eNet Colorado.


Through this strategic partnership, the organizations aim to help students avoid the “summer slide,” which can essentially rob them of the gains they have made in reading during the prior school year. Research states that if students read at least 10 books, summer slide is dramatically reduced. 

“The myON team is delighted to be collaborating with eNet Colorado and the Colorado BOCES Association to provide Colorado’s students, families, and educators with unlimited access to our digital library during this statewide trial period,” said Todd Brekhus, myON president. “Research and our own experience have shown that students will read books that meet their interests if they have access to them. Once engaged, they can develop a habit of reading that is a key component in their overall learning and achievement.”

This trial focuses on enhanced digital books from myON. These books are a core component of the award-winning myON personalized literacy environment, which features embedded tools and Lexile assessments that support and measure individual student reading growth.

For more information about myON, visit www.myon.com .

For more information about eNetColorado, visit www.enetcolorado.org.

For more information about the Colorado BOCES Association, visit http://www.coloradoboces.org

Promethean CEO Jim Marshall discusses the future of technology in schools.

Source: EdTech Digest

PrometheanwebJim Marshall is the CEO of Promethean. He was appointed to the Board in July 2012 having joined the Company in 2011 as President of North American Markets. Previously, Jim served as CEO of SpectrumK12, a company that produces software solutions to improve the performance of at-risk and special education students. Prior to leading SpectrumK12, he was CEO at Agentis Software and took the company through a management buyout to sustained profitability.

Jim has held a number of high-profile executive positions, including Vice President of Apple’s US Education Division and has extensive experience of helping technology companies to build and develop accomplished management, sales, marketing, professional services and channels teams. Jim is an active member of the Cobb County Education Foundation and is a former Director of the Florida Council on Economic Education, an organization that teaches fundamental finance and business concepts to high school students. He has received public recognition for his work in education in the states of Michigan, Maine, Florida and Georgia. He holds a Bachelor of Arts degree in Management and General Sciences from the University of South Florida. In this EdTech Digest interview, Jim talks about current challenges, implications of a large Miami rollout, billions for broadband, and a force in education that can’t be stopped.

There is power in learning, and it is essential that all citizens are a part of it, and can participate.

Victor: As someone who has spent many years in education, what do you see as the top challenges facing
students/teachers today?
Jim: Well Victor, while it is difficult for anyone to narrow down the challenges faced by students and teachers today, I can tell you what I believe some of them to be. First of all, because there are many disrupted changes, mostly good, happening in classrooms today, it can be difficult for students and more so for educators to assimilate them, without some help, or professional development.

Furthermore, in the past few years, it has been easier for educators and students to use the Internet due to better devices and WiFi bandwidth capabilities. That has made the move to digital assets and online content more efficient and practical as well. Personal technology in the classroom has gone from just talk of 1:1 to handhelds for everyone, and now it includes touch interactivity with everything from whiteboards to tablets. Many of these changes have occurred in financial crises, down-turned budgets, and pedagogical moves from NCLB to common core standard goals, and more. The problem still remains as to how these major changes can be managed in systems that have been isolated to change for so long.

Victor: Big things are happening in Miami. What sort of over-arcing theme do you have for the 18-month professional development accommodating that ActivBoard Touch rollout?
Jim: Bringing technology all together in a meaningful way to make teaching and learning better should not make teaching or student achievement and progress more difficult. It’s not enough to just talk about hardware, software and solutions anymore. We need to drive any education initiative to improve teaching and learning outcomes. Now, if we can do that and make a teacher’s workload a bit easier by using technology, let’s do it. Miami-Dade is just one of many places where we can deliver real-time actionable knowledge, how to, and professional development to help teachers teach and students learn. We must also remember how important it is to know how those students are doing by the moment—child by child—in each class and day.

Victor: Company-wise and beyond Miami: What is “next” and how can your vision revitalize the conversation around education?
Jim: Well, what is next is where we’ve been headed for quite some time. We are now at the point where the technology and solutions we provide and continue to develop are becoming ubiquitous in the classroom. Beyond that, educators and students don’t need to be technology specialists to use them. The classroom user interface has change, and continues to change. While there still may be an interactive device at the front of the room, the teacher doesn’t need to be in the front of the room directing anymore. And because personalized devices are in the hands of students more, they can participate and help build more robust lessons and engage in their own learning more. The times of having only a few students in a class active will become rare. When we look at a classroom we see 25 to 30 researchers, scientists, mathematicians, individual learners and leaders collaborating.

Victor: In light of the 2008-09 recession and subsequent budget tightening and so on, including recent sequestration, are schools in the clear, or at least easing toward something close to a new normal in terms of budgets (especially with technology integration, updates and modernization in mind)?
Jim: Budgets have improved as of July 1, 2013, and that was most likely the first time since the melt down. While it may not be over, the majority of the states either had improvements done, remained status quo, or looking at improvements now. I remain positive. Everyone we’ve talked with has seen signs of additional funding improvement and all are looking forward to seeing additional improvement again on July 1, 2014. When it comes to technology integration, updates, and providing the right tools for teachers and students, we must move forward.

Victor: Now for a broad question: What are your thoughts on education in general these days? Are we headed in the right direction, could we be doing more, thoughts about Obama/FCC billions for broadband?
Jim: The momentum for education change and improvement is there and irreversible. Everything we can do to facilitate it and foster progress is our mission. With new personalized and collaborative interactive tools, wider access to the Internet, and great content, apps, and cloud-based opportunities. We are at a place of information exchange never seen before, and it can only move forward and become greater. I think the President is right; it is essential that we provide access to all of these learning tools, places, and resources. There is power in learning, and it is essential that all citizens are a part of it, and can participate.

Victor: Looking ahead, what does education look like 3-5 years from now?
Jim: We have a very good start, and I think we’re headed in the right direction, too. Our goal is to modify the way we think of the learning space, as well as where and how learning happens. We also feel it important to help educators discover new ways to actively motivate students, assess them each class and day, and know how to engage students at all learning levels. There certainly will be more of a cloud-base influence in all classrooms in doing that, as well as more technological give and take throughout a lesson between teacher and students. We are already thinking 3 to 5 years down the road, but we need to remember those educators and students just starting that journey, too. Professional development needs to be a part of that. We will continue to share what we know, and show what we
know, to those who haven’t seen or heard it yet. In that way, followers become leaders.

Victor: Anything else you care to add or emphasize about education, technology, the leadership needed to advance us, or anything else for that matter?
Jim: I’m very privileged to be in this place right now. It is special and important to me to be at a time and place where I know that I can contribute to something so important and valuable—the education of children, and helping their teachers succeed. The next few years hold some wonderful challenges, but certainly many more magnificent accomplishments and achievements. There is no place I’d rather be.

Victor: Well alright! And thank you, Jim!
Jim: Thank you, Victor!

Victor Rivero is the Editor in Chief of EdTech Digest. Write to: victor@edtechdigest.com.

Online services, Common Core tools, and robots are supporting special-ed instruction

Source: eSchool News

goalbookcwAdvances in educational technology make it possible for educators to tailor their instruction for students with special needs.

These technologies, including online speech therapy and platforms to align goals in a student’s Individual Education Plan (IEP) with Common Core objectives, make it easier for teachers to spend more one-on-one time with students who have special needs or require additional classroom accommodations.

Here’s a look at some of the newest special-education practices across the country.

Overcoming geographical challenges

With declining local industry and challenging economic times, educators in Georgia’s Murray County schools knew they needed a way to connect students with speech therapists to prevent those students from falling behind their peers.

That’s when Allison Oxford, the district’s director of instructional support services, decided to pilot Presence Learning’s online speech therapy solution in select district schools.

“We’ve had difficulty finding qualified speech therapists,” Oxford said. “There aren’t a lot of young speech therapists looking to come make their homes in rural, impoverished Georgia.”

After the pilot proved successful, Oxford expanded it into all district elementary schools except for one, which already had a full-time speech therapist.

“These kids are digital natives, and this is the way they like to learn,” she said. “It removes the stigma of being called down to the speech room.”

Using an online platform has cut down on travel time and costs for district speech therapists, and it extends the time that each therapist, whether virtual or face-to-face, can spend working with students.

Critical to the program’s success was district-wide support. Oxford asked district speech therapists if they thought Presence Learning’s solution would meet the needs of students.

“Their support and understanding—that’s a huge piece of our success with it, that our speech therapists support it,” she said. “It’s not taking anyone’s jobs. That’s a big misconception, that it will replace speech therapists. It will never replace them; it really is an enhancement of the services we can offer to our students.”

The district also uses i-Ready Diagnostic from Curriculum Associates, an online diagnostic assessment that tracks student progress in relation to IEP goals and objectives and differentiates instruction accordingly. District educators analyze student progress and work samples each week and compare Common Core goals to IEP goals.

“If students don’t master skills or make progress on goals, my teachers have an immediate intervention plan to help that child meet that standard,” Oxford said. “It creates a nice way for us to have tangible products, especially for parents.”

Meeting Common Core goals

The transition to the Common Core States Standards hasn’t been easy for all districts, but some began revamping their curriculum offerings ahead of schedule in anticipation of the change.

For teachers at Everett Middle School in San Francisco, that meant reworking learning goals for students with special needs as well, said Jamie Stewart, the school’s Acceleration Coordinator.

Using Goalbook, a tool that enables teachers to personalize instruction for students through a blended approach, teachers are able to break down Common Core goals into IEP-ready objectives. The system makes it much easier to align the new standards with goals that already are outlined in a student’s IEP, Stewart said.

“I wish something like this had existed when I was a beginning teacher,” Stewart said. “General education teachers, especially … our new teachers, [also] are finding it really helpful, because many teachers in general are struggling with the Common Core transition.”

Robots for special education

More and more educators are finding that students with special needs respond well when interacting with robots. The NAO robot from Aldebaran Robotics has a sensor network that uses cameras for facial and object recognition, as well as microphones for voice commands and sound localization.

Teq, an ed-tech and professional development company, has formed a program called JumpStart NAO, which pairs its professional development services with the NAO robot to introduce students to STEM- and robotics-related fields.

But the robot also elicits an enthusiastic response from students with special needs, all of whom have different behaviors and learning goals that the robot helps to target through one-on-one or group interactions.

Part of NAO’s appeal is found in its design, said Joe Dixon, chief learning officer for Teq and a special-education teacher. “It’s humanoid in structure, and it has the ability to emote, but at the same time, students can be in control,” he said.

Aldebaran designed its ASK NAO program specifically for students with autism. Teachers create a “playlist” of tasks and goals for each student, and the robot is programmed to interact with that student, or with a group of students, and lead them through a series of interactions that pinpoint specific objectives. The interactions are captured and can be analyzed later.

Students also use NAO in unstructured ways, Dixon said, including free play or reading aloud to the robot.

“That’s the coolest thing about the robot—it’s really much more of a platform than a robot itself,” Dixon said. “You can create some really unique school ecosystems.”

Another social robot targeted to help students with autism comes fromRoboKind, which has designed a robot with a human face. The robot uses CompuCompassion software to read an individual’s emotions and level of attentiveness, adjusting interactions accordingly to enable social engagement.

The company’s Robots4Autism program bridges academic success and developmental needs and is built for autism intervention. The robot, and a full curriculum for using it to teach students with autism, will be available toward the end of May.

The robot connects with a tablet computer, and the curriculum—designed by experts from the Collier Center at UT-Dallas and the Autism Treatment Center—includes 12 modules, containing about 50 video vignettes in all.

The curriculum is designed to help children with autism function in the real world. Its goals are to help students learn proper social behavior and to help students learn to react to emotional cues. The robot can simulate lifelike human facial expressions to help with this.

“These children need continuous repetition,” says Fred Margolin, founder and CEO of RoboKind. The robot can supply this repetition without showing anger or frustration.