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Our readers’ top ed-tech picks for 2012

These 50 educational technology products and services are the 2012 winners of our Readers' Choice Awards

Inspired Signage Xpress Player (AMX)

Inspired XPress is a digital signage solution for organizations that want to manage all aspects of their digital signage, including content creation. It features a simple, intuitive software interface that allows users to create templates and content, then publish this content to players that are small enough to mount behind any display.

“The Inspired Signage XPress Player has allowed us to send digital content to display monitors around the campus,” said Casey Foulds, instructional operations system administrator for Texas Woman’s University. “For example, during summer orientation, we contour the messages for the incoming students, but during the fall semester, we update the information to keep our current students aware of missions, deadlines, hours of operations, and campus news.”

The video tutorials that AMX provides on its website “made the management of this player efficient and easy,” Foulds added. “Whether they are waiting for an elevator or collaborating with classmates, the Inspired Signage XPress Player allows us to communicate with our students minute by minute.”

isaac (Enterasys Networks)

Enterasys describes isaac, short for Intelligent Socially Aware Automated Communications, as “the industry’s first social media interface that connects your IT network with your social network.” It’s perhaps best explained by one of its users, who calls it the “best use of innovative technology in higher ed that I have seen in years.”

“It’s noon and our technician is enjoying lunch with a vendor,” writes Phil Komarny, vice president of information technology and CIO at Seton Hill University. “An alarm sounds on the network management console; a wireless access point is dropping connections. The ringing phones match the alarm on the management console, as end users start reporting connectivity issues. One user is a vice president preparing for a meeting.

“In a traditional model, our Solutions Center staffer would text one of our network admins … and generally lunch is forgotten, as our technician will spend the rest of his time trying to create a VPN connection back to the office or head back to troubleshoot this issue from his desk.

“With Isaac, we have a new workflow. It is still noon, and the technician is enjoying lunch with a vendor. His iPhone beeps, and he sees a post to the Network Ops Twitter Account from isaac; a wireless access point has failed. The next tweet is from a Solutions Center technician—a vice president is having issues connecting and needs network access ASAP. He sends a Tweet to isaac “#find Johnson,” the name of the vice president. A moment [later] and isaac has located the vice president—and he happens to be in the same area as the failed access point. Another tweet, “#rebootAP 10.0.0.1,” to isaac and the wireless access point is rebooted. The Solutions Center posts that the vice president now is on the network—confirmed by a follow-up message on Twitter. Lunch is saved in a matter of moments.”

Network Sentry (Bradford Networks)

This network security platform enables users to manage their security policies and prevent unauthorized network access. Bryant University is using the product to provide secure but convenient network access to students using mobile devices throughout the campus.

“Network Sentry automatically detects and registers all devices, authenticates users, scans for policy compliance, and provisions network access accordingly,” said Jon Domen, network manager for the university. “This provides our IT staff with significant savings in both time and resources and has made the beginning-of-semester on-boarding process a non-event for students, faculty, and IT. In fact, users can log on from off campus to have their devices registered and remediated, so that when they arrive at our school, they are ready to use.”

Sapling Learning

Sapling Learning publishes e-textbooks in science and math that include online tutorials, graphics, interactive animations, scientific simulations, audio and video, online assessments, and more—creating interactive digital content for the most complex subject areas. It also offers online homework and practice solutions.

“I’m using the Sapling Learning Online Homework for my Fundamentals of Organic Chemistry Class. It’s an excellent tool for encouraging students to keep up with the material presented in the course by working on homework problems on a weekly basis, and for them to get credit for their efforts,” said Patty Somers, an assistant professor at Colorado State University. “The enrollment in the course is about 250 students, so traditional graded homework is not an option. Online homework for organic chemistry presents unique challenges, because students must draw molecules to be able to answer many of the questions. Sapling Learning has come up with an intuitive drawing module for the homework that students find fairly easy to use. The best part about Sapling is that they will customize the homework questions to suit your course; it’s not tied to any particular textbook.”

Tegrity Campus (Tegrity Inc.)

Tegrity Campus is a fully automated lecture-capture solution used to record lectures as well as supplementary course content. Its cloud-based model scales affordably, and students can search the content, collaborate with their instructors and classmates, take notes, set their own bookmarks, and more.

“I am now using Tegrity lecture capture for the 10th consecutive semester, dating back to fall 2008. It has absolutely revolutionized the way I teach, the number of students I can reach, and the efficiency and comprehensiveness with which I can provide … instructional content,” said Christopher Mizell, a math professor at Northwest Florida State College. “I collected data from nine face-to-face college algebra courses I taught prior to using Tegrity and eight college algebra courses I have taught with Tegrity.  Students in the eight courses I taught using Tegrity demonstrated a higher C-or-better success rate in their next sequential math class. … Furthermore, Tegrity has enabled our mathematics department to increase its distance-learning offerings from three courses to seven and to provide two additional blended course offerings during the same time span, while simultaneously elevating the level at which the instructional content is being provided.”

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