Our readers’ top ed-tech picks for 2012 (continued)

Total Course Solution (McGraw-Hill/Blackboard)

This integrated technology combines interactive learning exercises and online testing from McGraw-Hill with the Blackboard Learn course management system, so Blackboard users have access to McGraw-Hill’s digital content and assessment tools right from within the Blackboard environment.

“I returned to the classroom after having served the past 12 years as provost and vice president for academic affairs at Murray State University,” said Regents Professor Emeritus Gary Brockway. “I discovered that if I were to connect with today’s students in their very connected world, I would have to develop an engaging learning environment utilizing the latest in technology. [The McGraw-Hill/Blackboard Total Course Solution] has allowed me to design [a] basic marketing course with many incentives for students to participate. I have been able to design a very dynamic learning environment with a user-friendly course management system utilizing a single sign-on for students. Students come to class prepared, and as a result, I am able to utilize class time more productively for class discussion and participation.”

Turnitin (iParadigms LLC)

Turnitin improves the student writing cycle by preventing plagiarism and providing rich feedback to students. Its OriginalityCheck feature ensures original work by checking submitted papers against 14 billion web pages, 150 million student papers, and leading library databases and publications, and it also includes online grading and peer-review features.

“As a part-time adjunct instructor with a 60-hour-a-week full-time work schedule, I have come to rely on and appreciate the invaluable time savings the plagiarism detection system provides,” said Anderson University’s Daryl Iverson. “Not only does it help me to grade the 17 manuscripts per student that are part of the Senior Seminar that I teach, but it give my students a chance to see if they have properly used their sources in their writing and provides us with a time-stamp of their submission. I would not have time to check for plagiarism … without this system.”

K-12 winners

Acuity (CTB/McGraw-Hill)

CTB’s Acuity InFormative Assessment software helps educators diagnose, predict, and report on student progress toward state or Common Core standards, so they can deliver targeted instruction to help students meet those standards. Solutions are available for grades 3-8 (aligned with either state or Common Core standards) and high school (aligned with Common Core standards only).

Missouri’s University Academy uses Acuity to diagnose students’ algebra deficiencies, which then become the starting point for instruction and remediation. “Over the last two years, Acuity has enabled us to raise the percentage of our students scoring Advanced and Proficient in the Missouri end-of-course exams for Algebra I—from 42 percent to 74 percent,” said Principal Clem Ukaoma.

Ascend Math (Ascend Education)

Ascend Math is a web-based program that identifies students’ learning gaps and then guides students through differentiated instruction, interactive activities, and practice in order to fill in these skill gaps and bring students back to grade level.

“Ascend Math has helped our students be successful in Algebra 1 as freshmen in high school,” said Jeremy Hendrix, a math intervention specialist at Moon Valley High School in Glendale, Ariz. “In Algebra 1 alone, we went from a 30-percent failure rate down to about 4 percent for the entire year. … With the use of Ascend Math interwoven throughout our instruction, our students have produced results beyond our expectations.”

Bookshare (Benetech)

An initiative of the nonprofit organization Benetech, Bookshare is an online library of digital books for people with print disabilities. It operates under an exception to U.S. copyright law that allows copyrighted digital books to be made available to people with disabilities. Bookshare members can download books, textbooks, and newspapers in a compressed, encrypted file, then read the material using adaptive technology. Through an award from the federal Education Department, Bookshare offers free memberships to U.S. schools and qualifying U.S. students.

“I am a teacher for the blind and visually impaired, and quite often my students do not have access to new novels or chapter books,” said Karen Meyers of Spotsylvania, Va. “The lending libraries in our area (and even the Library of Congress) have limited, outdated novels and ones that just aren’t interesting to today’s youth. With Bookshare, I can download just about any title I am looking for and emboss [it] for my students’ reading pleasure. This is an incredible service, and the vision community is lucky to have [it]!”


BrainPOP offers short, animated, curriculum-based videos that aim to engage students from kindergarten through 12th grade. BrainPOP content can be used in many ways, from introducing a new lesson or illustrating a complex topic to reviewing before a test. All BrainPOP content is mapped to state and Common Core standards and is searchable by topic or standard.

“We know that all students … benefit from highly visual content delivery that utilizes key concepts and academic vocabulary within context,” said Anne Scatchell, a bilingual resource teacher at Glenn Westlake Middle School in Illinois. “I have seen first-hand the dramatic impact that these tools have for my students. The BrainPOP family of products … uses a sense of humor [that] captivates viewers and helps them to relax, making them more open to learning and grasping some challenging material.” Another reader wrote: “This product has made my students excited to take the quiz after the video. How many teachers can say that about their students?”

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