April 16, 2014

Innovations From the Show Floor

By Walter Minkel

Attention-grabbers at the ALA and NECC annual conferences

Neither the recent American Library Association’s annual conference in Atlanta (June 13 – 18) nor the National Educational Computing Conference in San Antonio (June 17 – 19) displayed technology that would make you gasp. But there were some fascinating incremental developments worth a look.

Handhelds. Personal digital assistants (PDAs) and their ilk were everywhere. The market researchers at the International Data Corporation (IDC) say that the time is finally right in K – 12 schools for small, mobile technology appliances, namely handhelds and laptops. The shift to these devices, say IDC representatives, is “expected to rapidly accelerate at the start of the 2003 – 2004 academic year.” To that end, AlphaSmart, known for its dedicated keyboards used for student writing activities, has introduced the Dana, a new product based on the Palm operating system. Priced at $369, it runs all Palm software and includes a USB port, which lets users plug
it directly into printers and other peripherals. Details are available at www.alphasmart.com.

AirPac. The AirPac portable library catalog is already a year old. But since it’s been used almost exclusively in university libraries, it’s probably new to SLJ readers. AirPAC gives anyone with a wireless PDA 24-hour access to a library’s online catalog. While the manufacturer has been publicizing the idea of a wireless library catalog (and it is a good idea), librarians themselves may prefer cruising the stacks, looking for materials to answer a reference question, and consulting the catalog in the palm of their hand. For more information, see www.iii.com/html/products/p_web.shtml.

Networked Telephones for Schools. In these days of heightened anxieties over security, it’s more important than ever that classrooms and
libraries have their own phones. With 3Com’s ethernet network, educators can plug telephones into the school’s network anywhere they’re needed, making old phone systems obsolete. To learn more, visit www.3com.com/solutions/en_US/index.jsp?solutiontype=1000001.

LeapFrog Language First. LeapFrog SchoolHouse, the company that gave us the LeapPad device so popular in early childhood programs and elementary schools, has introduced Language First, created especially for English as a Second Language (ESL) students. Designed for Pre-K through second graders, as well as for special education students, Language First offers ESL students auditory instructions at the beginning of a story in any one of six languages—English, Spanish, Vietnamese, Cantonese, Japanese, and Hmong. The stories, written in English, are also accompanied by language skill-building activities. For additional infor
mation, see www.leapfrogschoolhouse.com.

Jones Knowledge Online Courses Change to Suit Disabled Students. With the passage of Section 508 of the federal government’s Rehabilitation Act, educational Web sites are required to do a better job of meeting the needs of those students with disabilities. Online courseware companies like Jones Knowledge (www.jonesknowledge.com), have scrambled to meet the new law’s requirements. Visually-impaired students often use screen-reader applications, such as Jaws or WindowEyes, and magnifiers, such as ZoomText, to read maps and tables. Jones Knowledge’s e-education software provides advanced placement high school classes or specialized language classes online. All the company’s online courseware now supports screen-reader and -magnifier software, and also has passed the Bobby test (try your library’s Web site in it at ="http://www.cast.org/bobby" target=new>www.cast.org/bobby), the most stringent arbiter of whose Web sites make the grade with the disabled.