Exploring America: Paths Through History (Website)
(LetterPress Software, Inc. (435) 755-5996; High School)

     Exploring America is an artistic and unique approach to teaching students American history, with emphasis on how events have shaped the nation. Aligned with state and national standards, it is an excellent supplement to any American history curriculum.
     Lessons are interactive, engaging and educational, and take the form of well-designed, colorful, multimedia documentaries that motivate students to pursue off-line research and writing. Some topics include Articles of Confederation, The Mexican War, The Mississippi River, The Great Depression, Japanese Internment During World War II, The Industrial Revolution in America, America's First Transcontinental Railroad. With links to online resources, lesson plans and printable .pdf documents, this website is a valuable teacher resource.

Criterion Online Writing Evaluation
(ETS (877) 909-6442; 4th grade/up-website)

     The Criterion Online Writing Evaluation service is a well-designed, user friendly website whose purpose is to improve students' writing skills by offering instant evaluation, scoring (e-rater tool) and diagnostic feedback (Critique Writing Analysis Tools). The website is accessible from school or home, and is a valuable aid to both teacher and student. Two-way communication is available between teacher and student via a private message board.
     Teachers can easily create and manage classes and students, choosing from a variety of tools and options. Essay projects are assigned to students, and subsequent progress reports include charts and graphs with detailed analyses. Students will find the service flexible and intuitive, allowing them to work offline, then copying and pasting. Drop-down menus and mouse-over functions are effectively used to access information. In fact, with a minimum of tech savvy, a teacher can design mouse-over feedback comments to students.
     An impressive component of
Criterion Online Writing Evaluation is its ability to quickly analyze grammar, usage, mechanics, style and organization/development (including fragments, agreement errors, misspellings, commonly confused words, missing initial capitalization, and punctuation). Criterion is an EDDIE Awards winner.

Life At 35,000 Feet 1.0
(MPR Associates, Inc. (202) 478-1027)

     As educators, we are intrigued by technology products that provide students with a unique educational experience, one which a brick and mortar classroom cannot be reasonably expected to provide. 
Life At 35,000 Feet, from MPR Associates' Work Wise: Bringing Industry to the Classroom series, is just such a product.
     The premise is that the student has just been hired by an airline to find the cause of passengers' illness aboard a flight.  The object is to research each case, interview experts, and write plausible hypotheses, a multimedia report, and a magazine article.  This assignment brings together bioscience, technology and language arts, engaging students in scientific inquiry, problem solving, reasoning, and communication.  The simulation is open-ended, with no particular 'correct' answer to the problem, and students may work at their own pace and level.  The program is technically superior, and very user-friendly.  For every teacher who has ever heard, "But why do we have to study
this?  I'll never use it for anything," here is one answer.
Life At 35,000 Feet is MPR's second EDDIE (the first was Global Trade), and we hope to see many more from the Work Wise series.

To contact us:
ComputED Gazette
Phone: (760) 631-0853
Email: computed@nethere.com