PICAXE aids understanding of microcontroller systems
In today’s world there is a large and rapidly growing need for computing power that does not need the size, expense, and facilities of a personal computer. Such computers, often referred to as microcontrollers, are already commonplace in our daily lives where they are used in digital cameras, microwave ovens, video recorders, television sets, mobile phones, cars, washing machines, dishwashers, and many more common everyday items that we rely on.

The PICAXE meets the need for classroom training systems to enable students to understand and build practical working microcontroller systems. Designed in the UK specifically for education, the PICAXE is rapidly being taken up by educational institutions world wide as the simplest, safest, and most cost effective method of introducing students to the principles of microcontroller design. These principles can then be applied to practical microcontroller systems that can be part of almost anything.

An increasing number of Australian schools, businesses, and companies are now using the PICAXE for teaching, proof of concept and final equipment designs. The simplicity of the PICAXE enables non-specialists to design and program systems resulting in improved productivity, reduced costs, and reduced time-to-market.
Contact tel 1300 735 420 and visit www.microzed.com.au

Online game helps teens learn vital financial skills
Brisbane-based digital agency Liquid Interactive is helping to fight a surge in teenage debt with an online game that equips teenagers with financial literacy skills to better manage their money.

Liquid Interactive Managing Director Michael Burke said Essi Money, initiated by the Financial Basics Foundation and sponsored by Collection House and the Bank of Queensland, used a combination of animation and simulation to introduce the players to the key concepts behind earning, saving, spending and investing.

Katrina Birch at the Financial Basics Foundation said the program was integral in the fight against teenage debt.

‘Statistics detailed in the 2006 Australian Financial Literacy Assessment showed that one-third of students were unable to calculate how many hours they would need to work to meet their expenses,’ Ms Birch said.

‘Three-quarters could not understand the term credit on a bank statement and more than half did not know what was meant by debit.’

The game is a teaching resource designed around the concept of a challenge or quest. It is a structured exploration of financial concepts using mentors and educational scaffolding to create a learning experience, primarily for teachers and students, though individuals can register and play at their own pace.

The player is required to undertake a series of financial challenges in order to achieve the best possible financial result. The ‘play time’ will be relatively short – up to a maximum of six hours – however, the game will simulate the results/outcomes of the player’s decisions over a six-month time period.
It is established from the outset of the game that, whatever age the player is in real life, in the game he/she is over 18 years old – this allows the individual, within the game, to be able to apply for a credit card, buy a car etc. Playing ESSI Money is free for schools and not-for-profit organisations.
Contact To register visit www.essimoney.com.au

Imaginative and interactive – French and Spanish in the classroom
Teachers all over the world agree that learning a second language enhances children’s overall mental development, improves self-esteem and increases cultural understanding. However, in practice, schools are hard pressed to fund and staff such programs.

LCF Clubs is new to Australia, but has over 20 years experience in teaching languages to children, specialising in teaching French, Spanish, German, Italian and Chinese to two-to 12-year-olds.
This year, LCF is launching its complete French and Spanish curricula in Australian schools. The LCF materials include very detailed lesson plans, student activity books, CDs, and Babelzone, the award-winning interactive language learning site. These materials may be used by a school’s own language teacher, or in many cases, LCF Clubs can supply the teacher as well.  

Using a site like Babelzone on whiteboards or computers for second language learning is an ideal way for the teacher to maximise a child’s willingness and ability to learn. Teachers who are lucky enough to have access to an interactive whiteboard in the classroom will know that nothing captures the attention of young learners more readily.

Babelzone is full of educational games, puzzles, stories, songs and other activities. It satisfies the different learning styles of young learners, being tactile, visual and interactive. Stimulating and topical activities are regularly added, depending on the season and cultural festivals.
LCF Clubs Australia is offering a one-month free trial of Babelzone to schools. It can be used independently or together with the LCF French and Spanish teaching resources for children in years 1 to 8.

If it is not possible to fit languages into the school curriculum, LCF Clubs also offers after-school fun language programs in most areas.

Contact LCF Clubs Australia Pty Ltd email joinus@lcfclubs.com.au and visit www.lcfclubs.com.au

StudentCover offers affordable protection for children
Accidents don’t discriminate on the basis of age and, sadly, each year thousands of children are hospitalised as a result of injuries that put financial pressure on their families.

In 1995, EBM Insurance Brokers launched StudentCover accident insurance, an affordable insurance policy to ease the financial burden on families when accidents occur. StudentCover provides protection for children 24 hours a day, 365 days a year, anywhere in the world.

For just $25 a year, the policy covers a wide range of injuries such as broken bones, fractures and loss of teeth. In most cases, payments can be made independently of what might be recovered for actual expenses through Medicare or private health insurance. StudentCover is backed by AIG Australia, which has 55 million customers worldwide.

‘For more than 13 years, StudentCover has provided valuable financial assistance whether it is repairing chipped front teeth or mending a fractured collarbone,’ EBM Managing Director Jeff Adams says.

EBM can’t prevent the accident – but it can help ease the financial pressure with benefits including:
•    $500,000 for major injuries such as paraplegia and quadriplegia;
•    Compensation for other major injuries such as loss of sight or use of a limb;
•    Emergency transport costs, including ambulance; and
•    Fee relief if a parent or guardian dies.

EBM keeps the premium low by only accepting applications online, visit www.studentcover.com.au to apply.

For information on whole-of-school cover, where an even lower rate applies (from $9.00 per student).

Contact call 1300 783 878. EBM also provide flyers to schools free-of-charge to send to parents. To request flyers, email info@studentcover.com.au with the number of flyers needed.

School-ready HP notebooks

In 2008, the National Secondary Schools Computer Fund and the Education Tax Rebate are major policies that will allow students to have significantly greater access to information, technology.
Two new laptop releases from Hewlett Packard are ideal for the school setting.

The HP Compaq 2210b Notebook PC weighs just 1.68kg and features a 12.1 inch diagonal widescreen display. This sleek-looking notebook boasts the latest Intel® Core™ 2 Duo processors and integrated Bluetooth® wireless technology. To help prevent unauthorised users from transferring or removing data the notebook also offers security technologies such as Device Access Manager, as well as ease-of-use features such as an integrated Secure Digital (SD) card reader and three USB ports. The HP Compaq 2210b Notebook PC starts from $1,499.

For students who want the choice between writing and typing their notes, the HP Compaq 2710p Notebook PC transforms from an ultra-light notebook PC into a pen-based tablet with a twist of the screen. Starting at only 1.65 kg in weight, this ultra-thin convertible tablet sports an innovative, modern design that will appeal to style-conscious students. For working from home, students can enjoy the convenience of an optional ultra-slim docking solution which features an integrated DVD+/-RW drive. In addition, it offers an optional integrated camera for convenient video conferencing and image capture and HP NightLight on the keyboard to improve visibility while studying in low light. The HP Compaq 2710p Notebook PC starts from $3,699.

Tool boosts website accessibility for visually impaired
A new website accessibility tool has been developed in Australia to improve learning for students and teachers with disabilities, particularly those who are blind or have low vision. The AccessED Accessibility Website Check will also improve website access for students in rural regions with slower internet connections or for people with access only to older computer systems.

The program has been developed by national ICT agency education.au, the Department of Education, Science and Training and Vision Australia. It will be provided without charge, is simple to use, delivered in plain English and is suitable for all educational learning management systems.

AccessED is aimed at librarians, course administrators, lecturers, system administrators and website developers to improve website access for a range of school and university students, including users who:
• Are colour-blind;
• Require assistive technologies such as screen readers and magnifiers and Braille displays; or
• Require adaptive techniques, such as head wands used by quadriplegics and others with physical disabilities, to operate computers.

Contact visit the AccessED website at www.educationau.edu.au/accessed