Acces — The Teacher's Database
Acces is an electronic publishing system for teachers, sort of a combination between a database, desktop publisher, and word processor. The program stores test items and curricular material very efficiently, supports many different page layouts, and produces beautiful, typeset-quality documents.
While some people like to call Acces a "test generator," it is really much more than that. In fact, it can be a great help to teachers in their regular instruction, and it can benefit students immensely. For example, teachers can use the software to:
- customize lessons for students with special needs.
- supplement textbooks with interesting and challenging questions.
- create a variety of classroom materials, such as overheads, flash cards, game cards, assignment schedules, and calendars.
- prepare students for state assessments and standardized tests like the SAT.
- produce daily assignments, review worksheets, class warm-ups, and other documents, that are closely aligned with a school district's or state's curriculum.
Although Acces addresses many subjects, it is especially well-suited for mathematics, because it has built-in support for formulas, graphics, and special symbols. Therefore, most of our modules are designed for math teachers. However, do not be disappointed if you work in a different field; we also have science and language arts modules. History will be covered soon. If you are a curriculum supervisor, technology specialist, or testing coordinator, then you will definitely want to read on about Acces' capabilities.
Making use of database modules
One of Acces' most impressive features is the size of its database. Currently, the program offers more than 300,000 problems in over 40 modules. This is no doubt the largest computer-based collection of math problems available—and it continues to grow!
When we use the term database, we are really talking about two things: a computerized storage and retrieval system, and various "add-on modules" or item banks that are available for Acces. In this section, we go over some general points about the database system and describe features that are common to all modules. We invite you to see our Add-on Modules page to determine which, if any, modules are appropriate for your needs. But please keep in mind that you can also use Acces to write your own problems and store them on the computer.
Here is some general information about the database:
- Acces is a print-based system. This means that you select problems by looking at a printed catalog and telling the computer what you want. We adopted this method because it is much faster than scrolling through problems on the screen. It also makes locating specific kinds of problems very simple, because the catalogs are divided into sections (or topics) with dozens of related problems on each page. The process is actually similar to flipping through a teacher's edition of a textbook. But the software has a tremendous advantage: it puts the equivalent of dozens of textbooks and your entire filing cabinet on the computer. Plus, it handles all of the cutting and pasting, so problem sets and exams are just a few keystrokes away.
- All of the material in Acces' database is authored by real people, then stored on the computer. The software does not "generate" items as do some other testing programs. This means you get lots of interesting and subtle variations of problems, rather than endless repeats. Put differently, there is no trade-off between quality and quantity; Acces not only gives you a huge number of problems, it provides an excellent balance between introductory and advanced topics, or between basic and higher-order thinking skills. (Another advantage of a real database system, as opposed to a "test generator," is in the archiving of existing material. The module containing New York Regents Exam questions or any of the math contest databases are good examples of this archival capability.)
- Acces never tries to outguess you. You select the items you want from the database in the order you want them. Since the questions are not generated on the fly, there are no surprises. Even the answers are shown in the printed catalog, so you know exactly what you are getting. But don't get us wrong, there are lots of ways to automate the selection process, if you wish. Acces can be told to pick problems at random, scramble their order, or produce an alternate version of a test or a quiz. The important point is that Acces follows your instructions: it is designed to make a teacher's job easier; it does not pretend to do the job better.
- Acces' database can be used to store just about any kind of problem: multiple-choice, free-response, fill-in-the-blank, true-false, column-match, etc. The program can even handle some very unusual question types, such as quantitative-comparisons found on the SAT I or grid-in answers found on many modern assessments. The kind of material you write and store on the computer is entirely your decision. EducAide's database modules tend to include either multiple-choice or free-response questions, but also have excellent open-ended questions. By the way, one of the options in the software is to hide the answers, so that a multiple-choice question can do "double duty" as a free-response question, or even be used with an answer grid.
- All database modules come complete with clipart (pictures), tables, charts, and any auxiliary files, such as reading passages, that are necessary to make use of the items. You simply install a module into Acces and the items are ready to go. As a side benefit, you can also make use of the included clipart in any new problems that you write, or you can "extract" an existing problem and make any changes to it that you like. This makes the material in the database go even further.
Desktop publishing capabilities
In addition to managing database modules (or banks of questions), Acces is a very powerful authoring and publishing tool. If you like to create your own problem sets and exams on the computer, then Acces can serve as a complete replacement for your word-processor or desktop publisher. In other words, you can do all of your writing inside the program, or do a combination of writing, selecting problems from the database, and modifying existing problems.
As mentioned earlier, Acces is especially suitable for mathematical and scientific material, because it can create virtually every mathematical notation that you can think of. In some ways, Acces works like an equation editor, but it goes one step further: math is totally integrated with text, so problems are fast to write and easy to modify later.
We have commented several times on Acces' documents. So as not to sound immodest, we should explain that Acces is built around a very powerful typesetting system called TeX (pronounced tech). The system is widely known in academic and publishing circles for producing beautiful documents. The system has particular advantages for Acces, because it is programmable. This has allowed us to create numerous document types or "templates" and to support page layouts that are too difficult even to consider doing with a word-processor—say, a two-column document with varying amounts of "workspace" and a rectangular answer box next to each problem.
Currently, Acces supports six document types. These are: Test/worksheet, Standardized test, Overheads, Flash cards, Weekly calendar, and Monthly calendar. There are numerous options for each document type, and you have essentially complete control over font size, page headers, margins, spacing, numbering, and many other fine-tuning features. You will likely find many creative uses for each document type. For example, with the overhead and flash card options, you can produce game cards, bookmarks, bulletin board items, and other classroom materials. The calendar templates are just as interesting; you can use them to create assignment schedules or to provide students with daily warm-up exercises. To switch from one document type to another, you simply indicate your preference to Acces.
There are two other advantages to using Acces as a production tool. First, it provides exactly the same options for the problems you write as it does for the problems you select from a database. Second, the process of writing or selecting problems is almost completely independent of page layout decisions. This means you can do things in almost any order: select some problems, see how they look on a certain type of document, make some changes, try a different type of document, and so on. Acces handles all the finer details of production and, as you will quickly discover, it is extremely good at what it does.
Finally, the reason Acces is so flexible is that it does something called dynamic formatting. Problems are not formatted when they are written or stored on the computer, but rather when they are made part of an actual document. This approach is considered state-of-the-art in electronic publishing, and it has much in common with HTML, the language of the World Wide Web. From the standpoint of database development, there are many advantages, including more efficient problem writing, where the focus is on content, not layout. Even if you are most interested in using existing problems from a database, and not writing your own, you still benefit from some amazing formatting capabilities.
What teachers like most about Acces
There is no question that Acces saves time, reduces the drudgery of certain tasks, and makes teachers' jobs more enjoyable. The time-savings alone is significant; Acces users tell us they are able to spend much more "quality time" with students, helping with their lessons and evaluating their work. But that is not actually what impresses teachers the most...
- Acces is exceptionally easy to use. You can produce professional-looking documents in just a few minutes, regardless of your level of experience. In fact, Acces is a great way to get "non-computer" persons to start using technology.
- Acces is highly adaptable. You do not have to make any compromises in the way you do things.
- Acces' database modules are excellent sources of material. There are lots of interesting problems from which to choose and most topics in the curriculum are well covered.
- Acces makes testing much simpler and more secure. You can easily produce multiple versions of a test or quiz, and offer make-up tests without the usual hassles.
- Acces is really liked by students. No kidding! Many students are relieved not to be given handwritten problem sets (or word processing documents with missing symbols). But they are most happy to see materials targeted to their own needs. Plus, they feel better prepared for tests when they can get plenty of extra practice or review problems.
Pricing & LicensingPrice of new school site license (engine only):
Acces and its various database modules are designed for use by elementary and secondary schools or college departments. Therefore, all of the list prices on our Web site include a Site License.
Briefly, the Site License allows you to install Acces on any computer at your school (or department office) or at a teacher's home. Database modules are licensed in the same way, but there is an important rule governing the use of their items: you may reprint the items freely and as often as you like, but you may distribute them only to students and other teachers at your site.
We have prepared a sample site license agreement for your review. Please note that this is only a copy of the Acces Site License Agreement that has been shipped with orders prior to March 2003. Since the Acces Site License Agreement is subject to change, the copy posted on this web site is for review only. All use of the software is governed by the license that is included in each shipment of Acces.