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Screen (Little) to Screen (Big)

Mirastick cEver want to put what’s on your phone, tablet or notebook onto a classroom’s big monitor, TV or projector screen? Favi’s 3-ounce Mirastick can do it with a minimum of hassle, stress and wires. The $35 wireless adapter plugs into the HDMI port of a display and can stream audio and video across a classroom, You’ll need to use Favi’s app for iOS, Mac, PC or Android tablet, but it takes just a minute or two of setup time. After that, everything from the small screen is streamed to the big one.

Seeing is Believing

Lifesize nasaRegardless of whether it’s for connecting a classroom with a sick child, to talk to a parent remotely or to watch a virtual field trip, video conferencing is taking hold in most schools. Lifesize lets you do it without any extra hardware because all you need is a PC, Mac, iPad or Android device and a good Internet connection. The system lets you log-on, talk and see other participants in high definition video without expensive hardware or busting the budget. The company’s package of 25 licenses can be extended to 625 actual users, more than enough for the typical elementary or middle school. At $7,500, it adds up to about a dollar a month per user. You can set up a remote demo of the system or try it out for two-weeks for free.


And the Winners are …

5D3_0463Thousands of students from more than 90 countries entered the Google Science Fair, but the winners’ project isn’t just astoundingly creative, but can help make our planet a better place to live. The three grand prize winners discovered a naturally-occurring bacteria that can speed plant germination by 50 percent. Ciara Judge, Émer Hickey and Sophie Healy-Thow are each 16-years old and will not only get those cool trophies but a trip to the Galapagos Islands and a $50,000 scholarship.

Meanwhile, Mihir Garimella built a flying robot that mimicked how fruit flies evade threats and Hayley Todesco figured out a way to remove pollutants and toxins from mine tailing ponds. Finally, Kenneth Shinozuka won the Scientific American Science in Action award for is wearable sensors project that let him remotely keep tabs on his elderly grandfather and Arsh Dilbagi won for his Talk project that lets people with speech impairments communicate by exhaling. Congratulations, all.


Freebee Friday: Common Core Quizzes

Common core open ed aNeed some help drilling kids in Common Core math and language arts subjects? OpenEd’s free Common Core Quest app can help them show what they know and – more importantly – what they don’t. Available for iPhones, iPads and Android phones and tablets, Common Core Quest lets kids accumulate badges and ribbons for mastering each category.


Play to Learn

45120_350x350_1_xx-xxIt’s no secret that using Lego bricks can help develop physical, social and mental skills, but the LearntoLearn kit’s activities can push critical thinking and problem solving in science, language, math and social studies. Aimed at grades one through four, the $100 LearntoLearn package has enough bricks for 28 students to use. 


Candidate Helper

Teachermatch aIf you ask any principal, the hardest part of the job, the reply you’ll likely get is to keep the school staffed with qualified, curious and inventive teachers. TeacherMatch’ Professional Development Profile can help with an up to date appraisal of a candidate’s or an existing teacher’s strengths and weaknesses. It can even set up a professional development plan to address any major instructional shortcomings.


USB for the Power Mad

USB powerSure, anybody can charge a phone or tablet using a USB power adapter, but what about plugging the device directly into a wall outlet? That’s where a USB wall outlet comes in. You can charge a phone or tablet directly without a separate adapter and save on space and clutter. Here’re five ways to power up a room full of tablets.

  Power2uNewer Technology’s Power2U is a direct replacement for the typical AC outlet, but it adds a pair of USB power plugs alongside the traditional 115-volt outlets. You’ll need an electrician install it, it’s available in three colors and you can get it in 15- or 20-amp versions. The USB outlets supply 5.2-volts at up to 2.5 amps for each plug. Unlike the others, it comes with a face plate that has slide-open doors, which cover the USB plugs and turn off the power when they’re closed. It costs about $23.

IbcGetAttachmentCan you do without the AC outlets? Leviton Decora USB4P outlet replaces the 110-volt plugs with four USB ports. Capable of delivering up to 4.2-amps of current at 5-volts, it has a microprocessor to balance its load to that it can charge four high-current tablets at once; any single device can draw up to 2.1-amps. You’ll need to have an electrician install it and the Decora outlet set comes in white, ivory, light almond, gray and black for $40.

Rca WP2UWR_1If you don’t mind giving up one AC outlet, RCA’s Wall Plate Charger can do the trick for charging. It plugs right into the wall, so you don’t need an electrician. It sticks out slightly and yields a pair of 2.1-amp USB charging ports as well as a regular old 110-volt AC outlet. It sells for $15 and the company also makes one that has four USB charging slots.

Rnd 31SYNpGpj-LRND’s $20 3.4-amp Fast Charging Station takes this idea a step farther and is perfect for rooms with lots of tablets. It plugs right into a wall outlet and is bigger than the other two, but combines three 110-volt AC outlets with a pair of USB charging ports. The bonus is that, unlike the other two, the 3.4-amp Fast Charging station has a 540 Joule surge suppressor to protect delicate equipment from dangerous voltage spikes.

  51uwQbaA5YL._SL1500_By far, the easiest to install and use of the five is the Pro 4USB Port AC Wall Charger. It plugs right into a wall outlet, has four 5-volt USB power ports with blue LEDs to show they’re working and won’t hog both outlets. In fact, a traditional double AC outlet can accommodate two of the 4USB chargers for 8 USB outlets. On the downside, while a single device can take up to 2.1-amps of its output, with two devices the current draw drops to 1.05 amps each. With four items connected, they can only take 0.5-amps each, which can slow charging. It’s available at Amazon.com for $11, making it the bargain of the group.






The Business of Educational Notebooks

Tecra c50If you think that you can’t afford the security, ruggedness and warranty of a business-ready notebook, you haven’t seen Toshiba’s Tecra C50 notebook. Rather than bulking up a consumer system, the C50 is a pure commercial system that has a 15.6-inch display, a Core i3 processor, 500GB hard drive and 4GB of RAM for $579; a Core i5 version costs $699. The system weighs 5-pounds, is an inch thick and comes with either Windows 7 or 8.1.

Hands-Free Pad

IMG_3147Whether it’s for displaying sheet music or just to read with your hands free to take notes, the AirTurn Manos Universal Tablet Mount is a great way to suspend a slate. The $49 hardware works with everything from an iPad and Surface slate to a Samsung, Sony or LG tablet. In fact, the AirTurn will work with just about any tablet that has a 13-inch or smaller screen, even if it is in a case. Its spring-loaded fingers securely grab the sides of the tablet to allow the pad to rotate 360-degrees and be tilted to a comfortable position.


Making Printing More Secure

M630The next time someone says that printers don’t need to be as secure as computers, ask them if they ever saw a confidential document (like a student’s progress report or even a class list with social security numbers) sitting in a printer’s output tray waiting for who-knows-who to read or take. At that point, they’re likely to get the importance of ensuring that every printer needs to be secure. A case in point is HP’s workgroup-oriented LaserJet Enterprise Flow MFP M630 department-class printer. It can be shared by around 10 or 15 classes and can not only pump out up to 60-pages-per-minute, has a 100-page document feeder and can handle up to about 28,000 pages per month.

The key is that it has 200 security settings intended to keep data and information where it belongs. From requiring pull printing and signed firmware updates to its encrypted hard drive you can easily lock out its USB port. In addition to a built-in Trusted Platform Module (TPM), the M630 has an 8-inch touch-screen and pull-out keyboard that can be used to update settings or enter a password.



Disclaimer: The opinions expressed in Tech Tools are strictly those of the author and do not reflect the opinions or endorsement of Scholastic, Inc.