A new HP Classmate is coming, and it has the power to change the classroom dynamic. Built around Intel’s Bay Trail Celeron N2000, the Classmate will take advantage of Windows 8.1 and include Intel’s Education Suite of software. The system will have a 10-inch screen, a Web cam and be rugged enough for kids and teachers to take on field trips. It will be available in the spring.
Forget about Louis Pasteur and Enrico Fermi because women have had a huge role to play in the evolution of science. From Shirley Ann Jackson and Heidi Hammel to Inez Fung and Mimi Koehl, these pioneering females have made their impact on our daily lives and now National Academies Press has a ten-book set of stories about them. Each book costs about $10, the set of 10 goes for $89.50 and there are free sample chapters to read online.
Aspex’s AppliTracks goal of doing away with paper from hiring and maintaining employees got a step closer to reality with the platform’s new mobile interface. In addition to three dashboards, which show the most important information for open jobs, employees and applicants. The software works with all platforms and shows real-time data as well as the ability to link to other programs. It’s available and free for current users.
Acer’s Aspire R7-572 just might offer the most configuration for the dollar and pound when it comes to a slim notebook. At $899, and available only at Best Buy stores, it has everything you’d want in a classroom computer with a 15.6-inch HD touchscreen that works just as well with fingers as with N-Trig’s optional $49 DuoSense active stylus. The display is enhanced by Acer’s Touch Tool apps, which include programs to arrange images and accurately grab tiny items on screen, regardless of how pudgy your fingers are.
The 5.3-pound system is powered by a fourth-generation Intel Core i5 processor and has 8GB of RAM as well as a mammoth 1TB hard drive. But the best part about the R7 is that while it looks like the typical notebook when closed, it has Acer’s Ezel-Hinge inside. Open the system and the screen can be elevated and angled to a comfortable viewing position or folded flat over the keyboard, creating a tablet.
The days of compromising between speed and range with a WiFi router are now over. Netgear’s Nighthawk AC 1900 Smart WiFi Router is one of the first 802.11ac devices on the market and it lives up to the hype for the latest WiFi protocol.
While the ac protocol hasn’t been formally approved by the I.E.E.E., the devices are starting to be sold and used. If the final spec changes, the Nighthawk router can be updated with new software.
Black and wedge-shaped, Nighthawk looks more like an alien space ship than a piece of Internet communications equipment. Inside, it has a Broadcom WiFi chip, 1GHz dual-core processor as well as 128MB of flash storage and 256MB of RAM.
There are LEDs for everything from power and Internet activity to which ports are being used, making it look like a Christmas tree when it’s turned on. The router comes with three screw-on wing-like antennas and the system includes a small plug-in AC adapter. It has mounting holes on the bottom for hanging it on a wall, but be warned the antennas can make the router look like a coat rack.
In addition to an on/off switch and a recessed reset button, the Nighthawk’s back has LAN outlets for connecting it to the school’s broadband source as well as four gigabit Ethernet ports. It has USB 2.0 and 3.0 ports that can be used with an external hard drive or printer and you can even make the material on a drive publicly available through online downloads.
Setting up the router is simple and can be done via Netgear’s Genie app, which holds the installer’s hand and automates many of the steps. It can also be configured manually with the ability to customize a multitude of details, from packet size and the ability to block access to the Internet to setting up a guest network that allows Web access but restricts access to the network.
You can use the included Ethernet cable or a WiFi connection to get started. Unlike most new networking gear, the Nighthawk comes with a customized password and encryption turned on to prevent hackers from invading the system while it’s being configured. A thoughtful sticker on the bottom shows the router’s default connection details.
Changing the settings to match the school’s network takes a few minutes. Unlike most LAN equipment, the software for the Nighthawk is beautiful and functional. On the main menu there are six prominent boxes that make a great way to see what’s happening inside the device at a glance. It shows if the router is connected and the number of clients it is supporting while the WiFi details scroll by. It also displays whether content controls are in place, if anything is plugged into the router and if the guest network is turned on.
There are screens for setting up the wireless details and security. The Nighthawk router has two radios that work with the 2.4- and 5GHz bands that 802.11ac uses. The system can work with WPA-PSK, WPA2-PSK, WPA-AES and WPA/WPA2 Enterprise encryption settings so it can match the other WiFi equipment in your facility and be seamlessly integrated.
It has SPI and NAT firewalls and can help protect a school’s infrastructure from a denial of service attack, but lacks the ability to tap into an LDAP server for authenticating clients. With a few changes, the router can be converted for use as an access point.
The system has the latest beam-forming technology that customizes the Nighthawk’s transmissions to best suit the receiver, regardless of whether it’s an 8-year old desktop using 802.11b or the latest 802.11ac notebook and worked well with a variety of systems. Better yet, slower clients won’t hold faster ones back because each link is optimized to get the most out of the connection.
Able to work with IP versions 4 and 6, the router has an integrated FTP server so that large files can be distributed without the overhead of a Web page. It comes with software for automating the backing up of Windows or Apple computers on a connected hard drive. In fact, this is a great way to create a LAN-based storage system on the cheap. It is also one of the rare routers that includes Quality of Service software built-in so that interactive lessons and video can always travel in the fast lane.
Capable of nearly 2Gbps of throughput, in a typical school setting, the router can support dozens of connections at once and can use DHCP auto-IP addressing for clients or static addresses. The Nighthawk router had a range of 135 feet in a hundred-year old building of mixed masonry and plaster construction, making it one of the strongest routers on the market. At 10-feet from the router, it was able to move 838Mbps of data back and forth, making it one of the highest performing routers available.
That should be plenty to have one router shared by two adjacent classrooms or to cover an auditorium or a lab, allowing a school to get by with fewer devices yet still blanket it with top-speed WiFi.
+ Excellent range and throughput
+ USB ports for hard drive or printer
+ Quality of service
+ 802.11ac dual-band design
+ FTP server
+ Back-up features
- Three antennas
- No LDAP authentication
While Google’s Chromebooks have been an inexpensive way to fill a school with notebooks, one thing has been missing: touch. The latest Acer C720P Chromebook makes up for that in spades with an up to date teaching tool that’s just as good for finger painting as it is for sketching a map or underlining text in an essay. The C720P is built around a 11.6-inch screen that can show 1,366 by 768 images and respond to ten individual touch inputs. It’s powered by an Intel Celeron 2955U processor and comes with 2GB of RAM, 32GB of storage capacity on the system as well as 100GB of online space on GoogleDrive. It comes with USB ports and can connect to the school’s LAN via 802.11n WiFi. The school-ready Chromebook costs $300 with touch or $200 without.
The latest software from TabPilot Learning Systems is its third-generation flagship classroom monitoring app. TabPilot 3.0 links with the company’s online Control Tower service to allow a teacher to remotely watch and control what every student in the class is doing with their tablet. In addition to showing one screen to the whole class or freezing the entire class’s displays, the software can save what’s on any screen – like a math problem being solved – along with a time stamp. It works with most Android slates, including Nook tablets.
With teachers and students using phones, tablets and traditional computers to teach and learn, one of the hardest things to come to grips with at school is which software works with which platform. No more, because Smart Technologies’ amp software will cut through the software clutter by working on anything with a Web browser and will have content delivered by Google’s Cloud service.
iPads are great learning tools, but their speakers are sadly not up to the task of filling a classroom with audio. Califone’s PA-MBiOS iPad & iPhone Docking Station not only cradles the pad and firmly holds it stable, but has a pair of 2.5-watt speakers that sound great. It works with a variety of iPads, iPhones and iPod models and has a 3.5-millimeter audio input jack that allows it to amplify Android tablets as well. You will need to get an adapter to use one of the newer pads with the Lightning connector. The cradle costs $158 and includes a 1-year warranty.