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Connecting the School

DAP-2660_A1_Image-L(Side)The latest in school networking is D-Link’s DAP 2660, a WiFi access point that can not only use the latest 802.11ac format for top bandwidth, but blends in with the background, looking more likea  fire alarm. The $230 device works in both the 2.4- and 5GHz bands, can be wall mounted and powered by either an AC adapter or its Ethernet cable. There aren’t any protruding antennas to get in the way and it’s covered by a lifetime warranty.

 

Freebee Friday: OSX +

Osx yosemiteIf your school has a lot of Macs, you’re going to want to download and try out the new software, OSX Yosemite. It’s a step up and includes some interesting updates, like the redesigned Safari browser and the ability to move schoolwork among a Mac, iPhone and iPad. The beta software is free for you to try. All you need is a system running Mavericks (it’s also a freebee) and an Apple ID to grab the software and give it a test drive.

 

Freebee Friday: Test, Test, Test

Edulastic bWith probably the most test-heavy school year about to start, what’s a poor teacher to do? Snapwiz’s Edulastic has a new tool to create, administer and grade digital tests, and it’s all free. The tests are given in a secure browser widow, so all members of a class don’t need to all have the same hardware and software. Teachers can get instant feedback on their student’s work.

Powering Up the Classroom

Banner-juice-powerConnecting and powering up computers will get a lot easier with Bretford’s Juice system that allows schools to incorporate AC outlets or USB plugs and network connections into many of their tables. The power module has flip up outlets that fold away when not needed and up to eight tablets can be daisy chained with an innovative cable that has a magnetic connector.

Chrome with Oomph

6a00e54faaf86b883301a3fcd9717d970bIf your school’s Chromebooks have had trouble keeping up with tough tasks, Acer’s latest C720 model has a fourth generation Core i3 processor that’s at least 50 percent more powerful than the Atoms, Celerons and Pentiums that power Chromebooks. The system uses a 40005U model that runs at 1.7GHz and you can order it with 2- or 4GB of RAM and 32GB of solid state storage for $350 or $380. The system still has a 1,366 by 768 11.6-inch screen, WiFi, Bluetooth and a good assortment of ports.

Tidying Up those Tablets

Gc35538_powerdock5_1The biggest downside of the digital classroom is all the portable gear that now inhabits schools, from notebooks and phones to tablets and speakers. If only there was an inexpensive way to organize and store the gear while it’s charging. Enter, Griffin’s PowerDock 5 Charging Station + Storage, which at $99, can end slate chaos, at least as far as warehousing goes.

The design is ingeniously clever. Inside the 5.1- by 8.3-inch stand is a 50-watt power supply that sends out five streams of 5-volts of electricity to power and charge all sorts of devices; each device can grab up to 2.1-amps while connected. On the side are five USB outlets, which line up with the storage rack’s opaque plastic dividers that hold the devices.

The Charging Station does the rest, doling out power to each and every system. It works with tablets, phones and even portable hot spots. In fact, it can power just about anything that uses a USB-power plug.

Gc35538_powerdock5_3All you need to do is put the devices in between the dividers and plug their power cords into the USB outlet on the side; it can’t power devices that don’t use USB power. The computer rack can comfortably accommodate a variety of slates in their cases, from both iPad models, and just about any Android tablet up to those with a 10.1-inch screen. Beyond that, the charging rack gets unwieldy.

The result is that rather than having a warren of power strips and extension cords, each Charging Station can neatly store and consolidate the electrical cables for five systems into one power cord. Happily, it uses a two-prong plug, so the system works easily in older schools with antiquated wiring.

Over the source of several weeks, the Charging Station worked well, powering a variety of gear and never got more than warm to the touch, even when it was charging two iPads, an Android tablet, a Windows tablet and a Samsung hot spot. It can work with devices up to about an inch thick and everything fits in neatly.

The best part is that the Charging Station can put an end to leaving the classroom at night with stacks of tablets charging with individual power adapters. While the typical classroom will need five or six Charging Stations for a one-to-one arrangement or two or three if the devices are to be shared, they don’t take up a lot of precious shelf or table space and have soft rubber feet so they won’t scratch a countertop.

Gc35538_powerdock5_8If the gear travels to the kids, the Charging Station stand can be used on a cart. When it’s time to start digital school work, it’s easier and safer for students to grab a system from the rack rather than from a pile of slates or a shelf.

Because of the variety of items it works with, the unit doesn’t come with the charging cables you’ll need, but you likely to already have them. The problem, and it’s a small one for schools, is that with the tablets and the power outlets next to each other, you really don’t need cables that are 3- to 6-feet long. My advice is to either buy some shorty cables or get Velcro tie-wraps.

In fact, its only shortcoming is that you can’t stack the Charging Station units to make best use of a classroom’s limited space. Griffin and others, make cube-shaped storage systems that can be stacked, but they cost a lot more than the Charging Station’s $99, which is one of the best classroom bargains available today.

 A+

Gc35538_powerdock5_7

Griffin Technology PowerDock 5 Charging Station + Storage

$99

+ Neat, efficient storage for five tablets

+ Full USB charging

+ Works with iPads and other tablets

+ One power cord for up to five tablets

+ Inexpensive

 

- Can’t stack units

Energy Saver

Action.ves-bta.ves-vl.anm-bta.labq.lp.kw-awxc._environmental-science._renewable-energy._high-school.001.590.332It is the rare school that properly teaches about electricity, renewable energy and climate change, but Vernier has a new device and curriculum to cover this important area. The company’s $69 Energy Sensor and $48 Renewable Energy lab can help kids get a grasp on where electricity comes from, how it gets to our AC outlets and how to use less of it. The kit contains 26 experiments that use the gear to measure voltage, current, power, and energy produced from wind turbines and solar panels.  

 

Enter the Z Dimension

ZView capture of LASD boyIf STEM education seems, well, a little flat, zSpace has the answer: a 3-D education zone that puts the emphasis on science and technology. The system consists of a 24-inch monitor that requires a pair of polarizing 3-D glasses to get the 3-D effect. Not only do items appear to come out of the screen, but you can control and rotate them with the included electronic pen. The company’s STEM Lab is just as good for simulating the dissection of a frog as it is for showing Newton’s laws of motion or designing electric circuits. The system requires a high-end PC and costs about $60,000 for 12 screens and computers.

The System Mover

Carrier30_01Getting a class’s tablets from A to B isn’t as easy as it seems, but lockncharge’s Carrier system can help. The big part is a lockable cart that can store and charge up to 30 mobile systems at once, from Chromebooks and small notebooks to Android and iPad slates. The small, but deceptively useful, part is a small plastic basket. It can hold five systems at a time. Just grab it and pass the systems out. The equipment should be out in the fall.

 

Bullet-Proof Screen

Image001Made of ceramic coated steel, Polyvision’s latest interactive screen will likely last longer than the projector you use with it and maybe even longer than the teacher. Called e3CeramicSteel, the screen can be used with markers or a proejctor and is resistant to bacteria and fire. It's as good for marking up sentences as it is marking up a projected map.

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