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Freebee Friday: Cut Away

XCarve_Large_angle__0011_logoWhile all the STEM attention has been on the power of 3-D design and printing, there’s an equally valid 21-st century technology that can get kids interested in technical subjects. It’s the X-Carve automated carving machine, which combines a power cutting head with the company’s free Easel software to make surprisingly intricate carved objects. The device has a 12- by 12-inch bed for holding material and can work with a variety of materials. Inventables is giving away an X-Carve set to a deserving school in each state.

Freebee Friday: The Digital Classroom for Free

Aerohive dashboardAerohive’s HiveSchool has the power to change the classroom dynamic by connecting every digital device for free, allowing students and teachers to present, collaborate and – above all -- learn. It works with the company’s TeacherView and StudentManager apps and uses WiFi to connect computers, although you don’t need an Aerohive-based network. It allows teachers to not only select which students screen is shown to the class, but with Chromebooks, the teacher can remotely control Web browsing. Best of all, during March it’s a freebee


Chromebook Built to Last

HP Chromebook 11 G4 EE_electric green_sideThe latest Chromebook, HP’s $200 Chromebook II G4 Education Edition, may be a mouthful, but it has been upgraded in all the right places for schools. To start, the system is rugged and sturdy enough to stand up to daily abuse at schools with molded edging and a spill-resistant keyboard. Then, it has been test-dropped from 27-inches, about desk height. While it weighs 2.7-pounds, the CB 11 EE has an 11.6-inch screen that folds flat on a table, Celeron processor and can go for a full day at school on a charge. For those seeking anything but a gray or black system, the CB 11 EE can be ordered in bright green.

Stand by Me

Composite stands - CopyDue to their small size and low prices, Android, iPad and Windows tablets may have successfully invaded the classroom, but what do you do when you need to use your fingers? That’s where a good stand comes in. The best let you adjust the screen angle while freeing your hands to do other things, like manipulate a STEM experiment or scribble notes on a card.

Flote close upPossibly the most over-engineered stand of all is Flote, which lets you put a pad anywhere while keeping most of the desktop free for other items. That’s because the slate holder is cantilevered so that its weighted base can be over on the side or even on the floor. It can accommodate just about any pad and has fingers that securely the slate in place. The arms can be extended, you the stand can set the screen at any angle and at any time you can pull it free of its magnetic holder. It’s a beautiful piece of sculpture that works well, but costs from $130 (desktop Orbit) to $300 (M2 floor model).

SuperstumpMeanwhile, SuperStump is all foam and works just as well on a lap as on a tablet top. Able to hold anything up to an iPad Pro at three different angles, the stand is available in black, red or light green. It weighs less than a pound and costs $40.

Elago P3Made of aluminum, Elago’s P3 stand matches the finish of any recent iPad, yet can secure and hold it at a variety of angles. Everything is accessible and the stand has a place to thread cables through for a tidier desktop look. It works with everything from an iPad to a Samsung slate, has soft silicone feet and can be used with a cover still on the tablet. You can get it in black ($24) or silver ($30) on Amazon.

36_Product_wave-stand-02 - CopyBetter known for its computer cases and cooling gear, Cooler Master has one of the best stands around. The Wave curved stand is made of aluminum with soft rubber inserts that let you set a slate at a variety of angles, leaving your hands free for other work. All the ports are out in the open and there’s room for the power cord when the slate is in portrait orientation. The $35 stand can be folded up when not in use.

KantekThink small and the school can save even more because the smallest tablets are generally the cheapest. Kantek has a great Tablet Stand for those that are 10-inches and smaller. It doesn’t dominate the desk, yet keeps your hands free to do other things. The stand firmly holds the slate firmly and lets you swivel it between portrait and landscape modes. It works with iPads as well as a variety of tablets and e-readers and lists for $60, but if you shop around, you can get it for a lot less.

Satechi r1Made of aluminum, Satechi’s $50 R1 can also hold any 7- to-10-inch tablet securely and allow the user to adjust the display’s angle for the best view. Whether it’s an Android or iPad, the slate is held by a pair of rubber-coated supports at the bottom, which work just as well for portrait or landscape orientation. When you don’t need it, the R1 folds flat and includes a pouch for storage.

Inland 304Inland’s PAD304 stand can do double-duty on a desk or mounted on a wall or under a cabinet. The tablet can be rotated 360-degrees and the stand’s articulated arm has torsion adjustments that allow it to be used with anything from a 7- to 11-inch screen at just about any angle. In addition to the weighted desktop base, the stand includes a wall mount with a set of screws. It’s the bargain of the bunch at $20.


Wall or Table Screen, Your Choice

Pretop displayWe all know that interactive displays can outperform projectors and that table PCs are the coming thing for collaboration among teachers and students, but who has the money for both? PresTop’s PT-GT-955-PCAP-Smart-II can do both. It’s a vertical display that kids can walk up to the 55-inch display and work the screen, but if you press a button it can be converted into a horizontal table PC. Based on software from Omnivision’s Omnitapps software, it can work with a group of kids and you can not only adjust the screen height but tilt it to the angle that works best for its task.

Making Math More Fun

SkymathSkyMath is a new iPad platform (sorry, Android schools), that puts the fun into math with a series of interactive educational games aimed at getting kids excited about numbers, math operations and thinking through problems. The service starts with a diagnostic assessment and then the student picks an animal avatar to navigate through SkyMath. Meanwhile, the service picks from among thousands of apps and videos that are available online to curate the best progression for each student. The service is an ad-free zone and students can earn prizes along the way towards mastering their skills.


Freebee Friday: Selfie Assignments

Recap_scrolling_dashboard-300x281If a thoughtful, poised answer counts for as much as elegant writing, then Swivl’s ReCap should catch on quickly. The app works directly in iOS systems and there’s a browser based version for PCs, Chrome and Android machines. It lets a teacher ask a typed, audio or video question of the class that then gets recorded replies and answers sent back to the teacher for analysis and grading. A daily review reel consolidates all the answers to the question as soon as three have been received, making viewing a snap. It’s a beta at the moment but the company will smooth off some of its rough edges over the coming months, but they plan for it to always be free.

Freebee Friday: Open Ed Opens Up

Open ed logoOpen Ed’s already inclusive view of what teachers can use in classrooms has just gotten much wider. The software now offers a single log-in for a variety of free curriculum and classroom content by integrating with Edmodo, Canvas, Otus Plus, Schoology and Moodle. Expect more in the coming months.

Print More for Less

Lexmark CX820de FRONTConsolidating a slew of school printers into floor- or school-wide units can not only deliver better documents but they can be a lot cheaper to use. Take Lexmark’s CX800 family of multi-function printers They range from the $2,500 CX820 to the flagship $9,000 CX860. The CX860 can be ordered with up to four paper trays – including a massive 2,200-page module – and pumps out up to 60 pages per minute. The color laser printer can easily handle volumes of between 5,000 and 50,000 pages per month and its toner that comes in large cartridges that are good for as many as 55,000 pages. Unlike many in its class, the CX860 has a finisher for punching holes (for a loose-leaf notebook) or stapling a group of pages into a brochure; all you’ll need to do is fold them.

Lexmark screenThe system has a quad-core 1.6GHz processor and a 10-inch touch screen, which uses Android software. All the icons are replicated on the Administrator’s remote console so it’s easy to use and maintain. The best part is that it uses Lexmark’s Testing & Grading software to turn printed bubble test pages into grades in the right places.

The Great Wall of Learning

ActivWall_Classroom_KIDS_1The latest from this year’s TCEA show is Promethean’s huge ActivWall interactive projection system. As if the 8.5-foot version of Promethean’s ActiveWall projection system wasn’t big enough, the company now has an 11.25-foot version on the way. The system provides 128.7- by 50.7-inches of ultra-wide space to work with, is responsive to four pens at once and responds to as many as 20 individual touch points. This makes it just as good for kids working on a group map project as for a teacher going through the steps for solving a quadratic equation.

The ActivWall spec sheet reads like a wish list for classroom technology with a projector that puts out 1,920 by 720 resolution, although at more than 10-feet wide, the interactive screen will stress the size of many classrooms. It has a pair of 18-watt speakers and uses the company’s LaserView technology to replace lamps with a solid state illumination source. ActivWall-Promo-ImageThe projector delivers up to 3,000 lumens and has a rated lifetime of 20,000 hours, so there’s no lamp to change – ever. It has a Web browser and can save all notations at the end of the lesson.

The big step forward is its ability to link with any computer in the classroom over a wireless connection. It works with iPads, Androids, Macs and PCs so that any child or teacher can project what’s on their screen. It should be available later this and comes with a three-year warranty.




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