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Freebee Friday: The Big Test

Civics testForget about state-wide social studies tests or college entrance exams, a good measure of a middle- or high-school class’s knowledge of our nation's history and government is to take the citizenship test. There are 100 practice questions available, but to become a citizen, you need to get a 60% score on a random mix of ten. Not sure about your answer? Don't worry about deportation. Regardless of whether you get a question right or wrong, you’ll see insightful explanations that can turn the test into a teaching moment. 

 

Getting Your School’s Mojo On

MojoWith more than 50-million students, teachers and staff using Google for Education apps a day, it’s time for the program to widen its horizons and that’s what Mojo Networks is working on. Due out by the end of the year, the company’s secure WiFi management scheme will integrate with Google education apps and will be able to control much of what goes on at school. For instance, Mojo Enforce will not only restrict access to the school’s LAN but will add an extra authentication layer than WiFi access points can do on their own. This can deter hackers without the need for an on-site security appliance. Expect more and deeper integration as time goes on.

 

Tutors On Call

EverlyNeed to suggest a math or English tutor for a struggling student? Everly has a group of qualified teachers on call who can help kids get it right the first time. When you sign up, you can choose tutors based on their background, education and experience and book a tutoring session at your choice of location. The first hour is free, but Everly scheduling is available only via a Web browser; the company is working on mobile apps.

Android on a Chromebook

Chromebook androidSince their separate inceptions, there’s been a barrier between Google’s Chrome and Android products that divided two very similar products. The latest Chromebooks software erases that line, opening new vistas for teachers, students and schools.

At the moment the software is limited to a handful of Chromebooks, including the Asus Chromebook Flip C100, Acer Chromebook R11 and Google’s second-generation Chromebook Pixel. Later this year, there’ll be an update that will widen the circle to include several dozen models from Acer to Toshiba.

Android chrome with elipseIt took me less than five minutes to convert an Asus Flip Chromebook to run just about any Android app out there. Be warned: the software is still under development and might have a few quirks. For me, it was rock solid and made my Flip Chromebook much more powerful.

Here’s how to do it. Start by going to the Chromebook’s Settings page and scroll down to the Android Apps section just before the bottom. Click the box that says “Enable Android Apps” and your system will automatically download the needed software. After a restart, my Chromebook was transformed into combo Chrome-Android machine, capable of running most apps out there.

Word  install chromebookIn fact, the updated Flip now has a prominent PlayStore icon at the bottom of the screen. Click to select from the more than 2 million Android apps – many not available to Chromebook users – on offer. The big payoff is that you no longer need to use separate devices for Android and Chrome-based software and you can mix and match apps.

I set up my Flip C100 with the 123s and ABCs, Complete Chemistry, DuoLingo and Math Tricks. If that wasn’t enough, the system can now run the Android-based free versions of Word, Excel and PowerPoint, making them even more powerful in the classroom setting. All of the apps worked fine and the action of the Flip’s touchscreen made it feel like I was using an Android tablet with a keyboard.

Overall, the software works remarkably well with few glitches and essentially opens Chromebooks up to a whole new world of apps. It also marks the removal of one of the last artificial barriers between Androids and Chromebooks. You have to wonder why Google’s programmers didn’t do this earlier, but I’m happy they finally got around to it.

Big Screen

ManualGrande_180_200_title_mainEliteScreen’s Manual Grande's name says it all: Big screen without a motor to open and close it. The Manual Grande can be had in sizes of up to nearly 17-feet and is perfect for that large lecture hall or auditorium. With a 1.1 gain matte surface, the screen works well with just about any projector and has a wide black border. It comes with a 3-year school warranty.

 

Light Up the Gym

LTG-HXB-High Bay-061016-027Is your gym’s lighting looking dull and costing a fortune everytime you turn on the lights for a class or event? Older mercury sodium lighting fixtures can be sapping thousands of dollars from your budget while not doing a good job of illuminating the room. The latest HXB Series LED High Bay Luminaire fixtures from Cree have LEDs instead and deliver 35,000 or 70,000 lumens at an unbeatable 140 lumens per watt of power used, 40 percent more than older bulbs. You can get the fixtures in 3,500-, 4,000- or 5,000K light colors, but they need to mounted at least 30 feet above the floor. The best part is that the LED Luminaire family have been designed to last for 100,000 hours of use, which translates into nearly 30 years of use for 10 hours a day – everyday. Needless to say, it means that you won't have to change their bulbs ever.

Graph it All

Grm2sslgGraphing software that works on several platforms doesn’t have to cost an arm and a leg because KSoft’s Graphmatica does it all on the cheap. In addition to working with iOS, PC and Macs, the program can graph just about any function you can throw at it. Graphmatica can also handle inequalities, polar and parametric equations. It can even solve ordinary differential equations, work with multiple plots at once and turn a slew of data into neat organized graphs. Anything can be printed or exported as an image file for incorporation into a lab report or math homework. Unlike the competition, price is the best part. For students it’s $2.50 a piece for up to 250 licenses, after that, its $2 per user, a price that just about any school can afford. It’s free to try out.

Freebee Friday: Getting the Class Pet

PetsIt’s been shown that a class pet can help open up autistic children and assist with their socialization, and Pets in the Classroom wants to provide it. They provide grants to get that gerbil, rabbit or hamster along with care instructions and lesson plans. But before you and the class gets too excited, you need to read the section about whether your classroom is ready for a pet.

 

 

 

Splash-Proof Books

AuraONE_LyingLow_Reading_US_largeDo your school’s eBook readers stop working all too quickly because they’ve been accidentally dropped or dunked in water? Kobo’s upcoming Aura One is one fo the only tablets with an IPX8 waterproof rating. That translates into shrugging off a dunk in 6-feet of water for an hour. Let’s hope that this never happens to any tablet, but it’s good to know that the Aura One can survive. The $230 eBook reader has a 7.8-inch screen that just misses HD resolution at 1,872 by 1,404. It has enough space for thousands of books and weighs in at half a pound. It can display 11 fonts, can work with eBooks in any of the popular formats and can connect over WiFi.

While you’re thinking about a Kobo reader, consider that the company has a continuously updated site of the top 50 free ebooks. While it’s heavy in mysteries and romance fiction, they’re all free and all you need to do is register.

 

 

Nearly November

Polldata_1024x1024With election day coming quickly. Second Avenue’s Voter’s Ed 2016 Edition is ready. At $10 it’s a bargain of an app that can turn any student into a presidential pundit with insight into the coming vote. There’s a look at the history of presidential plebiscites, a continually updated Electoral College map with the latest polling data as well as a candidate tracker. It comes with a lesson plan for your choice of lower- and upper-elementary, middle, high school as well as AP students and works with just about any connected computer.

 

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