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What’s a 9 Letter Word for Study Aid?

Crossword_puzzleWhether it’s to expand vocabulary or review a subject area for a test, crossword puzzles are a great way to get kids thinking about word meanings. Super Crossword Creator is an easy way for teachers or skill tutors to put useful puzzles together in as little a five minutes. The result is a professional looking crossword, ready for the class. The program works with both PCs and Macs and is available as a free trial; it costs $30 for a download or $40 for the CD.
Oh, the word I’m looking for is “Crossword.”

A Minute of Math

Minute_mathNot much has changed in the past hundred years with practice and assessment being the keys to instilling math facts at an early age. The big step forward is the ability of Mad Minute Math to help kids get the fundamentals of addition and subtraction or multiplication and division in a lively, interactive and fun setting. The program has several timed puzzles that need to be solved – you got it – in a minute. The best part is that teachers can leave students to explore these math problems and then go over their strengths and weaknesses. The program costs $98 or $329 for a lab or $689 for a site license.

Listen Up

Belkin_rockstar Tired of needing 20 or 30 media players whenever you use an audio file or podcast for a lesson? Belkin’s Rockstar turns the headphone jack of an iPod, CD player or other audio device into connections for five kids to listen with. At $20, it costs a lot less than buying media players.

Reading Under the Influence (of Parents)

Involving_parents_cover_smallAsk any teacher and they’ll tell you that the relationship with a child’s parents is often as important to learning as the teacher-student relationship. Treasure Bay Publishing has a new primer on making the most of this often ignored area. In “Involving Parents in their Children’s Reading Development: A Guide for Teachers,” Bruce Johnson shows how parental input and encouragement can make all the difference. The $20 118-page book is supplemented with an included CD and Web site.

The Just Right Notebook Bag

Benthaven_1How many of you have ordered dozens – if not hundreds – of notebook bags only to find out that they either were the wrong size, didn’t have enough pockets or didn’t provide adequate protection? It’s OK, we’ve all experienced the problem of buying notebook bags blind. Brenthaven puts an end to this bag roulette with the first customizable notebook case in the business.

I went to the Brenthaven’s Web site and tried it out, aiming to procure bags for a bunch of 15-inch notebooks. The bag comes in leather or ballistic nylon and has six items that can be customized with its interactive interface. All told, there are 80 different bags that can be made, giving me a wonderful feeling of being in control of the situation, rather than choosing from what’s available.

I started by choosing the bag for 15- and 15.4-inch systems rather than a 13.3 to 14-inch bag. It’s too bad that the choices don’t include bags for the newest mini-notebooks that have screens that are much smaller. I then selected Superior Protection, which includes a 1.5-inch foam insert that can absorb the shock of being dropped. The alternative, Flexible Protection, has a removable sleeve.

Because of budget constraints I chose to have the bag made of ballistic nylon for $150 rather than leather for twice as much. Then, I came to the tough choice: what pockets to include in my dream bag. The bag can be set up with any of three pocket combinations, and rather than Road Warrior (with a big fold-out pocket and room for files, pens and business cards) or Multimedia (with lots of small pockets for gadgets, discs and flash cards), I ordered my bag with the Vanity pockets (which has a variety of pockets and a large mesh area for a vanity, but could just as easily hold CDs).

Brenthaven_2Next, on to the bag’s handle. I set the bag up with traditional squared handles which seemed to be more solid than the rounded ones that are available. Finally, I ordered the bag with brushed silver hardware rather than black, which can get scratched.

At the end, I was given an overview of my order that included photos of all the details I selected. Being in no particular hurry, I chose to have the bag shipped by UPS ground service. I’ll report back in about a week when it arrives.

The HD Classroom

Spb350_smallWhy continue using a low-resolution document camera with your shiny new HD monitor or projector? I can’t figure it out either, but AVerVision SPB350 Visual Presenter combines full 1080p HD output with a 5-megapixel imaging sensor and an articulated arm that makes aiming the camera easy. The SPB350 is network ready and has a 20X optical zoom lens so you can zoom in on the exact place you want to show or zoom out for the big picture. It may have it all, but the document camera costs $2,500.

All-in-one Desktop

Mm_mousepad Zonet’s ZUP8020 Multimedia Mouse Pad does it all: 4-port USB hub, microphone and speakers. Oh, yes, it’s also a mouse pad. At 9.8 by 4.8, there’s more than enough space to work with, and it’s only 0.7 inches thick. The pad comes with a four-foot USB cord and sells for about $20, but doesn't include a mouse.

ASDF and More

KazTyping may be the key to learning in the 21-st century, but too many kids and teachers still hunt and peck, using one finger at a time. The answer is KAZ’s Learn to Type, a simple but effective program for five year olds and older that promises to teach the fundamentals of keyboarding in an hour and a half of keyboard work. At any time you can test each child’s proficiency with 20 random phrases. There’s a downloadable demo and the program costs $28 per student to use.

Right Notebook, Right Price

Acer_aspire_one_bAre the latest mini-notebooks, like the MPC’s $500 TXTbook, still too expensive to outfit each and every student at your school? Acer’s Aspire One can help with a competent notebook that weighs 2.5 pounds and easily fits into a backpack. The system has a 1.6 GHz Intel Atom processor, an 8.9-inch screen and 8GB of flash memory for files, data and programs. Price is no object because the Linux version costs $330 while the Windows XP system goes for $350.

Free Web Site, No Fooling

Need a School_loopschool Web site but lack the budget and expertise? School Loop is offering a free Web site set up to the first 100 districts that respond to this offer. Those lucky and quick clicking administrators will get the company’s Standard Web site service that includes its unique content management system. On top of teacher pages, unlimited high-speed bandwidth and unlimited file storage, the best part is that the site won’t have to run embarrassing advertisements. If you're interested send them an email to register for the contest.

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