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Creating a Monster Monitor

QuadSometimes even a 40-inch flat panel screen just isn’t enough, such as when a science class is watching a video of a physics experiment along with a live graph of the data or a social studies class viewing a live speech on TV while monitoring a Web site reaction to it. Atdec’s Freestanding Quad monitor rack can hold up to four LCD monitors that are each as big as 24-inches. It can handle screens that weigh up to 25 pounds each, and each display can be adjusted up to 40 degrees right, left as well as up and down. It’s also easy to rotate them between portrait and landscape orientations. The stands not only can accommodate screens that have either 3- by 3-inch or 4- by 4-inch mounting screws, but all the cables are well hidden, giving the stand a neat and orderly appearance. The Quad model costs $555, while double monitor racks cost $333.

Video on the Cheap

Tired of having to deal with clunky tapes whenever a class project requires that kids make a video? The latest generation of camcorders not only do away with tapes by saving their clips directly onto SD flash memory cards, but the devices are smaller and lighter than previous cameras. The bonus is that recorded material can go right from camcorder to PC for editing and distribution. At under $400, they are also cheap enough to outfit a whole class. Here’re three of my favorites that could help any school get ready for a close-up.

Aiptekdv_hdWhile the Aiptek PocketDV HD300 fits comfortably into a small child’s hands, it is a full high-definition camcorder capable of capturing 1080p videos. It's ahrd to believe that a camera this small can deliver 60-frame-second clips. At only six ounces, it’s lighter than any tape camcorder, has a 2.4-inch fold-out view screen and a 32GB SD card can hold 8 hours of clips. The system costs $200, but only has a digital zoom.

Samsungscmx20camcorderred03By contrast, Samsung’s SC-MX20 is a little bigger but has the advantage of having a 34X zoom lens so that you get just the right shot. Capable of delivering up to 720p videos, the SC-MX20 can move videos to a PC for editing or directly to the YouTube video sharing site. A 32GB SD card can hold 16 hours of video, twice that of the Aiptek PocketDV camcorder. It costs $279, has a 2.7-inch viewing screen and is available in black, white and blue.

Sw20_3Although both the PocketDV and SC-MX20 are well made and will prove to be durable enough for years of field trips, fake news broadcasts and animation projects, the Panasonic SDR SW20 can survive being dunked in up to 4 feet of water because you never know what kids will do with these things. The camera has a 10X zoom lens, a 2.7-inch fold out viewing screen and a 16GB SD card can hold more than 13 hours of material. The camera costs $400.

Save Your Interactive Lessons

LuidiaIf you’re using Luidia’s hardware and its eBeam software for your interactive white boards, the company just introduced a new version of the program. The key change is that version 2.1 of eBeam Interact lets teachers record any interactive lesson and compile them into a digital archive. Anything written on the board and spoken in the room can now be saved in a variety of formats, including .avi and .wmf video as well as Flash’s .swf. The program comes with a player so that lessons can be shown to a class or group of colleagues. The Texas City, TX High School has been using the new program.

Bad Chips, Part 2

Nvidia_logo_2In July, I told you about Dell notebooks with nVidia graphics that were failing at an alarming rate, and said I'd report back when the problem gets resolved. Well, here I am with an update. There definitely is a problem with many Dell systems that were made late last year through the summer. In fact, the company is extending the warranty coverage by a year on all affected systems. They include: Dell Precision M65, M2300 and M400; Latitude 3D630, D620, D630c and D820; Inspiron 1410; as well as Vostro Notebook 1510, 1310 and 1710. The company's Web site has the details.

Read More for Less

Frhomepage_v1b_smallOne of my favorite programs for teaching reading is the online FreeReading.net system. Based on open-source software its 300 lessons are aimed at the K-to-3 crowd and free for any teacher or tutor to use. The online curriculum is organized in 40-week sequences with lessons that range from comprehension to phonics. The best part is that each activity has four levels of proficiency (introduction, reintroduction, building accuracy and building fluency), so it not only fits into full classroom work, but individual catch-up or enrichment lessons as well.

One to One, 2.0

TxtbookThe latest in a slew of mini-notebooks aimed at schools short on cash is MPC’s TXTbook. At $500, it’s an easy way to stretch a budget and get a notebook for each and every student. Based on Intel’s ClassMate platform and Windows XP Home, the TXTbook weighs less than 3 pounds yet has a 1.6GHz Intel Atom processor, 8.9-inch screen, 30GB hard drive and a five hour battery life, according to MPC. With a carrying handle and cover, the system should stand up to daily abuse at the hands of students. The system comes with wired Ethernet and wireless networking, a Web cam and stereo speakers.

Top Down Convertible

Hp_2730p_smallAfraid to get Tablet PCs for your school because of the big investment it involves? HP’s upcoming EliteBook 2730P has brought the cost of deploying convertible tablets down to earth but not by cutting corners or allowing its weight to rise. The 2730P tips the scales at under 4 pounds yet is only about an inch thick and easily converts from a keyboard-based notebook into a pen-centric tablet. Inside are many high-performance components, from the Intel Core 2 Duo processor and built-in WiFi to the and 120GB hard drive. For schools, the best part is that the 12.1-inch display not only has sturdy LED backlighting but the surface has been chemically treated to resist stains and scratches. A reasonably well equipped 2730P will cost about $1,700.

Education Without the Work

Brainpop_fyiIf you haven’t looked at BrainPop in a while, there’s a lot more educational resources available, and it’s still so well written and packaged that kids won’t even know they’re learning. The latest addition to the BrainPop lineup is FYI, where BrainPop’s animated Rita and Cassie add depth and details to the explanations of a variety of topics from musical theory to computer viruses. A BrainPop subscription for a large school costs $995.

The Mouse You Can’t Lose

V550Are students (and not a few teachers) losing notebook mice because there’s no easy place to put them between classes? Logitech’s V550 Nano comes with a small clip so that the device can be snapped onto the notebook case when not in use. The Clip-and-Go dock comes with an adhesive surface to attach it to the notebook lid. The mouse itself is a gem with a tiny USB wireless transmitter that protrudes only 0.3 inches from the notebook’s surface. The best part is that the mouse’s batteries run for about 18 months at a stretch, according to Logitech. Available in gray and silver as well as blue, the V550 Nano costs $60.

Curriculum Mapping without the Fuss

Logo_cmCurriculum mapping may be a great way to keep classes synchronized and a valuable opportunity to fine-tune and corrdinate lesson plans, but preparing and updating the documents can take valuable time away from instruction. Collaborative Learning’s Curriculum Mapper simplifies and streamlines the process of creating maps, allows easy editing of existing maps and can incorporate state and local educational standards. Version 11 of Curriculum Mapper not only allows principals, supervisors and administrators to compare maps across a school or district, but produce meaningful reports as well. Teachers at Cleveland High School in Birmingham, AL use Curriculum Mapper to make sure that all classes are on the same page.

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