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Surveillance on the Cheap

Dha390If you’ve been thinking about outfitting your school with video cameras to catch burglars and vandals in the act, but have been turned off by the price, D-Link’s DHA-390 starter kit can create a comprehensive video network on the cheap. At $500 for the initial set up and $400 a camera after that, an 8 camera surveillance network can cost about $4,000. The beauty of the system is that you don’t need to run cables to connect the cameras because they are powered and send their video streams over the school’s plain old power lines. All the video feeds can be viewed on a PC console at school or remotely from any

Make Every (Kid’s) Vote Count

WoogiWhat better lesson in government and civics could there be for a social studies class than to have every elementary school student vote in the upcoming presidential election. That’s the idea behind Woogi World, a virtual social world of students. The site’s Every Kid Votes campaign explains the election process by using an avatar that represents the child, called a Woogi. After selecting one, the child needs to play games to win enough points to earn the right to vote. It’s free and the site can help teach children about Internet safety in a calm and reassuring way.

Hang in There

Th3155tcCan’t find any wall space to hang a flat panel monitor or TV? Why not hang it from the ceiling? Atdec's TH-31-55-TC tilt-ceiling mount can support a display that weighs as much as 132-pounds and measures 55-inches. You won’t have to worry about sloppy cables hanging off of the display because the same pole that holds the monitor hides all the wires inside. The best part is that the display can not only move up and down, but tilt and rotate a full 360-degrees for maximum teaching flexibility. The monitor mount sells for $498.

ESL on the Cheap

Free_englishCommercial programs for teaching English to grade- and high-schoolers are common and sometimes too expensive for small districts that only have a few non-English speakers. Enter Free-English a huge Web site that has lots of resources for teaching English to non-native speakers. From workbooks, appraisals and exams to games and links to foreign language Internet radio stations, it’s all there. Some of the software can be downloaded while others are on CD, but are reasonably priced. Because the site is available in 18 languages, you can direct students to go to the site and get what’s needed for class.

What’s the Weather?

Wmr200_lgInstead of just talking about the weather in a science class, the class can do something about it by studying all the meteorological data with Oregon Scientific’s Professional Weather Center. The $400 kit includes everything for setting up a storm center in any school. It can measure all the essentials, including temperature, humidity, barometric pressure and rainfall. All the data is logged for future reference and analysis and the sensors connect wirelessly with the viewing screen. It has a built-in clock that synchronizes its time with the government’s atomic clock, can forecast the next day’s weather as well as show what phase the moon will be in.

Arabic the Easy Way

ArabicGetting started with a foreign language is often the hardest part, but Discover Arabic can show a class the basics of this language. The program is interactive with many attractive cartoon characters and quizzes that are fun to take. From common words and objects found around the house to writing simple words and phrases, the program is a great way to get going. It only works on Windows computers and it’s free to try out; it costs $40 to boy.

Build a Better Test

Learningstation_2Still using those photocopied tests that look like they’ve been through a rugby match? LearningStation’s Test Builder is a good way to create innovative and creative examinations as well as practice tests. The program covers creating exams for math, social studies, language arts as well as science and is aligned to state standards. A teacher or administrator can create a new test in a matter of minutes and track how individual students, classes or entire schools are doing. The program is for K through 12 classes and a demo of the program is available.

The Write Way

Turitin_logoA big question that I’ve had is why programs that help to teach writing are standalone packages that don’t integrate with classroom management and workflow systems. Turnitin, which sells plagiarism checking software, has a new integrated approach that puts writing in the faces of students. WriteCycle is Web-based and fits right into the company’s other products making assignments, grading and feedback easier to accomplish.

Making Creative Studio More Creative

Cs4Version 4 of Adobe’s Creative Suite is out and ready for your school. Regardless of whether it’s for putting together the school’s Web site, creating a digital curriculum or teaching students about new media, CS4 is the right tool at the right time. Creative Suite comes in six editions that are built around Adobe’s main applications including PhotoShop, InDesign, DreamWeaver, Illustrator, Flash and Premier. For instance, the Master Collection has 18 different apps, while the Design edition has 8. The package works on PCs and Macs, but not Linux computers and allows users to combine video, audio and blogs into Web sites.

What can CS4 do? Think about student teams collaborating on a multimedia presentation, teachers sharing lessons and the school’s Web site integrating everything from video of a field trip to live data like weather reports. In other words if you can imagine it, CS4 is the place to create it. While standard versions of CS4 range from $1,399 for Design to $2,499 for the Master Collection, Adobe has educational discounts that reduce the price tag to between $499 to $999 or $14,000 for a 250-seat K-12 license.

The Big Picture

Plcxp200lAll the classrooms in your school have either big screen monitors or projectors, but doesn’t the auditorium or multi-purpose room deserve an appropriate projector? Sanyo’s PLC-XP200L is the perfect device for a large venue because it can blast out 7,000 lumens of light and its Quadrive technology uses four LCD displays to create deeper and richer colors than standard LCD or DLP products can. With the included PJ-Net Organizer software the projector can be connected to a network for monitoring and controlling who uses it, but my favorite feature of the PLC-XP200L is its Active Maintenance Filter which has 10 separate elements that automatically move into place when the previous filter starts to clog, providing years of maintenance-free use. This monster of a projector lists for $10,000 and has five different lenses available for different environments.

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