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The Classroom in Hand

Visionhand_photo_top_print_2A teacher using a desktop or notebook computer to send items to a classroom of connected computers is old hat, but what about using a PDA or smart-phone to control the class’s computers. The latest upgrade to GenevaLogic’s Vision classroom management program includes Vision@Hand, which allows teachers to use an iPhone, a Blackberry or any wirelessly connected handheld computer with a Web browser to monitor a classroom computer from afar as well as view what Web site a student is using and block objectionable sites. Teachers can even lock keyboards and mice to guarantee that every student’s attention is focused on the lesson. The program will be available starting on October 1 and cost $35 per seat for a 10-user license. A trial copy is available.

Filling the Backpack with Student Data

MetaphorDo you spend too much time sifting through several different programs, databases and loose-leaf notebooks to compile all the information your school as on any of its students. Metaphor’s Backpack 2008 can consolidate everything a school or district knows about a student into a single place that has a unified interface, saving countless hours and effort. On top of the basics, like demographics, disciplinary actions and test results, the program allows a school to electronically send any data to state authorities without manually re-typing anything. The program can open the school’s calendar, attendance records and homework assignments to parents and send email alerts for a delayed start or early closing. You can set up a demo of the product

Stronger, Longer, Lighter Tablet

X200_tabLenovo has announced a new Tablet PC that’s built on the ThinkPad X200 line and promises a smaller, lighter and longer lasting tablet for schools. Built around a 12-inch touch-screen, the X200 Tablet is available in 1.2- to 1.86GHz Intel Core 2 Duo processors and the choice of up to 320GB of hard drive space or a rugged solid state storage module that can hold either 64- or 128GB. The display’s LED backlight is not only more rugged but also uses less power than conventional fluorescent lighting tubes. It’s got a Web cam, microphone array, Bluetooth and WiFi networking. Still, the X200 Tablet weighs 3.5 pounds and has a keyboard that’s usually seen on much larger notebooks.

Three of a Kind

When conversations in the teachers’ lounge turn to flat screens, it’s usually the big displays for classrooms that get most of the attention. But, what about the many more screens that are used on desks, lab benches, the library and – of course – in the office? They may be smaller, but they are just as important, if not more for 21-st century education.

Dell’s S2409W, NEC’s MultiSync EA221WM and Westinghouse’s L2610NW are thin enough to be used on a small desk yet they provide lots of viewable space for everything from image and video editing to preparing PowerPoint presentations and PDFs. Each should be fine for basic and advanced tasks in a variety of roles in today’s digital school. Which you decide on depends as much on your school’s budget as on what they’ll be used for.

S2409wAt $350, the Dell S2409W is just 9-inches thick with its included stand, yet it provides a wide display that measure 24-inches diagonally. At up to 1,920 by 1080 resolution it’s perfect for high definition work, video editing and viewing as well as general work. With a 170-degree viewing angle, the image is good enough for creating a group project with three or four kids huddled around it. The S2409W has inputs that include VGA, DVI-D as well as HDMI. While the monitor is bright and provides rich color, it uses only 2 watts of power when not in use, saving money in electricity costs. It comes with a three year warranty.

Ea221wm_ho_150_cmyk_smallLike Dell’s S2409W, the NEC MultiSync EA221WM monitor has a 24-inch screen, is only 9-inches thick and has a wide viewing angle for group projects. Its resolution of 1,680 by 1,050 comes up short, however. What separates it from other monitors is that the EA221WM has a built-in USB hub that can connect four peripherals, like a hard drive or scanner. I love that the monitor can be rotated, tilted and swiveled to the perfect viewing position. It can be set in landscape mode for editing a digital movie or set to portrait mode to more efficiently view Web pages. The EA221WM has integrated speakers as well as VGA, DVI-D and HDMI ports and comes with a three-year warranty. It sells for $390.

L2610nwAt $400, the Westinghouse L2610NW is the most expensive of these three monitors, and at 8-inches thick, it’s also the thinnest. The L2610NW’s display is not only bigger at 25.5-inches but it out-does the other two with a super-sharp resolution of 1,920 by 1,200, making it the best for detailed work, like image editing in an art class or working with an interactive map of World War I in social studies. It has the same variety of input connections as the others and built-in speakers but comes with a one-year warranty.

Pop Goes the Curriculum

Brain_pop_educatorDo you spend too much time searching the nooks and crannies of the Internet for creative lesson plans and novel ways to teach the same old lessons? BrainPOP Educators is the newest place to get and share classroom resources. Along with lesson plans, curriculum resources, and a variety of graphic organizers, the site’s Connections blog provides a place for educators to interact and share their ideas. The best part is that regardless of whether you’re looking for a way to teach Newton’s Laws or the American election, it’s all free if you register.

Webster’s in a Flash

Websters_flash_keyHere at Tech Tools central, we love the idea of using flash memory sticks to save school material and hand-in homework, but Centon Electronics takes this idea a step further. By incorporating the entire Webster’s Fourth Edition of its New World College Dictionary on either a 2- or 4-GB flash key, it’s a product custom made for schools. The digital dictionary has more than 160,000 word entries as well as things like a word search and a dictionary for the spelling-challenged. While the 2GB product lists for $30, it can be had for as little as $16 each if you shop around.

Photo Storage, the Online Way

Sp_english_boxshot_smallWith schools increasingly teaching digital photography as well as using all sorts of digital images for curriculum, the key question becomes where to put all those pictures so they can be found when needed. While some schools have added network hard drives just for images, they fill up faster than you can say high-resolution image. Online image repositories, like Avanquest’s SendPhotos 5 are increasingly becoming popular because they can be a bottomless pit for all sorts of photos. The shots show up on a well-designed interface for organizing them as well as cropping, removing red eye and brightness-contrast adjustment. Any image can be professionally printed and mailed to the school or picked up at a local photo-finisher and the photos can be viewed by anyone with a computer. The price is $30 per user for unlimited storage and licensing deals for an entire school are available. There’s a free trial that lets you post, edit and share five photos online.

New Year, New Tool Kit

Newertech_tool_kitLet me know if your life is different but over the year, I lose so many tools that I need a new toolkit just about every 12 months. The 11-piece Portable Toolkit from NewerTech has all the essentials for doing minor repairs and major upgrades. From screw- and Torx drivers for getting to the source of the trouble to a scissor clamp, tweezers and plastic pry bars, it’s what’s needed to everything from adding memory to changing a hard drive. The kit comes in a carrying case and sells for $18

Time to Learn

TimelinerIf you’ve ever started a timeline on the board only to find you come up several years short, Tom Snyder's Timeliner XE is your kind of program. Whether it’s the Roman Empire, the Krebs Cycle or how digestion works, Timeliner XE can help a teacher make sense of it for the class with a visual timeline. The software comes with 400 customizable activity files in language arts, science, and social studies as well as another 200 that are available online. All timelines can be saved as Adobe Acrobat portable document files so they can be recycled in future years. The software works on Windows and Macs and sells for $99 for a single user, but the price can fall to $26 per user for a 100-seat license.

Adds Up to Savings

Fx9750gplus_xlarge At $50 per calculator, many budget stressed middle- and high-schools can afford to outfit entire science and math classes with Casio FX-9750G Plus graphing scientific calculators. At half the cost of comparable devices from other makers, the FX-9750G Plus has a 64 by 128 pixel screen that can show graphs, spreadsheets and scientific notation. On top of handling advanced statistics and conical sections, the FX 9750 G Plus can help teach trigonometry and its all packaged in a 7.6 ounce case. It’s powered by four AAA batteries, can connect with a standard PC and has been approved for use on all standardized tests.

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