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CopyofHPScanjet7000n If all those scanners, their maintenance and electricity costs around the school are getting you down, why not consolidate them into a single school-wide scanning station? HP’s ScanJet Enterprise 7000n is a stand-alone sheet-fed scanner that connects to a network and provides the hardware for scoring tests, archiving paper files and even scanning artwork. In other words, it can replace a dozen individual scanners in the typical school. The system can capture up to 600 by 600 dot per inch images, which are previewed on the 8.4-inch screen. With a one-year warranty, it will sell for $3,000 when it goes on sale this fall.


 

Gender Bender

Straightlaced Talking about sex roles and gender in a health classroom can be embarrassing and end with students giggling and not getting anything accomplished. Try using a film to stimulate discussion on this important topic. GroundSpark’s movie “Straightlaced – How Gender’s Got Us All Tied Up” by Debra Chasnoff can be a way to learn about this area and get the class talking in a serious way. Part of the Respect for All Project, Straightlaced is chock full of high school students talking about the harm that rigid sexual roles can cause. There will be screenings in all 50 states and the production company has curriculum suggestions. If you think that ignoring this topic is the safe approach, you’re wrong. The film’s trailer is available for a sneak peek.


Who Makes the Most Reliable Computers?

Rescuecom You might think that Toshiba, Lenovo or your favorite brand might have the fewest technical problems and failures, but you’d be wrong, according RescueCom, a Belleville, NJ supplier of outsourced computer service, support and repairs. The company’s latest Computer Reliability Report, which is based on a sample of 15,000 support calls made in the fourth quarter of 2008 to its support center, shows that Asus makes the most reliable computers. With a score of 972, it is roughly three-times more reliable than Lenovo, at 348, and Apple – the former winner.

Media Lab on Wheels

On Location bus If you don’t think your school can afford a state of the art digital media lab for kids and teachers to explore how to tell a story with 21-st century teachnology, one might be on its way to you. The John F. Kennedy Center for the Performing Arts has created a high-performance media lab built into a school bus. The “On Location” bus stays at the school for two weeks at a time to show students and teachers how to document arts in their neighborhood and how to post the results online.

On location students Housed in a Thomas Built school bus and sponsored by Daimler Financial Services, the set up includes drama and media educators and all the right equipment to do it right. The best part is that after the bus hits the road for the next school, the school gets to keep $5,000 worth of computer, audio and video equipment along with software and a check for $1,000 to support the project. The digital road trip runs through the end of May, by which time it will have visited 10 schools. You can apply online for a visit from the digital magic bus.

A Cool Home for Notebooks

Riser n110 There’s nothing like a notebook for portability and taking school work everywhere, but older ones can overheat and they can be awkward when using one with an external keyboard and mouse. Logitech can make using a notebook on a desk cooler by bringing in fresh air and providing an ergonomic ideal. Called the Notebook Riser N110, the $30 plastic stand can accommodate just about any notebook with a 15.4-inch screen or smaller, elevates the screen to eye level and folds flat when not in use. The $30 stand comes with a three-year warranty. 

Desktop Round-Up

At Tech Tools, I spend a lot of time finding the latest info about notebooks, because I firmly believe that mobility is a great advantage in schools and that students should be able to take their work wherever they go. But, there are times when a desktop PC is called for. Either it’s to get the power needed for video editing or when a Mac is needed or when you just can’t afford a school’s worth of notebooks.

Regardless of your motivation, here are four of the latest desktops for schools.

The Monitor is the PC

Averatec Tired of dealing with and trying to hide bulky PC cases? Averatec has a cool idea that can clean up your school’s desks and save some cash as well. It’s latest all-in-one PC looks just like a monitor. The guts of the PC are in the 18.4-inch LCD’s base, including a 1.6GHz Atom processor, 1GB of RAM, a 160GB hard drive and Super Multi DVD drive. It’s got wired and wireless networking as well as matching keyboard, mouse and built-in speakers. The best part is that the whole thing takes up just 8.5- by 11-inches, weighs 9 pounds and costs $550.

A Mac by Any Other Name

Open3-osx4 Every time a company has reverse engineered a Macintosh computer and tries to sell it, Apple’s lawyers cover them like a cheap suit and the Mac clone maker quickly disappears. It’s too bad because Apple gear costs between $150 and $1,000 more than comparable PCs and schools would buy more Macs if they weren’t so expensive. The latest Mac clone is Miami-based Psystar’s Open (3) Computer, which matches up nicely with a Macintosh Pro system but at $600, can save hundreds of dollars. The system uses Apple’s OSX  Leopard 10.5 and can be ordered with a 2.3-, 2.5-, 2.8- and 3.0-GHz Core 2 Duo processors, 2- or 4GB of RAM and a 500GB or whopping 1TB hard drive.

Small PC that’s Big on Power

Veriton X270 with speaker and display If PC cases are taking up too much space in your crowded school, Acer has a new approach that takes up a minimum of space, yet doesn’t compromise on performance and price. The Veriton X270 is based on Intel’s Core 2 Duo processor, NVidia Ge Force 7100 graphics and an astounding 9 USB ports, but fits into places that full-size cases can’t. That’s because its case is one-third the size of the typical mini tower system. The X270 system sells for $400.

An A in Power
HP Pavilion Elite m9600 series PC_Right Facing So many school computers trade performance for reliability and price tag. Not HP’s just announced Pavilion Elite m9600, which uses Intel’s latest Core i7 processor. At $949, it’s not the cheapest system around, but when your class needs power for video editing, teaching programming or work on digital artwork, it delivers. The base system comes with a 2.7GHz processor, 500GB hard drive, NVidia GeForce 9600 GS graphics engine and a SuperMulti DVD drive. It can be outfitted with the best and most of everything, including a terabyte hard drive and up to 12GB of system memory, and HP has matching monitors that range from $169 (for an 18.5-inch model) to $299 (for a 23-inch one).

Touch Me

TouchSmart IQ800 Series-small For all those teachers, IT staffers and administrators who are tired of fussing with projectors and interactive white boards to make sure they are focused, properly aligned and calibrated, HP has a different way to look at integrating digital curriculum into the classroom. Its TouchSmart IQ816 all-in-one PC can turn a finger into a powerful teaching tool.

Powered by a 2.1GHz Core 2 Duo processor, 4GB of system memory, 750GB hard drive and a Blu-Ray optical drive, the IQ816 is a powerful computer that masquerades as a touch-screen monitor. It’s less than 4 inches thick, sleek and well-designed. On the downside, it requires a huge power supply that uses a three-prong plug.

There’s a beautiful fold-out stand that looks like a piece of modern sculpture but the system can get no closer than 7-inches away from a wall, and at 35-pounds, it needs to sit on a sturdy desk or shelf. Using the $50 wall mounting hardware is more practical for schools, particularly for small rooms where every inch counts.

Iq816 side Its 25.5-inch LCD screen is the center of attention and can show 1,920 by 1,200 resolution. Capable of displaying all HD programming, the TouchSmart uses an nVidia GeForce 9600 graphics engine with 512MB of its own memory and can augment this with 1.8GB more borrowed from system memory for detailed video.

Finger work is to with the TouchSmart’s success. Imagine diagramming a sentence, filling in an interactive math worksheet or highlighting a digital copy of the Constitution and you get an idea of the TouchSmart’s potential in the classroom. If you get tired of using a finger, a stylus or even unsharpened pencil does fine. Whether it’s with school software, an online video of World War I or TV programming, its video is smooth, colors are sharp.

Its biggest problem is size. At 25.5-inches, it’s the perfect size for groups of up to about a dozen in a semicircle, although it can be used in a small classroom. I hope that HP will engineer larger model sometime soon so it can help out for larger room.

On the downside, like any sheet of glass that gets touched by students and teachers several times a day, the IQ816’s screen quickly gets covered with fingerprints. Luckily, it comes with a synthetic cleaning cloth.

The system is meant to always be on and set to go into power-saving sleep mode after a period of inactivity. To wake the system up, just tap it anywhere on the screen. It responds in a couple seconds. At the bottom of the screen, there is a row of large application icons in what HP calls the TouchSmart bar. This shows a preview of three apps as well as the ability to shuffle among the items by dragging a finger across the group. Tap to open anything.

Unlike most touch-screens, it’s a very bright screen and it outdoes most interactive white boards by always being calibrated, in focus and ready to start in a couple of seconds. It also allows teachers to control items with two-finger gestures, like pulling or pushing windows to resize them.

IQ816 desktop In the back are a multitude of connection ports that can be covered with a panel if neatness counts. Surprisingly, it lacks a VGA input port. This limits the IQ816’s ability to be used as a computer’s external monitor, such as with a student’s or guest’s notebook computer. There is an S-Video input, however.

The system comes with a wireless TV remote control, keyboard, mouse but the later two are separate items. If the keyboard and mouse were integrated into a single unit the teacher could more easily roam about the room while still having control over the lesson. I really like the LED lights under the screen that can be adjusted to any color, allowing a teacher to read material or notes in a darkened room while working the screen.

There’s a great set up guide for the system, but plan on spending close to an hour to get it fully working and configured. Chances are that you’ll still be surprised by new features that you missed. The system comes with a slew of software, including Norton Internet Security, Muvee video editing, TouchSmart Notes and the latest version of Microsoft Works.

TouchSmart IQ800 Series (1)-small It has power to spare with a Passmark Performance 6.1 score of 540, or roughly twice the level of most school notebooks. It’s also Energy Star certified for low-power use, but its power bill for a year of class work can be $320.

All told, the TouchSmart IQ816 has the power to change the way classrooms are set up and used. At first glance, the $2,100 price tag, which includes a one-year warranty, appears to be too expensive for most schools, particularly in the current tough times, but if you consider that it replaces a PC, projector and white board, it becomes a bargain.


A
TouchSmart IQ816
$2,100
    

     + All-in-one touch-screen PC 
     + Built-in stand or wall-mount
     + Wireless mouse and keyboard 
     + All Connectors are hidden
     + Excellent performance and video

     - High price
     - Screen too small for full-size classroom
     - No VGA port

Document Camera Two-For

Epson DC-06 Front_With_Projector If the idea of spending $1,000 on a document camera for your classroom makes you a little sick to your stomach, you’re not alone. There are just too many doc-cams that cost as much as – or more than – the PC it’s connected to. The inexpensive Epson DC-06 document camera is like a breath of fresh air in this area, with a price of $400, but all the features and abilities you need. Plus, it can do one thing that the others don’t. On top of being able to connect with a PC, the DC-06 can connect directly to Epson’s new PowerLite 86, 825 or 826W projectors. Its 10.7- by 14.3-inch document area is a little skimpy but should be fine for most uses and the camera can put XGA resolution on the screen. It comes with a LED light, 4X digital zoom and a one-touch focus button. It’ll be available in May.

New High Wire Act

Boxshot-standard_300dpi It’s true that using Adobe’s Acrobat files can make a file look the same on a variety of computers regardless of age, hardware and settings, but Adobe’s software is expensive and hard to figure out. There is the new online .pdf conversion service, but a better approach to acrobat is Bluebeam Software’s new PDF Revu 7.0. With plug-in software for Microsoft Office, PDF Revu makes it easy to turn any document into an Acrobat file. The new version has added a spell checker and visual flags for teachers to add comments to student work. Another big change is PDF Revu’s ability to distribute its output with a way to compress files so they fit into emails and memory sticks. The software costs $149 and there’s a 30-day trial of the new software.



 

Math Tutor on Call

Hotmath-tutoring-session Nothing can come close to a well-trained and experienced math teacher to help kids master the intricacies of algebra, geometry and early calculus, but it seems that there are too many struggling students and too few teachers to help them. HotMath’s Tutoring Plus can help students in need of extra attention because the online service not only has a series of helpful how-to videos for most math concepts, lessons on how to best use popular graphing calculators, practice exams and help with the odd problems of 200 popular math textbooks but actual live tutors on call to show kids how to do major operations and solve examples on a digital white board. Whether it’s resolving quadratic equations or word problems, there’s always a qualified teacher to show the way via online video. It’s all personalized, although several kids having similar problems can watch at once. At the school level, the service costs as little as 75 cents and 15 cents per student per year for the problem solving and videos. The online one-on-one tutoring costs $19 an hour with volume discounts available.


 

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