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Diggiditto So many document cameras are made more for the needs of businesses rather than for schools and end up being too expensive and with too many features that a teacher will never use. Califone’s Diggiditto Smart Document Camera is the first one that has been designed from the start for the classroom. With 2-megapixel resolution and 3X optical zoom lens, the USB-powered doc-camera can create 320 by 240 or 640 by 480 resolution video or 1,600 by 1,200 still images for a projector or large screen monitor. It has an adjustable stand, works with PCs only and sells for $600.   

Light Up the Dark

Solarbulb b There’s nothing scarier to a small child than a darkened classroom lit only by a projector. Miniwiz’s SolarBulb solar powered light can help by providing just enough light to keep the boogey man (and woman) away. The sphere twists onto an empty soda bottle and the 0.18 watt solar panel on top soaks up the sun, storing its power in a rechargeable AA battery. As soon as it gets dark, or the lights go out, SolarBulb’s blue LED automatically comes on, lighting the way; 3 hours of charging can light it up for 6 hours. Available in while, orange, red, green and blue, the Solarbulb sells for $25.

FREEBEE FRIDAY: A Classroom with Vision

MVB_BOX_Web_(2) Once you have a class full of PCs and eager faces, what do you do next? Often the hardware ate up the lion’s share of the technology budget, leaving little room for digital curriculum and classroom management software. Netop can help with a line of classroom management programs that can change the way a class learns. Called MyVision, the object is to make teaching with technology as easy and natural as using a chalk board was a generation ago. Based on GenevaLogic software, the program will work with PCs and Macs and let teachers digitally look over students shoulders to see what they’re using their computers for. On top of the Free version, which is currently in beta testing, Netop will offer an inexpensive Basic edition that includes tools for guiding students, blanking screens and turning the Internet on and off for individuals. 

   

 

Habla Mondial?

Epals Too much of the online educational world is an English-only affair, as if the world’s hundreds of other major languages and dialects don’t exists. Not ePals’ online educational community, which now has a translation tool that can work with 35 languages from Hindi to Vietnamese. The best part is that it can translate between any two dialects, making for 1,000 language pairs so students and teachers in any part of the world are likely to find common linguistic ground.   

Light Bright

Pro250x Optoma sets the pace for inexpensive bright projectors that are suitable for classroom use. At $650, the Pro250X can put 2,800 lumens of light onto a screen that’s between 2- and 25-feet. Based on the 0.55-inch Texas Instruments digital light processing imaging engine, it creates crisp XGA images and starts up quickly. The projector comes with a 1-year warranty on the projector and 90-days of coverage for the lamp. 

Feelin’ Groovy

Groovy city a Putting together a 21-st century music lab with the ability to help students write and present digital compositions might seem out of reach for all but the best endowed schools and districts, but with the latest software it’s easier and less expensive than you might think. Sibelius’s Groovy City can give elementary and middle schools a taste of what creating digital music is all about, but the software takes time to master.

The third of Sibelius’s Groovy series, the $69 City program runs on both Macs and Windows systems, although there are currently compatibility issues with the upcoming Windows 7 release. The company offers teacher tips and add-ons for nothing. It is based on a futuristic urban landscape with buildings, roads and space ships hovering above. In each, the student has his or her avatar interact with the program’s deep audio library to create anything from hip hop or jazz to the blues or some new form of music unknown to man.   

Groovy city b The program’s database has hundreds of melodies, bass lines, rhythms and cords that can be arranged in a near-infinite variety of songs with the program’s 128 different instruments from violins to trumpets. On the downside, some of the sounds have an artificial sound to them. At any time, the student can use a plug-in keyboard to add their own riffs and chord progressions to a composition. 

It’s all in an effort to teach children about complex sounds, music notation and the terminology of a band or orchestra. It works so well, most kids won’t realize they’re learning while playing and making their own compositions. My advice is to get headphones for each system using the software, because the sounds can get quite intense.

The best part is that while the creation phase is a very individualistic pursuit, once their done, the kids can share their songs with the class or upload them to Groovy Music’s Web site. If it’s really good, it’ll end up on the site’s top 10 listing.

As deep and inspiring as the program is, it’s not without faults. While it can teach a motivated student all about creating music, it takes a bit of trial and error to master the complicated interface. Plus, you can’t run Groovy City full screen, so it wastes much of the display’s real estate.

Groovy City is a program that every school music department should own and use. After all, it could bring out the next Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart or Sean Puffy Combs among us.

B+
$69


     + Inexpensive music software
     + Good variety of instruments and effects
     + Perfect for fourth- through seventh graders
   
     - Doesn’t run full screen
     - Complicated interface
     - Sounds too artificial

Project Without Wires

Wireless_DisplayLink_FrontRight_300dpi Tripped over a projector’s cable lately or spent too much time plugging in wires to get it to work? If you’re like me, all too much time has been spent tangled in projector cables. InFocus may be able to free us all from this tangle with a new wireless technology for connecting computer to projector. It uses WisAir’s ultra wide band wireless USB chip to beam what’s on a PC’s screen to the projector for up to about 30 feet. It’s able to work with up to 1,440 by 900 resolution is protected with 128-bit encryption and the USB transmitter and receiver dongles are paired for greater security. At $159, it’s a great add-on that will be out by the time most schools start in early September, but it only works with InFocus projectors that have DisplayLink technology built-in.

Bright Idea

EA231WMi_HO_150_CMYK How many times have you walked by a room full of computers that has all its screens blazing away without any students? All too often I suspect, but NEC’s EA231WMi wide-screen monitor has a button for getting the display into power-saving Eco Mode and adjusts its brightness based on the lighting level in the room. Its ambient light sensor quickly detects the lighting level and adjusts the monitor accordingly and has a carbon footprint indicator for tracking how much power it uses and saves. On top of traditional VGA and DVI connections, the EA231WMi can work with DisplayPort technology and has a 4-port USB hub built in. The display will sell for $379 when it becomes available later this month and comes with a three year warranty. 

FREEBEE FRIDAY: How Do I Say That?

Accentschool a While the printed pronunciation guide in dictionaries is a good start for helping kids say a variety of words correctly, sometimes it’s not enough. AccentSchool.com can help get the words spoken correctly by focusing on how sounds are formed. The basic program is free, non-threatening for non-English speakers and tells kids how to pronounce key words by playing a variety of recordings. 

Pen on the Go

Intellislate_300dpi (1) I love the ability of tablet computers to put handwritten notes, sketches and math problems on a large screen monitor or projector screen, but for most schools they’re just too expensive for more than a handful of teachers to use. Numonics has a new approach that takes the best aspects of a tablet and makes them more budget friendly. Designed especially for K through 12 classrooms, Intellislate has an 8- by 6-inch area for the teacher to write, scribble or draw and it connects to a PC via a 2.4GHz wireless link. There’s a small display that shows its connection status as well as battery life. The best part is that rather than getting a couple hours of classroom work out of a charge, the Intellislate can run for several school days between charges. It sells for $450.

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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.