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FREEBEE FRIDAY: 3, 2, 1 Blast-Off

389936main_launch-1 It’s been four decades since men first went to and walked on the moon, and NASA is now taking the first steps back toward sending astronauts on lunar missions. The first tangible step in the next journey to the moon is the test firing of the new Ares 1-X rocket, which occurred yesterday morning. The rocket’s innovative engine fired for the expected 2 minutes, the second stage separated and fell back to earth for recovery. In other words, it was a success. The NASA Web site has more than enough resources for a middle or high school science class to look at and learn from the test. The best part is images and video of the rocket’s Ullage engine being tested, which could easily be the basis of a lesson Newton’s laws of motion. The video is very cool and has a lesson inside it.

Ares video frame

FREEBEE FRIDAY: Cleaning Up a School’s PC Act

360 ui The next version of Norton 360 is in the works, and any school or district IT administrator worth his or her pencils ought to try the beta out. It’s free, runs on Windows 7, includes all the suite’s features and will work until slightly after the commercial product comes out. On top of the latest anti-virus protection and optimization that includes the ability to start some programs (like Media Player) after the system has booted up. My favorite is the Web Restore section which lets users back-up their work by saving key files online and restore them in the event of a digital emergency. The beta includes the use of up to 2GB of Web storage space Give it a try to see how well it fits into your technology plan and infrastructure.

The Importance of Being Tech

Learning in the 21st century cover Based on a recent survey of parents of school-age children, schools are not doing enough to teach them tech. The Project Tomorrow survey asked 335,000 students, parents and teachers and showed that two out of three parents don’t think today’s schools are preparing students for tomorrow’s technologies, while half of the principals asked said they were doing a good job. The parents surveyed thought that the schools need more access to state of the art equipment, like interactive boards, notebooks and projectors, and teachers need more tech training. It’s all in Learning in the 21st Century: Parents’ Perspectives, Parents’ Priorities – a must read for parents, students, teachers and administrators, alike.

Making Discipline Stick

Oncourse discipline Is there anything worse than having a disruptive student who is out of control? How about not being able to do something about his or her behavior because you don’t have the records needed to document the problem? OnCourse Systems has a program that tracks and documents a student’s bad behavior and discipline infractions at schools. It fits into the company’s integrated software system that has modules for grades, lessons and student t information, and is Web based so you don’t need to dedicate a computer to this function.

Cord Free Typing

Adesso bt There’s nothing more frustrating than getting tangled in the cords from a wired keyboard or mouse. Adesso’s latest keyboard is a marvel of miniaturization that gets rid of all cords, and allowing more room for books, papers and pencils. The $130 WKB-4000BB has a built-in touchpad and connects to a desktop or notebook PC by establishing a Bluetooth link. Small, thin and light, the Bluetooth keyboard combo doesn’t skimp on key size or quality and works with all recent Windows releases. 

The Green Playground

Zelo Forget about traditional play structures because there’s a greener jungle gym now available. Playworld Systems’ Zelo (shown at the left) not only doesn’t use any PVC but creating it uses 60 percent less carbon than conventional playground equipment. Available in a combination of green and blue, Zelo is one of nine designs that the company has dreamed up. With a look that’s straight out of one of Dr. Seuss’s fantasies, Zelo has a slide, ladder, seats and several climbing zones. The equipment occupies about 30 by 32 feet of playground space, sells for $12,500 and can accommodate up to 9 children at a time, making it good for a small elementary school. The company has others and can combine different sets together for a huge play zone. They also offer grants to help schools purchase the equipment.

A New Idea (Pad) for Schools

U550_6 The latest from Lenovo is its IdeaPad U550, an inexpensive 15.6-inch notebook that includes everything that schools are looking for. The system comes with a Core 2 Duo, Solo or Celeron processor, as well as a 1,366 by 768 resolution wide screen and an innovative graphics engine that can be switched from high-performance ATI Radeon HD4330 to a long battery life Intel GMA X4500 based on the work at hand. The systems come with up to 8GB of RAM and 500GB hard drive, yet weigh just over 5 pounds and start at $550. Look for it in the next month or so.

Big Screen Calculator

Smartview_30xs_screen_rtcol If there’s a flaw to the current generation of handheld scientific calculators on the market it’s that they are so small that it’s hard to show students how to use. The teacher either has to crowd around a calculator with a single student or work with a document camera on the big screen for the whole class. There’s a better way. Texas Instruments has just released its PC emulator for its popular line of TI-30XS and TI-24 calculators. It works with PCs and Macs and looks like a cartoon version of the calculator but all the buttons are active and the 4-line screen shows the result. The SmartView emulator costs $87, but is available on a 30-day free trial.

Projector Player

Presenter_Angle Ever had trouble getting a DVD player to play nice with a projector? Epson’s PowerLite Presenter combines a powerful projector with a DVD player for a classroom one-two punch. A little larger than a traditional classroom projector, the Presenter uses three LCD screens to put a WXGA image. Its output is rated at 2,500 lumens of light. On top of playing DVD movies and traditional computer-based material, the Presenter can also grab images off of a USB memory key or external hard drive. A big bonus is that the system not only has a pair of 10 watt speakers but the ability to plug in a microphone so the teacher can be heard from anywhere in the room.



FREEBEE FRIDAY: Ready or Not, It's Here

Windows_7_Migration_Test_Results_3 Windows 7 is here and soon it will be hard to buy a PC that doesn’t have the OS loaded on it. But, what about all those XP and Vista systems at your institution? Most will be screaming for an upgrade or replacement.  iYogi’s Windows 7 Online Readiness Test can help tell whether it’s worth upgrading individual PCs to Win 7. Just go to the site and let it interrogate the machine and the service will assess its ability to run Win 7. On top of  iYogi’s Windows 7 Basic Migration tool, which can help move data and settings to the new PC, the company has offers paid services.  

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