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The Easy Route to Win 7

F5U279_highres So, you’ve got a bunch of systems that have been waiting for Windows 7 but no way to quickly and easily upgrade them. Belkin’s Easy Transfer Cable for Windows 7 can provide a link from old to new by moving documents, images and all sorts of personal data, like browser bookmarks and old emails. The $40 cable uses the PC’s USB ports to move its data and comes with all the software needed to transfer a digital school life to a new computer. It works with Windows XP and Vista systems and when it’s done, the Easy Transfer software provides a report on its Win 7 upgrade and what was moved. 

Windows 7 Arrives

Windows7_v_web Welcome to the Windows 7 era. The arrival of Microsoft’s new PC operating system will hopefully leave Windows Vista as only a fading memory of disappointments. In fact, most schools and districts ignored the resource-hungry Vista completely and have thousands of Windows XP, Win 2000 and not a few Windows 98 PCs in desperate need of an upgrade or replacement.

After using it for months, my experience is that Win 7 is not only more stable and requires less resources than Vista, but it looks better than previous Microsoft efforts, even on older low-resolution displays. It’s time to get ready because in a short time, it will likely be the only game in town. Here are a few of the latest systems – old and new – that feature Windows 7.

Acer Aspire Timeline 1810TZ

Aspire_1810_black_open_flying If less is more at your school, Acer’s Aspire Timeline AS1810TZ provides a lot for a little. More than a budget machine, the notebook has a 1.3GHz Intel Core 2 Duo Processor, 4GB of RAM, a 320GB hard drive and a slew of high-end features, like Dolby audio and a touchpad that can work with complex gestures. Less than a mainstream notebook, it has an 11.6-inch screen and costs $600.

Compaq ProBook B6445b and 6545b

HP ProBook 6445b - side With a rugged magnesium alloy case, Compaq’s  ProBook 6445b and 6545b notebook families are strong and rugged enough for school work. With the choice of a 14- or 15.6-inch screen, the ProBook 6000 series comes with full-day batteries and AMD Turion processors. Pricing starts at $750 and the lightest model weighs 5.9-pounds.

Dell Studio 15

Studio_15_300 An oldie but goodie, the Studio 15 notebook has been around for a little while but has been updated for Windows 7. With a 15.6-inch screen, the Studio 15 can be had for as little as $600, yet the system comes with a 2GHz Intel Dual Core processor, 3GB of RAM and a 250GB hard drive. 

Fujitsu LifeBook P3010 

LifeBook_P3010_front When a netbook just isn’t enough,  Fujitsu’s LifeBook P3010 steps in with power in a small, slim package.  With an 11.6-inch WXGA display, 1.6GHz display, 1.6-GHz AMD Athlon Neo processor and 320GB hard drive, it’s hard to belied that it weighs only 3.5 pounds and is perfect for little hands. It should be on sale in about a month for $550.

Talk Time

Intercom clock Schools without intercoms or public address systems can now combine audio with a clock with Cyberdata’s IP paging equipment. The V2 Talkback Paging Speaker is the equivalent of a full-duplex Internet telephony phone masquerading as a classroom speaker with a 3-inch clock. The equipment can distribute announcements and act as a two-way speaker phone for talking to the office. Connecting it is easy because the intercom-clock get its electricity from power over Ethernet networking. Cyberdata has versions that are housed in a rectangular box and flush mounted.

One on One Learning

Clubz-logo Sometimes a school is just the start for education for children who need a little extra help and practice to succeed. That’s the idea behind ClubZ, a network of tutors who come to the student’s home to work on math, languages, science, test prep and even getting the youngest students ready for kindergarten. The company has helped 300,000 students in 40 states and the average fee is $40 an hour for the service. Some students can even arrange for free tutoring based on the Supplemental Educational Services provision of the No Child Left Behind act.

The Screen that Lights Up

Cabaret_LED_lighting_lg If your classroom gets too dark when the projector is fired up, think about the closest thing to an educational nightlight. Inside Stewart Filmscreen’s Cabaret screen is a series of LEDs that provide just enough illumination to light up the darkness but not interfere with what’s being projected. With a special remote control, the teacher can control the color and brightness of the light.

The Pad with Smarts

Smart pad Ever wanted to write directly onto a projected image on a classroom screen, but without a tablet computer you couldn’t figure out how. SMART Technologies has a cool idea that puts a touch-sensitive screen within reach of teachers. The DT770 has a 17-inch display that can work with a pen or fingertip and puts everything written on it on-screen. It’s not light enough to use while roaming around the classroom and needs to be plugged in, so for now it needs to remain on the front desk or podium. The touch interface can control the color and weight of the line as well as what’s connected to the projector. Regardless of whether it’s pointing out the nuances of medieval art, chemical interactions on the molecular level or how to simplify a radical equation, anything written shows up on the big screen and can be saved in a variety of formats. 

FREEBEE FRIDAY: Not Just For New Teachers

Survival guide It’s often said that the first year of teaching is the hardest and most rewarding, but most schools have the “sink or swim” approach to novice educators. Discovery Education can help ease the transition with tips, tricks and a slew of practical information to help first-time teachers to get up to speed quickly without burning out. Sponsored by Elmer's Products, SMART Technologies and Clorox, the New Teacher Survival Guide, the site’s curriculum resources is a must-see for teachers new and old because it has lots of  online lesson plans, science projects and help with technology problems.   

Make the Most of Your School’s WiFi Network

F5L049_highres The beauty of having a WiFi wireless network that covers an entire school is that once it’s there, you can add all sorts of accessories and equipment without having to think about where there’s an Ethernet outlet. One of the coolest wireless appliances is Belkin’s Home Base. Don’t let the name fool you, it is rugged and secure enough for school work and can support a printer, external hard drive or even a memory key or two. With 4 USB ports, the Home Base works with all recent WiFi routers. It comes with software for performing automatic back-ups and up-loading files to a Flickr or Picasa account. It costs $130.

Taking Young Readers in Hand

DRA2_Book_Cover_Form_Chip_Rescue-01_(3) The Apple iPod Touch is great for listing to music, watching the latest video and now to help diagnose reading problems in early students. Pearson’s Tango Developmental Reading Assessment 2 Handheld can be used to give K through 8-th grade kids reading tests that find their strengths and weaknesses to tailor an instructional program around. The software also works with a variety of Palm handhelds.

QUESTION THE MONTH: What will be the most important technologies for the classroom over the next three years?

It’s a given that new technologies will continue to redefine how teachers teach and students learn, but which ones will be important in the coming school years. Will they be smaller and lighter computers, new ways to show visuals to a class or something we can’t even think of at the moment? Only time will tell.

This month I asked our panel of school IT pros to gaze into the educational crystal ball to see what the future might hold in store.

Orbaugh thumb

John Orbaugh

Director of Technology Services

Tyler Independent School District

Tyler, Texas

I believe the challenges we will face over the next three years will revolve around putting more engaging technology into the hands of our students and opening access to instructional applications while at the same time increasing security and controlling costs. All in all that is a pretty difficult task. I expect that we will see virtual desktops and cloud computing technology grow rapidly as we strive to meet these challenges.  

We have completed the virtualization of our district’s file servers, built a storage area network to house the programs and data and introduced a Web portal to begin granting secure access. Our next step will be to convert our standard desktop PCs into a thin client devices that give our users access to a virtual desktop. 

Madden thumb Kurt Madden

Chief Technology Officer

Fresno Unified School District

Fresno, California

There are new technology products for the classroom nearly every day.  Some will have a significant impact, but others will no impact – or even worse, a negative impact. I think that almost any technology that is “forced” on a school tends to be negative. 

In addition, I’m not a big fan of document cameras because they tend to keep teachers paper-based, although some teachers use them effectively for other reasons.  Also , there are still some districts that put desktop models (vs. laptops) into classrooms and labs which I think has a negative impact on the classroom in terms of noise, heat, energy costs and the physical space they take up.  

The problem with prediction is that you are wrong as often as you are right.  Regardless, if I were to pick, the following technologies (I can’t pick just one) will have the most impact on the classroom:  

The netbook – 

By having a laptop small enough to share the desktop with textbooks and paper, the netbook provides a transition strategy from the paper-based classroom to the digital-based classroom. With the content of the world online, the netbook provides a window into the resources of the world.  

The wireless pad/tablet – 

This allows the teacher, for the first time in 80 years, to move away from the blackboard/whiteboard/overhead projector screen/interactive board at the front of the room and walk around to interact with students. This freedom allows the teacher to move around the room and observe what students are doing while controlling what is projected on the front of the room.

The digital portfolio – 

The digital portfolio captures student’s learning during their years in primary and secondary grades. Student achievement is more than grades and tests – it also includes the artifacts of student learning.

Laws thumb John Laws

Executive Director for Technology

Lakota School District

West Chester, Ohio

There is the answer I would like to provide because I think it would deliver the capability we all desire: 1-to-1 programs. Unfortunately given the severe budget constraints at the State and local levels this is a blurry vision at best. In our case I see student owned PCs making their way into the classrooms, increased reliance on cloud-based functionality for things from file storage to Office applications and slow steady improvements on applications for Smartphones. 

Smartphones with a network capability will allow use of these devices connected to our managed network services. Couple this with creative entrepreneurs delivering instructional content with all the bells and whistles (standards-based, engaging and integrated) and our teachers will explode with new ways to engage and challenge the students. Some would say this is available now, but we’re held back by a lack of hardware standards, the limited applications and public opinion that prohibits us from providing a handheld device to those who cannot afford one. In other words, smaller more capable hardware will be the game changer over the next three to five years.

While I think the vendors would like us to think they have moved all the needed instructional software online I’ve found the majority of the offerings are remakes of software for the 1990s. I’ve yet to see comprehensive software with an intuitive interface and an open capability to tie in multiple vendor products that works for the K-12 market.

 I need to add that Lakota School District has been fortunate to have hardware-refresh money for the past five years. We have gigabit Ethernet throughout the district, interactive white boards in 90 percent of our classrooms and  100 percent in core areas as well as a variety of online applications for student instruction. Yes we are a spoiled bunch!

 At some point I think we’re going to need to get out of the PC purchasing business and get into the wireless application delivery business. Think of schools working like iTunes U; an interesting concept.

Ladoux thumb6Trudy LeDoux

Technology Director

Dickinson Independent School District

Dickinson, Texas

Dickinson ISD has spent much effort in providing a solid IP infrastructure for which to deliver data across the district. With the reliable infrastructure in place, we are now prepared for advanced technologies that will allow for collaboration between students and between personnel. 

To date, Dickinson ISD has no video conferencing in the classroom, and we have few approved Web 2.0 tools in place. Our goal is to acquire and implement these tools for instructional purposes

Let me know what you think about this question and feel free to suggest another for next month. 

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