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Math learning3 We all know how important it is for early learners to become familiar with numbers and manipulating them, but what to do about it is an open matter. The National Academies Press’s “Mathematics Learning in Early Childhood” sets the stage at schools these days suggests new ideas in math education, including informal learning. A hardbound version of the book is available for $50, the download is $42.50 and you can check out a preview of the book.

Cooperative Editing

Peermark Getting kids to edit each other’s writing is a great way to teach writing and editing at the same time, but doing it on paper is currently the only alternative. It won’t be available until January, 2010 but iParadigms’ PeerMark lets kids edit each others’ pieces of writing online. Based on Turnitin WriteCycle, PeerMark’s Web-based service lets teachers start assignments and manage them and check on results. If your school has a license for the company’s Peer Review product, it can be upgraded to PeerMark for free. 

I Spy

Pc tools What could possibly be worse than going through the hassles of guarding a school’s computers from spyware attack? Dealing with the consequences of an attack are much harder, more time consuming and a lot more frustrating that preventing the damage in the first place. The latest version of PC Tools Spyware Doctor is a complete protection toolkit that can make it a lot easier and quicker to keep the prying eyes of the Internet away from your school’s computers.

The key is that its ThreatFire technology finds and blocks potential bad software before it becomes a threat while its multi-layered approach can protect against phishing and silent drive-by downloads. The program’s Site Guard keeps kids away from unsavory sites that can hold potential dangers and Cookie Guard gets rid of tracking and ad cookies. Plus, the software’s Idle Mode scans for bad software while the machine isn’t being used, but is smart enough not to do this while a notebook is on battery power.

It works on all recent versions of Windows (including Win 7) and costs $40 for a 3-system license. If all this sounds interesting for your school, there’s a free trial that detects, but doesn’t eliminate, threats.


Big Screen, Small Power Bill

LCD175M_Rt_Bk_300_CMYK Believe it or not, junking those old CRT monitors that are on the desks of your computer labs can actually save a bundle of money. The latest LCD monitors, like NEC’s 17-inch MultiSyncLCD175M, can use 42 percent less electricity than older displays without sacrificing brightness or the features you’ve come to expect. Plus, the LCD175M uses as little as 0.4 watts when in sleep mode. The 1,280 by 1,024 resolution display will cost $179 when it goes on sale later this month and includes a three-year warranty.

Q&A: HP’s Brian Becker

Brian_Becker_-_Portrait_-_Business[1] The future of the PC on school desktops is as certain as the contents of mystery meat served in the cafeteria on Wednesdays, but according to Brian Becker, HP’s director of Education, it doesn’t have to be that way. Today, HP is introducing three new school products that offer more bang for the buck than the traditional PC while retaining the familiar look and feel of Windows software. While HP’s Multiseat shares a PC among up to ten screens and TeachNow can outfit an entire classroom with connected screens, the company’s SchoolCloud virtualizes the learning experience with a client server environment at the school.

I recently got a chance to ask him about his vision for the digital school.

Tech Tools: What are the pros and cons of full PCs in schools?
Brian Becker: Whether it’s a PC or a thin client, the goal is to provide pervasive technology access to students giving them the tools they need to be successful in the future – at college or in the workforce collaborating with peers and colleagues. Both PCs and thin clients provide students with a familiar Microsoft Windows computing environment, similar to what they use at home.
The key to making technology available to more students is making it affordable for schools to deploy more PCs to students without increasing their technology budget.
TT: Are many teachers overwhelmed by the technology?
BB: One of the biggest obstacles to using technology in schools is teacher adoption. We see a couple solutions to this problem – one, making technology easier to teach with, and two, providing professional development to enhance teacher’s skills to effectively teach with technology.
We understand that many teachers aren’t technology experts and they shouldn’t have to be to use technology in the classroom. That’s why HP created TeachNow, to help make teaching with technology easier. The software provides a simple user interface for non-technical teachers allowing them to easily build and distribute lesson plans and manage the classroom. With the click of a mouse, teachers can fix many computer problems they may encounter during a lesson, without losing focus or time on the task at hand.
TeachNow Teacher lesson planning After speaking to a number of our education customers, we’ve learned there’s a huge effort to get teachers to use the digital content they already have. Providing teachers instructor-led, onsite professional development is an effective way to overcome the technology adoption hurdle in the classroom. HP partners with a company called Knowledge Network Solutions, KNS, and includes different levels of professional development in a number of its education products. Professional development is helping educators make the shift from a teacher-centric model to a student-centric one where students are empowered with technology and learn at their own pace.
TT: What are the client-server alternatives and what are the savings?
BB: Alternatively, schools are looking to thin clients and cloud computing as a way to stretch budgets. HP recently announced three computing solutions for education intended to meet the budget needs of a variety of schools at different levels of their technology implementation.
HP MultiSeat is designed to help turn schools with limited student access to technology into a technology-rich PC experience for every student in a classroom, lab or library. Up to 10 students can connect to a host computer, sharing its computing power. Each student has their own independent and familiar Windows 7 computing experience, using their personal monitor, keyboard and mouse connected to the host computer via MultiSeat.
By deploying MultiSeat schools really can purchase double the amount of computer seats without increasing its technology budget. And, the client device consumes just 2.5 watts of power, reducing energy costs by up to 80 percent.
HP MultiSeat monitor keyboard The second product, HP TeachNow, includes a classroom or computer lab of technology where the server does all the work, and students use thin clients to access school curriculum. Schools don’t need a data center and TeachNow is as easy to set up as a typical PC. The built-in software gives non-technical teachers a simple way to build and distribute lesson plans, and also provides some classroom management tools.
Lastly, HP SchoolCloud gives students and teachers 24/7 access to their applications and data through a virtual desktop. Students and teachers simply log-in to access their personalized SchoolCloud page at school, home or anywhere they have internet access. Through real-time reports teachers and administrators know which software and computers are being used. This data can then be combined with student grades and attendance to correlate technology usage and learning outcomes.
The biggest savings for all three solutions is maintenance time, resources and the reduced cost of deploying more PCs throughout a school or district.
TT: Can you give an example of schools using thin clients and micro clients? What were the savings and the effect on instruction?
BB: We have several education customers deploying thin clients. One that comes to mind is Hudson Falls Central School District in New York. Over the past four years, Hudson Falls has deployed 1,400 HP thin clients in classrooms and computer labs throughout the district’s five schools.

They also use software from ClassLink Technologies that allows the IT staff to build separate computer images for students so they can access the applications they need for their specific grade levels. This is a huge benefit for the students as well since ClassLink allows them to log in from their home computers to access school applications and files. Another benefit Hudson Falls is seeing with thin clients is that students can no longer change computer settings or accidentally throw things away in the trash.
Greg Partch, director of educational technology at the district says over the long run, schools will see a significant savings – as much as 40 percent from reduced help-desk support and maintenance costs. His IT staff alone went from managing 1,400 PCs to just 10 servers
HP SchoolCloud Theme Editor TT: Where is this leading? Will computers in schools become a service delivered by the cloud?
BB: With current budgetary constraints in education, schools are starting to look beyond the initial cost of technology deployment to total cost of ownership including maintenance costs and needed resources. This shift in paradigm is leading more schools to evaluate cloud computing and realize the numerous benefits to students, administrators and IT. From cost savings to simpler IT management to environmental impact, moving to the clouds makes fiscal sense and we believe this trend will continue in education.
TT: What's missing right now from educational cloud computing and when might this happen?
BB: The key things that have been preventing the educational cloud computing from being adopted are
1. Cloud solutions designed specifically for the unique needs of education
2. Affordable cloud access devices to connect students to the cloud

HP has addressed these barriers with HP SchoolCloud and HP Multiseat.  Schools have begun adopting educational cloud computing.  We expect this trend to accelerate.

The Future is Online

CDE report cover Paper and pencils still rule in the classroom, but the online world is making steady inroads in the educational sphere. Or, at least that’s what e.Republic’s Center for Digital Education found out in its annual survey. The survey rates the states on on the vision, policies, programs and strategies they have deployed around online learning to transform their schools.

The results are a mixed bag with 27 states having statewide online learning initiatives underway. Another  21 states don’t, leading to a potential digital gap among the online haves and have nots and a generation of kids who are not technologically literate.

The top 10 states are as follows:
1.   Florida
2.   South Carolina
3.   New Mexico
4.   Hawaii
5.   Michigan
6.   Louisiana
7.   Idaho
8.   Minnesota
9.   Oregon
10.  Arkansas

A New Classroom Vision

Myvision logo If classroom computer management software seems like a lot of money for a little help for teachers, Netop’sMyVision has a new approach that values price and usability. Simple and basic, MyVision can take control over every PC in a class and even blank their screens so that everyone’s attention is on the teacher. Afree 30-day trial is available and the software costs $200, or $149 if purchased before the end of the year.

FREEBEE FRIDAY: Road Trip, Anyone?

Field trip If your schools is like any that I’ve seen, a year’s field trips are generally a repeat event of last year, the year before, … It doesn’t have to be that way because Are We There Yet? can help you map out new and interesting field trips that include museums, nature centers, historic sites, aquariums and zoos. Most of the suggested field trips have links to the destinations, but it only covers the east coast from Maryland to Connecticut.  My favorite is Delaware’s Wilmington  & Western Railroad, which includes authentic 19-th century rolling stock, Civil War battles and the use of self-propelled cars.  

FREEBEE FRIDAY: Teaching the Teachers

TI classes If the current crop of calculators leave you feeling out of touch, a series of 8 free online webinars from Texas Instruments can help get you up to speed and calculating with the best of them. The Teachers Teaching with Technology classes are aimed at TI Nspired products, but the experience can help with any scientific calculator. On top of on-demand classes on algebra and geometry the curriculum starts on November 10 with a class about algebra, linear inequalities, geometry, right triangles and trigonometry. Just register, the classes are free.


Digitally Mightier than the Sword

Averpen_img_lg_3 From Greeks scratching away on clay tablets with a stylus to the latest Sharpie, the idea of writing has been to put ideas on something that’s more or less permanent. AVerMedia breaks with the past with its AVerPen Mobile Interactive Collaborative Learning Solution, which uses the latest digital technologies to update the pen for the 21-st century classroom. The pen transmits what’s written to a nearby computer wirelessly where it can be saved or projected on the class’s screen; it has a range of about 60-feet. Whether it’s to quiz the class or for a group to work on a project, the AVerPen does away with paper. The included software lets students or teacher work with images, annotate material and draw to your heart’s content. The $800 package comes with a teacher pen, 4 student devices and a slew of software.

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