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Face Time

D-link-doorphone To protect its children, just about every school keeps its front door locked these days, but has a doorbell and a remote electric lock to let visitors in. But, those in the front office can’t tell who’s at the door to decide who to let in. D-Link’s DWM-351 3G Door Phone combines a doorbell with a surveillance camera so those in the office can see who’s at the door and whether to let them in. The best part is that it directly replaces an existing doorbell and rather than having to run Ethernet cables to the door, the 3G Door Phone connects via the wireless phone network. It can capture and stream100,000 pixel images to a computer in the office or the cell phone of a security guard.

Right Write for Formulas

EL_W535.ashx All too often the missing link for kids trying to master advanced algebra is the fact that not all calculators can accurately display fractions, radicals and complex equations. Thanks to Sharp’s WriteView technology, its EL-W535B calculator can make them look exactly like they to in the textbooks. The calculator has 9 separate memories, can handle 335 functions and has a 16-digit display that shows four lines of material. It costs about $12.

The Next School Tablet

Moby prototype The first Apple iPad won’t be sold until April 3 at the earliest, but others are jumping on the tablet bandwagon, including chip maker Marvell. It’s only a reference design at this point but at an estimated price of $99,Moby would certainly fit into budgets used to computers costing much more than that. The 10-inch screen can show 1080p high-definition video and play flash content. While Moby could revolutionize how we think about textbooks and lessons, it could be on sale at the end of the year at the earliest.

Lean, Green Projecting Machine

XJ-A155_L_cover Tired of replacing projector bulbs at between $200 and $500 a pop? Casio’sXJ-A130 projector has an alternative that could save your district’s budget while keeping dangerous substances out of landfills. The XJ-SC15 is oddly flat and long with its lens all the way on one side. Capable of putting 2,000 lumens on a classroom screen, it uses a hybrid low power engine that consists of a laser, fluorescent tube and LEDs for illumination, not a bulb that uses mercury. The key is that it is rated at a lifetime of roughly 20,000 hours, so in practical terms it never needs replacement. It costs $800 and can pay for itself over its lifetime in lower power costs.

FREEBEE FRIDAY: Educating Linux

Desktop-young Trying to justify the hundreds of thousands of dollars it’s going to take to upgrade your district’s PCs? Think about taking a different path. Edubuntu is a variant of the Ubuntu Linux OS and version 9.10 is now available for free. It includes everything you’d expect, from games for early learners to teacher management tools to a good array of support options. My favorite is the Kig geometry program. The OS is available as a download from the organization’s site or on DVDs that they mail to you.


Wordweb For a struggling student or frustrated teacher there’s nothing worse than not being able to find the right word. Well, WordWeb 6.1 can make printed and word processor thesauruses look tongue tied. The free digital word finder provides has 150,000 root words, 120,000 pairs of synonyms and can provide a spoken pronunciation for 5,000 words. Just highlight the word and give it a right click while holding down the Control key. It also provides automatic links to the word’s entries in Wikipedia and Wikitionary, The software works with all recent Windows versions and the upgraded commercial WordWeb Pro version sells for $19.

Plug-in Networking

Xavb5501_hires[1] I love the idea of using a school’s existing electricity infrastructure to piggy-back networking for distribution throughout the building, but just about every powerline networking device not only takes up an outlet but often covers the other outlet. Netgear’s Powerline XAVB5501 Adapter Kit not only is smaller than other gear but has a power plug on it so you don’t have to fiddle with power strips and extension cords. Capable of moving 500Mbps of data, the XAVB5501 works with PCs, Macs and Linux PCs and can cover roughly 5,000 square feet of floor space. 

Clean Machine

Cleankeys b How often have you had to throw away a perfectly good keyboard or mouse because it is just too disgusting to use. Cleankey’s sealed keyboard can be wiped clean with a disinfecting wipe or scrubbed, giving it a longer life in a school. It has all the keys as well as a touch pad, saving on the cost of a mouse, but at $339, it’s doubtful many schools will be able to afford it. It comes with a two-year warranty.

Plug N Teach

Dynadock-v-big-img Even if it only takes a minute or two, too much time is wasted every day by teachers plugging their notebooks into the classroom’s projector or monitor, sound system and network. Toshiba’s dynadock V can inexpensively consolidate all these cables into one easy to set up device that can charge your phone as well.

It seems like it’s too good to be true, but the dynadock V can clean up any desktop. It can’t make the warren of desktop cables disappear but can provide a single place to connect everything from mouse and keyboard to networking, video and audio.

Surprisingly small, dynadock V has a weighted base so the cables don’t tip it over or pull it around. It works with Windows XP, Vista and 7 systems, but not Macs or Linux computers. It delivers 4 USB 2.0 ports, one of which is in the front. There’s also a wired Ethernet connector, headphone and microphone jacks as well as a DVI monitor port.

The one absence is that lack of USB 3.0 ports. This new standard can raise data speeds by up to 10-fold, but the devices that support it are few and far between. I suspect that the next dynadock model will have it.

The system comes with an adapter for connecting to an external monitor, but lacks an HDMI connector for connecting with a large-screen monitor to HD TV. The magic is that inside the dynadock V is a powerful video chip that can work either through the DVI port or via DisplayLink software with the USB connector. It can support a 1,920 by 1,080 display in full color.

To_pa3778u1prp_v2 My experience with the dynddock V was nothing short of exceptional. It worked fine with a Dell Vostro 1510 (with Windows Vista) and an Acer Aspire 8920 (with Windows 7). Thanks to some nicely crafted automatic loading software, the device installed itself in about 5 minutes.

The dynadock V worked well with a variety of USB 2.0 devices, old and new. I used a memory key, printer, two external hard drives, DVD drive, mouse and keyboard, a Dell monitor and an Infocus projector.

To connect with everything, just plug the USB cable into the notebook and in 10 seconds everything is set up. Unlike docking stations that are purpose built for certain notebooks, the dynadock V can’t charge the system’s battery when plugged in, but its front USB port can charge a phone, even when the notebook is asleep.

On the downside, it can cut into performance. In tests with a 500GBWestern Digital MyBook external USB drive, the Dell Vostro 1510 on its own scored a 91.4 on PassMark’s DiskMark hard drive benchmark. With the dynadock V10, it was reduced by 15 percent to 79.1.

With its ability to consolidate a classroom’s cables into a single USB plug, the dynadock V10 is the best $120 any school can spend.


Toshiba dyandock V


+ Consolidates cables from a notebook
+ Easy, quick set up
+ Includes USB, video, networking and audio
+ Small
+ Inexpensive

- Lacks HDMI port
- Slows down data

Touch Screen Shooters

CW450tb Outfitting a school’s classrooms with capable cameras just got a lot cheaper with HP’s CW450t (shown here) and HPPW460t point-and-shoot digital cameras. Both can shoot sharp and rich 12 megapixel snapshots and high def video and have touch-screens for setting up shots, viewing them and doing some editing on the go. They can work with up to 32GB SD cards and are equipped with 4X optical zoom lenses so that kids and teachers alike can get the right shot. The CW450t and CW460t will sell for $109 and $149.


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