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Top Resolution or Top Price

It seems that every generation of scanners get cheaper and more powerful, and the latest devices are no exception. Whether it’s the best color and resolution you’re after or an economical scanner, there’s something for every school.

Canoscan Looking for the best scans available for student artwork or projecting documents for the class? You can’t do much better than Canon’s upcoming CanoScan 9000F, a device that’s capable of 4,800 by 4,800 dot per inch scans of papers, and 9,600 by 9,600 dot per inch digital images of slides and negatives. Both are in vivid 48-bit color and with software enhancement can double resolution to more than 19,000 dots per inch. Originals are illuminated by LEDs so there’s no annoying warming and calibration time, and the CanoScan 9000F can automatically clean up imperfect originals. The scanner uses USB to connect with either a Mac or PC and will cost $250 when it goes on sale next month.

V330photo-front[1] By contrast, the Perfection V33 and V330 are bargain basement devices that still do surprisingly well at creating digital images. They sell for $89 and $119 but can create digital images of 4,800 by 9,600 dot per inch resolution. Both have no-warm up LED lighting as well as the ability to produce image files or Acrobat .pdf documents, but the extra $30 for the V330 adds a transparency holder so that it can scan slides and negatives as well as prints, newspaper stories and student artwork.

Question of the Month: Summer Plans?

Summertime and the living is … hectic. That is if you’re a school IT person. Forget about lazing on the beach, going on a road trip or even sleeping late because if you’re a school IT guy (or gal), July and August are months that are an opportunity to catch up, get new computers ready for the fall and do all that maintenance you should have been doing during the last school year but could never find the time.

Let’s see what does our panel of school computer gurus have on their datebooks for July and August.

John Orbaugh (2) John Orbaugh
Director of Technology Services
Tyler Independent School District
Tyler, Texas

I guess you could say we have a pretty busy summer schedule planned. We are completing construction on three new elementary schools and moving in as soon as school is out in June. We will also be kicking off remodeling and expansion of two other elementary schools and those projects must be complete in time for school to start in August. 

Beyond that we have a full summer: beginning a proof of concept test of thin client systems, upgrading wireless networks, upgrading networks for IP security cameras, upgrading IP time clocks and continuing our upgrade of payroll software and evaluating a new E-mail archival system. Those projects are, of course, on top of the normal summer work of upgrading computer labs, training and equipping new staff and on and on. 

Other than that…not much going on! 

John Laws John Laws
Executive Director for Technology
Lakota School District
West Chester, Ohio

This summer is different for public education, at least in Ohio, because the State announced last Friday that K-12 funding will be cut between 22.7 percent for the upcoming school year and 30 percent for the 2012-13 fiscal year. Even the most positive glass-is-half-full person would have a hard time cracking a smile. No summer student interns to assist with projects as there are not major projects to work on.
This summer is different because it will be our summer to rethink everything. How can we increase our use of aging PCs as thin clients to extend their life by a few years? How can we tweak our virtual servers to run an even greater variety of software? What can we do to thousands of laptops to get them through the next year since there is no funding for the replacement cycle? What do we need to do to the Data Center to keep it at peak performance? Finally how can we work with our Curriculum Department on a bold proposal to concentrate computers in a single set of academic courses that will allow every student the opportunity to have a laptop in the classroom for an entire semester during the school year?
This summer is different, more so than any summer I can think of in my 30 years of working in education. It is about figuring out the best way to preserve technology that has become deeply embedded in everything we do because going back to the “old ways” is like traveling back in time to the 1950s. It’s great only if you want to meet Elvis.
This summer will flat out be different, but the real scary part is the summer after this and then the summer after that.
Mark Weedy Mark Weedy
Retired Superintendent
Eastland-Fairfield Career and Technical Schools
Groveport, Ohio

Summer is a great time for school district IT people to get a great deal of work completed. While it is a time when administrators, teachers, and other employees enjoy a slightly less strenuous schedule, the IT employees typically are very busy.

Among the typical summertime tasks are cleaning computers, installing new and upgraded software and performing maintenance on all IT equipment. Additional tasks include installing newly purchased computers in various classrooms and/or labs, upgrading servers, and planning for the new school year.

One area that typically is overlooked by administrators is that it is important that IT people be involved in the planning and presentations of IT professional development for all staff members. The IT people have worked with staff members during the school year and have a thorough knowledge of the areas that need to be covered to move staff members to a higher level of competency with IT. The IT people typically have developed a positive relationship with staff members as they have helped them work through technology issues during the school year and therefore should be in a great position to help the staff members learn more to help their students. The IT people typically know the competency level of staff members and can help tailor professional development to their level and needs.


Got the Right File?

Goodsync2go main Any teacher who does a lot of work at home (and who hasn’t) has come up against the problem of having the right file on the wrong computer. Siber’s GoodSync2Go can not only back up files so that nothing is ever lost, but can make sure you have the right files at your fingertips. GoodSync2Go can put the most recent version of any file on a flash memory key. That way, it’s always in your pocket, ready to be used, regardless of whether you’re at school, home or an Internet café. The software can be downloaded and used for a month for free. It costs $40 or $20 as an upgrade from the company’s older GoodSync Pro program.

Hang In There

Spirolock_EXT_Hi_Res We’ve all seen ceiling-mounted projectors in schools, but the hardware has generally been hard to set up and expensive. No more, Premier Mount’s SpiroLock makes putting a projector on the ceiling quick and easy. Capable of holding up to 45 pounds of equipment, SpiroLock can be ordered in three versions: the base unit, a model that extends the mount by between 11- and 15-inches one that has a 1.5-inch NPT coupler. They will be available next month and will cost between $179 and $189.

A New Bottomless Pit for Data

Canvio hdd Remember when your notebook was brand new and that 250-, 320- or 500GB hard drive seemed like a bottomless pit for stashing videos, images and all manner of curriculum. Now, it’s nearly full and there’s no place for the next semester’s leson plans, essays and grades. Toshiba’s Canvio Portable Hard Drives can give you another data pit to fill up with room for between 500GB and 1TB of all kinds of digital stuff. Available in five colors, Canvio connects via USB, weighs either 5- or 6-ounces (depending on capacity) and can easily fit into a shirt pocket when not in use. The best part is that it comes with Windows-based NTI’s BackupNow EZ software so that no file need ever be lost. With a 3-year warranty, pricing ranges from $120 for a 500GB model to $200 for 1TB of portable storage.

Friday Freebee: Power to Learn

Nas energy Ever wanted to build a social studies or science lesson around how much energy we use, where it comes from and what are the environmental side effects, but didn’t have the time to bring together info from a dozen sources? Try the What You Need to Know About Energy Web site from the National Academy of Sciences. On top of an excellent 20,000-foot view of our current energy uses, the site provides more than enough resources to build a lesson plan around. The site focuses on what energy is used for, how efficient it is, where it comes from, how long it will last and the costs – social, ecological and economic –involved. There’s a great energy quiz, glossary and a library of links for more info.


Friday Freebee: Putting the C in Creative Suite 5

CS5 seminar Adobe’s Creative Suite 5 is out, but how to make the most of this complicated set of applications? Adobe has an online seminar that can help integrate the dozen programs in the suite. Called “Open Doors to a Lifetime of Creativity with new Adobe Creative Suite 5,” the webinar will start at 1 PM, eastern time, on Thursday May 20. Taught by Pete Episcopo, Matt Niemitz and Nell Hurley, the presentation will focus on the importance of teaching 21-st century computer skills in schools.  It’s free but you need to register.

Friday Freebee: Office Online

Office_HS2010_print While the next generation of Office won’t be out until the middle of next month, Office 2010 will cost between $120 to $500, but you can get and use a preview Beta edition for free. There will be a free online version called Office Web Apps that will be supported by on-site ads. Like Google’s online apps, you’ll be able to use many of the most popular features and save documents online. It sounds like a great way to cut software costs in computer labs to me.

Power Desktop

Dell_Studio_XPS_7100[1] Without a doubt, Dell’s latest desktop PC is a screamer. The Studio XPS 7100 can be ordered with AMD’s latestPhenom II X6 processor, a chip that has six independent processing cores. With the best that the computer industry has to offer, it comes with a 460-watt power supply, up to 16GB of fast DDR3 dual-channel memory, a Bluray DVD drive and up to 4 TB of hard drive capacity. Inside its large case is everything you’d expect, from an e-Sata and HDMI connectors to an optical SPDIF audio outlet. Pricing starts at $700, but this system should have the best of everything, leading to much higher prices.

Light Up the Classroom

D400 a Looking more like an alien space ship that just landed in the classroom than the typical school projector, Samsung’s SP-D400s is nonetheless a powerful teaching tool. Be warned, it lacks some of the creature comforts we’ve become accustomed to but is among the brightest projectors in its class.

With its rounded silver case and ribbed black side panels, the D400 looks like no other projector on the market. There’s no traditional control panel but as soon as you touch the on-off area, it lights up. The system comes with a small remote control, but it lacks a laser pointer or ability to highlight an area electronically, as is the case with the Sanyo PLC-XU305.

At 6.4 by 13.5 by 13.7-inches, it makes other projectors look positively tiny by comparison. Its nearly 13-pound heft is a lot to lug around. That’s why once it’s been set up, its best left alone.

Underneath, the D400 has a pair of threaded adjustment legs in the front and a single one in the back to get the right angle. The bottom has a rigid plate with four threaded screw holes for mounting the projector upside-down on ceiling hardware. Most school projectors use a single threaded screw, which sometimes isn’t firm enough.

D400 b Starting the D400 up takes 13 seconds for the image to appear, but you’ll need to wait 1 minute and 3 seconds before it gets to its full brightness. The Texas Instruments DLP imaging chip has a four color wheel – not the more advanced six color model – and puts 1,024 by 768 images on screen. Because of this it can project 720p, but not 1080p, high-definition programming.

It can work with screens from 3- to 30-feet for a variety of venues, and I like that the focus ring and zoom control are around the lens, but they are too close together, making it hard to get the set-up exactly right. The D400 can connect with an HDMI DVD player or computer as well as the expected composite, S-Video, VGA and Component sources. On the other hand, it lacks networking and a USB slot for controlling the projector and directly projecting content.

With a 280-watt lamp, the D400 pumps out the brightness and is perfect for a large class, lecture hall, auditorium or even cafeteria for rainy day movies. It’s rated at 4,000 lumens, but I measured its output at 4,140 lumens. That’s more than enough for a lights-on lesson with the shades up.

Unlike most projectors, the D400 leaks very little light around its base. The D400’s focus and light level are reasonably uniform across the screen, but the projector renders reds with too much orange and the greens are a little light.

Regardless of whether it’s video, a presentation or online educational site, the D400 does a good job of putting a lesson on screen. On the downside, it uses 350 watts when on, or 50 percent more than other school projectors and its power use never dips below 8 watts when not in use. This equals an estimated power bill of $45.54 a year of six hours every day of use during the school year.

D400 c Add in the $350 bulb that’s rated to last 2,500 hours and you get an approximate annual cost of $214 a year, which is less than Sanyo’s PLC-XU305. A pair of bright spots is that the D400 doesn’t require an air filter and changing the bulb takes all of two minutes.

Like other large-venue projectors, the D400 does without audio or a speaker. The assumption is that the audio will go through the room’s sound system, but it reduces the D400’s versatility. While it has vertical keystone correction, it lacks horizontal keystoning so that the projector needs to be directly in front of the screen.

When it’s running, the D400 is one of the quietest projectors in its class. With a 2-year warranty, the D400 sells for $1,999, but if you shop carefully you’ll find it for about $1,500. This makes the D400 a great buy for schools looking to put the big picture on screen.


Samsung SP-D400s

+ Very bright
+ Excellent mounting hardware
+ Quiet
+ Easy to Change lamp
+ HDMI connection

- No USB slot
- Lacks audio
- Can’t connect to a school network

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