The latest notebook from Asus is its B series, which looks like a bull’s eye for schools. Based on Intel’s Core i5 or i7 processor and the ATI Radeon 5470 video engine, the B features Boston Power’s Sonata long-life battery that last three-times longer than typical lithium ion power cells and carries a three-year warranty. The 14-inch B43 is complemented by the 15-inch B53.
I’ve often thought that the best way to teach kids about how to use a computer keyboard is to have keys that light up when students are supposed to hit them. This way a positive association can be made between the keys, the characters and what shows up on-screen. Casio does this idea one better with a keyboard that does just this, except that instead of teaching typing it’s a keyboard that teaches children (and adults) music and how to play the piano.
The breakthrough is that the keys on Casio’s LK-230 keys glow red when they need to be hit. It’s as simple as that, but it’s a big step forward for teaching the piano to kids. The electric piano comes into its own with the included songbook that includes sheet music for 110 songs that are contained in the piano’s electronic Song Bank.
Divided in four groups of increasing difficulty the songbook works well with the piano’s repertoire. While the arrangements can be a bit corny and they will likely get tedious after a while, the book includes everything from Beethoven’s “Ode to Joy” to Foster’s “My Old Kentucky Home.” In other words, more than enough music for an elementary- or middle-school music class.
Like many other digital keyboards, the LK-230 has 61 keys, rather than the piano’s standard 88-key layout, but has the ability to play 400 tones and 150 rhythms. It has a metronome built in and the keyboard can sample any sequence for the teacher to playback later or for incorporating in a group project. The piano’s USB MIDI files can be used on Windows or Mac computers.
It won’t replace a grand piano for concerts but the LK-230 is a gem of a digital device that sounds surprisingly good, particularly when plugged-in to external speakers. The plastic keys have a quiet subtle action and the LED key lights are bright. All are plastic for easy cleanup for the after-lunch music lesson.
For schools stretched tight by decreasing budgets, it can inexpensively integrate music instruction into any curriculum. Watching several 13-year olds try it out, the LK-230 mesmerized them and they couldn’t get enough time playing and practicing, which is a big change when it comes to music lessons.
The only downside is that it’s hard to get in sync with the piano. There’s an 8-beat lead-in but it takes a lot of practice to be able to smoothly join with the material and play the notes with the piano.
Casio’s StepUp lessons can help with keyboarding without the need to read music. The keys light up a musical phrase or one hand at a time and you can repeat any portion as many times as you like. It’s a great way to hone a piece a passage at a time.
On top of a wire music rack, the LK-230 has a pair of built-in speakers for playing for the class. There’s also a headphone jack so that a classroom of future Mozarts can play away without disturbing each other. A room full of the keyboards can help students independently learn the basics of piano playing while the teacher concentrates on those not getting it or excelling.
A big step forward for teaching is the LK-230’s Voice Pad. Just speak, sing or hum for up to 10 seconds and the sequences can be mapped to individual keys. Plus, the keyboard has a line-in jack for connecting a CD player or iPod to add background music.
As versatile as it is, the LK-230 lacks the ability to add new songs to its repertoire. The upcoming LK-270 will be able to download new songs either through a USB connection or an SD card.
The $130 keyboard requires 6 AA batteries or you can use the optional AC adapter, which costs $30. You can get a full classroom kit that includes the LK-230, foldable stand, AC adapter and headphones for $170.
It won’t replace a music teacher but with the Casio LK-230 a class can learn how to play the piano in a few months with surprisingly good results.
+ Keys light up when they need to be played
+ Surprisingly good sound
+ Includes 110-song Song Bank
+ Can connect to computer via USB
- Hard to get in sync with the start of a song
- Corny arrangements
Projectors that can perform the duties of a smart board are all the rage these days for inexpensively adding interactivity to classrooms. InFocus is the first with a second generation system with the LiteBoard interactive technology on its IN3910 family. The key breakthrough is the ability for the teacher (or student) to be up to 40-feet from the projector and still retain control over the pointer but just as easily use the pen on the screen to digitally write on the image.
On top of a slimmer wand that fits into small hands more comfortably, the IN3900 projectors have enhanced audio that can be used as a public address system in the classroom and it now comes with WizTeach interactive software. The spec sheet reads like a dream come true for teachersa nd administrators. Both the IN3914 (XGA resolution) or the IN3916 (WXGA resolution) use the latest digital light processing engine and can be mounted as close as 3 feet away from the wall and still create a 60-inch image.
Both work with PCs, Macs and Linux computers, and come with a five-year warranty; the lamp is covered for six months. The IN3916 adds innovative networking software so that any connected computer in the room can be projected on the screen or even up to four at once. The projectors will cost $1,425 and $1,225 for the IN3916 and IN3914, respectively.
Want to make your classroom a greener place to teach but there’s no cash to do it World of Green will give away $250 of eco gear to do it. Just submit anapplication before September 2, 2010. It’s too late for most schools to get the class involved but it’s a nice classroom activity. Tell the people at World of Green why recycling, reducing and reusing are important concepts. The winner will get $250 of earth-friendly products, from soy inks and sugar cane paper to tree-free pencils.