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Head of the Class 2010

It’s late December, school’s out for the holidays and it’s the perfect time to take stock of the year. Despite the problems of a sagging economy and tight school budgets, 2010 turns out to have been a very good year for classroom tech with a wide assortment of teaching goodies. From inexpensive netbooks and 10-year projector bulbs to the first color calculator, the state of the classroom art took a big step forward.

Of the thousands of items aimed at schools, two stand out as head of the class for the year and are worthy of the first annual (I hope) Head of the Class Awards. To be eligible for the award, a product or service needed to be available during the year and have the potential to radically change the way students learn and teachers teach.

In other words, if I am right, these are the things that will bring on a new era of education. And, the winners are …

Head of the class 2010 in3916 The InFocus 3916 is a projector that can make digital interactivity simple, straight-forward and inexpensive. Forget about getting and calibrating a projector and interactive board because it’s all in the IN3916. The result is a $1,400 projector that can save a school as much as $750 per room because a smart board is no longer needed. Almost like magic, it can turn any screen or wall into an interactive one.

The secret to its success is the projector’s wireless wand. It can be used to draw on the screen, tapping items or even controlling them from afar. On top of pinpoint control and the inclusion of WizTeach software, the projector has an excellent control panel, can double as a class-wide public address system and comes with a school-friendly 5-year warranty.  In other words, it’s just what’s needed to turn any room into a digital classroom.

Head of the class 2010 ipad apps As far as software goes, one device changed the landscape in schools: Apple’s iPad. On top of being inexpensive, the iPad presents new teaching opportunities because of its finger control and slew of apps available. While the slate’s initial operating system was underwhelming, the iOS 4.2 update is a big improvement with the ability to print wirelessly from select apps.

It is in software  where the iPad truly excels, and in less than a year, a series of innovative educational apps have appeared. On top of the Apple’s iWork threesome (Pages, Keynote and Numbers) Elements’ tour of the Periodic Table, innovative apps like Real tools, which turns the iPad into a scale, magnetic detector and much more for science labs, there’s even an app that covers the entire Civil War. It’s just the start as everyone from established software providers to creative teachers and even students will join in and write their own iPad apps.

While some of the first-generation iPad apps are clunky and appeared amateurish at times, they show the potential to change the way we teach and learn in school and at home. The best part is that on top of a bunch of free apps, the most expensive ones I’ve seen for schools are only about $30, making the iPad a tech bargain.

All told, 2010 was a banner year for school technology. With these devices and a horde of new technologies coming, like the Kno dual-screen notebook and a slew of Android tablets, I can’t wait to see who will be at the head of the class in 2011.

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