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Freebee Friday: Worksheet Caffeine

Time worksheet We all know that there’s nothing like a good worksheet to reinforce a lesson about anything from factoring to the state capitals, but where can you get new ones? Try Worksheet Café, which has a bunch of creative and functional worksheets. There are pre-made sheets are organized by grade and you can make your own with or without the answers. My favorite is the section on teaching time and money concepts.

Cheap to Keep

Images What if projectors all of a sudden started costing less, used less power and had lamps that lasted forever? Well, that’s exactly what’s happening. Following on the heels of the Casio’s hybrid projectors, Optoma’s PT100 costs less than $200, uses only 24 watts of power and has a LED lamp element that is rated at 20,000 hours. That’s the equivalent of more than 11 years of six hours of daily use and the power use of a notebook computer. On the downside, it only puts out 50 lumens, about one-twentieth of a traditional projector. It has an acceptable 854 by 480 resolution, has a built-in speaker, can fill a screen of up to 8-feet and be connected via composite and VGA jacks. Look for a full review in the coming weeks.

Earth Science in a Box

638016_sustainableearthlab_pp_full Of all the scientific curriculums, earth science is the one that requires kids to go outdoors and explore the world around them. Thames & Kosmos’s Earth Science Kit has the power to teach about the globe first hand with activities on energy conservation, renewable energies, natural resource usage, climate change prevention, waste and water management. On top of examining how pollutants can harm life and building a miniature waste water treatment plant, the kit has a wind power generator. It comes with a 48-page booklet that’s chock full of lesson ideas.

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.

Click with Assurance

MimioVote[1] How often has a class been slowed down because dome of the assessment clickers have dead batteries? In a classroom breakthrough, Dymo’s MimioVote system does away with replaceable batteries with a device that recharges on a special tray. The clickers communicate with the teacher’s PC via a 2.4GHz wireless link with the included USB radio; they have a range of 90-feet. Students can tap their answers to multiple choice, yes-now, true-false or instant answer questions. The results are tabulated on a spreadsheet or directly in lesson plans. A classroom package of 24 clickers, software with a USB receiver costs $2,100 and includes a 5-year warranty.

Seeing the Big Picture

PLC-HF15000_angle_350dpi If a classroom projector isn’t cutting it in your auditorium or cafeteria, you need a large venue projector, like Sanyo’s PLC-HF15000L. With the ability to blast out 15,000 lumens of light, it can fill a big room with a big picture. It can put an ultra-high resolution 2,048 by 1,080 image on a huge screen yet maintain pinpoint sharpness, making it perfect for a big lecture room or a movie night fundraiser.  It’ll be on sale later this month for $44,995.  

Blu-Ray to Go

 SlmBluRay_PC It’s hard to justify a Blu-Ray drive for every computer at a school, but that doesn’t mean you need to do without. With LaCie’s 11-ounce Slim Blu-ray drive, it can be used where it’s needed. It connects to either a PC or Mac computer via a USB cable and can read and write Blu-Ray discs as well as standard DVDs. It comes with a two-year warranty, disc burning software and costs $265.

Freebee Friday: Curriculum, the Wiki Way

Wikiveristy music For schools struggling to put together engaging content for classroom lessons, Wikiversity will seem a godsend. It’s free, created by a group of talented educators and software designers and has curriculum items on more than a dozen subjects, from art to Math. It probably doesn’t conform to your state’s curriculum, but Wikiversity is a great place for lessons, along with lots of links for further study. It’s incredibly deep with the expected subjects and even things like music theory. The whole thing is free and a great resource, but feel free to contribute your best lessons or make a donation to defray its expenses.


Present Looking for a simple to set up attendance program for a single school or small district? RVPM Design’s School Attendance Keeper fits the bill with the ability to not only track daily attendance but produce reports based on student, class, school or any time period, including the full school year. It costs between $200 (for up to 200 students) to $1,300 (for up to 3,000 students), and there’s a free trial of the software that can be used 45 times to see if it fits into your school.

TV vs. Internet

Forrester Which is a bigger distraction on kids’ already strained attention span television or the Internet? It appears that according to Forrester Research, the Internet is now the big thing that kids do after (and sometimes during) school. The report showed that the amount of time spent in cyberspace grew by 121 percent over the last 5 years. At the same time, the amount of TV viewing stayed stable.


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