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Meet the New iPad

Ios-42-delayed-wifi-bug-0 While Apple readies its second generation iPad for an anticipated spring launch and Android slates nibble away at its market, there’s a way to make the iPads you have a lot better. The overall look and most of its details will be unchanged, but installing Apple’s iOS 4.2 update can transform an iPad with new abilities that will fit in well in the classroom.

It still won’t be able to play Flash videos or expand its storage space with an SD card or memory stick, but there are a basketful of bug fixes that make it run smoother. On top of that, add in limited multi-tasking and a game center and you have a significant upgrade.

At 550MB, it’s a hefty download, and you won’t lose anything that’s already on the system. In addition it takes about 15 minutes to install the software via iTunes. Don’t worry, all your apps, media and documents will still be there when you’re done and everything will look like nothing has happened.
Expect it will take you a little while to get used to the new software, but Apple’s User’s Guide can help.

Ios 4.2b The big thing the update brings to the iPad is AirPrint. This gives the iPad the ability to print to a nearby wireless printer without adding a third party printing app like PrintCentral or Ndili’s Fax Print & Share. Be careful, though, there are a couple caveats. AirPrint only works with select applications, including Pages, Numbers and Keynote, and it only works with 10 recently made HP printers.

I tried it out with the PhotoSmart eStation C510 printer and it did a great job of printing a presentation and spreadsheet. Before it can work, you’ll have to update those apps that are print enabled.

Got dozens of apps cluttering up your Home screen? The new software lets you organize them into folders so that you can keep all your science apps separate from those used for drawing.

Ios a The dictionary in the iPad now supports 50 languages and there are new keyboards for adding accents and diacritical marks for language classes. Your notes don’t need to look dull anymore because iOS 4.2 supports choosing which font you want to use, but you have to choose from among three that are available. Just go to the Notes section of the Settings page and pick the font and whether you want it to look like it was written with a felt marker, a piece of chalk or with the reliable Helvitica font.

Finally, the iPad can help those who teach handicapped students. The pad can now print to 30 different Braille devices to become a curriculum storehouse for blind students.

All told, it makes the iPad a better place to teach and learn. It’s not perfect and the changes include things that should have been in the initial release of the iPad. Still, it’s a big step forward for a small and very portable computer.

Bird’s Eye View

Screenshot_lg_win Forget about a dull static desktop space, because Xeric Design’s EarthDesk 5.5 can show you what’s happening on our planet. Good for PCs or Macs, EarthDesk is like having your own spaceship in orbit watching from above and looks great on a projector. It has 3 maps, 11 projections as well as a way to show real-time cloud cover, moonlight reflection and twilight shading.  It’s a beautiful way to show our place on the globe by centering the display on any of 10,000 listed cities. It costs $25 per program or $100 for a classroom license.

iPad Lock Down

Ipad-cable-lock The first thing that schools that use iPads learn is that they are even easier to steal then traditional notebooks. Without a Kensington lock slot, the iPad runs the risk of disappearing when nobody’s looking. The iPad lock comes with a clear plastic case with a security lock so that it can be attached to furniture or a heating pipe. It willc ome with a pair of keys, will cost $65 and will be available in the coming weeks.

The Global Classroom

Electa live logo The physical classroom is just the start for places to learn and teach these days. E-Lecta’s Live Tutor is a virtual school that can meet anywhere from Seattle to Sarasota with a rich array of teaching tools available. The system is IP-based and provides one-on-one learning or virtual classrooms for up to 20 kids. On top of sharing an interactive whiteboard and running presentations so that all can see, E-Lecta provides break-out rooms for individual attention. The software can record any class for later distribution. Its annual subscription costs from $400 for one teacher and up to 5 students to $700 for up to 20 students. There’s a free trial so you can see if the system works for your school or district before spending.

Freebee Friday: Cream of the Crop

Broad Which schools do best in impoverished areas? The Broad Foundation’s annual prize for the best achieving districts under the worst conditions is a real eye opener.  Places like Elk Grove, CA and Montgomery, MD were mentioned as excelling at serving their students. What did they do differently? The key is to deliver superior instruction and not take no for answer from students. Can’t wait until next year’s report. 

Freebee Friday: Meteor Alert

Fluxtimator We’re at the tail end of the annual Geminid meteor shower and in most parts of the country it has been quite a show with some areas having several streaks across the sky a minute. NASA’s Fluxtimator Java application can help a science class not only estimate how often meteors will cross the sky but when to look. The Java application can be set for 331 different events, from the Peresids to the Leonids. Enter where you are and when you want to watch and it will forecast the number of meteors you’ll see during nighttime hours. Personally, I’m sleeping in.

A Bright Idea

Teamboard An interactive projector without the right software is a missed opportunity to teach with technology. By combining Epson’s BrightLink 450Wi interactive projector and TeamBoard Draw software makes teaching much easier, intuitive and meaningful for the kids. On top of being able to draw lines, shapes in a variety of colors, the software can interpret handwriting and export the lesson in a variety of formats, from PowerPoint to Acrobat .pdf.  It’s available as a download.

Sign of the Times

Mp8000s[1] The old reliable chalk board and tape-up posters just don’t cut it anymore. We live in an age of digital electronics and hallway signage is the answer to making sure that everyone – teachers, students and guests – know what’s going on. Whether it’s the day’s lunch menu, the finals schedule or directions during an emergency, HP’s  Signage Players can put all manner of information front and center for everyone to see. The SignagePlayer mp8000s and mp8000r devices can feed any monitor with 720p and 1080p images, text and video so that the message gets out. The mp8000s costs $1,119 while the mp8000r goes for $1,079.

The Color of Numbers

Fx-CG10 In a move that’s sure to be copied by its competitors, Casio integrates a brilliant color screen into its Prizm fx-CG10 graphing calculator, transforming it into a visual teaching machine. The result is like night and day with the best calculator interface, easy to read characters and the ability to use color to show different functions side by side. It’s not perfect, but a big step forward for the way science and technology will be taught.

The eye is drawn naturally to the calculator’s colorful screen, which is every bit as bright and rich as what’s on portable game machines and smart-phones. At 3.2-inches, it is 27 percent larger than the display on the Texas Instruments TI-84 calculator. Rather than showing dull shades of gray, the fx-CG10 can display a palette of more than 65,000 colors. This splash of color is perfect for showing several related functions next to each other or linking a chart of numbers with graphs based on color. 

It can also do something that no other calculator can do: make math more visually exciting. The calculator can superimpose a meaningful picture over a plot to help students understand that much of math has to do with shapes. For example, a physics class examining arches can superimpose an arch over data showing the stresses that a bridge might encounter or a math class can put a Fibonacci sequence over a nautilus snail shell image. Called PicturePlot, there are 55 different images available, from a roller coaster to a pendulum. Unfortunately, you can’t add your own images.

Fx-cg10 main menu Like the TI-80-series, the fx-CG10 can handle just about any math task thrown at it, from conical sections, matrices and parametrics to statistics and financial equations.  It can do trigonometric calculations, fractions and work with 28 variables. It’s pretty complicated, and thankfully has an undo button when you make an entry error.

The fx-CG10 can run all sorts of programs, but it lacks a devoted community of software developers who are trying to outdo each other. This might be a matter of time, however.  

You might think that with a color screen, the fx-CG10 might be big and ponderous compared to the standard graphing calculator. It isn’t. In fact, its footprint is comparable to the TI-84 Plus but a bit thinner. At 8 ounces, it’s nearly an ounce lighter. It comes with a plastic cover that matches its black and brushed aluminum case.

Fx-cg10 screen a Like the TI-84 Plus, it uses 4 AAA batteries, but the color screen is a power hog. Thanks to aggressive power conservation, Casio says the batteries should last for 140 hours – or roughly a third of a school year of daily use. If you like rechargeable batteries, it can use Nickel Metal Hydride cells, but expect to get less life out of them.

The fx-CG10 sets the pace with nothing short of the best keypad on a calculator anywhere. In contrast to TI’s Chicklet keys, the Casio calculator has large curved numerical and operation keys as well as smaller oval buttons above. It’s a quick study to learn to use. One faux pas is the circular control pad for navigation, which works well, but the center button doesn’t actuate the selection; you need to press the EXE button in the lower right corner.

It all works well, but the key entry sequences can feel unfamiliar, and frustrating at first. It’s a good idea to have the manual on hand for some trial and error work.

Prizm materials To help teachers and students alike adapt to the new calculator, Casio has produced a slew of curriculum material that’s aligned with state standards and popular textbooks.  There’s also a mini USB cable for connecting the calculator with a PC, so the whole class can see via a large screen monitor or projector.

What it lacks is a way for teachers to share lessons and insights with each other. The calculator is approved for use on the ACT, PSAT, SAT and AP exams.

Just as basic calculators replaced slide rules in the 1980s, only to be replaced by graphing calculators in the 2000s, we are at a colorful crossroads. China’s Mao Zedong supposedly once said that once you watch a color TV, you’ll never go back to black and white.  The same is even truer for calculators.


Casio Prizm fx-CG10

+ Excellent color screen
+ Great keypad
+ Lightweight
+ Curriculum add-ins
+Variety of functions

- Unfamiliar input sequences
- No online community

Sensitive, But Important, Topics

Guidance_System_Series[1] Need help broaching sensitive topics with students? Every teacher and parent knows that it’s not easy talking about sex or drugs with adolescents, but Cerebellum’s Guidance Systems videos are a great way to get the conversation started. Based on real-world situations, the videos cover everything from sexual abuse and the dangers of sexting to drugs and sexually transmitted diseases. The discs cost $80 each or $360 for the set of five programs. The programs will be available early next year.

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