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Short Throw Interactivity

PLC-WL2503 By combining high-resolution with brightness and interactivity, Sanyo’s PLC-WL2503 can help any classroom lesson. Like other interactive projectors, the PLC-WL2503 does away with the smart board by projecting an image that a teacher or student can write on, point out things or just doodle with a handheld wireless wand. The projector can display wide-XGA projector can put 2,500 lumens of brightness on screen and create an 80-inch image from less than three feet away. The secret is the wireless wand, which communicates with the projector via an infrared link. It works with Windows 7, Vista, XP and Macs, and will be available for $1,695 later this month.

Freebee Friday: Explosive PDFs

15._Stamp_annotations[1][1] NitroPDF is a great program for teachers and administrators who need to not only view existing Acrobat files, but create them on the fly or from Word files. It’s about to get better with Version 6. To start, the program has better security, including the ability to control whether Flash files that are embedded in a .pdf file plays, turn Java on or off  and 256-bit encryption for protecting confidential documents, like discipline reports or test results. It’s free for existing users or but the software for $100.

Mac Storage Central

Goflex desk External drives for full systems are old hat for PCs, but many drives ignore the Macs we have at schools. Seagate’s GoFlex Desk drives can provide a classroom up to 3TB of data space, ready to be filled with everything from old tests and lesson plans to art works and student data. They can connect to a Mac via FireWire 800 or USB 2.0 ports, include the required cables. The drives come with back up software and cost $200 (2TB) and $260 (3TB).

Online Degree

Pbs teacherline Want to get a graduate degree but can’t find the time to get to an accredited college? You can do it all online with PBS TeacherLine’s courses without even putting your shoes on. The program just added the University of Missouri - Kansas City, Washburn University and the University of Central Missouri to its curriculum providers. The program has courses from 28 institutions. Teachers can earn credits in specific areas to brush up their skills or get a graduate degree. A 15-hour online course is good for 1 credit, which costs between $79 and $330, depending on which institution provides the course material.

Question of the Month: Where to draw the WiFi line?

Most schools have internal wireless networks so that teachers and students can save and grab data, files and use Web resources at will without resorting to plugging in an Ethernet cable. But, where do you draw the line on student and teacher access? Is logging onto FaceBook OK to see what friends are up to? What about reading and writing Twitter Tweets? So, the question at hand is where do you draw the line on personal WiFi use at schools and how do you enforce it?

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

As we developed our wireless strategy we built into the plan the ability to deliver role-based access. Our Guest Wireless (WiFi) allows anyone within range of our access points to connect to our wireless and browse the Internet under the control of our content filter. It works much like WiFi at a coffee shop or restaurant.

Our managed wireless allows administrators or teachers to access their network service through a secure wireless. This also allows us to deliver applications or content filtering to a specific user on both our wired and wireless networks.

There is an on-going debate between those that want everything to be open and those that want very little to be open. Riding in the middle of this is difficult because I see both side of the debate, but am keenly aware of the legal issues. Since the teacher’s Union in Ohio came out against teacher’s having a Facebook account last year the requests to have this open have died out. We do open Facebook for School Resource Officers and Administrator’s, but not for teachers or students. As for Twitter we don’t open it for anyone.

The use of data plans on hand held devices is a very interesting area for us. At this point we have not attempted to block data access, but the question about “could we” has come up. We do know that at any given time we have 300+ non-district owned devices on our WiFi and an untold number connecting via cell signals.

I could foresee the day when we provide very limited wireless connectivity because the students all have a personal data plan. We would not be able to erate these or force content filtering, but it may come down to this as our budgets continue to shrink.

John Orbaugh (2) John Orbaugh
Director of Technology Services
Tyler ISD
In our district we do not allow open access to social media sites. Instead of throwing the doors open to whatever may be out there in the world of social media that has nothing to do with education we chose, instead, to make these types of services available through a district managed service that allows teachers and students to use Web 2.0 tools, but in a manner that focuses the attention on instruction. 

What we have found since opening these services in a safe and controlled manner is students using them in thoughtful and creative ways. Additionally, our district has a Board of Education policy that prohibits teacher-to-student contact through social media except in certain specific instances, such as a family or other appropriate social relationship.


Merk weedy Mark Weedy
Retired Superintendent
Eastland-Fairfield Career and Technical Schools
Groveport, Ohio

The use of wireless networks on schools continues to evolve. It used to be that schools could install a wireless network, provide the password to staff and students, and everyone was fairly happy. Schools could change the password frequently and prevent access if a problem developed. Sounds pretty simple, right? 

However, as wireless network devices become more readily available to the general public, the effect on schools is being felt. I recently purchased an iPad and then invested in a wireless network device from my mobile cell phone carrier. The size of the wireless device is like that of a fat credit card. I am able to put it in my pocket and have wireless network access wherever I go – in stores to compare prices, check sports scores, check the stock market, find restaurants, and numerous other tech-related activities. Since I was able to purchase such a device, students are able to do the same. 

This presents a situation where it is impossible for teachers to know when and if it is happening at school. When looking at this issue from an educational perspective, I support the use of these technologies in schools. The challenge it presents for educators is first to realize the access students have to wireless technology and then embrace and use it for educational purposes. This will require re-thinking on the part of teachers as they prepare lesson plans. Instead of focusing on how schools can regulate whether students access wireless technology, teachers and other school officials should collaborate with their students to incorporate these same technologies into their lesson plans to serve an enhanced educational purpose – lessons with which the students can identify and from which they can learn what we as adults believe they need to learn to be successful.

Greg thompson - Copy Greg Thompson
Technology Operations Director
Greenfield-Central Community School Corp.
Greenfield, IN

In the areas that we have WiFi access to students, we apply the same filtering as we do to our own devices. Students are expected to use that connection for learning and school purposes only.

This means that students cannot access twitter, Facebook, email, game sites etc. To enforce these rules we use a software filtering solution called LightSpeed. School Internet access by students own devices is still subject to the same rules and regulations as any other device on our network.


Power Antenna

Gal-01 Need just enough WiFi power to get the signal to fill a dead spot or to reach out into the recess yard? Amped Wireless’s WA12 antenna can put the stub antenna that comes with most routers to shame. Rated at 12dBi – roughly three-times the sensitivity of typical WiFi antennas – the WA12 boosts the signal in all directions and can make your school’s network reach further. It works with 802.11b, g and n networks and doesn’t require installing any software to operate. Just plug it into the router. That is, if the router has a removable antenna. It will cost $35.

Getting the Most Out of Each Room

Appointment plus How often have you needed a room for a parent conference, individual lesson or just a quiet place with a door to grade tests but couldn’t find an empty room? Appointment Plus can put an end to that by letting teachers electronically sign up for unused school facilities. Teachers and students can schedule appointments and rooms at any time of the day online, making the process easier and fairer; emails confirm a successful scheduling. The online program costs from $39 to $400 for a year.

Freebee Friday: Scheduling Central

Admin It’s ironic, but the secret to setting up school software may be half a world away in South Africa. Johannesburg-based Time Software’s TS School can do most of the things that schools need to do. With 38 modules that cover the gamut of school activities, TS School can give expensive admin programs a run for the money. On top of setting up classes, schedules and documentation, the software makes it easy to enter grades and produce report cards.

The Big Pen

Alupen_big What’s missing from just about every new slate computer? A stylus to write directly on the screen is nowhere to be seen on the latest slates. Just Mobile’s AluPen fits the bill with the ability to work with the iPad and a slew of Android tablets. Made of aluminum with a soft rubber tip, AluPen is perfect for writing, drawing or just scribbling. At half an inch thick, it fits well into small hands, and is available in six colors. It costs $25.

Power Portables

MSI FX family For those schools that need a little more performance out of their notebooks. MSI’s F family of systems are packed with power. Based on Core i3 and 15 processors and screens ranging from  14- to 17.3-inches, there’s something for everyone. Each has an NVidia graphics engine with as much as 1GB of dedicated video memory and some come with the latest USB 3.0 for top speed data flow. The FX400, FX603 and FX 700 systems cost between $850 and $1,050.

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