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The School Pro

1102mbp_fam MacBooks aren’t updated as often as PCs are and when the MacBook Pro gets a redesign, you have to take notice. The new MacBook Pos are available with 13-, 15- and 17-inch screens, have ATI Radeon graphics chips and can be ordered with Core i5 or i7 processors. The big step forward is the inclusion of Intel’s Light Path connection technology, which Apple is calling Thunderbolt. Cable of 10Gbps transfers, it’s twice as fast as USB 3.0 on appear, but there aren’t only a handful of devices that can run on it. Pricing ranges from $1,200 to $2,500. Next up is the iPad.

Making Software Disappear

Yumain Who hasn’t come across an application that just refuses to be removed from a PC. Nothing you try can get rid of it or that it leaves behind fragments of the software. Your Uninstaller Pro can get rid of programs once and for all, and does it for only $40 per system. It will completely remove all parts of any installed software on a PC as well as fix uninstallation processes that have gone awry. The package also includes a program to streamline the system’s start up as well as a data shredder that’s great for getting rid of sensitive data.

TI’s Color Connection

TI-NspireCX_HH_w_software_SO[1] Whether it is overlaying graphs on top of photos to visually illustrate trends or showing a family of functions, color can help kids make vital math connections, and the $165 TI-Nspire CX does the trick. Thinner and lighter than the previous Nspire calculator, it uses rechargeable batteries and comes with software for a teacher to create a wide variety of lesson plans and, with the optional WiFi adapter, use the calculators for classroom assessments. It’s approved for use on the SAT and AP exams.

Freebee Friday: App of Note

Mzl_cxagjkbi_320x480-75 While Microsoft has steered clear of adapting its major programs for the iPhone and iPad, the company has hit a home run with its One Note app. It’s a great way to quickly enter class notes, ideas and keep a schedule so you never miss a test or homework assignment. It requires Apple’s iOS 4.2 update on the iPad or iPhone and is free at the moment.



Ready or Not, Here Comes the Digital Classroom

Deepening connections cover Is your school ready for the digital classroom? Chances are that it isn’t, according to a recent report called "Deepening Commitment: Teachers Increasingly Rely on Media and Technology." Put together by PBS and Grunwald Associates, the survey shows that nearly two-thirds of the 1,204 K-12 public school teachers and 197 pre-K teachers in public and private schools surveyed frequently use digital media in the classroom. But, money is the main stumbling block with nearly half saying that cost restrictions are getting in the way.

Stand and Deliver

Tired of having to prop up your iPad with books? It seems that Apple’s iconic tablet has brought about a whole ecosystem of accessories that address things that the iPad designers left out. Top among them are stands because with the slate on a tabletop, the curved back of the slate causes it to wobble when you press on it. In other words, it’s time for your class to make a stand on iPads.

RingO%20Flip%20Stand%20-%20Typing%20Position First off, Vogel’s Ringo Flip Stand can make it stand on its own, turning the slate into the equivalent of a desktop monitor. The hardware provides a base so that the iPad can stand in a variety of ways, includes an app that turns the system into an alarm clock and costs $80.

Ipm-300 By contrast, Premier Mounts IPM-300 is a much more involved design, with three arms that grab the iPad for greater stability. It can be rotated to hold the device horizontally or vertically and can be screwed into a tabletop.

AP Bio, Inside and Out

GH4360-2 While it’s impossible to cram an entire year of Advanced Placement Biology into a 45 minute video, Cerebellum’s AP Biology Exam Prep is a good start. It doesn’t attempt to teach the year’s worth of college-level curriculum, yet has a good review of the material and excellent printable worksheets. At $50 for the two disc set, it is money well spent to get a class ready for the big test in May.

Meant for 11-th graders, the set uses Cerebellum’s Standard Deviants troupe of teenage actors to tell the story of life. The program starts with a good overview of what to expect from the test, how it is graded and how the total score adds up. It is chock full of general test taking advice and specific strategies for success in the AP Bio exam.

The hallmark of the Cerebellum exam prep series is “30 in 30.” This section attempts to compress the details of 30 biology concepts in 30 minutes. In this case, it actually takes 45 minutes. The video goes through the major themes and ideas one at a time, from photosynthesis to genetics.

Ap bio disc From goofy to earnest, the video snippets are an effective communications tool for teenagers. The topics are comprehensive and presented in a quick-moving lively format that they will have trouble ignoring. Unfortunately, the onslaught of edutainment leaves some of the weightier subjects for the end when attention starts to waver.

As ambitious as the exam prep program is, it can only be useful as an outline to key students into what they need to review in depth and relearn. Happily, it totally ignores the controversy about evolution and deals with just the science.   

Unfortunately, there are several gaffes that mar it. On top of irrelevant backgrounds (like a skulls and bones pattern), some of the kid actors have trouble with the accepted pronunciations of scientific terms. The two most embarrassing faux pas, however, are when “Assortment” is spelled as “Assorment” in a headline about Mendelian genetics and the list of 5 major hormones that actually contains 6 chemicals. More important to teachers and prospective test-takers seeking a comprehensive look at biology, the program doesn’t even mention digestion.

The real gem is the second disc, which contains 5.4MB of worksheets and printable material to pass out to the class. The 42-page workbook has illustrations, fill-in-the-blanks exercises and lots of descriptive material that does a good job of summarizing the curriculum and quizzing students.

AP bio work book On the downside, like Cerebellum’s other text prep discs, these study aids are meant to be printed and not filled in electronically. To me, this misses out on an opportunity to integrate it into the emerging digital classroom with. An iPad or Android tablet version would be a worthwhile effort.

Unfortunately, the Cerebellum exam prep set has an inherent use by date on it because the College Board is revamping the format and material on the biology test. The new test is scheduled to debut in 2013, followed by new exams for history in 2015.

For now, if you have a group of kids anxious about the upcoming AP Bio test, Cerebellum’s Exam Prep set is a great way to let them get a handle on what they know and what they don’t know.


Cerebellum Biology Advanced Placement Exam Prep


+ Good review outline

+ Excellent printable worksheets

+ Lively quick-moving format

+ Insight about test format


- Can’t contain entire syllabus

- Typos and odd backgrounds

- Worksheets meant to be printed


Built for the Long Run

Rarely do the technological stars align and two of the biggest notebook makers redesign their mainstream systems at the same time, but that’s exactly what’s going on at HP and Lenovo. The EliteBook p and ThinkPad L families are aimed squarely at teachers and students with the choice of 14- and 15.6-inch screens as well as the latest Intel Core processors. It’s a simple fact of school life that notebooks just don’t last as long as they need to, but these are ruggedly built systems that should last longer than mere mortal notebooks. 

HP EliteBook p-series_front open Built of sturdy aluminum and magnesium frames and cases and a shock-absorbing rubber ribbon around the edge of the screen, the EliteBook p has the strongest hinge this side of a bank vault. If something does go wrong or you need to add a memory module, the systems have a single access panel that provides easy access to everything. The 14-inch 8460p model and the 15.6-inch 8560p model weigh 4.6- and 6-pounds. They can be ordered with a Core i3, i5 or i7 processor and pricing starts at $999.

L420_hero_03 By contrast, Lenovo’s ThinkPad L family is clothed in basic black plastic case with an internal metal space frame that passes many of the military’s tough Mil Spec requirements for ruggedness. The ThinkPad L systems can be had with Core i3, i5 or i7 processors, up to 500GB hard drives and either a 14-inch (L420) or 15.6-inch screen (L520). The models weigh in at 5.1- and 5.8-pounds and have a generous four USB ports. They should be available within a month.


Short Throw Bargain

IN146_left_off_hf_jpg[1] What could possibly be better than a short throw projector for setting up a digital classroom? How about one that’s a bargain? The $825 InFocus IN146 matches or beats the other short throw projectors on resolution (1,280 by 800) and brightness (2,700 lumens) and life of lamp (6,000 hours). It can put a 5-foot image on screen from just 30-inches away from the screen and comes with a five-year warranty.

More than Another Pretty Face

5409145030_0f574e36fd_o The latest generation of HP Pavilion notebooks is more than beautifully designed systems but ones that have the power to get teachers and students through a school day. The dv6 is not only one of the first with high-speed USB 3.0, but the systems have quad speakers as well as either Core i3 or i5 processors. The system comes with a 15.6-inch screen and can be ordered with high-end AMD’s Radeon 6000M graphics. Look for these models in the coming months.

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