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Doc Cam that’s Win 7 All the Way

Dc896 Califone has upgraded its Diggiditto Smart Document Camera to run on Windows 7 computers. It has a 12X optical zoom lens and a unique backlit document area so it can be used with slides and transparencies. It’s easy to annotate items it comes with a remote control. The best part is that the $1,300 document camera can fold up and be taken from room to room as needed.




Short Throw, the Easy Way

M300XS_slant[1] When you get a school’s worth of projectors the last thing you generally think about is maintenance, like how often the filer and bulb need changing. I’m here to say it should be the first thing on the list. NEC’s latest short-throw projectors, the M300XS and M300WS, start up in a few seconds, can create images as close as 20-inches from the screen and pump out 3,000 lumens. They can go for up to 5,000 hours of use between lamp changes and don’t require time-consuming filter changes, making them as close to maintenance-free as exists. With a 2-year warranty, they sell for $999 and $1,099.



From the Little to the Big Screen

6636D01 Side In the eternal argument about the best way to bring all the Web has to offer into the classroom, Lookee TV makes a good argument for the set top box over a full PC. That’s because, the Lookee box is everything that a PC will never be: small, inexpensive and purpose-built for displaying the best (and worst) the Internet has to offer.

At 4.0- by 8.4- by 4.4-inches, Lookee can connect to more than 1,400 sources of online video streams and 30,000 Internet radio stations. The variety of languages and subject matter spans the globe, from Afghanistan’s Ariana TV channel to Venezuela’s VIVE; sorry, at the moment there’s no Zimbabwe content.

My favorites are the always interesting NASA TV and the appropriately named Learn Arabic Grammar TV, two items that you can get to on the Internet but the chances of finding them on your own are small. For instance, during the earthquake and tsunami in Japan, I watch NHK’s (Japan’s main TV network) English satellite feed.

Overall, the video quality is tolerable, but varies from site to site. Of course, it’s all dependent on how the Internet is operating at the moment. There are the ever-present video stutters and some of the video selections are real clunkers, including streams that haven’t been updated for months and others that appear to be traffic intersection Web cams. Some sites come in loud and clear while others come up as unintelligible blobs, play haltingly or never load.

Lookee screen The hardware is impressive given its $170 price tag, particularly when compared to the slightly more expensive Nixeus Fusion HD. Its neutral piano black design will fit into any classroom and the system’s 4.3-inch screen can show 480 by 272 pixels.

It’s a snap to connect it to an 802.11b or g WiFi network, although, like so many similar devices, plugging in the encryption codes can be an exercise in frustration; thankfully, you need to do it only once. The version I looked at lacks an Ethernet jack for wired networking when WiFi just isn’t enough; at $8, it’s an option that’s well worth it.

The system has a pair of 3-watt speakers that sound surprisingly good, but no input jack for a microphone that could have transformed it into a tidy public address system for classroom amplification. There is a mini audio plug for playing the sound on an external set of speakers.

It comes with most of what you’ll need to integrate it into a curriculum, including an AC adapter (it can also run on four AA batteries) and USB cable. It can connect to a monitor or projector at up to 720 by 480 resolution via the included composite video cable. There’s a jack for a YPbPr connector but the unit doesn’t include a cable; the jack is also for connecting antenna for the device’s FM radio.

LookeeTV2 Unfortunately, it does without an HDMI connection, which can simplify the set up by combining both audio and video streams. It’s, however, not surprising in light of Lookee’s low resolution screen, but a disappointment, nonetheless

I really like that there’s an SD card slot for playing local content, and the Lookee TV box can work as an impressive networked media player. When it’s not being used, Lookee is a great digital clock, with an alarm for dividing the day, but can’t time tests or tasks.

It doesn’t require a keyboard or have a traditional Web browser, and that’s good and bad. It’s good because anyone, from a 4 year old to the most technophobic teacher can quickly find a video stream or radio station and tune in. It’s bad because it’s needlessly limiting with the wide world of content available at the finger tips. There is a handy remote control that has a 35-foot range, perfect for anything up to an auditorium or cafeteria

Happily, the content is arranged hierarchically by country, language and subject matter; at any time you can search for content. It’s a nice way to home in on what you want to find, but it takes several seconds for the device to download each list. The company can update the menu’s contents very quickly to add new things and take out nonfunctional sites

While I love the variety of content that Lookee provides and it blows away the content available on the Nixeus Fusion HD, do yourself a favor and spend some time nosing around and trying the different streams out. I only wish there was a way for teachers to share content by adding their own favorite streams to the menu.

LookeeTVbig After viewing the stream on the system’s small screen, it can be transferred to a projector or large-screen monitor, but you’ll have to switch to external display and find it all over again, a frustrating duplication of efforts. In my mind, a key flaw is the lack of ability to record material for eventual use or sharing with other classrooms. As it is, it’s now or never.

Still, Lookee TV shows how to build and program a great set top box that can fit into every classroom and its budget.


Best Supplier International Lookee TV


+ Inexpensive

+ Lots of programmed content

+ 4.3-inch screen

+ FM radio

+ Network media player


- No browser software or keyboard

- Low resolution

- Can’t record material for later use

Play Time

AltaLaguna_Gallery Recess these days requires more than monkey bars, a slide, and Landscape Structures has a variety of 21-st century playground equipment. From inclusive sets that cater to kids in wheelchairs to playgrounds designed for small kids to those that blend in with the environment, there’s a lot to choose from. It’s all made to last and turn after-lunch physical activity into fun.

AP Help

AP CALC B As more and more students take college-level Advanced placement courses, there’s a need for online prep classes to get them ready to take the challenging college-level test. Shmoop now has a slew of online classes, including new ones for Calculus AB and BC as well as Psychology, Macroeconomics and Microeconomics. A six month license for the online prep classes costs $13 (with school-wide discounts available), and includes a comprehensive review, hundreds of sample problems and full-length practice exams.



Freebee Friday: Coding the Way Forward

Kodu With most schools teaching how to use Microsoft’s ubiquitous Office suite, but it’s a shame that they don’t teach kids what they really want to know: how to program games. Kids can win up to $5,000 in prize money for the best game. Just use the free programming environment to create an imaginative game for either the PC or an Xbox console and see what happens. There are lessons on how to code, downloads and samples of projects.



Freebee Friday: Protecting a School from the Copyright Police

SIIA don't copy that If you look carefully, you’re likely to find lots of bootlegged software at your school that has been illegally copied or used with a common license key. Regardless of the reasons, the School Version of SIIA’s Don’t Copy That2 is a Web site chock full of material that can turn this intellectual property crime into a classroom lesson, and hopefully keep the Copyright Police out of your school. Aimed at K-through-12 schools, Don’t Copy That2 includes a 13 minute music video, support materials, lesson plans and a glossary of terms.


Freebee Friday: Lights Out!

Earth hour Every year (at least for the past three) the lights go out for an hour to cut carbon emissions and publicize the damage that power generation does to the environment. Called Earth Hour, this year, it takes place tomorrow at 8:30 PM. Places like DePaul University, England’s Luton Airport and a variety of Girl Scout organizations will go dark for an hour. Who knows, it could lead to a brighter future.

Inspired by Inspiron

Inspiro 14r Dell’s latest notebooks, the Inspiron R family mixes great style with a good price and the latest technology. Available in 14-, 15- and 17-inch screens with second generation core i3, i5 and i7 processors, the Inspiron R have Dell’s Switch lid design that allows the use of any of 25 different screen covers, including several with Eastern designs that can make for a school’s worth of notebook diversity. The systems start at 5 pounds and $600; the extra lids cost $40 each.

Bottomless Pit for Data

Qx2_1 If your school’s hard drives are screaming that they’re full, think of having 12 terrabytes of storage available for everything from old test data to student digital portfolios. Other World Computing’s Mercury Elite-AL Pro QX2 can hold four 3 TB SATA hard drives in a variety of RAID configurations that let you choose between high-performance for redundancy so that a bit of data is never lost. No bigger than a couple encyclopedia volumes, it can connect via FireWire, USB or SATA and works with both PCs and Macs. The QX2 comes with a five year warranty and costs $2,220 with all drives


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