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Friday Freebee: Parent & Child PLUS

Parent child The latest iPad app is the digital version of Scholastic’s Parent & Child magazine, including updates that go beyond the printed edition. Called Parent & Child Plus, it is a free download that takes a minute to install and includes access to a multitude of multimedia content via the magazine’s unique sliding drawer interface. On top of celebrity recipes and crafts, the online version has links to a group of informative blogs.





Freebee Friday: Practice Really Makes Perfect

Esl reading One thing all teachers can agree on is that early readers need to practice their newly acquired skill to make it stick. The English for Children Web site has hundreds upon hundreds of reading passages, from bite sized paragraphs and picture books for second graders to short stories for older kids. Most have vocabulary lists with definitions, fill-in exercises, crosswords and a cool type what you hear passage that’s especially good for ESL learners.



Video, Safe and Secure

Vusafe_logo It’s the rare school or district that hasn’t had a problem with inappropriate videos being watched and version 4.1 of M86 Security’s Web Filtering and Reporting Suite can keep students eyes on their work. The hardware filtering device now includes VuSafe’s secure video library that lets school officials search and tag videos to keep the bad videos and advertisements out of school.

Fill-in-the-Blanks LAN

Gal-3 If there are WiFi blank areas at your school, and what schools doesn’t have at least one or two, a high power wireless radio can help make the connection. Amped Wireless’s UA600EX High Power Wireless N adapter plugs into a regular USB adapter but it has a 600milliwatt transmitter, roughly triple the power of ordinary radios. That means that it provides top range and throughput, and can liven up dead spots. It works with the latest 802.11n networks, comes with a 26-foot cable and can be used outdoors for wiring up the playing fields or yard. It costs $110.



Cheap to Keep

C792_gallery05 While small printers of all sorts dominate in the classrooms, hallways and offices of today’s schools, larger devices, like Lexmark’s C792de, are faster and because they can be shared among many classrooms – and even an entire school – end up cheaper in the long run. That’s because their toner, and per page costs, are lower, resulting in a situation where a larger initial investment translates into lower daily expenses over time. 

The center of attention is the C792de’s 4.3-inch touch-screen that controls the printer’s operation. It’s logically laid out and is great for setting up the wide variety of printing options or for previewing an image that is to be printed from a memory key that’s in the printer’s USB slot. Unfortunately, you can’t crop, enlarge or reduce the image. 

C792 Op Panel There’s a main paper tray that holds a full ream of paper and has a convenient light for adding paper. The printer can handle all sorts of media, from envelopes and card stock to transparency sheets. There’s also an optional 2,000-sheet tray as well as a variety of finishers, some of which have staplers. Over several reams of basic paper, it didn’t jam. 

Be warned, this is one big printer. It weighs 110-pounds, so plan on having at least two people and a dolly to unpack it, lug it to where it goes and get it onto a table or shelf. The good news is that the printer fits on a shelf that is 22.5-inches wide by 22-inches deep. Be careful, the power cord sticks out the back which can make it stick out 2 or 3 inches.

Lexmark-C792de Expect to spend about 10 minutes to set it up to print and get it ready for schoolwork. It doesn’t have WiFi but the C792de can be connected to a single PC via a USB slot and has an Ethernet jack for networking the printer. Both can be used at once.

 There’s driver software for a wide variety of clients, from recent versions of PC and Mac platforms to Linux systems. Lexmark’s program searches for the printer on the network and can work with static or DHCP automatic IP addressing. 

At any time you can see what’s going on with the device by opening a browser page with its IP address. The page shows details about what’s going on in the printer, like how much toner is left, the status of the paper trays and allows you to change a variety of basic parameters.

Inside is a powerful 1,200 by 1,200 dot per inch imaging engine that has 512MB of memory and a 1.2GHz processor. There’s an optional hard drive for storing frequently used forms and a way to hold confidential documents in the printer and after a password is entered, the document is printed.

Lexmark c792de screen It produces well-formed type with sharp angles and smooth rounded characters, graphs and images. It’s perfect for everything from homework assignments and tests to letters to state officials or parents. Colors are accurate and rich, but a little muted compared to other color laser printers. Happily, its toner has a matte finish and doesn’t have the shiny sheen that other laser printers have.

On the downside, the printer makes an annoying whining noise when it’s being used. It’s much easier to deal with than the jet engine sound from other printers, but I think it restricts its use to a hallway or dedicated room. It also smells a little like burnt hair when it’s being used.

Lexmark-C792DE_4-PACK.OEM-1 For those used to waiting and waiting for inkjet printers to deliver their output, the C792de is very fast. In actual use, the first sheet comes out in 13 seconds and it pumps out documents at 32 single-sided pages per minute. Full-page images are printed at 2.3 pages per minute.

The C792de has a big bonus for schools trying to trim expenses by cutting paper use. It is one of the least expensive printers with a built-in duplexer. At 22-pages per minute, it slows things down a little but printing on both sides saves paper and cash.

The best part is that the C792de uses large toner cartridges that can print as many as 20,000 pages. With the high capacity cartridges, this adds up to per page costs of less than 2 cents for monochrome and 9.2 cents for color. That’s roughly half as much per page as Dell’s 1355cnx and other small color laser printers.  

It takes a minute to slide the old cartridge out and insert the new one without any chance of spilling any toner. Plus, you don’t have to replace the cartridges as often.

With a 1-year warranty that includes on-site service, the C792de sells for $1,600; a less expensive e model costs $250 less but sacrifices the duplexer. A more realistic 3 year warranty adds a hefty $879.

Still, the C792de’s superior speed, duplexing abilities and print quality can change the way schools think about printing and color.



Lexmark C792de



+ Fast printing

+ Touch screen control panel

+ Built-in duplexerarge toner cartridges

+ LAN and USB connections


- Expensive

- Loud

- Big and heavy


Connection City

PowerLite_Pilot_Front Ever have trouble connecting a new computer or DVD player to a projector? I know you have because it happens to me all the time. Epson’s PowerLite Pilot Connection and Control Box is a big step forward for classrooms because it can simplify and centralize where all those cables go. It works with the company’s short throw projectors and lets the teacher manage audio and video connections. It has ports for HDMI, S-Video and a pair of VGA connectors as well as inputs for audio.  It even has an optional wireless microphone and can connect to external speakers, turning it into a PA system for the class. It’ll go on sale in June, with the connection box costing $250, with the speakers and microphone adding $150 and $450.



Online Encyclopedia, Your Way

Grolier The latest version of Scholastic’s Grolier Online encyclopedia is not only up to date but lets you customize its content to the reading level, needs and abilities of elementary (grades 3 and up), middle or high-school kids as well as for adult library users, librarians and educators. It has the same detailed material but the interface, articles, maps and videos have been tailored for each audience. There’s also a great dashboard for teachers to get lesson plans and access to the encyclopedia’s 120,000 articles, 340,000 Web links, articles from more than 1,100 international newspapers and an excellent series of debate questions to get a class discussion going. There’s a free trial to see if it fits into your way of teaching.





Android and then Some

WindPad_100A-2 There’s a slew of classroom slates on the way, but MSI’s WindPad 100a stands out with the combination of a 10-inch touch-screen and a powerful dual-core ARM Cortex processor that runs at 1GHz. It was first shown a few months ago at the CES show in Las Vegas and it should be available in the coming weeks. It does it all, from Bluetooth and WiFi to 8- or 16-GB of flash storage and a pair of cameras. MSI says the battery should run for roughly 8 hours, or enough for a day of classes and some afterschool work.



Friday Freebee: The iPad Meets the Library

Overdrive 1 We all know that tablets can be great educational devices, but until now, just about every eBook that is viewed on them has had to be purchased. No more, with OverDrive’s Media Console app, which can turn a computer, tablet or phone into a library card. Version 2.2.1 is a freebee from Apple’s App Store with software available for Windows, Mac, Android, Blackberry, iOS (Apple’s iPhone and iPad) as well as Windows Mobile phones; a Kindle version is on the way. It can not only work with Adobe’s EPub eBook format but can play .MP3 audio and .WMV videos as well.

 After downloading the 9MB app and loading it on my iPad, I signed into my Adobe ID account; it’s easy and free to register. Then I picked my local library from the list of 13,000 participating institutions worldwide; it’s a drop in the eBook bucket, however because there are roughly 120,000 libraries in the U.S. alone. If your school or public library aren’t on the list, go complain to the head librarian because it’s actually easy to participate.

I then went through the available digital volumes at my local library and picked one for download. The pickings were slim, but there were a lot of kids novels available. You can typically keep the book for a Overdrive 3 week or two, but – just like physical library books – if someone has taken it out, you’re out of luck and have to put a hold on it and wait. When the book is due, it disappears from your system, so there are no late fees or penalties.

The viewer itself is adequate and allows you the choice of only two font sizes, a sepia background, a night mode and the ability to add bookmarks. There’s a table of contents that you can jump to at any time, but it would be great if you could add annotations, like notes for a lesson, and Web links. Still, it’s a great start to an excellent idea. I have seen the future of libraries and it is OverDrive. It can turn musty old libraries into vital digital repositories for students to use




Freebee Friday: Saved by the Bell

Time chime Who says you need physical bells in each room to tell teachers and students alike that the school day is starting, over or its time to move to the next class. NCH’s TimeChimes is less than a megabyte, but works with all recent Windows versions and includes a wide variety of sounds, including music, to tell kids and teachers it’s time to move on. Tones can be scheduled at the same time every day or at specialty times for special events, and the program has 9 different bell sounds. The trial version is free, but the program costs $30.





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