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Power Tower

HP_Z210_Workstations_CMT_and_SFF Forget about notebooks and all-in-one PCs if you want peak power, and HP’s Z210 workstation family is perfect for computational heavy lifting. The workstations may be towers but they are small and can be ordered with either an Intel Xeon or Core i3, i5, or i7 processor, 3-D graphics from AMD or Nvidia and up to 32GB of memory. This makes them perfect for video editing, high-end math work or digital art. The systems sell for $569 in the Highly Compact Tower (CMT) $659 in the Small Form Factor (SFF) tower. Look for them in the coming months.




Web TV

LED6000(46,NA)_R45 A television on its own can’t get a classroom online, right? Wrong, because Samsung’s Smart TVs connect to a network and can deliver what the Web has to offer to a class of kids. On top of access to over 200 Samsung apps that connect to a variety of online services, like YouTube, FaceBook and Pandora, the TV can be used as a monitor with a DVD player or PC. Available with between 32- and 55-inch displays, these TVs offer high definition 1,920 by 1,080 resolution, an enviably thin frame and low power use.



Question of the Month: The PC Numbers Game

The obvious goal for every school these days is to have one computer per student available for a variety of educational tasks, from research and writing to tests and projects. But, does that ideal reflect reality? What is the current ratio of students to computers at your schools? Is it not enough, too many or just right?

Deborah baker Deborah Baker

Assistant Superintendent of Curriculum and Instruction

Brighton Central Schools

Rochester, NY

As the Assistant Superintendent for Instruction of a small suburban district in upstate New York, I continually work with teachers to identify the best curriculum and resources for our students. Obviously, computers and other associated technologies play a large role in the instructional programming of today’s classrooms and while those conversations often include the notion that ALL students need a textbook, ALL students need a variety of pencils, papers, and notebooks, and most recently, ALL students need their own flash drive, I’ve never, however, been part of a conversation where the statement “ALL students need a computer” was made. 

I’m not sure why. My guess is that it has something to do with finances as well as underlying belief systems and knowledge of how technology can be used most effectively within the instructional environment. We provide teachers with their own laptops and as an adult learner, I couldn’t imagine carrying out my responsibilities without ongoing access to my computer. But somehow, that need doesn’t translate to the learning conditions we afford students.

Do we have enough computers? There are those teachers in my district I’m sure who would say “no”. Over the past few years we have started to replace computer labs with laptop carts in our middle school and the flexibility those have afforded teachers has helped to infuse their use. At this point, we have approximately a 4:1 ratio of students to computers district-wide. The issue though is not the ratio, but rather the location and capacity of those machines, coupled with the teacher’s ability to embed the expectation of computer use into their instructional planning. 

Although we have moved to a cart-based system at our middle school, our high school still has many computer labs. Lab-based computers, in my opinion, reinforce the notion of the use of technology as an “event”.  “Class, we can sign out the computer lab next Tuesday” to me is not indicative of a 21st century learning environment. You would never hear a teacher say, “Class, we can have access to the textbooks next Tuesday.” so I’m not sure why we continue to accept the former as a pronouncement of an acceptable learning condition. My suspicion is that, as stated earlier, we have not yet reached the capacity to fully exploit the thousands of technology-rich learning tools that are available and only with the appropriate professional development, modeling and support will we make additional access a priority.


John Orbaugh John Orbaugh

Director of Technology Services

Tyler Independent School District

Tyler, TX



The Texas Education Agency does indeed have as a goal a 1:1 ratio of students to computers. We’d like to achieve that, however, we simply don’t have the budget available. Our reality is that we are closer to a 4:1 ratio. Now, if you want to get really real, we’d need to look at the age and actual usability of those PCs. 

Knowing that many PCs in our inventory are getting extremely old, and increasingly useless, the actual ratio is higher. As one Technology Director I spoke with who is in a similar situation told me, “We have these PCs and they count in our inventory. We use them for four years and then complain about them for the next four!” 

Our goal for the future is to bring in thin client based systems to reduce the costs and make more equipment available to students and teachers. The thin client model will enable us to keep the equipment we have, but make them run like a new PC with the newest available Windows products and instructional applications.  Additionally, we will also be able to begin to open our network to student-owned computers and deliver to them a virtual desktop in a device-agnostic manner and so leverage their technology to help us lower the ratio. 


John Laws John Laws

Executive Director for Technology

Lakota School District

West Chester, Ohio




If you would have asked me if the goal of having one computer per student in schools today reflects reality in August of 2008 I would have provided a detailed plan of how we were going to get there and what funding would be required to make it happen. We were pushing 21stCentury school concepts, had just completed placing 750+ interactive white boards in classrooms along with document camera and clicker systems. We were on a roll! Then, BANG. The great recession hit, we’ve failed at passing two operating levies and we’re reeling from the shock of the State’s 29 percent budget cuts. At this point it will be the virtual desktop on thin clients or BYOD (Bring Your Own Device, so to speak) because there isn’t any money in next years’ budget for new student computers.

Our current ratio varies a bit from building to building, but in general we’re at 4:1. We use a combination of labs, laptop carts, small pods in special service areas and open WiFi for students who BYOD. As the fleet ages, and there is no replacement funding, I expect we’ll move to a complete BYOD model with supplemented devices for certain student populations.

In a recent planning session we mapped out a plan to enable managed wireless on all of our secondary buildings in order to deliver the service for BYOD. The District is moving to Microsoft’s Live@EDU for student email accounts, file storage and Web 2.0 managed tools. It’s all free. Maybe we need to get comfortable with an acronym like FIY – Fund It Yourself. 

I think our prior vision of a computer for every student was, and is, a good one. We’re just learning new ways to make this happen on far less money.


Merk weedy Mark Weedy

Retired Superintendent

Eastland-Fairfield Career and Technical Schools

Groveport, Ohio



When I first started in education more than 30 years ago, computers in schools were nonexistent. As the years went by, I first noticed that some students began talking about computers they had received as gifts on different occasions, such as for birthdays or at holidays. Slowly but surely computers were introduced to schools.  Typically the staff member who tinkered in computers was given the task of being the technology coordinator. These folks worked hard to help staff members understand that computers and other technologies could make their lives easier. This was (and is) not an easy task.

I strongly believe that a one-to-one student to computer ratio is necessary in today’s educational environment. I am very proud to say that one of my final accomplishments as superintendent was to initiate a one-to-one laptop project in my school district. In 2008 we spent about $650 per student to equip them with a Wi-Fi enabled laptop computer at the beginning of the school year just like textbooks are issued. The program was a huge success, and I was fortunate to be in a district that could afford such an initiative. Moreover, the students were the beneficiaries of the initiative.

Students today are lost without technology. I strongly believe students learn more and in deeper ways when technology is used effectively. If a school does not have up-to-date technology available for students, some students find a way around it.  When technology is not available in schools, the more affluent students who have technology available to them at home bring that technology to school and therefore have a distinct advantage over other students whose parents simply are unable to afford the latest technology. The lack of technology further accentuates the divide between the “haves” and the “have nots” in our schools.

I realize fiscal issues prevent most school districts from realizing this goal, but I believe it can be achieved with careful planning and cuts in areas of the budget where the use of technology can replace current expenditures for items such as textbooks.

All in One for All

MX-2610n Sharp’s MX new family of multifunction printers, copiers, scanners and fax machines are not only powerful and fast enough to keep an entire department or small school humming along but they are efficient power savers as well. Available in models that can pump out 26-, 31-, or 36-pages per minute, the MX line warms up fast and use less power than comparable devices from other companies. On top of the expected quick scanning and printing, the devices can be controlled via the 10-inch touch screen and pull out keyboard. On top of printing on both sides of a sheet, The MX systems can even be ordered with a finisher that can staple pages or punch holes in them.


Sore Feet, No More

Z-Trek_profile What is the least used piece of classroom furniture? It’s generally the teacher’s chair because most good teachers spend the day on their feet going from student to student and classroom to classroom. Z-CoiL shoes can help keep you on your feet all day without an Epsom salt bath at the end of the day. The key is that the heel has a coil spring to help put a – you guessed it – spring in your step as well as helping alleviate foot, leg and back pain. The shoes may look strange and are sure to elicit jokes but they are very comfortable and there are sandals, sneakers as well as dress shoes. They cost about $200 per pair.


Next Creative Suite

CS5dot5_family_boxshot_3in It’s well known that Adobe’s Creative Suite is the most complete toolkit for working and teaching visually, regardless of whether it’s Flash animation for a school Web site or editing a video of the Spring musical. Version 5.5 is no exception with all the expected parts, from Photoshop to Premiere and Illustrator to After Effects. All told, the new version makes authoring interactive Flash items easier, provides a good place to work with HTML 5 and CSS5 sites as well as creating content for mobile devices, like Apple’s iOS and Android. It also lets you test how a site will look in several different popular browsers.

As is the case now, there are several versions of Creative Suite that include different apps. For instance, the Design Standard version sells for $1,300 while the Master Collection goes for $2,600. School pricing for individual programs is much lower and there are site licenses available.





Freebee Friday: Online Security and Safety

Norton AV beta a There seems to be a dozen hackers and virus writers out there for every school computer that they target. I know that this is an overstatement, but there’s a huge need to protect every computer in a school. Norton’s 2012 edition of Anti-Virus and Internet Security programs keep PCs secure without slowing them down. Some of the new features include a simpler interface and direct support for the Chrome Web browser. 

There are key updates to Norton’s Sonar and Power Eraser software. A big step forward is the new Download Insight, which alerts you to potentially dangerous downloads and when a program is using too much of the computer resources. You can even set the computer to restart when it’s done scanning for problems. Overall, the program is a good way to keep every computer running well and protected. After all, the current versions have stopped 3.1 billion attacked in 2010, according to Symantec. It’s available as a free beta download.



Freebee Friday: Help for Drop-Outs

Adobe white paper3 We all know that keeping kids in school benefits them with higher employment rates and salaries later in life, but what’s the best way to get them to stay in the classroom? A new study, Beating the Odds: Keeping Kids in School with Career Technical Education” tells how to keep students from becoming dropouts by giving them the 21-st century skills they want and need, like how to create and maintain a Web site. It’s sponsored by Adobe and is free for the download if you register


Freebee Friday: Inside the Brain

Brain Having trouble telling the superior frontal temporal gyrus from corpus callosum? Try the Allen Institute for Brain Science’s new Web site. Funded by Microsoft founder Paul Allen, the institute has been mapping the brain for years and now opens its imaging archive to all. There are sections for the human and mouse brains as well as specialty projects, like its work on glioblastoma. The Brain Explorer program is the center of activity and is enlightening, to say the least. It is available in versions for PCs and Macs, but might require a graphics chip and the latest drivers that your computer doesn’t have. It lets you take a peek inside the brain and move a pointer around to identify certain key areas. The site can help students see what the schizophrenic brain looks like, for instance or just nose around.



Two Screens, No Waiting

Iconia_photogallery_01 Don’t know if schools are ready for Acer’s Iconia dual-screen laptop, but it offers an incredible amount of flexibility. Rather than the traditional layout of a screen above and a mechanical keyboard below, Iconia has two 14-inch screens, which gives it the option of being three different systems. It can be a page-by-page ebook and large fold open tablet or a notebook with an on-screen virtual keyboard. The system is powered by a Core i5 processor and Windows 7.




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