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The Teaching Table

Pioneer table We’ve all worked with interactive smart-boards or projectors that let you manipulate items and write on the screen, but what about a tabletop that does this? That’s what Pioneer’s WWS-DT101 table is all about. It has a horizontal 52-inch touch-sensitive display that’s akin to a TV on its side. It can handle multi-finger gestures and is powered by a Core i7 computer inside. Imagine teaching children about World War II through maps and documents that are rearranged and enlarged on the table, not to mention finger painting and lettering your fingers browse through the Web. It’s innovative, potentially a breakthrough in school technology and will be available in Japan in the coming months, but is bound to be expensive.



Filling the Small Screen

Pico screen a The latest generation of pico-projectors are great for teaching individually or to a small group but they need a small screen or the image runs the risk of getting lost. Elite Screen’s Pico Screen sits by itself on a tabletop and can roll open to reveal up to a 45-inch screen, ready for a lesson anything from mapping a sentence to solving a polynomial equation. The 25-inch screen sells for $120.




Freebee Friday: Geography Games

Sheppard ggeography Is Addis Abbaba the capital of Ethiopia, an island in the South Pacific or a mountain range in South America? Figuring it out is a snap with Sheppard Software’s online geography games. On top of a good summary of the people, landscapes and governments, the site has excellent interactive apps that can show the countries, capitals and geography. There’re a good variety of online quiz games to see how much of the geographic information has been absorbed. There’re also similar online resources for chemistry, math, vocabulary and history, and they don’t cost a dime.




Freebee Friday: Weather or Not

Contentpacks_may11 The latest addition to Mimio’s Connect teaching community is a great group of material on weather and natural hazards. It’s appropriate for kindergartners through high school seniors, includes 170 images and a slew of lesson plans for everything from the water cycle to observing the weather. It works with Mimio’s Studio 7 software. Whether it’s raining, snowing or you live in tornado alley, it’s all free.



Making the Most of a Short-Throw Projector

EST200 Unlike traditional projectors, short throw ones need to be mounted from above so that they cast fewer shadows on the screen and are out of the way. The latest hardware from Premier makes it easier and cheaper with its EST 100 and 200 mounting kits. Priced at $265 and $300, respectively, the EST 100 and EST 200 can work with just about any projector that weighs 25 pounds or less. They include security hardware so they don’t disappear and can accurately place the projector up to 30-inches from the screen. So that the projector ends up aimed where it should, the hardware can be adjusted 6-degrees in any direction





Thin Really is In

XPS 15z_closed front If the latest school notebooks seem a bit large, thick and heavy, Dell’s XPS 15z is like a welcome alternative. Based on a Core i5 or i7 processor, the 15z comes with up to 8GB of RAM, up to a 750GB hard drive and a DVD drive. The HD 15.6-inch screen can be ordered with a variety of Nvidia graphics engines, yet the system is less than an inch thick and weighs only 5.5-pounds.  The systems start at $999.



More Monitor for the Money

219185317 Tired of tiny 15- or 17-inch low resolution screens that make teachers and students squint to see their work? AOC’s E2343FK 23-inch screen is bright, uses less power and at $170, is about as cheap as it gets.

 The all-black display comes in a deceptively small box that will require only one person to unpack and set up. It weighs less than 7 pounds, has a small round base and thin bezel. At only one-half an inch thick, it has an admirably thin profile and takes up a minimum amount of desk space.

It’s easy to adjust the angle of the screen, which can be set from 5 degrees forward to 12 degrees back. The base has screw holes 100-millimeters apart so that the whole thing can be mounted on a wall.

On the downside, be careful because it’s a little too easy to get a finger caught in the monitor’s supporting pedestal while setting it up. More to the point, the monitor annoyingly wobbles when touched or bumped into and swings back and forth for a few seconds.

Its display is lit with LEDs behind the screen and can show 1,920 by 1,080 resolution, good enough for displaying full high-definition programming. It’s rated at 5 millisecond response time and there are ports for VGA and DVI cables, but it lacks connectors for the newer HDMI and Display Port as well as built-in speakers. 

AIRE-BLACK-1 When playing HD videos or viewing online instructional material, its action is smooth with no jumpiness. The display has brightness to spare and includes i-menu software for adjusting brightness, positioning and color balance. You can also rotate the image on the display but the monitor does not physically rotate.

There are several convenient controls built into the display’s base that light up when you touch them. On top of turning the monitor on and off you can adjust its main settings with a set of easy-to-follow on-screen icons.

The display also includes AOC’s Screen+ software for splitting the screen into a variety of squares and rectangles, each with a different image. It comes with e-saver software for setting when the screen goes blank to save power or starts a screen saver.

I menu AOC ships the monitor with its color balance set to Warm, which makes whites look too red with blues that are washed out. After changing that to Normal, everything looked better, but whites have a bluish tint and greens are too yellowy. If you don’t like the settings, you can create your own and even set an area of the display to be brighter with AOC’s unique Bright Frame feature.

The E2343FK is about as frugal as it gets, using just 32 watts when it’s in use, but that’s just the start. That’s one-third the power use of a recent 19-inch Dell monitor. Over the course of a school year of use for 6 hours a day it will cost an estimated $4.60 in electrical bills, potentially saving $10 or $15 a year compared to older monitors. There are also five eco modes that use between 22- and 29-watts.

A big bonus for schools is that the monitor comes with a three-year warranty, although the display panel itself is covered for only a year. If you have a problem in the first three months, AOC will send you a new one.

Still, at $170, the E2343EK is priced more like a 19- or 21-inch monitor, delivering more monitor for the money. This makes it perfect for a school looking to save some cash without sacrificing a big window on class work.






+ Excellent price

+ Bright

+ 3-year warranty

+ Low power use


- Screen wobbles

- No HDMI or Display Port




Right Write

Recordex At $239, Recordex’s iMMPad SE is an inexpensive way to add a pen to a lesson plan. The 6- by 8-inch tablet, weighs 10 ounces and lets teachers roam about 30-feet from the host computer. There are 16 customizable instant launch buttons and then pen can record 1,024 levels of pressure. There’s software for PCs and Mac computers. It comes with lots of useful software and the battery can last a full school day of lessons.




Head of the class

Sculpteo b What’s the most unique graduation gift you can give a special senior? Sculpteo.com can create a small statue of him or her in graduation garb. Just send in a couple of digital photos of the grad and they’ll create a custom figurine with their face. Sculpteo uses sophisticated 3-D printing technology to create a 3-D digital model on screen and then turns it into a plastic figurine.

To emphasize the theme of the big day, the figurine is wearing a gown and mortarboard hat complete with a tassel and is holding a diploma and book.  In addition to the graduation figures, the company can do a variety of sports figurines as well as groups or something of your own devising.

Sculpteo a Sculpteo makes three different sizes, including those that are 2.5-, 3.9- and 5.9-inches tall; they cost $74.90, $129.90 and $235.90. The 2.5-inch one I had made and takes about 10 days for the educational action figure to be created in France and shipped here.

The results are truly amazing with a genuine likeness that is uncanny and a bit eerie. It has natural skin tones, but exaggerated facial expressions. It ends up looking like something in between an artistic sculpture and a cartoon, and is guaranteed to be a hit.

Easily the most unique graduation gift given or received for this graduation season, it will be an unforgettable memento of the day.




Friday Freebee: Graphing a Solution

What’s a better buy than loading up on a classroom’s worth of scientific graphing calculators for a science or math class at $100 each? How about saving a bucket of cash by getting a graphing calculator app for a room of iPads or iPhones.

The current crop of graphing calculator programs do everything that a Casio, HP or TI calculator can do yet are downloadable for free or for next to nothing. They offer the bonus of brighter, higher resolution screens, color and the ability to minutely manipulate numbers, functions and graphs.

They both work with either of the first two generations of iPads as well as iPhones, and can fill a classroom with numbers, functions and graphs.

All is not perfect because they can’t offer a physical keypad. The way you interact with the software is via the device’s display and on-screen keyboard. The interfaces are well laid out, but I have to admit missing the buttons.

Plus, none of them are allowed to be used on the SAT and other standardized tests, but give it time. One of these two apps belongs in every math or science classroom.

Free Graphing Calculator, Version 2.1 

Few products are as well named as William Jockusch’s Free Graphing Calculator. It is not only available for nothing but it can transform an iPhone or iPad into a high-end calculator for a science or math class. Its interface mimics a handheld calculator with a keypad-based screen and a place to type in equations for graphing. 

The app excels at graphing with the ability to add a large assortment of functions and then type in the details you want to graph. The program can overlay several functions in different colors on an x-y grid to show patterns and illustrate concepts.

My favorite is the extensive array of constants that will prove very helpful for using it in a physics class. There’s also a very useful reference guide that explains many basic math concepts, including the rules for differentiation.

On the downside, the program was written for an iPhone and can be upsized to fill an iPad’s screen, although it can get a little fuzzy.

Free graphing calculator

Free Graphing Calculator, Version 2.1



















Graphing Calculator Pro, Version 1.1

The free version of Graphing Calculator Pro from deftapps is more than enough for most high school classes. Like Free Graphing Calculator, it was designed for an iPhone, but its display can be doubled to fill an iPad display. It does get a bit blurry, though.

The input interface resembles that of the Free Graphing Calculator with the ability to use the calculator’s keypad, type in equations or grab premade functions and graph them. A big step forward is that the program lets you set colors from a nearly limitless palette and the trace mode lets you grab min-max data as well as roots or intersections. On the other hand, it lacks the Free Graphing Calculator’s extensive math reference material and you can graph only in portrait mode.

The free version of the app should be plenty for most classroom uses, but the paid version of the software allows an unlimited number of plots on the same coordinates, the ability to find intersections for all equation types and the ability to use the graphing in portrait and landscape orientations. There’s also a cool polynomial equation solver.

In other words, at $1, the paid version of the app adds up for education. 

Graphing calculator pro Graphing Calculator Pro, Version 1.1





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