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Freebee Friday: Key to the Future

Tipp10_screenshot_win_training_full_en Mastering the computer keyboard isn’t an option anymore. It is the one key skill that leads students to educational success. Tipp 10 can train a classroom of fingers to touch type with 20 discrete lessons. It works with PCs, Macs and Linux computers, includes a slew of typing games for lots of practice and can track each student’s progress. Best of all, it’s totally free.




Required Reading: Curriculum Ideas

NAP cover Need some fresh thinking on how to integrate science and technology topics into your curriculum? National Academies Press has a new title, Framework for K-12 Science Education that can help. The framework has lots of ideas for everything from the sciences to diversity and suggestions on ways to unify a curriculum. The book costs $46.95 and you can look over most of it online.


Crayons for the iPad

CrayolaColorStudioHD_02 Digital finger painting is fine, but a big disadvantage of the iPad – first or second generation – is the lack of an included stylus for close work or drawing. There are dozens of add-on pens, but only Griffin Technology’s Crayola ColorStudio HD combines hardware with software for a complete classroom art experience.

Aimed at early learners, the key to the Color Studio is its large digital pen. It requires a single AA battery and has an on/off switch but lacks any sort of battery gauge. When you turn on the digital crayon, an oval with the Crayola logo lights up and changes color while it’s being used. On the downside, it doesn’t correspond to the color being used.

Crayola tips While it doesn’t need it, there’s a cap that covers the soft rounded writing element and a ring for tethering it to a tablet or wearing on a chain around your neck. The problem is that the cap doesn’t snap onto the other end of the pen and there’s no place to put it when you’re using the pen. In other words, it’s likely to get lost before the end of its first school day.

After downloading the iPad app, the pen and software work together. On top of a blank canvas where kids’ can let their creativity run wild, Color Studio HD has pre-made coloring pages as well as ones that you (or kids) can make. There are plenty of hidden interactive elements as well as sound effects so that budding artists won’t lose interest. Happily, it’s easily to turn the audio off.

As is the case with other iPad apps you can zoom in and out by squeezing your thumb and forefinger together or apart. On top of the expected crayons, the drawing tools available include brushes, pencils, blunt or sharp markers and the always-popular eraser. At any time, you can use a tool that pours paint right onto any part of the digital page.

Crayola final Although each drawing implement comes in three tip sizes and there’re 75 colors to choose from, the pen isn’t pressure sensitive and you can’t add textures to the digital paper. The Crayola software is only for the iPad, but the pen works with other iPad apps and other tablets that use a capacitive screen,

Along the way, the program explains how it works and makes suggestions, but there’s no traditional help area for specific questions. The program works with both finger and pen input, but for best results you need to set it to which you’re using. There’s an annoying slight delay between touching the screen with the pen and when the colors appear.

When the budding Picasso is finished the image can be emailed, sent to FaceBook or printed, provided you have a wireless printer that works with the iPad. The best part is that you only need one digital pen, not a big box of crayons to pack up and put away at 3PM.


Griffin technology Crayola Color Studio HD



+ Great combination of hardware and software

+ Good drawing templates

+ Inexpensive

+Animated pages


- No paper textures

- Pen isn’t pressure sensitive

- iPad only



Snap On Sound

E96f_laptop_speaker_bar If the tinny audio that most notebooks put out makes your classroom sound like a chalk-board scratching contest, ThinkGeek’s Laptop Speaker Bar can make beautiful music. The bar snaps onto the top of just about any notebook and plugs into a free USB slot. It works with PCs and Macs and costs $60.



Freebee Friday: Android Attacks

NMS_Lite_Screenshot_3 Afraid that the weak link in the perimeter security fence for your district’s network are those Android tablets you just bought? Symantec’s free Mobile Security beta is now available as a free download for schools to try out. The NMS Lite beta can stop viruses and malware from invading a tablet while giving the owner the ability to lock a stolen device with a text message. Like other Norton programs, it can be automatically updated when the software changes to meet new challenges. The beta is free from the Android Market, but the full program will cost $30 when it goes final.


Freebee Friday: Worksheets for All

Kuta Need some math worksheets for everything from linear equations to word problems? Kuta has it all, with hundreds of individual math worksheets that are organized by subject. All have the answers on separate sheets and you can even try out their worksheet generator for free for two weeks. A single program costs $122 although a site license for a school costs $319.


Preposition Party

GB49 Learning works best when it is fun for the class and teacher, and SuperDuper’s Party Pups fits the bill. The $40 game is aimed at four-year olds and helps kids to correctly identify prepositions and use them in sentences. While you’re there, check out Super Duper’s Free Stuff page, which has a slew of useful hand-out sheets.




Small Speaker, Big Sound

Sonar_PMS_wlogo_closed Need to get notebooks to sound better so that they can be used in a music class or just not annoy the sensibilities of a room full of sensitive ears? On Target Gaming’s Cyber Snipa Sonar Mini Speaker doesn’t cost much or take up much space but puts out surprisingly clear audio. 

The speaker is roughly the shape of a cube that is about 2.5-inches on a side, weighs 3.4 ounces and easily fits into a pocket. If you give its circular top a little counterclockwise twist, it pops up an inch to create surprisingly rich and vibrant audio.

Underneath the black and silver speaker is a 3-inch cord with a headphone jack on it to connect with anything from a PC to an iPod. It works well, but the cord is too short for most uses, so get a headphone extension cord.

The speaker is dead simple to set up and operate. Happily, there’s no software to load; just plug it in and listen. There’s an on-off switch as well as volume-up and -down buttons, and that’s about it.

Sonar_PMS_wlogo It puts out 3 watts of sound and never gets particularly loud. The sound it puts out is surprisingly strong but is a little hollow. Still, it’s the Sonar speaker is light years ahead of most small speakers.

One thing you will have to do is charge its battery by plugging it into a computer’s USB slot or a USB AC adapter. Unfortunately, it misses a beat by not being able to get its sound signal through a USB connection.

In my use with the speaker set connected to a notebook and it set to a medium volume level, the battery lasted for more than 24 hours of continuous use. That should be plenty for a week of on and off use. On the downside, it lacks even the most rudimentary battery gauge.

While Sonar is perfect for small groups, there’s a big bonus: you can link several Sonar speakers together to fill a room with sound, although not in stereo. It coems with a combo extension/charging cable.

On the other hand, in an era where just about everything having anything to do with audio is wireless, the Sonar speaker requires an audio cable and can’t connect with Bluetooth. Still, at $30, the Sonar speaker delivers more sound for the money, size or weight than anything else.


Cyber Snipa Sonar Mini Speaker



+ Small and light

+ Inexpensive

+ Excellent audio

+Can link several speakers together

+ Full day battery


- No Bluetooth

- Mono audio

- Short audio cable

- No battery gauge




The Teaching Table

Mt55platform-large-1158x875 Projectors will soon seem so 2010 when you start using a horizontal touch-screen table, and Ideum’s MT 55 Platform is one of the coolest. With a 55-inch high definition multitouch display, the MT 55 is mounted on a sturdy table that’s 31-inches tall and is wheelchair friendly. Behind the scene is a Core i5 PC that comes with 8GB of RAM and a 128GB solid state storage module. It costs $17,950.




Instant Assessments

Quizcreator b Still creating tests and quizzes the old fashioned way, one at a time? Wondershare has a better way with a program that creates Flash-based assessments in a variety of formats, including multiple choice, item matching, fill-in and even things like map identification. The software can work with math and chemistry symbols, self-scores the results and reports individual students progress. The best part is that the tests can be presented in a variety of digital formats, from Word and Excel to a self-installing .exe file. The software only works with PCs and costs $170, but there’s a free trial for you to try it out.




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