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Charge!

Multidock-1Do you spend too much time plugging and unplugging iPads so that they’re charged and ready for learning because there just aren’t enough AC outlets to juice up a whole classroom’s worth of pads at once? Griffin’s MultiDock can charge ten iPads at once in a tower that occupies the area of a piece of paper and fits nicely on a table or a bookshelf. There’s an LED to show the battery status of each iPad and the MultiDock turns itself off when they’re fully charged. It’ll cost $700 when it comes out next month.

 

 

Freebee Friday: WiFi Mr. Know it All

Wifi analyticsRaise your hand if you’ve had trouble connecting to the school’s WiFi network. OK, you can all put your hands down because Amped Wireless, the maker of high-performance networking gear has some help in getting online. Their WiFi Analytics app is available for free from the Android Marketplace and can show the signal strength of available networks, the channels used and any potential interference.

 

 

Freebee Friday: Chalk Wherever You Are

Iphone_android_mockup_webThink that eChalk is only for stationary computers? Think again, because the free Mobile version of the program lets kids and their parents with Android phones or iPads get their assignments, check on grades, access learning material and join in online school discussions.

 

 

 

Freebee Friday: Any Which Way You Can

Socrative aForget about classroom clickers because Socrative’s student response system lets teachers and kids use anything, from a notebook or tablet to an iPhone. Able to handle true/false, short answer and multiple choice formats, Socrative can create engaging lessons and compile a variety of student and classroom reports. Best of all, it’s a freebee.

 

 

Interactive or Not, You Choose

BL_Solo_3_Mounted[1]Interactive projectors that can replace more expensive smart-boards are all over the place, but Epson’s latest short-throw projectors can either be ordered on their own or with its $500 BrightLink Solo 3 interactive add- on. The PowerLite 420, 425W, 430 and 435W projectors cost $950, $1,049, $1,049 and $1,149, and can connect via HDMI, networking or USB and have 16-watt speakers. The 420 and 425W deliver 2,500 lumens while the other two put 3,000 lumens on a classroom screen. The devices will be available before the end of the year.

 

 

Hail to the Digital Chiefs

0065077081168_500X500Having trouble telling John Tyler apart from Zachary Taylor or Andrew Jackson from Andrew Johnson? Hammacher Schlemmer’s $40 U.S. Presidents Talking game is a great way to learn a thing or two about each. The grab-and-go teaching toy has pictures of all 44 leaders of the free world, from George Washington to Barack Obama. Press the picture and you’ll get facts about him, like birth date, first lady and key accomplishments. All the data comes from the Encyclopaedia Britannica and there’s a quiz mode but it requires a pair of AA batteries. If you shop around you can get it for $25 from Walmart

 

 

Welcome to the UltraBook Era

If netbooks are too compromised for your school and traditional notebooks are too bulky, heavy and expensive, there’s hope. Intel has created a basic design that might be just right. It calls for thin and light laptops that can be carried around a school day, and at roughly $1,000, will give the MacBook Air a run for the money.

So far, there are four Ultrabooks that should be available by the Thanksgiving break, but by 2012, there should be a dozen different models on the market. There will be a lot of variation among the first generation of Ultrabooks, but one thing is for sure: they will be a lot more powerful and cheaper than a MacBook Air. 

Ultra zenbookThe first Ultrabooks available will likely be the Asus Zenbook UX21 and UX31, and in fact you can pre-order one now. Available with an 11.6-inch (UX21) or a 13-inch (UX31) screen, the Zenbook is just 0.8-inches thick and weighs in at 2.4- and 2.8 pounds, respectively. Both have either a Core i5 or i7 processor, up to 256GB of solid state flash memory storage, USB 3.0 and built-in WiFi. Pricing ranges from $1,000 to $1,500. 

Ultra Acer-AspireBy contrast, the Acer Aspire S3 will only be available with a 13-inch screen and a Core i5 processor. It weighs a slightly hefty 3 pounds, but leads the field with a thickness of only 0.6-inches, or roughly half that of a traditional notebook. It has WiFi, but does without a USB 3.0 port and because the Aspire S3 uses a traditional hard drive, its $900 price tag is midway between the more expensive Zenbook and the less expensive IdeaBook. 

Ultra U300sAt just under 0.6-inches thick and weighing 2.9 pounds, Lenovo’s IdeaPad U300s is a great compromise between configuration and price. It comes only with a 13-inch screen and either a Core i5 or i7 processor so you can choose the best balance between performance and battery life. The U300 comes with 4GB of RAM, has USB 3.0, WiFi as well as either a traditional hard drive or flash storage. It’ll be available in orange or gray and could be the most budget friendly with a starting price of $800.

Ultra toshiba-portege-z830-ifa-2011-4At just 2.5-pounds, the Toshiba Portege Z830 is the lightweight of the Ultrabook crowd. Its 0.6-inch profile is slim and you’ll be able to order it with either a Core i3, i5 or i7 processor, providing the best freedom of choice. It comes with a 13-inch screen, can be outfitted with up to 6GB, rather than 4GB, of RAM and comes with a 128GB flash storage drive. No word on pricing at this point.

 

 

 

 

Quiet, Please

Akitio_SK3501 Super-S3_Angle-highresAkitio’s SK-3501 Super-S3 hard drive enclosure can be a place to put all those lesson plans, presentations and school videos that are overloading your computer’s hard drive. The $150 device holds a 3.5-inch SATA drive and connects to a computer using any of the four major interfaces: e-SATA, FireWire 800 or USB 2.0 or 3.0. Because it has a heat sink underneath, the Super S-3 is passively cooled and doesn’t need a noisy fan.

 

Touchy Feely

IMG_9006One thing where Android tablets continue to lag is in the software needed to draw and illustrate, but that may change with the next version of the operating system. In the meantime, Adobe’s Touch suite changes that with a group of six separate apps for creatively minded students and teachers. The suite includes:

  • Photoshop Touch for image and photo editing;
  • Collage lets anyone put images together;
  • The Debut presentation tool;
  • Proto wireframe illustration program;
  • Ideas for creating vector drawings;
  • The Kuler common color palette for group efforts.

They work with the latest Android software and cost $10 each, but no package price available for all six apps.

 

 

Ants on the Ceiling?

Ant_farm_revolution_photo1Most districts would shut down any school that had insects crawling on its walls and ceiling, I hope. But, Uncle Milton’s Ant Farm Revolution can safely keep the ants under control while opening a new view on biology. The twist is that the kids can better watch the ants crawling through their tunnels, carrying large loads and generally just being ants because rather than a traditional rectangular ant farm, the Ant Revolution is cylindrical, has LED lighting and a lens so the ants’ movements can be focused on the ceiling. It requires three AAA batteries, comes with a bunch of ants and costs $40.

 

 

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