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Screen Three-For

Often a notebook screen is good for a couple kids working together, but for larger groups, setting up a larger monitor so that everyone gets a good view is essential but a hassle. A new generation of small supplemental monitors make adding a second screen as easy as plugging in a USB cable. That’s because these displays get both data and power from a USB cable. In other words, they’re a snap to set up, do the schoolwork and it put away.

Three recent auxiliary screens show that they each have wide-screen formats, have sophisticated black cases and can stand on their own.

AOC 15.6 bEasily the biggest and heaviest of the three, AOC’s E1649FWU series monitor has a 15.6-inch screen, matching the size of most school notebooks. It sells for $130, making it the bargain display of the group. It can show up to 1,366 by 768 resolution, is rated to deliver 200 nits of brightness and leads the three with a response time of 5ms. At full brightness, the AOC monitor uses only 8 watts of power. Like most recent monitors, it can show more than 16-million colors, and like the Lenovo monitor, it comes with a 3-year warranty. Unlike the other two, it has a pull out stand.

LT1421 Wide with TPOn its own, Lenovo’s $200 LT1421 weighs less than 2-pounds, but is a little thicker than the Toshiba USB Mobile LCD Monitor. It connects to a computer via USB and mirrors what’s on the main display so that everyone can see what’s on the screen. The 14-inch display can show 1,366 by 768 resolution, 250,000 colors and can pump out 200 nits of brightness while using only uses 5 watts of power. It comes with a case that is also a stand where you can adjust the screen’s angle as well as a 3-year warranty.

Mobile Monitor aToshiba’s USB Mobile LCD Monitor matches the Lenovo display spec for spec, but is a few ounces heavier as well as being longer and wider. Still, it pumps up the brightness level of its 14-inch display to 220 nits, although it uses a slower panel; it uses the widescreen format of 1,366 by 768 resolution, but, like the Lenovo mini monitor, is limited to showing 250,000 colors. The USB Mobile LCD Monitor has controls for turning it on, putting the display into power saving mode or adjusting the brightness. It comes with a case that doubles as a stand, but is only covered by Toshiba for a year. It sells for $200.




Secure Home for Everything

049704_side_6If your current case is bulging to the breaking point because of all the gear, lessons and tests you need to lug around all day, Jill E’s Jack Small Messenger bag has room for everything from a tablet or notebook to cameras and lenses. Made of purple nylon with leather straps and accents, the bag measures 7.0- by 14.5- by 11.5-inches and has padded walls to protect its cargo. It costs $180.




iPad Connection City

5in1 bIt’s no secret that iPads have made inroads into the classroom, but both generations of the slate are challenged when it comes to connecting them to projectors, cameras and, especially, flash memory cards. USB Fever’s 5-in-1 Connection Kit for iPad addresses many of these concerns with a single device. The small white adapter plugs right into the iPad and provides a port for an SD and micro SD card as well as a composite video connector and a USB port for a keyboard or digital camera. It costs $39 and does a lot for a little.




ASUS Transformer Pad_Infinity_04Android tablets have reached their pinnacle of development with Asus’s Transformer Infinity, a slate that not only can show full HD material, but has super-tough Gorilla glass and a dual-core processor. The big bonus, though, is its snap-on keyboard that, like earlier Transformers not only turns it into the equivalent of a notebook but has its own battery for full school day use. It uses the latest Android 4.0 software.


The Big Screen

HP Z1 aAll in one PCs are a good way to get the power of a desktop without the cost and power bills of one. HP’s Z1 system should be available in April and features a 27-inch screen with a high resolution 2,560 by 1,440 display. It can be powered by anything from a Core i3 to Xeon processor and up to 32GB of system memory. It can hold up to a 1TB hard drive and high-performance graphics.


A New Blackboard

Blackboard 9.1Those districts that use Blackboard as a part of the digital school will be happy to know that the company’s Learn 9.1 has a new update. Service Pack 8 keeps the same familiar look and feel of Learn, but adds more than 50 pre-built course themes to build courses around as well as now integrating with Blackboard’s Collaborate program. The update is free for current users. 


Freebee Friday: Who’s Doing What

Usage_History_ExampleEver wonder what kids (and teachers for that matter) are using the computer lab’s PCs for? Computer Lab Solutions’s LabStats 5 can tell you by monitoring every system. An incredibly valuable tool to match hardware with usage patterns, the program produces a variety of graphs to show usage and a free demo can be downloaded.


Sound Off

JBL_EON515XTFew schools have the option of a permanent public address system, but JBL’s $900 EON 515XT can do the same thing. The self-contained speaker has a 625 watt amplifier built in and can, with a microphone, make anybody’s voice fill a room, school bus or playground. The whole thing weighs 33 pounds and has an integrated 3-channel mixer to switch between a mic, ipod or junior DJ at a dance.

  Jbl-eon210p_1If that’s not enough, JBL’s EON 210P takes this idea even further. It includes a pair of speakers and two 150 watt amplifiers. The set comes with an 8-channel mixer for a band concert or debate team meet. It costs $1,250.


Instant Animation

Animationish_ipad_220dpiFollowing its success in the classroom of Toon Boom’s Animation-ish program for the Mac, the company will revamp it with a new version along with an iPad app by summertime.  Either way, students and teachers – even those who don’t think they can draw – can create animated mini-movies in a matter of minutes with the software.





Small Keys for a Big Class

MKB cEven if you have a notebook tethered to a projector, you’re not exactly mobile and free to move around the classroom to help a kid here, check on homework there and make sure the class clown is actually working. With a small wireless keyboard, like Rii’s Mini Bluetooth Keyboard, you can control the action from anywhere in the typical classroom, putting you in every student’s face.

I used Scholastic Admin@trator’s TechLAB facility to measure, evaluate and use the Mini Bluetooth Keyboard (MBK) in a school setting. I found that it is a small device that can have a big impact on education.

The mini-keyboard can not only be put into a shirt pocket when not in use, but it has bunch of hidden secrets to help in the classroom. At 3.4-ounces, the keyboard is tiny and light enough to take anywhere, yet it has a nearly complete array of keys. Its 8.7mm, the keys are the bare minimum size. They’re less than half the size of the typical notebook or desktop keyboard, but bigger than those on the typical Blackberry smart-phone and easier to use than the on-screen keyboards on phones and tablets.

TechLab_webWhile there are multimedia control keys and a single key that sends the Control-Alternate-Delete signal to the computer, the keyboard makes a lot of compromises. To get to its slim profile, it skimps with a tiny space bar, only 8 function keys – not the usual 12 – and a Delete key that is shared with the Backspace. The Tab, Caps and Shift keys are all on one side. On the other side of the keys is a mini touchpad that’s a little cramped but can put the cursor anywhere on the screen.

The MBK keyboard found, paired and connected with an iPad, Android tablet, HP Slate 2 and an EliteBook 2560p notebook that was hooked up to a Mitsubishi projector. After that, whenever the keyboard was in range, the two connected. Once it’s connected, the Mini Bluetooth keyboard fits into any lesson. There’s virtually no delay between hitting a key and having it show up on the computer’s (and projector’s) screen.

A bonus is that the keyboard comes with a small USB Bluetooth transmitter that can help it connect with a desktop PC or older notebook that lacks Bluetooth. When not in use the transmitter can be snapped into the base of the keyboard.

MBK bThe MBK device has a range of 27-feet, just enough for roaming around in the typical classroom while staying in contact. The keyboard works with PCs, a variety of Linux systems and 100 phone models.

 After using MBK with a projector, there’re a few aces up its teaching sleeve. For one, there’s a laser pointer that’s perfect for highlighting something on a screen with a red dot. For another, the entire keyboard is backlit, making it a must-have in a darkened classroom, such as when teaching behind a projector.

Inside the MBK is a rechargeable battery pack that the manufacturer says will last a month of typical use. It doesn’t include an AC adapter, but has a mini-USB cable for recharging with a computer.

While it will never replace a full-size keyboard for typing lesson plans, creating tests or writing reports to parents, the Rii Mini Bluetooth Keyboard is perfect for teaching while walking around the room. It costs $47, but the freedom it provides is priceless.


Rii Mini Bluetooth Keyboard

Price: $47


+ Small, but usable keys

+ Tiny Bluetooth transmitter

+ Sensitive touchpad

+ Laser pointer

+ Backlit keys


- Small keys

- Doesn’t include some keys



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