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Freebee Friday: Latest Photoshop

Photoshopcs6_557x200Get a preview of the next generation of Adobe’s Photoshop image editing program by taking a look at the free beta. Photoshop CS6 works on PCs and Macs and can be downloaded and used until the final program comes out. The latest additions are an improved interface, content aware moves and faster action, and there are helpful videos and tutorials to ease the transition. It’s free to try out.


Friday Freebee: H-2-Ohh

Where's my waterDisney’s Where’s My Water game app is a great way to teach kids about conserving our planet’s water without it seeming like a lesson. There’s a free version for Android tablets as well as a way to play with a PC online, but the iPad app costs 99 cents. The best part is that once kids have mastered the game, there are new downloadable levels to keep them interested and learning.



60X_Hand_Top_open_paper_feed_Image_1If the Stack-and-Shred 100X is too big and heavy-duty for your school’s shredding needs, Swingline has a pair of smaller, less bulky and shredders that are just as good at turning old tests, notes and term papers into innocuous garbage. The Stack-and-Shred 60X and 80X can hold up to 60- and 80-pages at a time and cost $150 and $100, yet can automatically shred a pile of papers along with staples, paperclips and even plastic items. 



TechLAB Shootout: 6 Classroom Android Tablets

Tablets groupApple’s latest iPad tablet seems to get all the attention these days with a new model that sold 3-million copies in the first week it was available and a deal with publishers to create digital textbooks. But, there’s another kind of tablet that is giving the iPad a run for the money in the classroom: Android tablets.

That’s not to say that the new iPad is a slouch. Far from it, the latest iPad is the slate computer that teachers and students should have gotten in the first place with a sharp screen and a quad-core processor. But, what the iPad really has going for it is over 200,000 apps that run on it – many of which are aimed at education, outstripping what’s available for Android systems. The library of downloadable software for both is growing daily.

Apple continues to be the sales leader in tablets with about 60 percent of the market last year, but the data from IDC shows that its lead has dropped from 75 percent in 2010. Based on the market analysis firm’s forecasts, Android systems have a shot at being the tablet of choice in the coming years with 55 percent of sales in 2016 versus 44 percent for the iPad. The other 1 percent is a variety of specialty tablets.

This increased popularity is because Android tablets pick up where iPads leave off. Sure, they are light and have finger-friendly screens, but rather than having essentially two models to choose from, Android has fostered freedom of choice for classroom slates. There are dozens of tablet designs that use several generations of Android software, which have been whimsically named Gingerbread (version 2.3), Honeycomb (version 3) and Ice Cream Sandwich (version 4).

TechLab_webInstead of a single iPad format, Android offers tablets that are big, small and even a slate that converts to a notebook. With rare exception, these systems offer better connections to the outside world with flash card readers, USB ports and an HDMI connector to directly feed a classroom projector with video and audio.

The big deal for districts is that Android tablets are generally available for at least a hundred dollars less than a similarly equipped iPad. And, for cash-strapped districts, every tech dollar counts.

What’s Android’s plan of attack? The makers of these tablets have one thing in mind: offer more for less. To see how much, I gathered together six of the latest Android classroom-ready slates. They had to have screens that were 8.9-inches or larger, used Android 2.3 (aka, Gingerbread) or newer software and have a price tag that could not exceed $350. District accountants take notice, that’s $150 less than the cheapest iPad.

Reflecting the diverse market, I got a cornucopia of Android tablets. I got ones that were tiny and thin, big and wide as well as ones that are just as appropriate on a desk as on a student’s hands or a teacher’s lap.

Because these devices have to work well in a variety of environments, I asked the manufacturers to supply the tablet’s matching docking station and keyboard. I had mixed results, though, with half not offering a dock or not sending one. Still, it was an eye-opening experience, because the best slates often have the best docks.

Tablets openerThe bottom line is that any of these slates has the ability to be the centerpiece of a digital classroom and are equally good for teaching and learning. This trend towards slates is so strong that in a few years, school notebooks may start resembling dinosaurs in the classroom.

One slate, however, stands head and shoulders above the rest. Good for everything from interactive lessons and working with online lessons to email and Web research, the Asus Eee Transformer TF101 slate is not only thin, light and powerful but can, with its add-on mobile dock, be turned into a small notebook in a flash.

More than marketing hyperbole, it genuinely is like getting two systems for the price of one. In fact, it’s called the transformer not only for its ability to have two distinct technological personalities but the effect it can have on learning.

Continue reading "TechLAB Shootout: 6 Classroom Android Tablets" »

Four-Way USB Wall Outlets

Quattro bIf CurrentWerks’ USB Outlet Duo combo AC and USB outlet doesn’t offer enough USB charging potential for your class, the company has outdone itself with a version that has four USB power outlets. The Quattro sells for $40, comes in three colors and can handle up to 2.1 amps per plug. The best part is that when nothing’s plugged in, it uses no power at all.


White Board without the Board

Smarttech_lightraise_40wiOn top of SMART’s iconic interactive white boards, the company is now selling its first interactive projector, the LightRaise 40wi. It comes with a rechargeable pen for kids and teachers to write or draw directly onto the projected image and can put an 8.5-foot image onto a screen from just two-feet away. A big bonus is that the $1,700 projector not only comes with wall mounting hardware, but access to the company’s SMART Exchange library of multimedia elements.


Backups, Here and There

Kinetic d logoSome backup routines send the data to a local hard drive while others store it online, but KineticD does both so a bit of data will never be lost. Files can be backed up continuously providing non-stop protection from losing that key essay or letter to a parent, regardless of whether a single computer goes down or a disaster knocks them all out.



Freebee Friday: Stopping the Dropout Crisis

AmGrad_Logo_Vert_Solid_CS3Need more info about high school kids dropping out in order to keep them in school by aiming your curriculum and class offerings at them. The Corporation for Public Broadcasting has a new Web site that can give you ideas and ammunition to keep every kid around until graduation day. Called American Graduate, the site has the facts, techniques and some classroom activities.


Freebee Friday: Sticky Wicket

CricketSoccer, football and lacrosse may be the hot sports at your school, but what about cricket? All the equipment needed for playing England’s national pastime is now free for the asking from the US Youth Cricket Association. The kit includes balls, stakes and bats; all you pay for is shipping.



Share and Share Alike

Jb310_lifestyle_12There’s nothing worse than having a classroom of computers blaring similar sounds, but Califone’s $48.50 JB310 Jackbox can connect up to 10 headphones. It has built-in 3.5mm and 1/4-inch headphone jacks to bring audio in from a tablet, notebook or desktop PC and a plugboard of ten headphone jacks. If that’s not enough, you can daisy chain several Jackboxes to cater to an entire class.


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