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Stylus Two-For

1321363233_AP-858_high_res_1_2lNeed a tablet stylus for drawing or detail work on a slate’s screen but also a good old fashioned pen for grading tests, marking-up essays and doing the day’s crossword puzzle on paper? Just Mobile’s Alupen Pro combines the two in a beautiful aluminum design with a capacitive tip at one end and an ink pen at the other.

The hexagonal pen barrel is made from aluminum, comes in silver or black and at 20-grams, it feels good in the hand, regardless of wshether it’s used with a sheet of paper or a tablet screen. It measures 0.35- by 5.25-inches, or slightly longer than the original Alupen.

I found that it’s surprisingly easy to go from ink to tablet, or vice versa, by twirling the pen in my hand.  Unfortunately, it has no place to put a string or chain to tether it to a slate, so there’s a good chance it will get lost.

It comes with a soft case and an extra tablet tip, but no ink refill. While changing the ink cartridge takes about 10 seconds, exchanging the capacitive slate tip is harder until you get the hang of just pulling the flexible rubber cover to remove the tip.

1321362761_AP-858BK_high_res_7_2lIt’s got a retractable fine-point Pelikan ball point pen that comes out with a twist of the tip, perfect for correcting an essay or recording grades on paper.  The big bonus is that the Alupen Pro works with any capacitive screen tablet. I used it with several 7 different iPads, Android and Windows tablets, and found it to be much more comfortable and precise than using a finger.

The Alupen Pro is a unique device that can help any school that has adopted tablets with the ability to go between digital work and writing on paper. At $40, it has to go up against an onslaught of lower quality pens that cost as little as a few dollars, many of which can be tethered to a pad. Still, it’s worth the extra money for the sheer pleasure that looking at and using the Alupen Pro provides. 


Just Mobile Alupen Pro

Price: $40


+ Beautiful dual purpose pen

+ Fine point Pelikan pen

+ Precise tablet screen writing or drawing

+ Comes with case and extra tablet tip

+ Works with a variety of tablets

- No place to tether it to the slate

- Expensive



Up Close in the Classroom

VPL-SX535_34bThe latest projectors from Sony take short throw technology even further with the ability to create a 6.5-foot image at just 19-inches away from the screen. The VPL-SW535 and SX535 feature WXGA and XGA resolution and put 3,000 lumens of brightness on the screen. They cost $1,700 for the VPL-SW535 and $2,300 for the $2,500 for the SX535; adding Ludicia eBeam technology to transform the projhectors into interactive systems costs $600.

Splashing onto the Big Screen

Android whiteboard bOne of my favorite tablet apps, Splashtop’s Whiteboard, is now available for use with Android tablets. It requires the PC or Mac Streamer program to connect the two devices and lets you write on the tablet’s screen so that it is projected on the class’s big screen. The big difference is that, at $10, the Android software costs half as much as the iPad app.


Required Reading: Test Takers Manual

Test success cover
All too often the intelligence of the smartest and most creative kids doesn’t show up on standardized tests, like the SAT and ACT. With a combination of proven test-taking techniques and stress management, Ben Bernstein’s “Test Success!” can help any kid do his or her best. The 200-page book deals with everything from calming down and being confident to the differences among popular tests and special sections for parents and teachers. It costs $20.




Freebee Friday: Up, Up and Away

Samsung doc cam contestSamsung's contest to see which student can create the most interesting video about a famous (or infamous) historical hero is underway and a great way to introduce characters from the past to a class. It’s open to all primary and secondary students and the videos should be between 1- and 3-minutes long. The winner gets $500 and a SamCam 860 document camera for the school. 




Freebee Friday: The World, Year by Year

World atlasI have found the perfect companion for any world history course. The Atlas of World History not only presents the user with a map of the world showing the major cultures and the land they dominate, but you can go forward or back in time to see how it got that way and what happened to them. Each time period has several key facts about the dominant world power at the time from Sumerians to the Shia Fatimids. Unfortunately, it’s a little shallow, but does a good job of summarizing what has happened from 3000 BC to 1000 AD.



Hang in There

Enook aWith so many classrooms created from small rooms never intended for instruction, the question arises: where does the teacher’s desk go? With Anthro’s eNook you probably don’t need one. eNook is a place for a computer along with a work surface that folds out of a wall and can be locked up when not in use. There’s room for a desktop or notebook computer and places to stash the wires. It costs between $1,129 and $1,199



Low-Power, High-Impact Printer

Officejet_8600_Plus_eAIOIf color laser printers seem like the future of classroom printing, there is a less power-hungry way to put images and text onto paper for students, administrators and parents. Because they use less electricity, good old fashioned inkjet printers, like HP’s OfficeJet Pro 8600 Plus, can give laser devices a run for the money

 The OJ Pro 8600+ does just about everything having anything to do with documents and paper. On top of traditional printing, it scans, faxes and copies, effectively consolidating all document creation and management functions into one device. About the only thing it can’t do is shred old papers that aren’t needed at the end of the school year.

For a system that does so many different tasks, it’s remarkably small. The OJ Pro 8600+ measures 12.8- by 19- by 15-inches but have two people on hand to lift it out of the box and set it up. You’ll want to put it on a sturdy shelf or tabletop because as it does its thing, the printer rocks side to side.

276916-hp-officejet-pro-8600-plus-e-all-in-one-screenGetting it connected is the easy part with the ability to use USB, Ethernet or WiFi to feed it with data. There’s even an extra USB connector upfront to lift items from a memory key as well as two flash card slots that work let you grab and print documents and images from SD, MS and CompactFlash cards. Unfortunately, like so many printers these days, it comes without a USB or networking cable.

The OJ Pro 8600+ has software for Macs and PCs and the automatic installation routine takes all of about 5 minutes to load the necessary programs. Plus the 4.25-inch touchscreen control panel plays animation to show you what to do next, making this complex device one of the easiest to get working and use.

Inside the printer is a 360Mhz processor and 128MB of memory, more than enough to store 100 fax pages. It has a 250-page paper tray and HP sells an optional second tray for underneath; together they hold a full ream of paper. It can print at up to 1,200 by 1,200 dots per inch, with sharp output that has most large areas well filled in. On the downside, it has a dull appearance and the pages can come out wrinkled with some bleed-through on dense originals.

Hp 8600 plus screenUsing a WiFi connection, the OJ Pro 8600+ was able to pump out the first page in 18.3 seconds. It printed monochrome math worksheets at roughly 5.1 pages per minute in single side mode in the printer’s top resolution. When using the built-in duplexer, that speed drops to less than 3 pages per minute, partly because the printer pauses for a few seconds between pages to allow the ink to dry and avoid smudges.

With HP’s eprint software, you can print to this device from just about any place that has an Internet connection. It works with PCs, Macs, iPads and Android devices, and allows a teacher to do things like printing the next day’s vocabulary worksheets from home the night before and have them waiting for the class in the morning.

Unlike most all-in-one devices, the OJ Pro 8600+’s sheet feeder has a built-in duplexer. This makes copying and faxing double-sided originals fast and automatic. The device also has a legal-size scan bed for digitizing larger documents than typical all-in-ones can. It can scan at up to 4,800 dpi and was able to turn an 8- by 10-inch original into a 200- and 600-dpi digital file in 47.3 and 1 minute and 17.4 seconds, respectively.

Scan swThe system worked well at sending and receiving faxes over a traditional analog phone line. It has a speed dial address book that can hold up to 99 numbers and if your school’s phone lines have Caller ID, the OJ Pro 8600+ can block advertising faxes as soon as the sending number is established. 

With individual ink cartridges for black, cyan, magenta and yellow, using the OJ Pro 8600+ means you won’t be throwing away a three-ink cartridge because one of the reservoirs is empty. When you do need to replace an ink module, the cartridge carrier automatically moves to a spot where you can remove it. Happily, there’s a bright light inside to help see what’s going on.

The system’s software keeps an eye on things with the OJ Pro 8600+ and will let you know when its ink cartridges are running low. For good or bad, the installation puts an easily removable link to order new cartridges on the system’s desktop.

Ink levels5At $24 for the color cartridges and $35 for the black one, it costs roughly 6 cents a page to print monochrome pages and 21 cents to do color ones. By contrast, Dell’s 1355 all-in-one printer costs roughly 18 cents per color page. This is a little steep, but you can cut paper costs nearly in half by using the duplexer and unlike laser printers, there’s no drum or fuser that requires periodic, and often messy, replacement.

There’s another way to save with the OJ Pro 8600+. It uses only 23 watts when it’s printing, less than one-twentieth that of the typical color laser printer. On top of cutting the school’s power bills, this printer doesn’t require that the classroom be required to safely meet this electrical demand.

The system comes with a 1-year warranty, but extending it to three years costs only $25, one of the best bargains around today.  Because the OJ 8600+ can work with a variety of computers it’s the perfect device for a department or floor to share.  


HP OfficeJet Pro 8600 Plus

Price: $229


+ One device does it all

+ Can print from anywhere

+ Touchscreen control panel

+ Low power use

+ Legal-size scan bed

+ Choice of connection method


- Slightly expensive output 

- Printer shakes when in use




Super Mini PC

IdeaCentre Q180Is the current generation of PCs too big and bulky for your school? Lenovo’s IdeaCentre Q180 packs a lot of power into a small case. Powered by an Intel Atom D2700 processor and AMD Radeon HD 6460A graphics, the system is barely the size of a textbook yet can handle HD video and surround sound. There’s even a version with a DVD drive. Pricing starts at $379.

Kiddie Slate

Child Pad_front_newAndroid tablets are expensive and meant for middle- and high school kids, right? Not anymore. Archos’s upcoming Child Pad features the latest Android 4.0 software, a 7-inch touch screen, a1GHz processor and 1GB of RAM.  It comes with a slew of kid-friendly software and will sell for $129 at the end of the month.



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