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ISTE 2012: Test Giver

Evls3eInstruction’s Insight 360 just got a lot better at giving tests with the integration of the ExamView module. It now allows teachers to not only create and manage tests in a variety of formats from a library of 9,000 textbooks, but now lets them deliver questions one at a time, create more exacting reports and instantly can show the right and wrong answers. Booth no. 4307




ISTE 2012: Kiss Expensive Bubble Answer Sheets Goodbye

NXT_HighStakes_1_23_2012Tired of spending a small fortune on bubble answer sheets for electronic scoring of tests? Triton from Turning Technologies lets you use the company’s Responsecard NXT student response device and Proctor Receiver to set up and give a class a variety of tests as well as provide instant response to classroom questions. The data collection software is secure and both the questions and answers are held on a USB memory key for convenience. Look for it this fall. In the meantime, the company will be at booth no. 4020.


ISTE 2012: All Points

Odyssey logoThe latest version of CompassLearning’s Odyssey is the best yet with more flexibility to customize the learning experience and reach every student. There’s deeper gradebook integration as well as 400 new lessons in reading, math and science for up to high-school seniors. Look for it at booth no. 2416.


ISTE 2012: All Platforms, All Classrooms

Displaynote systemsIf your school’s IT infrastructure is getting caught between multiple computing platforms, DisplayNote can help with a one-size fits all approach. The software works on everything from an iPad, iPhone or Android tablet to Windows, Macs and Linux computers and can handle all major file formats. In other works, it can work with just about anything you throw at it so that you can concentrate on teaching. Any file can be highlighted, marked up and saved by students. See it at booth no. 2647.


ISTE 2012: Big Room, Big Picture

TW865-NLAn auditorium or large cafeteria deserves a projector for a big venue and Optoma’s TX865-NL delivers 6,000 lumens from a single lamp for an image that won’t get washed out. The company offers lenses for regular, short- or long-throw uses so that you can put the projector in the most convenient place and still fill a big screen. It uses TI’s digital light processing technology, puts WXGA resolution on the screen and works with everything from HDMI and DVI to VGA, Composite, S- and Component-Video inputs. Booth no. 5709.



TechLAB Shootout: 5 Classroom Projectors

DSC_0223The center of every child’s education is rightly the teacher, but more often than not the center of attention in the classroom is the projector. It not only makes sure that the whole class can see the lesson, but can grab the attention of students in ways that a chalkboard can’t.

To see what the state of the art for classroom projectors is, we gathered together five different devices and ran them through the ringer at Administr@tor’s TechLAB facility. All had to be able to project at least XGA (1,024 by 788) resolution and sell for $650 or less. Other than that, anything goes.

The breakdown of the five projectors we got reflects the general market with four of them using TI’s Digital Light Processing chip (DLP) to create the image. It might sound like magic, but DLP technology involves hundreds of thousands of tiny mirrors each of which can be pivoted into and out of the projector’s light beam. This selectively reflects individual pixels to create the image. Add in a spinning color wheel and you have a colorful image on screen.

Projectors from Acer, Dell, Optoma and Viewsonic use this technology, but the loner of the group was Epson’s PowerLite X15. Rather than a DLP chip, it’s old school all the way with three tiny LCD screens. This projector divides the light into red, blue and green beams and sends each through a separate display panel. Near the lens, the beams are combined to create the projected image.

Each of the projection technologies has its pros and cons, but it often gets obscured in marketing mumbo-jumbo. The key differences are that LCD projectors require an air filter, which might prove to be a hassle to periodically clean or change, but can produce brighter and livelier images, while DLP projectors can be made smaller and lighter.

At TechLAB, our job is to separate the winners from the also-rans. In addition to examining each, trying out their features and measuring their brightness, we looked at how long they take to start-up and shut-down as well as how noisy and how hot they were in typical classroom situations. We used several different types of systems with each, including a couple of tablets.  

TechLab_webFinally, by mimicking what you do in class, we finished off with a three-tier simulated classroom lesson that stretched each projector’s abilities by using a series of online interactive elements. It was very instructive, to say the least.

Whether the projector lives on a cart that is wheeled around, carried between classes or permanently mounted in a classroom, all five have one thing in common: an expensive and power-hungry high-pressure lamp that creates an intense beam of light. The cost of replacement lamps and electricity can end up costing more than the projector itself after a few short years of use.

That’s why we not only measured how much power each projector uses – both when it’s on and when it’s off – but include how much its replacement lamps adds to the total. Together, they form an estimate of the operating expenses of each projector if it is used for 8 hours a day over the typical school year.

The use of expensive high pressure lamps is the mainstay of the projector industry, but that may change soon. As LEDs get brighter and brighter, they could replace traditional lamps and offer two big bonuses. They have a rated lifetime of roughly 20,000 hours – 12 years of typical school use – so replacing projector lamps can be a thing of the past. Plus, they use a fraction of the electricity that the traditional lamp consumes, so they have much lower power bills.

In the meantime, any of these classroom projectors can reliably put a quality lesson on the classroom’s big screen, but one goes to the head of the class. Epson’s PowerLite X15 not only created the sharpest image with the best color balance but was the most flexible for setting up in oddly shaped rooms. Its only major failing was the lack of networking, a problem that’s shared with several others here.

It may not be the least expensive or the brightest, but the PowerLite X15 is the current best buy in classroom projectors and can teach its competitors a thing or two about how to succeed in the classroom.

Continue reading "TechLAB Shootout: 5 Classroom Projectors" »

Instant Internet

HP internnet monitorWhat’s the easiest, fastest, and likely the cheapest way to set up a Web terminal in an office, a library or common area? HP’s Passport 1912nm Internet monitor is a self-contained Internet computer that is built around a TI OMAP processor, a 19-inch LCD screen and wired Ethernet networking. It comes with software for Web browsing, viewing photos and videos as well as a flash card reader for downloading assignments and research. With keyboard and mouse, it sells for $260. 

Freebee Friday: Long-Distance Speech Therapy

PL_2c_rgbHaving a speech pathologist at every school is out of reach for most districts these days, but the needed speech therapy can be delivered through a video conference. Learn all about how it’s done on July 12 by watching “Speech Telepractice: Good, Bad or Ugly?” The Webinar starts at 1PM, eastern time, and will be hosted by Presence Learning. The online lesson will be moderated by Dr. Barbara J. Moore and explore its potential. 

The following panel is scheduled to participate:

  • Dr. Shari Robertson, Associate Dean of the Graduate School and Research at Indiana University of Pennsylvania;
  • Dr. Lynda Donahue, Special Education Director of Vacaville Unified School District in California;
  • Melissa Jakubowitz, Vice President of Speech Language Pathology (SLP) Services for PresenceLearning.

It’s free but you’ll need to register.

Quad-Core Tablet

A700_black-silver-front-backIf the current crop of Android tablets leaves you underwhelmed, think about Acer’s Iconia A700, a powerful slate with a 10-inch screen that can show 1,920 by 1,080 resolution, yet still weighs less than 1.5-pounds and is under half an inch thick. The slate costs $450 and comes with a quad-core processor as well as a 12-core graphics accelerator and Dolby audio.


Power at the Right Price

Dv3360 aGetting a thin high-performance notebook at the right price is no longer a dream for schools with Dell’s Vostro 3360 system. At only 0.8-inches thick, the 3360 is Ultrabook thin, yet can be ordered with either a second- or third-generation Intel Core i processor, 1,366 by 768 display and up to a 500GB hard drive. Best yet, it can be ordered in a silver, bronze or red case and can cost as little as $650.


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