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Freebee Friday: Virus-Free For Free

Avast scn-soa-console-2Let others pay for Norton or McAfee anti-virus software, but your school can have equivalent protection against malware for nothing with Avast’s Free for Education program. The EndPoint Protection software works with PCs (a Mac version is in the works) and includes a virus, spam and ad-ware scanner to keep every computer clean. You can get district-wide protection for up to 30,000 clients along with remote management and centralized control. It’s free for any public or non-profit school; just apply, install it and stop paying for protection.

Projection Ecosystem

BL_Pro_1410Wi_Left Angle_Screen MountEpson’s BrightLink Pro 1410Wi doesn’t just inaugurate a new short-throw interactive projector but a whole teaching ecosystem. By itself the BrightLink Pro 1410Wi is a 3-LCD WXGA short-throw device that puts 3,100 lumens onto a board and has an interactive pen. On top of projecting split screens and saving any items written with the pen, no PC is needed because it can grab and project .pdfs and .jpgs from a memory key and works with Epson’s iProjection iPad app. It comes with a control panel and can link with three other BrightLink Pro projectors in the building, state or globe, creating incredible teaching and training opportunities. BL_Pro_1410Wi_Whiteboard

To make the projector fit into the classroom and school, the BrightLink 1410Wi has three specially designed mounting setups. If you get just the projector and overhead mount, it costs $3,000. With Chief’s aluminum 86-inch whiteboard, projector cover and a place to stash the pens, the package costs $4,000. The whole thing in teak or cherry goes for $4,500. All are subject to a $500 educational discount.

Tech Insurance

Worth aveTired of having to scramble to replace tablets or notebooks that have been broken, stolen or destroyed in a fire? Worth Ave. Group Insurance policies can provide not only a replacement but peace of mind. Policies are available for up to three years with a variety of deductibles. For instance, the fee for $300 worth of coverage on a tablet with a $25 deductible is $57 a year plus a one-time $5 processing fee.


Teaching with the Web

Netgear_neotv_maxThe vast array of educational resources that the Web offers can help teach everything from foreign languages and technology to the goings on at the White House. For those schools short on computers or cash can tap into the Web with one of Netgear’s NeoTV systems. They range from $50 to $130 and differ in how deeply into the Web they can reach.

Regardless of which of the four NeoTV Streaming Players you choose, the devices are all black and small enough to hide behind or attach to a monitor or projector. While the $50 base (NTV300) NeoTV model can tap into about online 100 channels with full HD resolution and surround-sound via a WiFi connection, the $60 Pro (NTV300S) adds an Ethernet port and the bonus of WiDi for wirelessly showing what’s on your laptop. The $70 Max model (NTV300SL) also has a USB port for a USB memory key and its remote control has a mini-keyboard. 

The latest model, the $130 NeoTV Prime (GTV100), brings GoogleTV to the classroom as well as an HDMI-in port to connect a DVD player or cable TV box. It can also grab items from a local server with the unit’s mini-keyboard on the back of its remote control. All four devices have downloadable iOS and Android apps that let your tablet take control of the streaming video.

Compared to the $60 Roku HD, even the least expensive NeoTV device can present full 1,920 by 1,080 HD video rather than 720p video, although the typical classroom projector is of a much lower resolution. On the other hand, the Roku device can work with older TVs and projectors because it can transfer audio and video over composite video ports rather than HDMI.

Neotv prime bI looked at the NeoTV Max model and, like the others, it provides access to expected YouTube and Hulu, but there are several dozen channels available that range from movies and games to genuine educational resources. The best part is that all of the channels are free, except those, like Hulu Plus, that require a subscription.

Setting up the NeoTV Max is quick and easy. Just plug it in, connect it with your projector, TV or monitor and let it find and connect to your WiFi network on its own. If the signal isn’t strong enough, the Max model has a wired Ethernet connection.

The beauty of using HDMI to connect NeoTV with a screen is that audio and video flow over one cable, making it quicker to get started. When everything’s ready, pick a channel to watch with the remote control and get the class to sit back and watch. Be aware that it takes some practice to figure out the sequence to navigate around the screens, but it soon becomes second nature.

The NeoTV Max that I used worked with two different projectors as well as a LCD TV and a desktop monitor. My favorites for the classroom are videos from the TED conferences, PBS shows and videos from the White House, but there’s also a NASA channel that’s chock full of science related material. While there are channels in French, Italian, German and Spanish that can introduce language students to the actual cadences and accents of true native speakers, the Le Monde channel is stocked with short news reports that haven’t been updated since last June.

Netgear-neotv-primeThe best part about NeoTV is that the software and lineup are often frequently with new selections frequently added. While the Max model is good, I prefer the addition of GoogleTV on the Prime model. It transforms this platform into a teacher’s helper, but can’t work with things like the University of Colorado’s PHET simulations and other online teaching resources.

Overall, the audio and video quality is fair, not because the system’s graphics are wanting. It’s because many of the channels are lacking. More to the point, many of the videos that come from overseas have been converted and have odd artifacts.

Still it’s the cheapest and most effective way to put the Web into a classroom.


Netgear NeoTV Max

Price: $70 

+ Inexpensive

+ Works with variety of projectors or TVs

+ Reasonable assortment of program channels

+ Remote control mini-keyboard

+ Small unit

+ Notebook WiDi connection


- Web browsing only with Prime model





Stylish Stylus

FlaxusThe latest from crowd-source fundraiser Kickstarter is a stylus that you wear as a bracelet or rolled up as a backpack ring. Made of flexible silicone, the Flaxus pen will be made by Hong Kong-based Aeglo if Kickstarter gets to its $10,000 start-up funding goal; as of the last count, they were near $7,000. The pens cost two for $19 if you back the project or $24 afterward.

Mini Learn-Station

V1212167a_dDemco’s Jonti Craft Thrifty Rainbow Accents workstation not only comes in 8 colors and has a 22.5-inch keyboard tray, but it costs less than $300. Made of 5/8-inch thick particleboard with a colorful laminate surface the workstation has locking casters and an optional place to stash a full tower PC.


Tune Up

Korg bEver have to tune a music room’s worth of string instruments? Korg’s Headtune can make quick work of it. Just clip it to the guitar and watch the LEDs as you tighten or loosen the strings. The device’s piezoelectric sensor accurately records and displays the string’s note. It costs $20 and is easy enough for beginners to use to tune guitars, basses and ukuleles.

Freebee Friday: Widget Watchers

Norton widget bThe latest in keeping new computers running fast and new is Norton’s Resource Hog and Madware Monitor widgets. The free apps let IT staff watch out for software that uses too much power, memory and system resources as well as those that are being loaded down with adware.

Numbers Plus

560448_LA good calculator should be only the start for teaching math in elementary schools. Casio has a new package that includes its fx-55Plus calculator that can handle natural input plus a set of manipulative items and help kids learn math. In addition to the calculator, you get a poster, teacher’s guide, emulation software for projecting the calculator’s keys and display as well as a box of items to help teaching. It costs $575 at EAI Education.

Projecting the Future

MimioProjector_ms_0703_IR_whiteAll too often interactive projectors have been sold as islands without any school software to turn them into teaching tools. Not the ultra-short throw MimioProjector, which includes a copy of the company’s MimioStudio 10 program that lets teachers do anything from mark-up digital images to create their own multimedia lessons. It comes with a pair of pens that allow collaborative or competitive work on the board. On its own, the projector costs $999, but $1,449 with two pens.

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