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A Touching Display

Td2340_front_hiresWhile you don’t need a touch screen to use Windows 8, having one makes the experience much easier, smoother and much more intuitive. While there’s no shortage of touch-screen notebooks on the market, there are only a handful of monitors for retrofitting a desktop or extending a notebook for this brave new computing world. Viewsonic’s TD2340 sets the pace with excellent HD sharpness, reasonable brightness and excellent touch response.

At 15.8- by 22.6- by 13.0-inches, the TD2340 takes up a lot of desktop space and has a wide frame that makes it look bigger than it actually is. The monitor has a sturdy and heavily weighted V-shaped base that has rubber surfaces to hold a notebook in place. The screen is as flexible as the one on the Dell 2340T touch screen but its design is simpler. It lets the screen tilt and rotate so that it can assume different profiles for a variety of uses.

In addition to setting the monitor up in the traditional vertical operation, the TD2340 can tilt 4-degrees forward. It can be set at any angle between vertical and horizontal, making it one of the most flexible monitors available. It is just as good for setting up as a vertical desktop screen or getting a bunch of kids to collaborate on a project around horizontal screen.

At any time, the screen can be raised or lowered by about three inches. On the downside, the TD2340 can’t swivel side to side. The entire screen can rotate between landscape and portrait modes, but the computer doesn’t automatically change the image’s orientation. It can, however, be wall mounted, but weighs over 20-pounds.

Td2340_side-left_hiresThe beauty of the system is that even the slightest teacher or six-year old can move and adjust the screen’s angle. The mount’s action is smooth and sturdy and the screen doesn’t wobble as much as other touch-displays when tapped.

Its set up was quick and simple. With Windows 8, the monitor doesn’t require loading any software onto the Sony VAIO T13 or the Dell Inspiron 15Z that I used. The display worked well with Windows 8 and actually can streamline the use of the operating system. To use the screen with Windows 7, you’ll need to load software from the included CD.

With a ten-point capacitance multi-touch screen, the TD2340 responds instantly to the touch and worked well with several stylus pens. I used two and three finger gestures and reliably brought out the various menus from the screen’s edges. Using fingers turns out to be much easier to manipulate the University of Colorado’s PHET science simulations. It even worked remarkably well for sketching a function’s graph, drawing a map or finger painting.

It has built-in on-screen commands for adjusting the display with the ability to change its contrast, brightness, color and other items. Unfortunately, like other touch screens, the on-screen commands aren’t touch-enabled so you’ll need to use the awkward up and down arrows to select what you want.

Like any recent display, the TD2340 can work with inputs from VGA, DisplayPort, HDMI and audio. Happily, it comes with most of the cords needed, but not for a Display Port source. The system requires a USB connection to transfer the touch commands, but – unlike Dell’s 2340T – it can work with a USB 2.0 system.

There’s a two-port hub built into the monitor’s side. In fact, all the video connections are awkwardly placed on the bottom and side of the monitor, not its more accessible base.

Td2340_right_hiresIt may lack a Web cam, but the TD2340 has integrated speakers that use SRS Premium Sound and actually sounds as good as many iPod docks. They get loud enough to allow the class listen, but they sound better when the display is vertically oriented than horizontally.

The 23-inch IPS display it is built around is no slouch either. It has scratch resistant glass, can show 1,920 by 1,080 resolution and has a 7ms response rate. Its brightness is rated at 250 candelas per square meter and the screen can show just about any resolution and refresh rate. On the downside, it managed to get to only 198 cd/m2 in its Normal mode. The monitor’s color balance is surprisingly good with excellent rendering of flesh tones.

Thanks to efficient LED backlighting , when the TD2340 is being used, it consumes 22.4 watts, likely a fraction of the power used by the monitor it will replace. This adds up to an estimated $4.30 of electricity bills over the typical school year, making it a very economical monitor to use. On the downside, the right side of the screen heats up to about 110-degrres Fahrenheit.

Like many other monitors, the TD2340 comes with a three-year warranty, but at $600 it undercuts the Dell 2340T by $100. All in all, the TD2340 can not only get the most out of Windows 8 but is a great tool for turning a plain old PC into a touch computer that can liven up any lesson.

A

Viewsonic TD2340

Price: $600

+ Sharp HD screen with sensitive touch

+ Horizontal or vertical operation

+ Scratch-resistant glass

+ USB 3.0 with hub

+ Wall mount

 

- Big and heavy

- Expensive

 

 

First Time Programmers

Super_scratch_programming_adventureIf you’re more than a little intimidated with trying out your first programming project at school, think how the students feel staring at the keyboard and blank screen. No Starch Press’s Super Scratch Programming Adventure is a programming textbook masquerading as a graphic novel to make the information and techniques inside more accessible and less scary to both teacher and student.

 Scratch is a programming language developed at MIT specifically for code newbies to make get into programming easy. The comic book’s hero is Scratchy, a cyberspace cat with an attitude. There’s also Mitch, a student who loves creating computer games, as well as Gobo, Fabu and Pete, trans-dimensional aliens who maintain the balance of the universe. Together they show how to make simple programming projects.

Scratch-02Along the way, the Scratch crew shows you how to create ever more complex programs, culminating in a complete game. You’ll need a recent PC, Mac or Linux computer with 120MB of free hard drive space to use the downloadable Scratch environment. It’s all a lot of fun, very educational and the book has a slew of online resources available to help teach the art and science of programming. Compared to $200 textbooks, this book is a steal at $25 for the paperback and $20 for the eBook version. You can try out a chapter for free.

Second-Gen Pen

New pen releaseIt can be a chore to draw and write on a tablet with your finger, but a stylus pen, like N-trig’s DuoSense Pen can make it much easier and more precise. The first of the second generation slate pens, the pens come in three sizes: 9.5mm, 8.0mm and 5.5mm. All are very sensitive, allow hovering over the glass display and feel like pen on paper. Look for them later this year.

The New T

Lenovo Thinkpad 011113 open VThe latest from Lenovo is the ThinkPad T431s, the rare Ultrabook that lives up to the hype. The system is just as rugged and long-lasting as previous ThinkPad Ts, but is only 0.8-inch thick and weighs 3.6-pounds. It comes with a 14-inch 1,600 by 900 resolution screen and can be ordered with the choice of a Core i5 or i5 processor, up to a terabyte hard drive and up to 12GB of RAM.

Sponsored by Samsung: Digital Education

ImagesExplore the potential advantages of using digital education solutions that combine tablets with digital content and software for a more effective classroom-learning environment beyond the traditional paper or chalkboard-based approach. This 12-page paper from IDC Government examines tech use in education around the globe. It shows how to create next-generation classrooms that motivate students and help increase collaboration and connections. 

Sponsored by Samsung: Delivering the Classroom of the Future

ImagesThe Smart School Solution is not just technology—it’s a completely new way to teach and learn—and it turns our ideas about education completely on their head. It is built around three central systems to assist teachers: Interactive Management, Learning Management and Student Information. These three components help create a more integrated, engaging digital learning environment that can be easy to manage and frees up teachers to do what they do best: teach.

Click here: for more information on Samsung’s suite of education products.

Freebee Friday: Tomorrow’s Teaching Today

Cisco-logoWhat will schools look like in the future and how will technology transform it into the interactive idyll that we envision? On Tuesday, Cisco will explore these ideas and more in a Virtual Forum for Education Leaders. The panel will have distinguished K-12 teachers and administrators and it starts at noon, eastern time. It’s free, just register.

Freebee Friday: Need for Speed

Netflix ispAny school worth its desktops, laptops and projectors needs a top-speed Internet connection, and the results are in. Netflix, which streams video to millions, has tracked each ISP’s actual delivered bandwidth. The results are a little surprising and differ from a recent FCC report on bandwidth. The top marks go to Google Fiber (at 3.4Mbps), but it’s only available in limited locations followed by Cablevision’s Optimum Online (at 2.3Mbps), which is popular on the east coast but is also available in the mountain states. Next, SuddenLink, which has a footprint in the south and southwest, came in at 2.2Mbps. 

Instant Animation

Mzl.sbhjscay.480x480-75There’s nothing that lights up the eyes of students like an animation sequence used in teaching, and iCreate to Educate can help make these classroom items easy to build. From a cartoon version of photosynthesis to letters organizing themselves as words and sentences, the possibilities are endless. The program lets you do image capture, frame-by-frame editing, time lapse sequences and the ability to work with a variety of audio and video formats. It works on PCs and Macs ($30 per client) as well as the latest two generations of iPads ($4.99) that have cameras; The company offers volume discounts, district licenses, a free download and online demo videos.

Ups and Downs in the Classroom

Look around a district’s classrooms and there’s a good chance you’ll see a wide variety of chairs and desks that come from different eras of schooling. The problem is that few are particularly well suited to the efficient use of computers and none can easily be adjusted to accommodate different size kids. How times have changed. Over the past several weeks, I’ve seen four cool and innovative pieces of school furniture that can not only make learning easier and more natural but can be adjusted so that the smallest first grader and the largest high-schools senior can comfortably learn.

Nextdesk terraDon’t let its beautiful natural bamboo surface fool you, NextDesk’s Terra table is serious about learning. Its sturdy aluminum frame has a chain-driven motor drive inside the legs that move the desktop up and down from 24- to 50.5-inches high. There’re microprocessor-controlled up and down switches with three memory presets for different size students. The 63- by 31.5-inch desk costs $1,500 and you can add an optional power strip.

Equity-1317_lg1Being adjustable is what Populas’s family of Equity Bi-Level Workstations is all about. The tables can work with a variety of kids and grown-ups, even students in wheelchairs. The work tables have two surfaces, one for the notebook or computer screen and another lower one for the keyboard and mouse. The good news is that both are adjustable with a simple hand crank that can independently adjust the two surfaces up and down. Available in a variety of plastic laminates and wood veneers, the 48- by 16-inch table costs $962.

Normal_normal_ELE-TB-electrolift_table_blackandcherry_2_1200x900-1160x870GForget everything you know about classroom furniture because Versatables’ Edison Electric Table will astound with its flexibility. The ADA-compliant table can move up and down as much as 26-inches, making it a traditional table or a standing desk, depending on the situation. The key is that the tabletop is on a track that has an electric motor to quickly move it up and down to the desired height. The table starts at $829 for a 36- by 24-inch surface.

CTA table aSmall students count for as much as large ones with CTA’s Kids Adjustable Activity Table for iPad. Able to adjust to three different heights: 4-, 11- or 20-inches, the table holds the slate securely on an easel that can be removed or flipped over to create a large flat work surface. It has a clear plastic screen to protect the pad. It’s available for $50.

 

 

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