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Freebee Friday: Print your Own Paper

Printable paper class listWhy waste money on lined paper, graph paper or even music paper, when you can make it yourself. The Web site Printable Paper has dozens of standard paper types that you can make with any inkjet or laser printer. From grade sheets, checklists and calendars to penmanship forms, the site has it all. All of the downloadable forms are Acrobat files and they’re all free, although some are available as editable Word files for a few dollars.

The Big Screen

X463UN_HOThe latest signage displays from NEC not only cacn run all-day every day, but have excellent color and use 120- and 190-watts for the 46-inch X463UN and the 55-inch X551UN models. They both can show 1,920 by 1,080 resolution, have 0.2-inch bezels and can be set up in an array. Happily, they also come with a three-year warranty, but cost $5,000 and $7,000. 

 

Point and Print

C460FW aIf the thought of setting up a building of wireless printers keeps you up at night, Samsung can let you rest easily. The latest Multifunction Xpress C460FW printer is not only a snap to get connected, but offers the advantage of Near Field Communications (NFC) technology that allows people to tap their phone, tablet or notebook on the device to print.

Printing with NFC is the closest thing to magic and the left side of the printer has a sticker with the NFC chip inside. With an NFC-enabled phone, notebook or tablet, you can put what’s on the screen onto paper. It can handle everything from photos, documents and emails to Web pages and what’s on Facebook at the moment.

It all takes a second to get started. Just tap the phone or tablet to the NFC spot, pick what you want to print and confirm the selection; the Mobile Print app provides a preview of what will be printed. Samsung’s C460FW does the rest. This instant-print feature can not only simplify how teachers and students print material for school but can reduce the number of orphan prints that clutter a shared printer’s output tray. The app can also scan material, fax sheets and even print photos just taken for the closest thing to an instant camera.

The NFC capabilities of the C460FW worked like a charm with a Nexus 7 tablet, a Samsung Galaxy S4 phone and a Sony VAIO Tap 20 hybrid desktop PC. I was able to print images, worksheets and Web pages as well as scan homework assignments and fax letters.

C460FW bSamsung’s app not only previews what’s going to be printed on the phone's or tablet's screen, but allows you to put several pages onto a sheet, adjust the image size and advanced items like job accounting.  It’s not as flexible as the choices that the printer’s PC and Mac drivers offer, but it should be more than enough.

The good news is that the app works with older networked Samsung printers, like a CLP315W, that don't have NFC. There’s an increasing number of phones, tablets and notebooks that use NFC, including a slew of phones and most new Sony VAIO models. The bad news is that Apple’s iPhones and iPads don’t have NFC.

It’s not a one trick pony because the C460FW can connect via a USB cable, WiFi, wired LAN or a phone line for faxing. There’s a second USB slot up front for putting a memory key in, but the system lacks an SD card slot for going directly from a camera to the printer.

Samsung c460fw on-screen alterOverall, the C460FW is quieter and faster than others in its class, and it uses less electricity so the lights won’t dim when it’s printing. Inside it has two processors, 128MB of memory and a 2,400 by 600 dot per inch laser printing engine. Samsung provides drivers for PCs, Macs and Linux computers; it can also work with Google Cloud Print.

Using a Lenovo ThinkPad notebook and a WiFi connection, the C460FW was able to deliver the first page of a print job in 13 seconds and pump out as many as 11.1 pages per minute for text. That drops to about 2 pages per minute for printing an 8- by 10-inch image, but using the NFC connection, it printed a 3-page Web site in 32 seconds.

The C460FW also has a competent 600 dot per inch (dpi) scanner that can be used on its letter-size glass platen or with its 40-sheet document feeder. The system comes with TWAIN and WIA drivers and a slew of software for scanning directly to a computer and optical character recognition. I was able to scan a stack of 10 pages at 600dpi at 4.3 pages per minute. Later I used the printer’s NFC capabilities to scan two sheets in 46 seconds.                                                                                                      

In addition to copying in color or black and white, the C460FW has a fax machine built-in.  On the downside, the printer does without a mechanical duplexer, although you can manually print on both sides of a sheet. It also requires two scanning passes to digitize both sides of the original.  

400x400_1At 13.1- by 16.0- by 14.3-inches, the C460FW is only slightly larger than Samsung’s CLP315W printer, but adds a scanner and tray for originals. The paper tray does stick out 4-inches, but the whole thing can easily fit on a bookshelf or a small table.

While it doesn’t have a preview screen, the C460FW includes two overlay templates for its functions in French and English. The system uses Samsung’s latest microcrystalline toner that comes in cartridges that are good for about 1,500 pages for black and 1,000 pages for the three individual colors; the machine comes with set-up cartridges that are good for only half as many pages. The imaging drum is rated at a life of 16,000 pages of black and white prints; it costs $100 and takes about two minutes to change.

All told, its consumables should cost around 6 cents per page and you can easily see how much toner remains on the system’s monochrome info screen or via Samsung’s Easy Printer Manager software . It can turn a subtle shade of green with the C460FW’s Eco setting. This reduces toner and electricity use by 20 percent and the driver keeps track of how much you’ve saved.

The system’s $399 price tag is on a par with other printers in this class, but if it’s too much Samsung also sells a printer only model (C410W) for $230. Still, the addition of NFC technology to printing takes the C460FW to a new level.

C460FW c

A-

Samsung Multifunction Xpress C460FW

Price: $399

 

+ Fast, quiet

+ Innovative NFC technology

+ Networking built-in

+ Only slightly larger than older printer

+ Excellent app, drivers and software

+ Eco setting

 

- No mechanical duplexer

- Lacks an SD card slot

Take your Stand

0f60a7dd-371b-4469-852a-00415ff98ad4Who says that teachers need to stay in their seats at school?  Steelcase’s Nurture Pocket cart is a standing desk on wheels that can not only go just about anywhere in a school but allow kids and adults to be more attentive and focused on their school work. Originally designed for use in healthcare as a nurse’s cart, the Pocket can let an instructor roam around a classroom or school without leaving the desk behind. 

Made of pressed steel, Pocket is on the heavy side, but the cart’s four lockable casters roll quietly, smoothly and without much effort. The placement of its wheels mirrors the dimensions of the desk, which makes it hard to trip over them. Painted in neutral tones, the tabletop is available in two sizes: 22- by 22.5- and 24- by 25-inches of desktop space. The work surface is textured, has a rounded lip that serves as a wrist rest for a keyboard or a notebook and magnetic items stick to it. 

Either size desk provides more than enough room for a notebook or tablet, but the bigger one can also hold a small projector or a file filled with papers. While the basic model’s work surface is set at a height of 36-inches, there’s also a height-adjustable model with a work surface that can be set from 31.4- to 41-inches.

B7300308-4c82-4687-a01a-29724e37860eI particularly like the inclusion of the Pocket’s integrated handle that allows it be pulled just about anywhere short of a staircase. There are several Pocket options, including a monitor arm that allows it to be used with a small desktop PC, integrated drawers and even magnetic cup holders that work perfectly for pens and pencils.

While the Pocket cart has gained some traction as a teacher’s mobile desk, it could work just as well for students. With the tabletop surface at its lowest setting, it makes for a good seated desk, but can be wheeled out of the way or into groups for collaboration.  While casters and height adjustment mechanism are covered for 12- and 5- years, the rest of the Pocket cart is guaranteed for life.

Expect to pay between $600 and $1,450 for the cart, making it a flexible teaching tool that most schools can afford. But, most of all, it lets teachers stand up for education.

 

Tickling the iPad’s Ivories

Piano academyWhat’s better than a room of pianos? How about a room of iPads that can teach children how to play the piano? That’s exactly what Piano Wizard Academy’s iPad app can do for a school’s music department. The app is currently a Kickstarter project looking for $20,000 of development funding, but it is expected to be funded by late September. Its five-step lesson plan works on timing, musical notation, tempo and fingering, but the big pay-off compared to a room of conventional pianos is that each student can wear headphones, making for the quietest music room.

Books for Less

Google education textsWe know that the days of the paper and ink textbook are numbered, but this just might be the beginning of the end. Google’s Play for Education download site now sells discounted texts, from math and science to the novels that need to be read by high-school seniors. Most of the books are aimed at college students, but the Cambridge University Press’s Geometry text costs $31.02 versus nearly $90 that the paperback edition goes for.

Freebee Friday: Web Design on the Cheap

Coffee Cup form builderIf the cost of Web page design software is out of control, grab a cup of coffee and relax. Really, Coffee Cup’s Web design suite is competitive and is free for schools; all you have to do is send in an application. The software is worth hundreds of dollars and can be an effective way for kids to learn everything from HTML basics and form building to build attractive and function pages. In addition to a form builder, online calendar and photo gallery, the kit comes with Coffee Cup’s Visual Site Designer program.

Freebee Friday: Puzzled on the First Day

Screen568x568The first day back in the classroom can be disorienting for students and teachers alike, so I always like the idea of easing back in. Can you Dig it is a free game that lets kids stretch their brains without thinking that they’re thinking. They go through an archeological dig collecting Mayan artifacts and solving puzzles. It works on the iPhone or iPad, but not Android devices.

Speak to Me

Oultines outloud bDuring class all students are supposed to take notes, but what about those who more efficiently learn by hearing the material? Well, OutlinesOutloud can help by reading outlines to students on their phones or computers. Just create an outline in the OPML format that is similar to a .txt file but preserves the outline’s hierarchy. While you can’t use Word or Google docs to create the initial outline, OPML Editor is a good freebee that works with Macs and PCs. After saving the outline to a DropBox online storage account, the student and play it back on the OutlinesOutloud iPhone app; sorry, there’s no Android app at the moment. They can not only listen to the outline start to finish, but can relisten to areas of weakness or loop the whole thing several times. The software costs $5.

 

Kid Pad

Leapfrog ultraThe latest tablet designed for small hands is LeapFrog’s Ultra, and at $150, it is a bargain for schools. With a 7-inch screen it is perfect for the smallest students and comes with 8GB of storage space. It comes with WiFi and the ability to add downloadable educational games, eBooks and videos.

 

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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.