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AV Scheduler

CrestronIf you use Crestron software to control and connect the school’s AV gear, it can now be scheduled so there’s no fighting over the videoconferencing set up. The Crestron software not only shows what’s available but lets you schedule events directly with everything from Microsoft Exchange to Google Calendar to IBM Notes or with Crestron’s TSW-732 or 752 touch screen tablets.

 

Freebee Friday: Messenger Rebirth

Bloomz pictureUsing Class Messenger and are out of luck because it’s shut down? Bloomz has created a way to continue using your class and parent lists so every message gets through. The directions and access to a free account are on a special Bloomz page for those making the transition. In fact, the Bloomz app adds things like the ability to push out photos and videos as well as translate the notes into other languages.

Tag IT

Tag_search2With the number of mobile devices at schools only expected to rise in the coming years, how do you keep track of all of them so you know what’s available and what isn’t. Hayes Software’s TIPWeb-IT can help track everything from a class’s worth of Chromebooks to every stationary projector with either a barcode or wireless RFID tag. In other words, every item not only shows up on a register but is trackable. The cradle to grave accounting provides information on every item until it is retired or removed from the system.

Big Data Gets Schooled

BigData_2267x1146_whiteThere’s nothing worse than giving children a battery of tests and then not knowing what the results mean for the students, school and its teachers. That’s where applying the lessons of big data analytics come in. Used to predict what we buy and where we want to travel, the technology can help in schools as well.

Based on a deep dive into the data, teachers and administrators can not only spot those who are leading or lagging, but find school- or district-wide trends. The latest additions predict educational outcomes, both good and bad.

More than mere trend-mongering, data mining at schools can be a valuable tool in identifying students who are at risk or spotting places that need new resources. A server filled with test results, grades and demographic information is meaningless unless you can lift out what’s important and act on what it is telling you.

In a very real sense, the trends are all there waiting to be spotted. All you have to do is have the right software to see both the forest and the trees.

Guide K12

Quick 12Composed of four parts, Guide K12 is an all-in-one analytic package that can help districts to visualize the raw data with graphs, charts and especially maps. To start, Explorer is for quick trend spotting and trying to see how the numbers – such as test scores or student demographics – relate to each other and are changing over time. By contrast, GK12’s Planner package can create hypothetical what-if scenarios at school and the program’s Adviser can deliver reports that administrators can use and distribute to staff, state officials and parents. Finally, GK12’s SchoolSearch is a window on your district that the community and parents can use to see what’s going on at the area’s schools.

Panorama Education

PanoramaBig data is at the heart of Panorama Education with the goal of making every bit of student information count toward their future. Behind the scenes, Panorama churns through reams of test and activity results to create comparisons among students within a school, district or against national averages. The program is pwoerful enough to not only use your district’s current information but it produces good looking informative reports that are personalized for each recipient for everything from state officials to parents.

                            Renaissance Learnalytics

Renaissance aIf your district uses Renaissance math and literacy programs, there’s already a big data engine at work behind the scenes. Called Learnalytics, the database securely stores the results of problems and quizzes and analyzes them for student-by-student and class changes as well as big picture trends. Behind the scenes, the Learnalytics program also tracks what each child likes to do academically, how they learn and can even suggest new books for individual students that would not only fit right into their educational goals but ones they just might enjoy to read.

SAS Enterprise Analytics for Education

SasThis company’s software helps just about every manufacturer and retailer deliver the right mix of goods on time to customers, and it can help to create a data-driven school. SAS software can provide a unique view of every student based on the totality of what he or she does. In addition to always having the right data at your fingertips, the SAS software slices and dices your district’s data and let you decide how its presented without the need for programmers. The SAS school analytical software is secure, can work with Office and the results can be distributed to mobile devices. 

 

It’s in the Cards

Scholarchip carA plain old school ID card can identify students and teachers, but not much more. With the digitally-aware ScholarChip card, every student is not only identified but can provide access to a variety of school services. In addition to automatically doing attendance and accounting, the ScholarChip can be set up for field trips, school supplies and even school lunch payments, It can even anonymously identify those whose meal is subsidized.

 

String Along Schools

TwineAs its name implies, Twine can be the string that binds a school together into an educational community. In addition to the expected (attendance, grades and schedules), Twine can handle lesson plans and assessments. If you want to, it can be where reminders and messages are kept and sent. Based on Edsby’s technology, the key is that every user, from students to teachers to administrators, can have different permissions and access to data.

Freebee Friday: Toward the Enlightened Classroom

Classdojo empathyThe ClassDojo app is more than a way for teachers and students to effectively communicate by sending out text, photos and videos. The Android and iOS apps can also be a tool for tolerance and emotional growth at school. The Empathy and Perseverance sections have cool animated videos as well as activities. The section were created with help from Stanford and Harvard Universities and can make the classroom a more equitable place.

Label Everything

Label printersNothing says classroom organization like a well-labeled classroom and these label printers bring out the best. They are all easy to use, efficient and don’t waste a whole sheet of label stock for just a single label. A big bonus is that most are small and can be stashed in a cabinet or drawer when not on use and many of them don’t require a USB cable to print.

Whether they’re used to mark boxes of educational items for summer storage, first day name tags or for a PTA mailing, any of these label printers can fit right into the classroom.

Epson ColorWorks C3500

ColorWorks C3500P Image 2The newest of the labeling bunch is Epson’s ColorWorks C3500. At $2,500, it’s also the most expensive and the biggest of the five but it can do it all, In fact, the C3500 can be a shared school-wide resource that’s used when needed. While most of the competition stick to low-resolution monochrome labels, the ColorWorks printer is able to work with a variety of paper types and thickness in four vibrant colors at 360- by 720-dots per inch. The best part is that you can not only set the C3500 to cut each label individually but the printer can separate the label from its backing, making it ready for use.

Brother QL-1060N

Brother 1060nBy contrast, Brother’s $300 QL-1060N excels at speed and value with a thermal monochrome print head that will never need ink cartridges. Able to pump out up to 69 labels per minute, the QL-1060N delivers 300 dots per inch prints. It can create everything from bar codes to address labels on a variety of available spools of labels and now includes Brother’s P-touch software for printing just about anything, even a screen capture.

      Dymo LabelWriter 450 Twin Turbo

Dymo twin turbo 450The most economical of the five could be Dymo’s LabelWriter 450 Twin Turbo. At about $200, it’s a label-making powerhouse that doesn’t require expensive ink. The thermal print head can cover a variety of label types up to 4- by 6-inches and hold a pair of label rolls. In addition to printing address label and postage at once, it means that you won’t run out of labels at exactly the wrong moment. It can pump out up to 71 basic address labels per minute, comes with more than 60 label styles and designs and is among the quietest label printers available.

     Zebra GT800

Zebra gt800At over $500, Zebra’s GT800 printer uses a ribbon to transfer an image or characters onto a label that’s up to 4.1-inches wide. It’s 203 dot per inch resolution can’t touch some of the others here, but it is sharp enough for address labels and name tags. It offers the best choice of connection interfaqces with old school RS-232, Centronics parallel port as well as USB connections. There's also an optional Ethernet interface kit. It has 16 fonts built-in as well as the ability to print bar codes or directly from an iPad or iPhone.

                 Leitz Icon Smart Wireless 70013000 Label Printer

LeitzFinally, the Leitz Icon Smart Wireless 70013000 Label Printer is like no other. At $125, it could be the value king, here. Able to connect over WiFi, it makews labeling quicker and simpler. With a 600 dot per inch head, the Leitz printer can deliver up to 3.5-inch wide labels at up to 200 simple labels per minute. The key is that everything you need to print labels is in Leitz’s unique drop in cartridge. It works with everything from PCs and Macs to iPads and iPhones.

 

It’s About Time

Simplex clockFrom when the first bell rings to start the school day we all have too much to do, but there’s not much more you can do to squeeze 60 minutes of solid work into every hour. Or is there? The following programs take different approaches to making every minute in the classroom count by scheduling and prioritizing the day’s tasks and events.

None of the four programs that follow are made specifically for school use, but are flexible enough to be adapted. In fact, they are just as useful for students as for teachers and a school’s administration –- maybe more.

You can’t be in two places at once, but any of these programs can make you more efficient at school and hopefully a better prepared educator. Regardless of whether you use a iPhone, iPad, PC, Mac, Chromebook or Android, there’s something here to make every minute count.

30/30

30 30 gestureThe 30/30 app can efficiently plan your day down to the minute and stuff more into the day without ever leaving your phone’s screen. That's because it runs on an iPhone and lets you do more with gestures than any other program does.

For instance, rather than digging through nested menus, if you want to delete an item, just swipe to the right or shake the phone to undo something. A two-finger tap moves the current task to the top of the list.

The big difference with 30/30 is that the interface is like no other app. To set up an item, like a reading period, type in its name (like “independent reading”), how long it will last and what icon you want it to show when time is up. The main screen always shows what the current task is and how much time is left.

To get the most out of 30/30 you need to buy in to its philosophy of 30 minutes of uninterrupted work is about all anyone – teacher, student or staff – can efficiently put up with. It’s a little looser than that because events and activities can be set to any length up to an hour, so it’s perfect for setting up classroom periods.

2Do

2doGot a Mac, iPhone or Android, but are always late for classes, meetings and parent conferences? 2Do can help with a rigid schedule that tells you what you should be doing. Utterly conventional in its look and feel, the system is both local and online with the ability to synchronize your schedule and too-do lists with Dropbox, CalDAV and iCloud as well as Toodledo.

It’s quick and easy to add items and you can create a task directly from an email, like a parent meeting. The program’s lists are deep and you can organize them into groups as projects, perfect for long term tasks like curriculum development or field trips. The best part is that 2Do is part nosey parent with the ability to continue to nag you until a task is finished.

Mac users can always have the moment’s pressing business in their faces with the included Widget that places items in a right pull out list. If you can’t always have your computer by your side, 2Do can print its lists the way they look on-screen. Unlike some of the others here, 2Do is not free, with Mac programs costing $50 and those for Android or iOS devices, $10 and $15. There is a three-week trial, but nothing for PCs.

Google Suite Calendar

G suite calendarIt may not have the features and slick widgets of the others, but Google’s Calendar integrates well with email. For good or bad, Calendar is part of the Google ecosystem that bases everything off of a Gmail email account.

In addition to showing your daily schedule, Calendar can set up events from Hangouts and see if infrastructure items –- like projector carts or the computer lab -– are available. Best of all, Calendar lets you coordinate calendars of others and search for free time when you have a must-finish task. You can move your present calendar from iCal, Outlook or Exchange directly and publish your calendar online so your students know when they can contact you.

It works with anything that can run any of the most popular browsers and unlike some other Google products G Suite and the Calendar isn’t free and you can’t just buy the Calendar portion. The entire suite costs $5 a month with a business email account that has your school’s name or district as its domain. You also get unlimited video and voice calls as well as 25GB of storage space. If you move up it to the next level, $10 gets you a terabyte of storage space, advanced controls and a way to retain and archive every email ever written.

Wunderlist

WunderlistFinally, as more schools switch to inexpensive and rugged Chromebooks, the software is catching up. Wunderlist can help squeeze in an entire day without you raising a sweat. It’s three pane interface has the most pressing items front and center with details of any item on the right and your main categories on the left.

Best of all, Wunderlist actually works on just about any platform out there because there are versions of PCs, Macs, iOS, Android, Chromebooks as well as Windows Phones and Apple’s Watch. There’s one more: an online version does everything through a browser window. The basic app is free, but the Pro version costs $5 a month and allows you unlimited file sizes, break down large items into sub tasks and have the ability to assign some of them to others.

 

Paper Plus

Wacom babooSeeking to bridge the gap between actual ink on paper and digital bits stored in the cloud, Wacom’s Bamboo Slate and Folio (photo, left) pads not only let you scribble and draw with a real pen on actual paper, but the system saves what’s written for transfer to a computer. It all starts with Wacom’s Bamboo Slate (notepad) and Folio (letter-size) pads on which you can write anything from class notes and maps to geometry figures. The Bamboo pen saves it all and lets you send it to the company’s iOS or Android Inkspace app for editing and sharing. It all works with Evernote and One Note with Wacom’s free Basic subscription provides 5GB of online storage. The $3 a month Plus service adds workflow and 50GB of online storage. The pen and pad sets cost between $130 and $200.

 

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