About this blog Subscribe to this blog

Freebee Friday: Selfie Assignments

Recap_scrolling_dashboard-300x281If a thoughtful, poised answer counts for as much as elegant writing, then Swivl’s ReCap should catch on quickly. The app works directly in iOS systems and there’s a browser based version for PCs, Chrome and Android machines. It lets a teacher ask a typed, audio or video question of the class that then gets recorded replies and answers sent back to the teacher for analysis and grading. A daily review reel consolidates all the answers to the question as soon as three have been received, making viewing a snap. It’s a beta at the moment but the company will smooth off some of its rough edges over the coming months, but they plan for it to always be free.

Freebee Friday: Open Ed Opens Up

Open ed logoOpen Ed’s already inclusive view of what teachers can use in classrooms has just gotten much wider. The software now offers a single log-in for a variety of free curriculum and classroom content by integrating with Edmodo, Canvas, Otus Plus, Schoology and Moodle. Expect more in the coming months.

Print More for Less

Lexmark CX820de FRONTConsolidating a slew of school printers into floor- or school-wide units can not only deliver better documents but they can be a lot cheaper to use. Take Lexmark’s CX800 family of multi-function printers They range from the $2,500 CX820 to the flagship $9,000 CX860. The CX860 can be ordered with up to four paper trays – including a massive 2,200-page module – and pumps out up to 60 pages per minute. The color laser printer can easily handle volumes of between 5,000 and 50,000 pages per month and its toner that comes in large cartridges that are good for as many as 55,000 pages. Unlike many in its class, the CX860 has a finisher for punching holes (for a loose-leaf notebook) or stapling a group of pages into a brochure; all you’ll need to do is fold them.

Lexmark screenThe system has a quad-core 1.6GHz processor and a 10-inch touch screen, which uses Android software. All the icons are replicated on the Administrator’s remote console so it’s easy to use and maintain. The best part is that it uses Lexmark’s Testing & Grading software to turn printed bubble test pages into grades in the right places.

The Great Wall of Learning

ActivWall_Classroom_KIDS_1The latest from this year’s TCEA show is Promethean’s huge ActivWall interactive projection system. As if the 8.5-foot version of Promethean’s ActiveWall projection system wasn’t big enough, the company now has an 11.25-foot version on the way. The system provides 128.7- by 50.7-inches of ultra-wide space to work with, is responsive to four pens at once and responds to as many as 20 individual touch points. This makes it just as good for kids working on a group map project as for a teacher going through the steps for solving a quadratic equation.

The ActivWall spec sheet reads like a wish list for classroom technology with a projector that puts out 1,920 by 720 resolution, although at more than 10-feet wide, the interactive screen will stress the size of many classrooms. It has a pair of 18-watt speakers and uses the company’s LaserView technology to replace lamps with a solid state illumination source. ActivWall-Promo-ImageThe projector delivers up to 3,000 lumens and has a rated lifetime of 20,000 hours, so there’s no lamp to change – ever. It has a Web browser and can save all notations at the end of the lesson.

The big step forward is its ability to link with any computer in the classroom over a wireless connection. It works with iPads, Androids, Macs and PCs so that any child or teacher can project what’s on their screen. It should be available later this and comes with a three-year warranty.


Quick Connections

Wiremold_10ATC_Bronze_Cover_Open_GasketTired of expensive and hard to install connection boxes for power, audio and video? Wiremold’s Evolution 10-inch poke-thru device does it all. In addition to the ability to poke through all the cables, the Evolution device is round, making for an easy and neat installation. Open the hinged door and you’ll see everything from audio and video to USB and Ethernet ports.

Write and Revise Routine

Revision assistantTurnitin’s Revision Assistant takes advantage of a very important part of the writing process: revising an original to polish and finish it. Aimed at sixth through twelfth graders, Revision Assistant provides valuable feedback that appear in the margins next to highlighted text. The most interesting aspect of the program is the unique Signal Check that provides a visual record of the work’s language, focus, use of evidence and organization.

Freebee Friday: Windows 7, Watch Out

Netmarketshare OSNearly six months after its debut, Windows 10 is still lagging behind Windows 7 in adoption, according to NetMarketShare’s online survey of which OS people are using to log onto the Internet. As of the end of December, Win 10 stood at 10% of Web traffic and just behind the 13% for the combined Win 8.x systems. The irony is that Win 7 held firm at 56% of the market while Windows XP continues to be strong with 11% market share, despite Microsoft cutting users loose with no more security updates. Mac’s OSX software garnered 5% while everything else, including Linux software was good for 5%

Small and Sturdy

Acer TravelMate B117 Screen Straight OnAcer’s TravelMate B117 notebook sets the pace for school notebooks with a system made for education that should stand up to the worst abuse that a teacher or student can give it. Based on Windows 10 Pro software, the system will be the first in Acer’s TeachSmart line and has been built around an 11.6-inch screen, yet weighs less than 3-pounds. A big step forward is its lid light that allows a student to either answer a class question (instead of a clicker) or alert the teacher to a need for help. It can blink in four different colors, which are registered on a teacher console. The system itself is rugged enough for everything from preschoolers to high schoolers with a water resistant keyboard, rubber bumpers and a lid that can survive up to 130 pounds of force. Inside, it’s powered by either a Pentium or Celeron processor, 4GB of RAM and has WiFi and Bluetooth built in. A big bonus for the $250 system is that it has a security conscious Total Protection Module for remote log-ins.

Acer TravelMate B117 Lid Left AngleSound good? Acer has started a seeding program to let schools try out either the B117 or a C730E-C4BA Chromebook for free. Just fill out the online application and talk to Acer about the details of your school and the system should be on its way.


Store and Charge

Bretford TechGuard Locker Web Photo 480x360If tablets, notebooks and phones are scattered throughout the classroom in bunches near the room’s electrical outlets or stored in large lock-up cabinets, there’s a better way to charge, store and secure every last system. Bretford’s TechGuard lockers can not only charge them when they’re not in use and hold a slew of systems, but they can be locked up individually or in small groups so that only those with a need can get access.

Made of sturdy powder coated steel with a polycarbonate window, the TechGuard locker is well-designed and -made. With interior LED lighting, you can easily see what’s inside each section. At 19- by 19- by 21-inches, it’s on a par with the TrippLite USB Tablet Charging Station, but rather than an open space with dividers, Bretford offers the luxury of five separate lockable sections that each measure 4.1- by 12.5- by 16.5-inches, which should be enough space for all but the largest notebooks and tablets.

While I looked at the version that has five bays, Bretford also makes a single- and ten-bay versions. They can be mounted on a wall or floor and Bretford will send you mounting hardware after you register. The single slot model can be attached underneath or on top of a shelf or desk.

CU-Keypad-Open-Empty_031_AnthThe back has a single 110-volt power cable that consolidates the power for dozens of devices; the unit is rated at a total of 15 amps. Each bay has a pair of USB charging ports as well as a 110-volt AC outlet. This is plenty for even the most power-hungry devices and provides the flexibility to mix and match what you use the locker for. You will need to supply the charging cables, though.

With an electronic keypad rather than a keyed lock, TechGuard can do things the others can’t. Just press the unlock button and pull the door open to get started stowing gear. After you put the devices away and plug them in, close the door. Finally, punch in the combination you want to use and press the red lock button. As you press each number on the keypad a corner of the lock icon lights up. When you’re done, you’ll hear the satisfying sound of the steel bolt closing. Later, you can open the locker by punching in your four-digit code.

The locker comes with two key cards for the administrator to maintain control.  The blue one opens any locker, but keeps its combination set, while the green one resets the combination.

While they rely on electrical power, the lockers can be opened even during a power failure with Bretford’s optional JumpStart kit. It feeds enough power from a rechargeable battery into the mechanism to open any or all bays with the key cards.

Unfortunately, TechGuard misses some big opportunities because it is not connected to the school’s network. The company sells connected charging stations and could add that capability to TechGuard sometime in the future.  In the meantime, you can’t create a record of when each bay has been opened and closed or change the lock code remotely or automatically on a schedule to allow different people access during the day.

RFID-Cards_AnthI used it for a few weeks to charge and store everything from iPads, Android tablets, calculators, phones and all sorts of notebooks. It fit three units comfortably, but could accommodate as many as five tablets. All that were plugged in stayed charged, but unlike the Tablet Charging station there’s no way to connect the lockers to a network to stream updates and synchronize the systems.

While the five-bay TechGuard locker costs $1,600, it comes with a 12-year warranty, meaning that it can outlast several generations of schoolchildren and their technology.




Bretford TechGuard Charging Locker



+ Sturdy, well made

+ Individual lockers for tablets or notebooks

+ USB and 110-vots AC power

+ Individual combination locks

+ Security override keycards

+ Lighted interior

- Expensive

- No connection for synchronizing systems

Seeing’s Believing

Spectre x360Anyone who’s seen a display that uses Organic Light Emitting Diode (OLED) technology generally sticks with it because it not only uses less power than standard Liquid Crystal Displays (LCDs) but are lighter, brighter and richer. HP moves the OLED state of the art forward with HP’s Spectre x360 convertible computer. Its 3,820 by 2,160 resolution OLED screen can be flipped over to assume several computing personas, from a standard notebook to a tablet and presentation machine. Despite having a 13.3-inch screen, the Spectre x360 still weighs 3.2 pounds. Look for it in the spring for about $1,150.



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