Forget about Louis Pasteur and Enrico Fermi because women have had a huge role to play in the evolution of science. From Shirley Ann Jackson and Heidi Hammel to Inez Fung and Mimi Koehl, these pioneering females have made their impact on our daily lives and now National Academies Press has a ten-book set of stories about them. Each book costs about $10, the set of 10 goes for $89.50 and there are free sample chapters to read online.
Aspex’s AppliTracks goal of doing away with paper from hiring and maintaining employees got a step closer to reality with the platform’s new mobile interface. In addition to three dashboards, which show the most important information for open jobs, employees and applicants. The software works with all platforms and shows real-time data as well as the ability to link to other programs. It’s available and free for current users.
Acer’s Aspire R7-572 just might offer the most configuration for the dollar and pound when it comes to a slim notebook. At $899, and available only at Best Buy stores, it has everything you’d want in a classroom computer with a 15.6-inch HD touchscreen that works just as well with fingers as with N-Trig’s optional $49 DuoSense active stylus. The display is enhanced by Acer’s Touch Tool apps, which include programs to arrange images and accurately grab tiny items on screen, regardless of how pudgy your fingers are.
The 5.3-pound system is powered by a fourth-generation Intel Core i5 processor and has 8GB of RAM as well as a mammoth 1TB hard drive. But the best part about the R7 is that while it looks like the typical notebook when closed, it has Acer’s Ezel-Hinge inside. Open the system and the screen can be elevated and angled to a comfortable viewing position or folded flat over the keyboard, creating a tablet.
The days of compromising between speed and range with a WiFi router are now over. Netgear’s Nighthawk AC 1900 Smart WiFi Router is one of the first 802.11ac devices on the market and it lives up to the hype for the latest WiFi protocol.
While the ac protocol hasn’t been formally approved by the I.E.E.E., the devices are starting to be sold and used. If the final spec changes, the Nighthawk router can be updated with new software.
Black and wedge-shaped, Nighthawk looks more like an alien space ship than a piece of Internet communications equipment. Inside, it has a Broadcom WiFi chip, 1GHz dual-core processor as well as 128MB of flash storage and 256MB of RAM.
There are LEDs for everything from power and Internet activity to which ports are being used, making it look like a Christmas tree when it’s turned on. The router comes with three screw-on wing-like antennas and the system includes a small plug-in AC adapter. It has mounting holes on the bottom for hanging it on a wall, but be warned the antennas can make the router look like a coat rack.
In addition to an on/off switch and a recessed reset button, the Nighthawk’s back has LAN outlets for connecting it to the school’s broadband source as well as four gigabit Ethernet ports. It has USB 2.0 and 3.0 ports that can be used with an external hard drive or printer and you can even make the material on a drive publicly available through online downloads.
Setting up the router is simple and can be done via Netgear’s Genie app, which holds the installer’s hand and automates many of the steps. It can also be configured manually with the ability to customize a multitude of details, from packet size and the ability to block access to the Internet to setting up a guest network that allows Web access but restricts access to the network.
You can use the included Ethernet cable or a WiFi connection to get started. Unlike most new networking gear, the Nighthawk comes with a customized password and encryption turned on to prevent hackers from invading the system while it’s being configured. A thoughtful sticker on the bottom shows the router’s default connection details.
Changing the settings to match the school’s network takes a few minutes. Unlike most LAN equipment, the software for the Nighthawk is beautiful and functional. On the main menu there are six prominent boxes that make a great way to see what’s happening inside the device at a glance. It shows if the router is connected and the number of clients it is supporting while the WiFi details scroll by. It also displays whether content controls are in place, if anything is plugged into the router and if the guest network is turned on.
There are screens for setting up the wireless details and security. The Nighthawk router has two radios that work with the 2.4- and 5GHz bands that 802.11ac uses. The system can work with WPA-PSK, WPA2-PSK, WPA-AES and WPA/WPA2 Enterprise encryption settings so it can match the other WiFi equipment in your facility and be seamlessly integrated.
It has SPI and NAT firewalls and can help protect a school’s infrastructure from a denial of service attack, but lacks the ability to tap into an LDAP server for authenticating clients. With a few changes, the router can be converted for use as an access point.
The system has the latest beam-forming technology that customizes the Nighthawk’s transmissions to best suit the receiver, regardless of whether it’s an 8-year old desktop using 802.11b or the latest 802.11ac notebook and worked well with a variety of systems. Better yet, slower clients won’t hold faster ones back because each link is optimized to get the most out of the connection.
Able to work with IP versions 4 and 6, the router has an integrated FTP server so that large files can be distributed without the overhead of a Web page. It comes with software for automating the backing up of Windows or Apple computers on a connected hard drive. In fact, this is a great way to create a LAN-based storage system on the cheap. It is also one of the rare routers that includes Quality of Service software built-in so that interactive lessons and video can always travel in the fast lane.
Capable of nearly 2Gbps of throughput, in a typical school setting, the router can support dozens of connections at once and can use DHCP auto-IP addressing for clients or static addresses. The Nighthawk router had a range of 135 feet in a hundred-year old building of mixed masonry and plaster construction, making it one of the strongest routers on the market. At 10-feet from the router, it was able to move 838Mbps of data back and forth, making it one of the highest performing routers available.
That should be plenty to have one router shared by two adjacent classrooms or to cover an auditorium or a lab, allowing a school to get by with fewer devices yet still blanket it with top-speed WiFi.
+ Excellent range and throughput
+ USB ports for hard drive or printer
+ Quality of service
+ 802.11ac dual-band design
+ FTP server
+ Back-up features
- Three antennas
- No LDAP authentication
While Google’s Chromebooks have been an inexpensive way to fill a school with notebooks, one thing has been missing: touch. The latest Acer C720P Chromebook makes up for that in spades with an up to date teaching tool that’s just as good for finger painting as it is for sketching a map or underlining text in an essay. The C720P is built around a 11.6-inch screen that can show 1,366 by 768 images and respond to ten individual touch inputs. It’s powered by an Intel Celeron 2955U processor and comes with 2GB of RAM, 32GB of storage capacity on the system as well as 100GB of online space on GoogleDrive. It comes with USB ports and can connect to the school’s LAN via 802.11n WiFi. The school-ready Chromebook costs $300 with touch or $200 without.
The latest software from TabPilot Learning Systems is its third-generation flagship classroom monitoring app. TabPilot 3.0 links with the company’s online Control Tower service to allow a teacher to remotely watch and control what every student in the class is doing with their tablet. In addition to showing one screen to the whole class or freezing the entire class’s displays, the software can save what’s on any screen – like a math problem being solved – along with a time stamp. It works with most Android slates, including Nook tablets.
With teachers and students using phones, tablets and traditional computers to teach and learn, one of the hardest things to come to grips with at school is which software works with which platform. No more, because Smart Technologies’ amp software will cut through the software clutter by working on anything with a Web browser and will have content delivered by Google’s Cloud service.
iPads are great learning tools, but their speakers are sadly not up to the task of filling a classroom with audio. Califone’s PA-MBiOS iPad & iPhone Docking Station not only cradles the pad and firmly holds it stable, but has a pair of 2.5-watt speakers that sound great. It works with a variety of iPads, iPhones and iPod models and has a 3.5-millimeter audio input jack that allows it to amplify Android tablets as well. You will need to get an adapter to use one of the newer pads with the Lightning connector. The cradle costs $158 and includes a 1-year warranty.
While 10-in Android slates rule at school, there is another, less expensive, way. With the advent of a variety of 7-inch tablets, there’s now a smaller and lighter alternative that can not only cost less but work better for smaller children.
The latest pair of 7-inch Android tablets shows the range of thinking with Google’s Nexus 7 and Dell’s Venue 7 proving what a small slate can be capable of. They both are smaller and lighter, yet just as capable as their bigger brothers and can each help a school to teach the digital way.
Although both the Venue 7 and Nexus 7 have jet black cases, fit into a jacket pocket and share many attributes, they differ on the details and especially their price tags.
For the most part, Dell has stayed in the background waiting for others to try out Android tablets, but the wait is over. The Venue 7 is an inexpensive and competent slate that’s just the right size for students.
At 12-ounces and 0.4-inches thick, the Venue 7 is a little on the heavy side and 2 ounces heavier than the Nexus 7, despite having the same size screen. As is the case with most slates, its controls are minimalist with only an On-Off switch and a volume control.
While its black on black color scheme is a bit dour, I really like the soft touch coating on the back of the system. The Venue 7’s silver buttons stand out better than the black ones on the Nexus 7.
Powered by Intel’s 1.6GHz Atom Z2560 dual-core processor, the Venue 7 comes with 2GB of system memory and the system can hold 16GB of data. This can be augmented with up to a 128GB micro-SD card; the Nexus 7 does without a flash card slot.
A step down from the Nexus 7’s 1,920 by 1,080 resolution, the Venue 7’s 7-inch screen shows 1,280 by 800 resolution images. It works well for small hands touching, sliding and tapping the screen’s surface. The system uses Intel’s HD Graphics and served up skip-free video, but its single speaker sounded tinny.
There is a micro-USB port for charging the system. On the other hand, the Venue 7 lacks the Near Field Communications (NFC) technology that’s built into the Nexus 7 and many Samsung slates that allows printing and communications at a tap.
There’s no direct way to connect the Venue 7 to a projector or large monitor for group work. It can, however, use a MiraCast receiver and connected with a Rocketfish receiver, moving audio and video. The slate includes 802.11n WiFi and Bluetooth.
The hardware may be up to date, but the Venue 7’s software is a half-step behind the Nexus 7’s Android 4.4 with Android 4.2.2. The system comes with the standard Android apps plus Dell’s Pocket Cloud, which allows teachers and students to save, retrieve and share items with an online server. It includes 2GB of storage space for free and can even let users take control of a home computer to grab forgotten assignments.
Its power comes up a little short compared to the Nexus 7 with an Antutu Performance rating of 18,999 compared to the Nexus 7’s 20,000 score. This level of performance should be more than enough in the classroom or office. It ran for 7 hours and 17 minutes, a half an hour longer on a charge than the Nexus 7, though. Either should provide more than enough for a full day at school and a little left over to read assignments at home.
The Venue 7 is for schools and districts on a tight budget, but don’t want to skimp on the slate they use. At $150, it costs $79 less than the Nexus 7. This means that compared to Nexus 7 slates, a school can afford an extra Venue 7 for every two they buy. And, that’s the kind of math that administrators love.
+ Micro-SD slot
+ Soft case coating
+ 7-plus hour battery life
- Low-resolution screen
The Nexus 7 is a powerful tablet that would be the perfect school slate if it only cost less. At $229 – 50-percent more expensive than the Dell Venue 7 – it will be out of reach of many districts, but it’s an important technological statement about what is possible for a small tablet.
Made by Asus, the Nexus 7 thinks small. It weighs 10-ounces, undercutting the Venue 7 by two ounces. This makes it one of the lightest 7-inch slates available and particularly well suited for small hands and fingers. A little wider and shorter than the Venue 7, the Nexus 7 matches it with a 0.4-inch thickness. On the downside, the basic black color scheme makes the Nexus 7’s buttons for turning it on and adjusting its volume hard to see.
Inside is Qualcomm’s Snapdragon S4 Pro quad-core processor, which runs at 1.5GHz. Like the Venue 7, it comes with 2GB of RAM and 16GB of storage space; a 32GB model –something not available on the Venue 7 – costs $269. On the other hand, it lacks the Venue’s micro-SD card slot so that the system’s storage capacity can’t be augmented with a flash card.
Its 1,920 by 1,080 display out-classes the Venue 7’s screen, but both are sensitive to up to ten individual screen inputs. The screen has a dedicated 400MHz Adreno 320 graphics accelerator. On the other hand, the Nexus 7’s pair of speakers deliver richer and crisper audio than the single speaker on the Venue 7.
The Venue 7, the Nexus 7 has a micro-USB port for charging as well as an NFC equipped back that allows it to print with Samsung’s or HP’s printers. If you don’t have an NFC-ready printer, you can use Google Print to put anything onto paper. In addition to 802.11n and Bluetooth, the Nexus 7 has the ability to use an optional mobile data plan.
Plus the Nexus 7 came with version 4.3 of Google’s Android software and after a couple of week updated itself to version 4.4, aka KitKat. The software makes multitasking more efficient and saving files to an online server easier. Google provides access to 15GB of free online storage for two years with GoogleDrive while the Venue 7 offers 2GB of online storage from Dell’s Pocket Cloud infrastructure.
The Nexus 7 is a powerhouse with a 20,000 score on Antutu’s Performance test suite, making it slightly more powerful than the Venue 7. It was able to run for 6 hours and 51 minutes, nearly half an hour short of the battery life of the Venue 7.
At the end of the school day, the Nexus 7 is an impressive piece of technology that comes with apps for teaching geometry, emulating a universal remote control and use a ChromeCast device to connect with a TV or projector; it also works with a Slimport wired adapter.
While it can help any school to teach a generation of students, it would be easier to swallow the Nexus 7 if it cost less than $229.
+ Good mix of components
+ High-resolution screen and graphics hardware
+ Light weight design
+ Online storage
+ Latest Android software
- No micro SD card slot
- Black buttons are hard to see