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Mimio Goes Mobile

MimiomobileWith the latest updates to Mimio Studio and Mimio Mobile, the teaching software now runs on Android and iPad tablets.  In addition to providing a classroom space for collaboration, MM3 can control an interactive whiteboard and put any student’s system on the big screen as well as let kids answer quizzes using MimioVote. It’s a free upgrade for Mimio users.

Instant Teaching Space

Zest deskToday, learning happens wherever there’s room for teachers and students to meet, and the ZestDesk will be able to turn just about any surface into a desk or a lectern. The fold up desktop is available on pre-order for $385 and has a 22.8- by 25.1-inch work surface with an adjustable monitor or notebook stand; a second stand can be added for under $100. ZestDesk’s work surface can move up or down by six inches and it all quickly folds up into an easy-to-carry bag. All told, the aluminum ZestDesk weighs 12 pounds.

Freebee Friday: Free Windows

Win 10 previewFresh from the Windows 10 preview event, there’s news that every school will want to hear: the next version of the computer operating system will be free. Does it sound too good to be true? For those schools still using Windows XP, it is because the free upgrade applies only to those who have licenses for Win 7 or 8.

Windows10_Continuum-1C-500x299The software continues the company’s move towards a more tactile approach to computing, which works best with touch screens. One big change is the ability to not only to divide the screen into horizontal segments but to do it diagonally, as well. In addition to holographic goggles, Windows 10 will usher in a cool touch-screen interactive board called the Surface Hub that should open new vistas of instruction. The two big questions that remain are, what happened to Windows 9 and when will the new software appear? While Microsoft might be playing a name game with numbers, company insiders say the new software should be ready later this year.

HP’s Either-Or Tablet

HP EESchool slates are available in Android or iPad’s iOS, but HP has a new idea: Build Android and Windows versions of the same system. The HP Pro Slate 10 EE (Android 4.4) and Pro Tablet 10 EE (Windows 8.1) are like two 10.1-inch peas in a pod, powered by Atom processors and include just about everything needed for class. They each weigh roughly 1.9-pounds and come with WiFi, have Trusted Platform Modules and there’s a passive stylus that has a nice place to store it when it's not in use. They're not identical, however, because the Android version has Near Field Communications (NFC), while the Windows tablet has twice as much storage space at 32GB. The best part is they each have optional snap-on mechanical keyboards available, which can instantly turn them into notebooks or desktop computers. The Windows Tablet EE will be sold to schools for $300 while the Android Slate EE will go for $280.

Bright Light, No Lamp

CasioThe latest in projectors are ones that don’t have expensive lamps that need replacing, but are powered by LEDs and lasers, like Casio’s EcoLite XJ-V1. The projector puts out 2,700 lumens and its solid state lighting element has been rated to last 20,000 hours of use, or more than a decade of typical use. A big bonus is that it uses only 180 watts, making it an efficient way to light up a lesson.

Best in Shows

Fetc bettAlong with the New Year and ever-present danger of writing 2014, we have a slew of education shows upon us. At them, we’ll see and try-out the latest teaching products –from tablets and projectors to administrative software and computer carts – are debuted. This year, though, we get the double whammy of BETT and FETC at the same time. Although they are still on different continents, it’s a lot to absorb. Here’re my favorites from the current Ed Tech shows.

6_to lumensNotebooks and tablets need to be as mobile as students and teachers are these days with the ability to go from room to room as needed. Capable of holding up to 48 systems, that’s exactly what Lumen’s Rhino CT-S50 cart does. It can hold and charge notebooks, tablets and Chromebooks so they’re always ready for class. The lockable cart is mounted on stable casters, is ventilated and uses a smart charging system that reduces power demand. The bonus is that the S50 cart provides a large work surface on top with an articulated arm to hold a slate or monitor. FETC no. 323.


What’s better than wheeling notebooks and tablets around on a cart? Individual lockers like the LapSafe Diplomat PIN can safely hold and charge the systems when they’re not in use. Rather than a keyed lock, though, each Diplomat PIN locker has its own combination that gets typed into the locker’s keypad. The combinations can be set up with the company’s TANmode software, frequently changed and sent to users via an email or text message. The sturdy steel lockers come in stacks that can hold a dozen systems. Bett no. F186.

Acer C740 Chromebook_rear left facing 2Acer’s new Chromebook C740 has the distinction of being just about indestructible at schools and should outlast its students. The system has an 11.6-inch screen that can show 1,366 by 768 resolution and a durable display hinge that can take being repeatedly twisted and turned. The screen cover is reinforced and the system can stand up to foot-and-a-half drop. Schools and districts buying more than one-hundred systems get Premier Care, which includes accident damage coverage. All told, it costs $260, weighs less than 3 pounds and should slide into and out of a backpack with ease. There will also be a C910 model that includes a 15.6-inch screen and 4GB of RAM for $300. BETT no. F188.

ItslearningThe itslearning app takes this student information service to new levels of mobility with iPad and Android apps. The software allows teachers, students and admin staff access to the school’s itsLearning info without logging onto the system. The apps can not only automatically facilitate communication between students and teachers but deliver assignments and grades as well. FETC no. 1041.

ClassroomGoogle’s Classroom just got a lot more useful in, well, the classroom. The latest version of the software not only works with both Android and iOS systems, but lets you cache lessons and multimedia material offline so that you can now use it to teach in unconnected rooms. Teachers can add all sorts of images and Web pages as well as take a picture from the Classroom’s assignment page to document a project, what’s on the board or even take a snap shot of a homework assignment and turn it in digitally. BETT no. E240.

Screen480x480Aimed at K-through-2nd graders, Science4Us can be the first science lessons students are exposed to, so it has to count. Available online or via Science4Us’s free iPad app, there isn’t an app for Android tablets. The 28 two-week modules available cover everything from the physical and environmental sciences to life and earth science. Along the way, the lessons integrate literacy and math into the science lessons. The service costs between $5 and $12 a student. FETC no. 553.

SkywardThe job of drilling down to the school or classroom level to get the data needed just got a lot easier with Skyward’s myDistrict360. It can not only show individual students grades, attendance and other details, but provide context for how each class and school is doing. The online program lets you enroll new students through a Web form and create your own reports for what’s important without the need for programming. FETC no. 840.

Create educationCreate Education has a vision of the future of shop classes at schools that revolves around teaching kids to use 3-D printers. The company combines its Ultimaker 2 printer with its Cura software to allow kids to make all sorts of small plastic items. The key is that they model the items on-screen using the CAD design and imaging software and then watch it being made on the 3-D printer. BETT no. F54.

State of the InternetThe old saying that reading begets reading couldn’t be more true, according to Scholastic’s “Kids & Family Reading Report."The corporate parent of Tech Tools, Scholastic surveyed 2,558 children and parents to compile its results. While it points out that girls continue to read more than boys, the big take-away is that those who read become better and more proficient readers. The biggest factor in building a strong reader is that their parents read to them aloud between five and seven days a week before the student entered kindergarten. FETC no. 201

OkiEven with the ever expanding digital classroom, there’s still a place for printers at school. Take OKI’s MB562w printer, which can not only pump out up to 27 pages per minute of sharp 1,200 by 1,200-text and graphics, but works with OKI’s Remark scanning software to grade bubble tests and compile the results. FETC no. 1416

NB_3Smart’s Notebook software can bring everything needed for education together, from lesson plans and multimedia to collaboration and assessments. The latest version has a Lesson Builder for creating innovative classroom activities as well as Concept Mapping that can have a class turn ideas and concepts into deeper understanding. FETC no. M12.

Elmo-l-12idElmo’s L-12iD can put anything from a petri dish to a paper map onto the big screen and gives the teacher the choice of switching between sending the video stream through a computer via a USB cable or go directly to the classroom projector through an HDMI cable. The document camera-visualizer leads the way with a 12X optical zoom lens, full HD resolution and a built-in microphone. If you need a Web cam, the L-12iD’s lens can be flipped up to face the class. BETT no. C477.

  E805_ltCould the classroom projector have met its match? NEC’s 80-inch flat-screen display sure makes it look possible. The MultiSync E805’s HD screen can not only be controlled remotely over the school’s network, but it can work with Crestron and AMX control networks. It delivers a bright and clear image, has a 10W sound system and all the inputs you’re likely to need to connect, including both HDMI and DisplayPort plugs. The screen sells for $5,600 with a three-year warranty. FETC no. 1268.

SungardOne size does not fit all schools, but SunGard K-12’s Plus 360 Suite can put all the information that a teacher, principal or district supervisor needs in view. It can not only show the big picture but zoom in on individual students or classes and handle everything from student information, curriculum and assessments to financial, human resource and special education issues. It can even be set up so that a parent can view her child’s grades. FETC no. 1408.

UnplagWhether it’s copying a paragraph from Wikipedia or not properly attributing a source, plagiarism is front and center for teachers. In a few seconds, Unplag can cross check it against 16 million Web pages from Google and Bing, against any file on your computer or with respect to another student’s work. In fact, you can try it out by pasting a passage up to 275 words into the company’s Web site and look at the results. BETT no. E346.

Office 365 moodleMicrosoft’s Mix is a great way to add multimedia and interactivity to lessons, but it just got a lot more versatile with the addition of an add-in for material in Moodle’s open-source Learning Management System. The Moodle plug-in works with all of Office 365, lets you work offline and log-in using a single Office 365 password. BETT no. D270.


Pocketful of Anatomy

Screen322x572 (1)Forget about sketching the pancreas or patella using the board to teach about human anatomy because Pocket Anatomy can do it better with 10 layers of overlaid organs, veins and glands to peruse and identify. There’re male and female versions and all of the content can be saved on an iPad or iPhone so students don’t need online access to bring up an image. With 100,000 pieces of content at its disposal Pocket Anatomy provides a bird’s eye view of the body with quizzes and places to take notes. It costs $15.

Freebee Friday: Hurry Up and Wait

AkamaiDespite all the talk in Washington about the importance of the Internet and speeding up access to all it has to offer, the numbers are in and the U.S. isn’t even in the global top 10 in Internet speed. Last year, the U.S. had an average online speed of 11.5Mbps of bandwidth available, according to the annual Akamai State of the Internet survey. That’s well behind South Korea’s 25.3Mbps. It’s sobering reading but explains why it can take so long to download items.

End of the Line for Windows 7

Windows-7-retail-copiesAll good things must come to an end and as of earlier this week, Microsoft is out of the Windows 7 mainstream support business. There won’t have any new software updates or security patches coming. The good news is that the company will provide schools with extended support for a fee for another five years and several outsiders provide the support you need. It may sound a bit surreal to a district still dependent on Windows XP, but Microsoft’s move might be the kick in the pants you need to start the inevitable migration to Windows 8.

Look Down Desk

SMV-front-KB26-600If you’ve ever looked out upon a class to see row after row of the back of screens, the Mira Vista Desk can change the computer teaching dynamic. Instead of putting the display on top of the desk it is hidden below, beneath a glass tabletop. That way the student can see the material and the teacher can see the student. Made of 1.2-inch MDF material with a rubber edging and either a wood grain or color laminate, the Mira Vista desk can be had in single and double versions. It has a channel for neatly hiding all the cables, a tray for a small computer and there’s a keyboard and mouse platform below the surface.



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