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The Four-in-One Notebook

740U5LE_001_Front_SilverTired of plain old notebooks for your class? Samsung’s latest convertible, the Notebook 7 Spin can be everything from a traditional keyboard-based notebook or a tablet to one that looks like a tent or is a self-standing presentation system. The key is its 360-degree hinge that gives it tremendous freedom of motion for a variety of activities.

At under four-pounds, the Spin 7 carries a 13.3-inch touchscreen that can show full HD resolution as well as a high-performance Core i5 processor and 8GB of integrated RAM. Rather than locking you into a world dominated by USB C, the system also has USB 2.0 and USB 3.0 ports. It’s security conscious with a TPM chip for remotely connecting. The best part is that the Notebook 7 Spin sells for $800, although Samsung also has a high-end 15.6-inch version with a Core i7 processor for $1,200 that weighs 5 pounds. Both should be out by the end of July, plenty of time before school starts.

Freebee Friday: Mightier than the Thumb

AnotableIf tooling around an iPad Pro with your thumb is awkward and not quite precise enough, the $99 Apple Pencil is a big help with accurate placement and pressure sensitivity. Annotable, a powerful iPad app, works just as well with a finger as with the Pencil and takes the pro pad to a new level. In addition to adding the ability to annotate and draw circles and squares, you can add arrow heads to any screen, even while it’s connected to a projector. My favorite is Anotable’s pixelate function that blurs anything you select. Other items, like colors and a cool spotlight tool cost a few dollars, but you can get everything for $8.

Macs with a little Mileage

Gazelle macbookNeed anything from a classroom of MacBook Air models to a few Pros for a computer lab? Gazelle has them all at surprisingly low prices. The company’s inventory of refurbished systems available includes phones, iPads and MacBooks. The site not only shows their condition and the specs but what the price would be to buy or lease it for a year and a half. For instance, a late 2011 MacBook Pro model with a 13-inch screen, 8GB of RAM, a 500GB hard drive and 30-day warranty costs $650.

Windows on an iPad

Parallels accessIf you like the variety of PC school software, but have a school of iPads, the latest emulation software from Parallels lets you run just about any Windows app on a 12.9-inch iPad Pro system, adding an incredible amount of versatility to the pad. It costs $20 a year, but you can try it out before you commit to buy the software.

Mini that Maxes Education

Transformer Mini T102_02How do you follow up on the superb Asus Flipbook? By adding more features but keep its size, weight and price under control. The Transformer Mini carries a 10.1-inch display, yet weighs in at 1.2- pounds on its own and 1.7-pounds with its snap on keyboard. The system, is only 0.3-inches thick, yet has everything a class could need, from 802.11ac WiFi, Bluetooth and a pull out stand that makes using it on a desk much easier. You get a year’s worth of unlimited online storage.



Att_g891a_gs7_active_gd_dynamic_leftIf you keep breaking tablets or phones, you might need one built for the rigors of work and school. That’s where Samsung’s Galaxy S7 Active comes in. Like the S6 Active, the S7 can stand up to a lot of punishment, including being dropped from five-feet and dunked underwater. It’s 5.1-inch quad HD screen, is made of shatter-resistant glass. It will be available via AT&T and Samsung’s enterprise sales department.


Pair of Classroom Aces

N23 w42The latest pair of classroom notebooks from Lenovo are sure to get your attention, both because they have what you need to teach, but are moderately priced. To start, the Lenovo N23 is a Windows 10 convertible with an 11.6-inch screen that can go from a traditional keyboard-based notebook to a tablet or show its display in its tent or presentation modes. Like the N22 it replaces, it’s rugged enough for 1st through 12th graders with reinforced ports and a spill-resistant keyboard that can take years of pounding. Meanwhile, the N42 Chromebook is bigger with a 14-inch display, but can only be a notebook. They should be available in a few weeks for between $200 (N42) and $250 (N42).

Share and Share Alike Chromebooks

NComputing Chromebook 3The latest Chromebook from NComputing, the CX110, not only provides cost effective student computing at $200, but allows a school-day’s worth of different kids to share machines. By using the company’s vSpace client software, a single system can service several students throughout the school day. The system combines an 11.6-inch screen with 8.5-hours of battery life, according to NComputing. If you like, the system can be ordered with 6,000 video lessons from brainstorm.com in English, science and math as well as ACT and Advanced Placement test prep for $179.


A Home for your iPad

Canvas-ipad-pro-creatorIt’s a fact of life at schools that iPads can require three hands sometimes to hold, tap and have papers handy. ISkelter’s Canvas Creator can help with a sturdy wooden base for an iPad that holds it, a stylus and provides a trough for holding a phone, a thin book or the pad.

Made of bamboo and machined to fit the 9.7- or 12.9-inch iPad Pro models, the Canvas Creator is about as natural as it gets. At 0.75- by 12.2- by 9.4- and 0.75- by 14- by 11.5-inches, respectively, the two models fit well on school desks. There are also models that provide some room on the side for a book or pile of papers, but these extend a few more inches.

It has been well sanded and has rounded corners, but the Canvas Creator base’s bamboo wood is unfinished and could stand to be oiled or protected with a polyurethane coating for longevity. On the other hand, if you spill something on it or it gets too dirty to clean, you can always just lightly sand the surface.

The pad fits perfectly into the Canvas Creator base with the screen nearly surface flush with the base. On the downside, the iPad’s side buttons and the rear-facing camera become inaccessible once it’s in place. It has a soft felt lining so that the iPad’s back doesn’t get scratched. If you like, the Canvas Creator base can easily be screwed into place on desks or a lab bench so that kids come into the class or lab and put their iPads into place.

To the right is a slot for Apple’s iPad Pencil stylus. It’s easy to drop in and remove, but the Canvas Creator base lacks a tether to keep it from getting dropped or lost. It’s not a surprise because the Pencil doesn’t have a place to attach a chain or string.

There’s also a handy trough for holding a phone, short book or a clipboard with papers – my favorite. If you want to work with the iPad upright or share something with a small group, you can put it into the slot. It sits at a comfortable 150-degree angle and is just as good with the slate sitting horizontally or vertically.

Canvas-ipad-pro-apple-pencil-accessory-17To the left is a cut out for slipping your thumb under the iPad to remove it from the wooden Canvas Creator. Unfortunately, the round indentation can’t accommodate the slate’s Lightning power cord without awkwardly lifting the left side of the iPad out of the base. In other words, the Canvas Creator’s key shortcoming is that you can’t charge and use the iPad for school work at the same time.

The Canvas Creator base comes in sizes for the 9.7- or 12.9-inch iPad Pro that cost $50 or $70. It’s a small price to pay for such a simple, yet powerful, base that can change the way you work and learn with an iPad.



iSkelter Canvas Creator for iPad Pro and Pencil


+ Made of sturdy bamboo

+ Holds pad and stylus

+ Trough for phone, book or clipboard

+ Screen sits flush

+ Stand for iPad


- Power cord doesn’t fit

- Unfinished surface

Surface Pro without the Cost

Cube_i9_1 (1)I love the Surface Pro line of tablets, but hate their exorbitant price tags. That’s where the new Cube i9 Tablet comes in. Essentially a clone of Microsoft’s SP family, the Cube i9 seems like a mirror image with a few changes that bring its price down. For instance, rather than the SP4’s 12.3-inch screen that can show 2,736 x 1,824 resolution, the Cube i9 has a 12.2-inch display that is merely HD, but should be more than enough for schoolwork. It matches the Surface Pro’s M3 processor and comes with 4GB of RAM, 128GB of storage capacity and Intel’s HD graphics accelerator.

Cube_i9_3For the clumsy set, they are both built around magnesium-aluminum alloy cases that are roughly one-third of an inch thick and have handy stands for desk work. The Surface Pro 4, however, has the weight advantage at 1.7- versus 2-pounds. Both use Windows 10 and have optional snap-on keyboards, but while the Surface Pro 4 starts at $900, the Cube i9 has a base price of $580.


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