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The New Gym Class

ChairSince physical education was introduced in public schools in the 19th century it has been loved and dreaded equally by students, but dodge ball, jumping jacks and rope climbing are falling by the wayside in an era of computerized learning and testing. That doesn’t have to be so because there are a tremendous number of digital resources to balance a healthy mind with a healthy body at school. These three services can get everyone out of their chairs and running around.


Focussed fitnessFocused Fitness’s Five for Life program is an all-inclusive way to get elementary, middle and high school students up out of their seats and be more active at school. It has everything from a full phys-ed curriculum that’s chock full of activities to nutrition lessons that can make students into more-thoughtful eaters. Five for Life has an extensive video library for teaching about health, fitness and proper exercise technique. There’s curriculum for elementary, middle and high schools that costs between $144 and $675.


Online gym for meIf all you want is online classes that get kids moving, Online Gym 4 Me does the trick. There are 120 different activities available that run for 15- to 30-minutes, perfect for squeezing into a 40-minute period. There’s everything from fat-burning to yoga and pilates and even a tutorial on how to do a handstand. The program will set up a personalized workout routine with a mix of live and recorded classes. The service can be played on just about any connected screen, either individually or ion the big screen for an entire class. Annual memberships cost $4.90 per month and there’s a free two-week trial to see if it gets the sweat up. At the moment schools don’t get a discount, but the company is working on it.


WalkaboutsActiveEd’s Walkabouts is an interactive app that puts the physical in education for Pre-K through second grade students. It runs online so the software works on just about any connected computer and can change the way you think of gym and lessons. It’s all controlled by the Walkabout dashboard where you can create new activities, reuse old ones, look for lessons, print worksheets and manage classes and students. New activities start with picking the age group, subject and standard you want to work with. After all, it’s easier and more fulfilling to play with numbers or vowels and consonants than fill a whiteboard with them.


Custom Quizzes

Assessments-gradebookKids Discover Online has just added an Assessment module that lets teachers create customized multidisciplinary quizzes and tests. All you do is choose categories and the program compiles the assessment from the more than 5,000 questions available in social studies and science. If there’s nothing to your liking, go ahead and write your own. There are the expected multiple choice and true/false questions as well as short answer and ones that are meant to foster wide-ranging discussion. The grading of multiple choice and true/false questions is automatic and teachers can mix science questions into a social studies quiz.

The Myth of Running on Everything

MythwareGetting a classroom management package that runs on every platform used at school can seem like something dreamed up by Sisyphus, but Mythware (formerly Nanjing Universal Networks) can work just as well on Windows and iPads as Macs, Androids and Linux systems. That said, the Windows software is the most extensive with the ability to not only monitor and control individual student systems, but broadcast audio and video or create quiz question. Administrators can also set USB thumb drive policies as well as remotely start any system or close any app that’s running. You can try it out for a month with the ability to connect with up to 5 student systems.



Freebee Friday: Micro and Macrochips

Megaprocessor-panoramaNo High School physics class is complete without a rudimentary examination of electricity and electronics, but rarely does it go as far as the digital circuits that run our lives. Rather than microscopic circuits, James Newman’s Megaprocessor can be taught at human scale. That’s because it is 30- by 6-feet his macocomputer chip is composed of a variety of panels for its functional elements, like logic and arithmetic. While today’s typical processor runs at gigahertz speeds, can handle 64-bit programming and has gigabits of RAM available, Newman’s Megaprocessor runs at 8 kilohertz, has 256 bits of RAM and can process 16-bits at a time. Despite the size and technological differences, the Megaprocessor illustrates that the difference to today’s processors is merely a matter of scale. Newman provides a guided tour and its specs.

From Pen to Type

Nebo aMyScript, the right tablet and an active stylus can make everything from taking notes to creating a diagram as easy as doodling and tapping. The software not only digitally inks the screen with lines, letters and numbers, but captures enough of the information behind it to quickly convert it into type. It’s not perfect but better and quicker than OneNote’s system and you can more intuitively edit what you’ve created before transferring it to Word, PowerPoint or other programs.

At the moment, the Nebo app works only with iPad Pro and Surface Pro systems, though. It’s free and more of a demonstration project to show of how MyScript’s pen technology works, but it’s actually a better way to take notes, create diagrams, mark up images and even create math formulas, something that’s not exactly trivial with any word processing program.

Nebo bThe 33MB program has a nice tutorial to show how to use the app and you can pick the weight of your lines, the color as well as the language you want the scribbles to be rendered as. You can just start writing and the program converts it on the fly, showing progress in a small box on the left. Double tap and it’s converted. Double tap again and you can edit it.

This is just the start. Look for Nebo to be incorporated into all sorts of educational software that requires the teacher or student to reply to something or write a passage. On the downside, it only has one font available at the moment and only works with iPad Pros (with the Pencil stylus) and Surface Pro 4 (with the Pro Pen), but you have to start somewhere.


Top Shelf Cart

Iq-30Getting a classroom’s worth of notebooks or tablets from A to B is no trivial matter, but lockncharge’s iC 30 cart can make it one of the easiest parts of the school day. Sturdy, well-made and secure, the cart can put fully-charged computers into any classroom.

At 36.6- by 29.0- by 26.4-inches and weighing a hefty 158-pounds, the iC 30 is built like a tank and has a rugged white enamel finish. In fact, it’s so well made that it should outlast several generations of the computers that it will house.

Happily, the cart’s top slides sideways to create a 24- by 25.5-inch worktop that works well for handing out systems or for holding a large monitor. The cart’s inside has a large central storage area.

PCL-LNC_Carrier30Cart_MK4_05-smallThe bottom of the cart has a false floor made of four sheet metal panels. They can not only be set at three different heights, but if you pull them out, you’ll see a series of hidden power strips to charge the systems.

There are 30 110-volt grounded outlets that are protected against power surges and the iC 30 has a single AC power cord that can deliver up to 15 amps of charging current. You can wrap any excess electrical cabling around a cleat in the back. As sophisticated as the iC 30 is, the cart lacks USB power ports for charging tablets and some Chromebooks. In about 30-seconds, I retrofitted the iC 30 with a couple of 4-port USB power supplies, which made charging Androids and iPads much easier.

It comes with a small remote control that lets you pick from several power modes. They can also be accessed from a panel on the back of the cart, but you’ll need to get on your knees to get to the switches and read the LEDs.

Inside, there are side cable guides that can keep the cables from getting tangled. The cart comes with 30 Velcro ties for wrapping up the excess cables. Still, plugging in and unplugging 30 systems – particularly if they’re a mix of pads and PCs – can be a tedious process that’s made easier with the inclusion of sets of small circular numbered labels for the systems and their power cables.

Mobile-device-basketsInstead of dividers or shelves to hold the gear, the iC 30 has six unique plastic baskets. Each is meant to hold five iPads, MacBooks, Android tablets or notebooks. The baskets have a sturdy handle, so kids can carry a table’s worth of computers. You can get replacements for $80 each.

The baskets are big enough to accommodate Chromebooks, tablets and notebooks up to those with roughly 13-inch screens, but it can work with some 14-inch systems, like Lenovo’s ThinkPad X1 Yoga. Oddly, many smaller tablets won’t fit if they have padded cases or keyboard covers. The large iPad Pro barely fits, but you can easily fit 20 to 30 calculators into the carrier.

Solid and sturdy, the iC 30 has a padlock hasp for locking it shut and comes with a programmable lock. With smooth rolling casters, even the smallest teacher can push the cart from room to room and then lock in place. At the end of the day, the whole thing can be chained to one location, but you’ll need the optional $35 anchor kit. It comes with a lifetime guarantee on the mechanical elements but the electronics are only covered for two years.

Edge_Tote_Down_654_640_80_s_c1-e1461249036853It’s a workhorse in the classroom with the ability to store, charge and dole out computers 30 at a time. If that’s too much, the company sells similar carts and cabinets that use the baskets can hold 10 or 20 items.

Although the cart works with all kinds of computers, large and small, you can only buy it from Apple for about $1,800. Still, the iC 30 cart can turn any room into a computer lab.



lockncharge iC 30



+ Holds and charges 30 systems

+ Unique baskets

+ Single power cord

+ Hidden power strips

+ Slide out top


- No USB power

Small Screen Becomes Big Screen

410Efve9t+LWhen the smartphone’s display is too little and an external screen is too much, Jetman has the answer: Magnify it. The fold-open magnifier fits all iPhones and most Android smartphones, like Samsung’s Galaxy devices. It works by turning the phone’s 4- or 5-inch display into an 8.2-inch one without batteries or software. The Jetman screen works with everything from Web sites to videos and it costs $9 on Amazon.

Quick Switch

Netgear-prosafe-xs708eIf your network isn’t living up to its high-speed potential, it might be your switches that are slowing the data down. If you have gigabit hardware, move up to 10-gigabit per second speeds with Netgear’s ProSAFE Plus Switch. The XS708E offers 8 ports that can reliably move 10 gigabits per second of data from here to there. It’s fully manageable, can protect against denial of service attacks and can allocate bandwidth to where it’s needed. The 8-port switch costs $850.

Observing the Best

Obs_insightsWatching teachers in action, especially young ones, can be the first step towards turning them into great educators. Performance Matters’ Truenorthlogic Observation can help with a platform that includes everything from rubrics and rating scales to ways to scripts of how to perform a thorough and even-handed observation. The results are shown to teachers in a visual dashboard that can include links to professional development items


Freebee Friday: The Museum without the Field Trip

SmithsonianEver wanted to take a class to see artifacts and documents from the past without ever leaving the classroom? Smithsonian’s Learning Lab can bring the exhibits to you and your students with online digital resources to enhance a variety of lessons. With more than a million Smithsonian items available, the pages are age- and grade-rated with hot spots that reveal more information if you hover over them. Because it’s a Web site, the Learning Lab works on just about any connected computer and there are always special exhibits that bring together elements of the institution’s collections. Best of all, you can forget about those worn out worksheets, because the site has a wealth of discussion questions and quizzes. It’s free, but you will need to sign up to go to the digital museum.

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