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Bringing the Galaxy into the Classroom

600x600_19With so many cookie cutter Android tablets available for schools, increasingly the differentiator will be the software that is included with the slate. In this regard, Samsung excels with its Galaxy Tab 4 Education. For $369, it provides a well-designed and durable tablet that has lots of software for schools and includes a protective case. In other words, the Tab 4 Education has everything needed to get a good start at school.

The black and chrome Tab 4 Ed is sleek and surprisingly elegant looking for a system that will spend its days – and often nights – at school. Oddly, it comes with a white AC adapter and USB cable that don’t match the system.

Overall, it’s a well-designed and –made tablet that is only 0.3-inches thick and weighs 1.1-pounds. One of the smallest and lightest 10.1-inch tablets around, it’s 5-ounces lighter than Toshiba’s Excite Pure model.

Inside is a 1.2GHz Qualcomm SnapDragon processor, 1.5GB of RAM and 16GB of solid-state storage. Unfortunately, Samsung only sells one model, so there’s no version with 32GB or more storage space. You can use its micro-SD card slot to add up to 64GB of storage for a total of up to 96GB of capacity.

Inside, the Tab 4 Ed has several surprising goodies that can help in the classroom and out. There’s a Near Field communications chip that allows the tablet to exchange data by bumping two units together or print by tapping a suitably equipped printer. It also has GPS for field trip work.

600x600_27The system provides a micro-USB port for charging as well as an audio jack for a headphone. On the downside, the Tab 4 Ed lacks an HDMI connection for driving a monitor or projector, so it might not make sense as a teacher’s tablet. It does work with a Google Chromecast receiver or Samsung AllCast dongle.   

The slate’s 10.1-inch screen provides more than one-third more viewing space than an 8-inch tablet, shows 1,280 by 800 resolution and has protective Corning Gorilla glass. It responds to 10 individual touches and has buttons for the Home page, recent apps and going back.

It can do something other slates can’t. You can pull a second app from the side and run two items at once with a split screen. This is perfect for a teacher to show a video in one while writing comments on the other or graphing a math problem in one window while showing how it might relate to the real world in the other. Someday, all tablets will be able to do this, but for now, only Samsung slates can do a two-for.

On the downside, unlike the Galaxy Note line, the Tab 4 Ed doesn’t come with Samsung’s stylus for doing everything from writing equations or sentences to drawing directly on the screen. The system worked well with a generic pen.

A big bonus with the Tab 4 Ed is that it comes with an Amzer silicone case and has a great set of accessories. To start, any school contemplating using a tablet for testing should get Belkin’s $30 Wired Keyboard. Rather than using Bluetooth to connect, the keyboard has a Micro-USB cable that plugs right into the slate. It doesn’t require any software, is self-powered and has comfy 19.2 millimeter keys.

There is one small sang, though. The keyboard takes up the micro-USB port so the slate can’t be plugged in while the keyboard is being used and needs to run on battery power. It’s a small price to pay because the Tab 4 Ed can outlast just about any test I’ve seen. While playing YouTube videos continuously over a WiFi connection, the system’s 6,800 milli-amp hour battery ran for 8 hours and 5 minutes. That should be more than enough for some classes, a few hours of testing and some afterschool activities before it gets charged for the next day.

Samsung sets itself apart from the educational crowd by its software. In addition to including Hancom Office Viewer that can open a variety of standard files, the system works with a wide variety of Google Education apps and can be set up for an entire class of students in a matter of minutes. At the end of the term or year, the system’s contents can be wiped clean with one click. As is the case with Chromebooks, Google sells a $30 management console that lets teachers, IT staffers and administrators perform remote maintenance and updates on the slates.

600x600_21It all adds up to a powerful tablet that will fit right into the classroom. Its AnTuTu Benchmark score of 16,213 means that it’s slightly behind the smaller Acer Iconia One 7 and Google’s Nexus 7, but it will be able to handle just about any app that you load and still be able to run another alongside it in split-screen mode. 

While the Galaxy Tab Ed kit comes with the industry-standard 1-year warranty, if you buy it through CDW, they will add an extra year of coverage that includes accidental damage for $105. The Tab 4 Education includes a dedicated support hotline with technicians who have been trained in what to expect when slates are used in schools. There’s a dedicated toll-free number.

Samsung has done the seemingly impossible by creating an elegant looking tablet that is not only rugged but comes with the software a school needs to create a digital classroom.

 

A

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Samsung Galaxy Tab 4 Education

$369

 

+ Excellent software

+ Good balance between performance and battery life

+ Thin and light

+ Includes case

+ Split screen operation

+ NFC

 

- Can’t power tablet while using keyboard

- Lacks an HDMI port

 

 

Yet Another Encore

Encore-mini_WT7-C8-tablet-420$100 Android tablets are old hat, but what about a $100 Windows slate for schools? It’s coming. Toshiba’s Encore Mini is a full Windows slate with a 7-inch display that can do just about everything a full-size notebook or desktop PC can.  At 13-ounces, it will likely be the lightest PC around, it feels comfortable in the hand and is powered by a quad-core Atom processor with a scant 1GB of RAM and 16GB of storage space. When it is available later this month, it will sell for $120, but should drop to about $100 by the time 2015 rolls around. Personally, I can’t wait.

Talking Tablet

T15-angleThere’s no shortage of tablets for school, but the DynaVox T15 actually can talk right to students with special needs. Like the T10, the T15 is made for kids with autism, shut-in syndrome and a variety of impairments. It runs on Android 4 and has a sophisticated speech generator that can read what’s on the screen to students in need of some extra help. The system has a 15.4-inch touch screen, can be used with an access switch and comes with a copy of the company’s Compass 2.0 software.

Freebee Friday: Classroom Cornucopia

EducentsWhile most of the items on Educent’s Web site are have price tags, they are discounted teaching resources and there are several freebees for the classroom. Discounts range from a few dollars off a set of workbooks to manipulative items for less than half price. The recent scanning of the site found items like Blue Manor books and a typing course for free. Better head there quickly because each product has a time limit.

 

 

Freebee Friday: Supplies

Office max depotThe school is starting and it’s time for teachers to get the supplies they need, regardless of whether there’s a budget for it. Most teachers go out of pocket for items from pencils and paper to tape and rulers, but Office Depot and OfficeMax will give a lucky teacher a $500 school spending spree while six others get $100 in company gift cards. The contest runs through the end of September.

 

Deskbound Chrome

Acer Chromebox CXI Top Angle ViewForget about the Chrome platform only being available in notebooks because Acer’s Chromebox CXI family plants it firmly on a desk, library kiosk or common room. Powered by an Intel Celeron processor, the CXI comes with 2- or 4GB of RAM and 16GB of storage space. Still the system is tiny, can be attached to the back of a monitor and has a Trusted Platform Module (TPM) built in. It comes with DVI and HDMI monitor ports as well as four USB 3.0 connectors. It should be available before school starts in most places for between $180 and $220 with a keyboard and mouse included.  

 

 

Bigger Can be Better

14200892694_c0b2896017_oWho says that tablets must have 8- or 10-inch screens to be useful in the classroom? Not Toshiba, whose Radius P55W convertible notebook makes a big statement for education.

At 0.8- by 15.0- by 9.7-inches and 4.9-pounds, the dull silver  and gold tone Radius is big and proud of it. The system has a 15.6-inch screen and can be a lot to carry around, but its aluminum case is fractions of an inch smaller than Acer’s Aspire R7 and a lot thinner.

More to the point, the Radius weighs 6 ounces less than the R7. The bottom line is that it’s easier to carry and fits better into the typical briefcase or backpack. With its AC adapter, the system weighs a hefty 5.2 pounds, but the Radius has a two-prong plug that will be welcome in older schools that lack up-to-date AC outlets.

Just like Dell’s much smaller and less expensive Inspiron 11 3000, the power of its design is that the Radius can assume five different computing personalities, depending on what work needs to get done. Of course, it starts out as a standard notebook with a touch-screen and a full mechanical keyboard that has backlit keys. The system’s case is wide enough for full-size 19.3 millimeter keys, an embedded numeric keypad and has a huge touchpad. There’s no DVD drive, however.

Flip the screen over and Radius becomes one of the biggest – and heaviest – tablets around. Turn the screen over to produce a tent orientation or presentation mode for small group work. It can even fold flat on a tabletop for artwork like drawing a diagram or finger painting.

14282873642_d5de1812af_oOverall, the system is well made, feels sturdy and its 15.6-inch screen provides a wide view compared to a traditional tablet. Be warned: it can be unwieldy and a lot to carry around if your go from room to room all day. In other words, it works best on a desk with the teacher or student occasionally picking it up to use as a tablet.

Above the keys are the Radius’s Harmon Kardon speakers, which sound sharp and vibrant, although they produce a lot of distortion at full volume. While the speakers are aimed at the user when using the Radius as a notebook, when you flip it into tablet mode, they point downward and the audio loses its vibrancy. The system has a volume control on the edge as well as an on/off key. Under the screen is a handy Windows key.   

The system’s 15.6-inch display shows 1,920 by 1,080 resolution and has rich colors. The screen is flush with the edge of the lid and it responds to 10-independent touches. It worked just as well with fingers as with a generic stylus, but Toshiba doesn’t offer a pressure-sensitive stylus as is the case with the Aspire R7. On the downside, the display tends to wobble a lot when it is poked, swiped or tapped.

Inside, the P55W-B5224 Radius that I looked at is a fully up to date system that has some of the best components around and will likely be seen as a little too good for schools on a tight budget. The test system has a dual-core Core i7 processor runs at between 2.0 and 2.7GHz, 8GB of RAM and a 1TB hard drive, making this notebook a screamer. Toshiba also sells a more mainstream $700 version of the Radius that is built around Core i5 version with a 750GB hard drive but nothing in the $500 range.

14261742076_7e909ee590_oTo its credit, Radius can connect with just about anything in the classroom. It has three USB 3.0 ports, an SD card slot, audio and an HDMI connector for a projector or monitor. It lacks a VGA port for older monitors and projectors, though.

The system comes with the latest 802.11ac WiFi and Bluetooth 4.0 built-in. I was able to connect wirelessly to a projector using its WiDi system and a Belkin ScreenCast receiver.

With all that premium hardware behind it, it’s no wonder that the Radius blew away the competition with a Passmark PerformanceTest 8 score of 1,784. That’s about a quarter faster than the R7, more than twice the performance potential of comparable convertibles and likely one of the most powerful computers at school.

Happily, the power was not at the expense of battery life. The Radius was able to continuously play YouTube videos for 7 hours and 12 minutes, more than enough for a full day of teaching or learning followed by some homework, grading or gaming.

The system comes with Windows 8.1, a 1-year warranty and a year’s subscription to Norton AntiVirus software. Overall, the Radius shows that in a world obsessed with having the smallest notebook or tablet, bigger can be better.

 

A

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Toshiba Satellite Radius P55W

$899.99

+ Big HD screen

+ Excellent configuration

+ 5 computing personalities

+ Well-made and sturdy

+ Top performance/battery life

 

- Expensive

- Screen wobbles

- Can be unwieldy

 

Never Lose Anything

Zrq425-phone-tag_0bn09t0bn09t000000The Protag Duet tag is so smart that it cannot only alert you that you’ve left your phone behind, but your bag as well. Inside the plastic tag is an RFID chip, speaker and just enough electronics to sound the alarm when it and your phone get separated. Plus, it can find your phone, either by pressing Duet to make the phone ring – even if the phone is set to silent – or by tracking its location. The $29 device works with Android and iPhones.

Collaborative Test Making

Unify logoThe latest version of Performance Matters’ Unify takes measuring student growth and achievement to new levels by enabling collaboratively created, developed and administered assessments that can be shared within a district. It allows educators to pool their knowledge, experience and resources to create the best tests for the subject.

Top Brightness

Res_db7c1923d5f1d564a56aa831351e57e1If 2,500- or 3,000 lumen projectors aren’t cutting it at your school, BenQ’s MW665 projector puts out 3,200 lumens, lighting up even large classrooms and lecture halls.  The projector can put a 1,280 by 800 image on-screen, has a USB slot for use with a lesson-holding memory key and has ports for HDMI, VGA and networking connections. It can use used with the included QPresenter app for wireless teaching with an iPad or Android tablet. The MW665 costs $999.

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