About this blog Subscribe to this blog

Six-Finger Board

MimioboardThe latest interactive MimioBoard uses the company’s Touch 360° technology to enable up to six touch points, perfect for collaboration, student competitions or just finger painting. Students or teachers can write, draw or just doodle on the board in a variety of colors and line weights to annotate an image or freehand to sketch a map or math problem. The wide-screen MimioBoard is available in 78- and 87-inch versions that are made of steel with a heavy-duty porcelain surface that resists scratches, stains and classroom abuse.


The Tablet that Projects

Yoga 2 w projectorFlexibility and strength are the watchwords for yoga as they are for Lenovo’s second-generation Yoga convertible tablets. The Yoga Tablet 2 uses Android 4.4 software and is powered by a quad-core Atom Z3745 processor that runs at between 1.3- and 1.9GHz, 2GB of RAM and 32GB of solid state storage. Its 13-inch screen is about as detailed as they get these days with the ability to show 2,560 by 1,440 resolution. It has Bluetooth, 802.11ac WiFi and can be a standalone tablet, a traditional notebook or a presentation machine, yet weighs 2.1-pounds.

It may be bigger and heavier than other tablets, but the Yoga has a secret for teachers: in the thick cylindrical hinge, the Yoga 2 Pro has a micro projector. It can create up to a 50-inch image in wide-VGA resolution, but is rated at only 50 lumens, so the lights need to be off. It costs $500.

Freebee Friday: Red, Blue and Green Letter Day

AbcEvery day can be letter day with ABC PreSchool Playground because this Android app can help preschoolers learn their letters with a trio of games. Your school’s smallest students can match letters with words, trace dots to form letters, listen to the letters’ sounds and color any of them.




3-D Shop Class

Hp sproutKids, put down your saws, hammers and other tools of 20-th century shop class. The future will be built around 3-D printing because of its ability to made physical objects from computer files. You don’t have to wait because it’s all here now with HP’s Blended Reality system that combines a powerful workstation, dedicated peripherals and a multi-jet 3-D printer.

HP's 3-D printing scheme starts with the $1,900 Sprout desktop computer, a powerful Core i7-based system with top notch graphics and a built in 3-D scanner to turn physical objects into computer files for manipulating. There’s also a 23-inch touch screen, a unique tiny DLP projector that can show you what you’re making and a large touch pad to make changes or design something from scratch.

Hp 3-d printerOnce you have what you want, the data is sent to HP’s Multi Jet Fusion 3-D printer. It’s a bit bulky but the thermal inkjet printer is 10-times faster than conventional devices, can make bigger parts and you can change the physical and mechanical properties of the final piece. HP is working on imparting color but that is likely to be added at a later date. The printer is expected to be available sometime, although the Sprout computer is here now. 

Follow-Me Cam

Swivl AloneWhether it’s for bringing a sick child into the classroom through a remote video lesson, a district-wide teacher training day or documenting good educational practices, it not only takes an extra person to operate the camera to keep the teacher front and center but the camera can be an intrusion. Swivl’s ingenious camera holder can change all that, opening a world of educational video for schools.

The cylindrical white and black Swivl base has a diameter of 5.0-inches and is 2.6-inches tall, small enough to put on the corner of a desk, on a shelf or a tripod to observe the classroom with a digital camera or tablet. Think of Swivl as a robot that can unobtrusively observe a classroom in action and you get an idea of its potential. It works with a variety of digital cameras, but really comes into its own with an Android or iPad.

Just slide the tablet into its slotted base, load the free app for each platform and the slate’s camera can start recording the goings on. Swivl comes with three inserts for different size slates and there’s optional mounting hardware for digital SLR cameras that costs $49. While there are apps for Android- and iOS-based tablets or smartphones, there’s no software for the current crop of small, inexpensive Windows tablets that are starting to trickle into schools.

Range of swivl baseRDespite its size, the included 1.2-ounce handheld Marker is the key to Swivl’s success. The motorized base uses an infrared link with the Marker to follow it around the room, always keeping it – and the teacher – on-screen. More than a pretty picture, the Marker has a microphone built-in that connects with the base via a 2.4MHz link. Keep it in a shirt pocket or wear it around your neck with the included lanyard, it takes a fraction of a second for the base to get going, reliably follows the Marker around the classroom and can outrun even the fastest teacher.

Both the base and the Marker can run on their own rechargeable batteries and the Marker can be charged in a slot for it in the back of the base. They can each be used for about four hours of recording between charges, not enough for a full school day but plenty for most uses.

It took about 5 minutes to load the needed software, link the Marker to the tablet and get Swivel set up on an iPad Mini. While there’s no manual, Swivl has a start-up guide and there are a series of FAQs and five online videos on Swivl’s site that can help. The Marker automatically followed me no matter how fast I moved, as long as I and the Marker were within about 35-feet of the base.

Swivl makes a slight whirring noise when it moves and is able to rotate 360 degrees to capture a lecturer and then the board behind her and can tilt up by as much as 10-degrees in 0.1-degree increments and down by 15-degrees. On the downside, you’ll need to manually adjust the camera’s tilt the Marker’s central button. Unfortunately, if the marker is too close to the base, the motorized base gets confused and flicks around.

Swivl MarkerThe image quality and resolution depends on the tablet’s camera, but the system can handle HD video. It can be a little awkward to use, though, because when you’re looking at a live image on the screen, it is reversed. The saved video mirrors it so you can read what’s written on a board, projected onto the classroom screen or on a piece of paper you put in front of the camera.

While it’s being used, the screen not only shows how much recording time remains, but whether the microphone is engaged, which camera is being used as well as the Bluetooth link and battery status. A large circle on the right starts and ends the recording, which glows red while it’s active.

The $400 Swivl base comes with the Marker, cables and 200 minutes of video storage space online. That’s about three hours and if you use the device as much as I have, that will fill up all-too quickly, although the videos can be saved locally if you want and Swivl has three settings for video quality. The $500 Basic plan raises the online storage potential to more than 16 hours while the $750 Pro Cloud plan brings it to 50 hours of video storage. After a year, the video storage costs $200 and $500, respectively, while the entry-level 200 minutes remains free and there are district wide discounts available.

If you get a pair of Swivl bases, a Marker can do double duty by controlling two cameras, creating a dual video feed that can cover the presenter and a board at once or shoot from two angles for a more professional-looking final product. Plus, if you want, the camera’s output can be displayed on a larger monitor via Apple TV (for an iPad) or HDMI (for an Android system). On the downside, there’s no way to remotely zoom-in or -out on an object, as would help while recording a lab or when there’s a group discussion.

Swivl settingsIt has a couple of tricks up its sleeve, as well. The Swivl can not only play-back slides from your online repository and work as a teleprompter, but it can be used for aiming the camera at the speaker in a video conference, potentially replacing expensive gear. It can also take time lapse sequences, but only with a digital camera.

Its $400 price tag is a bargain for schools that want to unobtrusively video classrooms. The company will lend you one to try for a month to see if it fits into the way your institution teaches and trains.


Swivl Hero with logo


$400 with 200 minutes of online storage

+ Camera follows user

+ Wireless microphone and lanyard

+ Free trial

+ Online storage plans available

+ Pan and tilt

+ Works with iPad, Android or digital camera

+ Remote can control two Swivls at once


- Can’t remotely zoom-in or -out

- No Windows software

Higher Expectations, Higher Achievement

Ready writing Laptop_WritingScreenShotThe latest version of the Ready Writing family from Curriculum Associates is aimed at pushing the language arts abilities of second through fifth graders by raising the bar on their work. Based on Common Core standards, Ready Writing divides the curriculum into easily digestible chunks that build on each other and are based on showing what good writing is all about. It emphasizes gathering and organizing information, planning, drafting, revising, and editing the final work. The program costs $275 for a classroom of 25 students.

Watch your Data

CognitoThere’s nothing worse than a smartphone ringing or buzzing during class, regardless of whether it’s the teacher’s or a student’s phone. The Cogito Classic watch can not only tell time but will discreetly tell you if you have any new messages, emails or unanswered phone calls. If you like, it can also get your phone to remotely snap a picture at any time. Unlike many other available smart watches, the Cogito watch works with both iPhones as well as Android devices and is waterproof enough to survive a cafeteria food fight, rainy field trip or a lab demonstration gone wrong. Available in five colors, the Cogito watch costs $179.


Freebee Friday: A Lesson on Spending $100 Million

Apple connect ed aerohiveThe first tangible results of President Obama’s ConenctEd program are starting to be seen with Apple announcing the first 114 schools that will share its $100 million in donated iPads, Macs and Apple TV devices as well as Aerohive 802.11ac wireless access points, switches and networking gear. It’s meant to enhance their educational technologies and is part of a $750 million White House private-public partnership to boost the technological and communications prowess of deserving schools. The gear should be put to good use because most of the schools that Apple has chosen are financially challenged and located in underserved urban areas.




A Smaller Radius

Toshiba Satellite Radius 11 #6If Toshiba’s Radius P55W is too much of a convertible notebook, try its smaller cousin, the Radius 11. Like the P55W, the Radius 11 can be a notebook with a mechanical keyboard, a tablet or a presentation machine, but with an 11.6-inch HD touch-screen, it can fit more easily into a backpack. At less than 3-pounds, the Radius 11 can be outfitted with a Pentium or Celeron processor, 4GB of RAM and either 32GB of solid state storage or a 500GB hard drive. It starts at $379, perfect for a stressed school budget.


Top Speed WiFi

Linksys E8350 AC2400 Router 2If your school’s wireless LAN is bogging down, the Linksys E8350 can help with dual-band 4X4 operations that tops out at a theoretical 2.4GHz of bandwidth. The 802.11ac router can also run as an access point or wireless bridge, has four removable stubby antennas and can connect to clients on both 2.4- and 5GHz data channels. In addition to using beamforming techniques, the E8350 can be set up horizontally or vertically and provides access to both USB and eSATA ports. It costs $250.



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