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Three Kinds of Chrome

Asus leadAsus’s latest crop of Chromebooks will hit the market from three totally different directions and have the effect of making traditional school computers look very expensive. The upcoming trio of Asus Chrome systems could change the teaching dynamic with a convertible touch model, what could be the cheapest Chromebook around and a novel Chrome-based stick that plugs directly into a display or projector. Together, they have the school market covered – or at least will when the devices come out over the next few months.

Asus Chromebook FlipTo start, the Flip C100 Chromebook can turn teaching on its head. Rather than a standard clamshell format, Flip has a screen that rotates to flip over, creating a Chromebook convertible that can be used as a keyboard centric system, a presentation machine or a tablet. The system has a 10.1-inch screen, can show 1,366 by 768 resolution and responds to 10 independent touch inputs. It includes 16GB of on-board storage, has 802.11ac WiFi and Bluetooth connectivity so it should fit into any school’s IT landscape. It should be available by summertime.

Haier 11EMeanwhile, Asus has a bargain for you. Its Haier and Hisense Chromebooks should be out a little sooner and will sell for $149. They are similar, though not identical and while they skimp here and there, but the two are functional and very portable computers that undercut the competition by fifty dollars. The Haier model will be sold through Amazon while the Hisense system can be purchased at Walmart, which should fit into schools that specify, but don't supply systems to kids. They are similar to the Flip with 2GB of RAM and 16GB of storage, but each system has an 11.6-inch screen in a more traditional notebook format. They’re small and weigh in at 2.5-pounds, perfect for teachers ans students on the go.

Asus ChromebitFinally, there’s the innovative Chromebit, a self-contained computer on a stick that is like no other Chrome system. Small and light enough to wear on a lanyard, it will be available in three colors. Similar to Google’s Chromecast, it is easily the most inventive computer of the year. Looking like a memory key on steroids, Chromebit plugs directly into the HDMI port of a display, but is a full Chrome system with its own memory and storage space. Created with help from Google, Chromebit will cost just $100. Smaller and less expensive than the $260 Hannspree’s Stick PC, Chromebit has the power to change the entire teaching dynamic. Instead of equipping kids and teachers with more expensive notebooks or tablets, they could get less expensive Chromebit sticks that they plug into displays already set up in each room. The system on a stick will hold the user’s personal history, preferences and key files with the rest being stored online.


Go Lamp-Free for Less

Casio xj-v1While hybrid projectors that don’t require periodic lamp changes have the power to save several hundreds of dollars a year, they have been expensive. That is until now, with the announcement of Casio’s $700 XJ-V1 projector. It may be priced a couple hundred dollars higher than a traditional classroom projector, but its hybrid laser and LED illumination engine is rated to last for 20,000 hours (and is guaranteed for five years or 10,000 hours of use) and doesn’t contain any mercury. That can save a couple hundred dollars a year in replacement lamps you don’t need to buy and install while cutting electricity use nearly in half. Small and light, the XJ-V1 puts out 2,700 lumens in XGA resolution and has VGA, HDMI as well as audio connections.

Small Access Point, Big Range

02_APR175P_stand_front_3000Don’t let the small size of Amped Wireless’s ProSeries High Power AC1750 Access Point fool you. It is a potent WiFi device that uses the latest 802.11ac protocol, yet remains compatible with older systems. With its array of 12 signal amplifiers and three high-output antennas the dual-band transmitter can cover as much as 8,000 square feet, allowing IT staff to use fewer access points to cover the territory. Able to connect with up to 100 clients at a time, the AC1750 device is perfect for placing in a school’s hallway for covering several rooms. It can be plugged into an AC outlet or run with Power over Ethernet electricity.      



Start to Finish Lessons

Itunes for educatorsA great first step when trying to put together a multimedia lesson plan should be the iTunes For Educators page. It has thousands of lessons that range from a course in creating stop-action animation to algebra projects that can enhance learning. It’s all arranged by topic and you can search on things like cyberbullying. Most of the resources are free, but some require a small charge and require that you have the free iTunes U app running on your pad.


Cable Central

130091USB 3.1 is here to stay and some of the latest notebooks (like the Chrome Pixel and new Macbook) have connectors you may not be familiar with or able to easily or cheaply get the cables you need. Monoprice has a good selection of the latest cables with quad shielding and reinforced zinc-alloy connectors at reasonable prices. The selection includes everything from a USB-C to USB-C cable ($24.99) and a USB-C to USB-A cable ($9.99) to a USB-C Male to USB 3.0 Female ($11.99), USB-C to DisplayPort Cable ($34.99) and USB-C to HDMI Adapter ($34.99)

Emotional Learning

AppersonA child’s emotional health is just as important as his grades at school. Apperson’s Evo Social & Emotional Learning assessment lets you track their emotional well-being and receptiveness to school over time to identify trends and progress. Based on the 8-point DESSA criteria, from self- and social awareness to goal-directed behavior and decision-making, the software can store the results locally or at the district level. It costs $400 for up to 150 students, and there’s a two-month free trial.

Freebee Week: Classroom Stress Control

DestressifyIt’s sadly a truism today that teaching can be one of the most stressful occupations, but the DeStressify app can manage and lesson its impact. The software, which runs on Android phones and tablets as well as iPhones and iPads, can help with a 5- to 10-minute relaxation period to sooth and free the teacher’s mind. The activities are described and shown and include relaxation techniques like visualization, breathing and physical movement. If they do it once a day, the activities can lower stress levels by as much as 20-percent, based on a recent study. The free version does a lot, but the $6 Pro software adds reminders and the ability to invite other teachers to join you.

Freebee Week: Instant Video for the Classroom

Youtube eduLooking for that perfect video on the life of James Clerk Maxwell, an explanation of what a virus is or a critique of Plato’s Crito? Youtube.edu/edu is an amazingly deep resource with all that and much more for building lesson plans around. With a library holding 850,000 streaming videos on every facet of education, the items are organized by subject and range from a few minutes to more than an hour long. It deserves to be bookmarked on your class computer.

Freebee Week: Freedom of Presentations

Prezi bIf you spend an hour creating classroom presentations for every hour spent teaching, you will quickly run out of hours. Prezi can help with a simple and innovative way to use your tablet to quickly build and display lessons. There are free versions for iPads and Android that have a variety of backgrounds, lots of special effects and can be shared. The free version includes 100MB of online storage space and all presentations are visible to anyone. There are optional plans for $10 and $20 a month that lets you keep your lessons private and raise the storage level.

Freebee Week: Learn by Colors

Toonia colorbookWith the increasing emphasis on Pre-K classes, schools need activities for their youngest students and the Toonia Colorbook fits the bill with 128 pages to color online or on paper. If you need more, they’re available for a few dollars per set. The coloring pages are divided into 16 themes so the kids can stick to an idea or roam around as they like. In addition to colors, they can paint in patterns and after you shake the pad, it’s ready to be reused. There’s a way to keep the colors within the lines or draw freeform and many kids can collaborate on a painting.



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