About this blog Subscribe to this blog

Big Screen

ManualGrande_180_200_title_mainEliteScreen’s Manual Grande's name says it all: Big screen without a motor to open and close it. The Manual Grande can be had in sizes of up to nearly 17-feet and is perfect for that large lecture hall or auditorium. With a 1.1 gain matte surface, the screen works well with just about any projector and has a wide black border. It comes with a 3-year school warranty.


Light Up the Gym

LTG-HXB-High Bay-061016-027Is your gym’s lighting looking dull and costing a fortune everytime you turn on the lights for a class or event? Older mercury sodium lighting fixtures can be sapping thousands of dollars from your budget while not doing a good job of illuminating the room. The latest HXB Series LED High Bay Luminaire fixtures from Cree have LEDs instead and deliver 35,000 or 70,000 lumens at an unbeatable 140 lumens per watt of power used, 40 percent more than older bulbs. You can get the fixtures in 3,500-, 4,000- or 5,000K light colors, but they need to mounted at least 30 feet above the floor. The best part is that the LED Luminaire family have been designed to last for 100,000 hours of use, which translates into nearly 30 years of use for 10 hours a day – everyday. Needless to say, it means that you won't have to change their bulbs ever.

Graph it All

Grm2sslgGraphing software that works on several platforms doesn’t have to cost an arm and a leg because KSoft’s Graphmatica does it all on the cheap. In addition to working with iOS, PC and Macs, the program can graph just about any function you can throw at it. Graphmatica can also handle inequalities, polar and parametric equations. It can even solve ordinary differential equations, work with multiple plots at once and turn a slew of data into neat organized graphs. Anything can be printed or exported as an image file for incorporation into a lab report or math homework. Unlike the competition, price is the best part. For students it’s $2.50 a piece for up to 250 licenses, after that, its $2 per user, a price that just about any school can afford. It’s free to try out.

Freebee Friday: Getting the Class Pet

PetsIt’s been shown that a class pet can help open up autistic children and assist with their socialization, and Pets in the Classroom wants to provide it. They provide grants to get that gerbil, rabbit or hamster along with care instructions and lesson plans. But before you and the class gets too excited, you need to read the section about whether your classroom is ready for a pet.




Splash-Proof Books

AuraONE_LyingLow_Reading_US_largeDo your school’s eBook readers stop working all too quickly because they’ve been accidentally dropped or dunked in water? Kobo’s upcoming Aura One is one fo the only tablets with an IPX8 waterproof rating. That translates into shrugging off a dunk in 6-feet of water for an hour. Let’s hope that this never happens to any tablet, but it’s good to know that the Aura One can survive. The $230 eBook reader has a 7.8-inch screen that just misses HD resolution at 1,872 by 1,404. It has enough space for thousands of books and weighs in at half a pound. It can display 11 fonts, can work with eBooks in any of the popular formats and can connect over WiFi.

While you’re thinking about a Kobo reader, consider that the company has a continuously updated site of the top 50 free ebooks. While it’s heavy in mysteries and romance fiction, they’re all free and all you need to do is register.



Nearly November

Polldata_1024x1024With election day coming quickly. Second Avenue’s Voter’s Ed 2016 Edition is ready. At $10 it’s a bargain of an app that can turn any student into a presidential pundit with insight into the coming vote. There’s a look at the history of presidential plebiscites, a continually updated Electoral College map with the latest polling data as well as a candidate tracker. It comes with a lesson plan for your choice of lower- and upper-elementary, middle, high school as well as AP students and works with just about any connected computer.


To Assign or Not to Assign

108071bFor it to work best, homework needs to have a purpose and design or it runs the risk of being a dead-end time waster. That’s where Cathy Vatterott’s “Rethinking Homework: Best Practices That Support Diverse Needs” comes in. Published by ASCD, the $23.95 (18.95 for members) book takes the case for well-designed and enriching homework that helps with help in designing assignments and improving completion with a new generation of strategies.


STEM, With or Without the Wires

Pasco compositePASCO takes the worry out of STEM with a family of sensors and software that let you use plain old USB cables or Bluetooth to connect them to a variety of platforms. With nine members the wireless sensor line ranges from a $39 temperature sensor for monitoring or regulating a chemistry experiment to the $159 Smart Cart that’s perfect for teaching about Newton’s Law, conservation of energy and work.

Happily, PASCO’s SPARKvue software can directly connect with just about every platform at schools, from Windows and Macs to Chromebooks, iOS and Android tablets. None of the sensors, however, work with Google’s Science Journal software. On the downside, you’ll likely need PASCO’s USB adapter for older Windows and Macs as well as Chromebooks.

The $49 voltage meter worked perfectly with an iPad Pro via Bluetooth and a Surface Pro 3 tablet with the cable. Small enough to put in a pocket, the voltmeter runs on a rechargeable battery pack. The white box not only has the model number on it, but a simple wiring diagram showing that the voltage sensor needs to be in parallel while the similar current meter needs to be set up as a serial connection.

It comes with a pair of plug-in electrodes and there’s a USB connector for charging and connecting it to a computer. The sensor has an on-off switch as well as LEDs for Bluetooth connections and battery status.

Pasco selectionAfter pressing the sensor’s button, it became discoverable for Bluetooth connections and linked on the first try. The sensor stayed connected wirelessly up to about 40-feet from the tablet and its battery should be good for weeks of daily use.

The wireless voltmeter can measure voltage with a 0.5-percent accurate up to 15-volts but can handle momentary surges of up to 250-volts. There’s also a current meter available that tops out at 1 amp and has an internal resistance of 0.1 Ohm. Both are capable of recording up to 1,000 samples per second using its Bluetooth connection or 100-times that with a wired connection.

The sensor worked just as well wirelessly or plugged in. I used the gear for a couple of labs like using the output of a solar cell to track the increasing daylight of a sunrise. Later I used a Pasco voltagerheostat to track the voltage with increasing and decreasing resistance. These devices and the others available can be used for everything from a physics lab to monitoring an electrochemical reaction.

Pasco has a good variety of online materials to help make using the voltage sensor and other wireless products easy, including videos. There are online training seminars available for teachers who feel the need of a little help getting started.

Because they don’t have to use wires to connect and cover the majority of computers used in schools today, the PASCO wireless family of sensors can help neaten up the science lab.



PASCO Wireless Sensors

$39 to $159

+ Works with iPads, Androids Macs, Chromebooks and PCs

+ Online training and teaching resources

+ Good variety of sensors

+ Inexpensive

+ Directly connects with many recent comptuers


- Doesn’t work with Google Science Journal

- Some older computers require connection interface

WiFi Plays Outdoors

DAP-3320-siderightYour school is locked up with excellent WiFi coverage but the playing fields, bus pickup area and parking lot are dead zones, not allowing online access, IP cameras or phones. Enter D-Link’s DAP 3320, an 802.11n access point that can stand up to the worst weather that mother nature can dish out. It tops out at 300Mbps of throughput, which should be more than enough for a few surveillance cameras, an emergency IP phone and even some outdoor Web surfing.

Story Tellers

Tall talesTall Tales: The Game of Infinite Storytelling is a board game that can help children develop that narrative voice in the back of their heads that can lead to enhanced creativity and better writing. It comes with 24 story cars, 50 pieces and a bag to store when not in use. After drawing a card and a group of story pieces, each student tells a story that’s based on them. It costs $30.


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