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The Big Printer

Epson large printerHaving a large carriage inkjet printer like Epson’s new SureColor T7270 may seem like a luxury that most districts can’t afford, but it can save on printing expenses and be the centerpiece of fund raising campaigns. Whether it’s to sell parents posters of student athletes, make classroom banners that help with teaching or put digital artwork on paper, the T7270 can pump out printed sheets that are up to 44-inches wide with 2,880 by 1,440 resolution.

It works with a variety of media, from photo paper to hard poster-board and the system uses Epson’s PrecisionCore inkjet technology. The printer has its own imaging chip as well as an optional print server, Postscript engine and a 36-inch wide scanner that can create 600dpi images. With a single media roll, the T7270 sells for $4,995 while the two-roll version costs $6,995 and the scanner adds $4,500.


Make Every Outlet Count

8CE824F8-7461-4EAC-8C94-EBD17C993F8BIf there’s anything that the typical school room lacks, it is AC outlets and it is never more apparent when you have to choose between charging your iPad for class or your phone. You don’t need to choose anymore because Kensington’s KeyFolio X3 has a USB port for charging a phone or other device. Its keyboard wirelessly connects with the pad and puts out a steady 1 amp of current, which should work for most phones, but might take longer for than using the phone's included adapter. Unfortunately, it only works with iPad Air models.

Freebee Friday: Early Warning Radar for Drop-Outs

Mind shine white paperThe ultimate expression of failure for a school and its staff is a kid who drops out, but it doesn’t have to happen. MindShine Technologies has a white paper on identifying those at risk and keeping them in school until graduation day. “From Early Warning to Professional Development: Streamlining the Process and Expanding the Scope of Dropout Prevention” looks at all the risk factors and the warning signs so teachers and staff can concentrate their attention where it will have the biggest effect.



Indestructible Headphones

Blue-headfoams-front-withpad-1000Ask any teacher or school staffer about what gets broken first and they’ll tell you that headphones are just too fragile for kids. Not any more, with Marblue’s Headfoam headsets. Made of molded EVA foam, they bend but usually don’t break and are right-sized for kids from pre-K to high school. Available in three colors, HeadFoam headphones have an audio limiter that doesn’t let the sound get any louder than 85 decibels, which can save a child’s delicate hearing. They cost $40.


Summertime, and the Learning is Easy

The months of July and August don’t have to be a dead zone for learning because there’s a multitude of online educational activities that can keep kids from forgetting their math facts or backsliding on grammar. Most subjects are included and many of the items are structured like games, so they’re not painful to play with.


Free world uTo start, Free World U has a basic curriculum that’s free, although the online school has packages that cost up to $90 a month that add things like exams and accreditation. The basic package is flashcard based and is delivered over the Internet to just about any recent computer. The program can take a child from colors and numbers to algebra, and along the way the program has progress chart, tutorials and classical music selections.

Pbs learningmediaPBS LearningMedia has a summer full of learning potential with its Got Game library of 35,000 online educational activities. From Hip Hop (musical theory) and Fizzy’s Lunch Lab (farming) to the Mission US (marine studies), there’s sure to be something for every age and area of interest.

Smithsonian questsMeanwhile, the Smithsonian Center for Learning and Digital Access has several online summer Quests that can enrich a student’s the time away from the classroom. There will be more than 100 programs available that range from exploring the implications of climate change to a look at the Civil Rights movement. Along the way, kids can earn badges ranging from Arthropod Agent to Tree Hugger.

Knowledge adventureIf you’re looking for a little bit of everything for summer enrichment, KnowledgeAdventure.com has an excellent assortment of educational games for grade 1 through high-schoolers. There’re games for English, math, social studies, spelling and science that’s categorized by age, subject and grade. My favorite is Drum Beats that gets kids to think about patterns by repeating a drumming sequence.   

Common sense mediaFinally, Common Sense Media has put together a guide to summer education. The items work on a variety of hardware platforms and cover the gamut of educational subjects, from geography to math. Each item is rated with stars based on its educational content and the apps are arranged by age group.

One-Stop Shopping for School Materials

Amazon schoolIt used to be that teachers sent out lists and parents would spend a day tracking down all the stuff that a student needs for the first day of school. From tissues and crayons to printer paper and pencils, Amazon's School List can consolidate it all, organized by school, grade and class. Teachers just put their list online and then parents pick the right class and you either print a shopping list or just buy it on Amazon.


Mac All-in-One Bargain

HeroAt $1,099 the latest Apple iMac represents a price drop of $200 from the previous budget model. The 21.5-inch screen can show full HD resolution and comes with Intel’s HD Graphics 5000; the 27-inch iMac still costs $1,800.  It has a dual-core Core i5 processor that can run as fast as 2.7GHz, 8GB of RAM and a 500GB hard drive. It may be more expensive than comparable PC all-in-one computers and not include a touch-screen, but it a good way for Mac-centric schools to fill up a classroom or computer lab with computers.



Gauging the Wind

Vaavud-iphone-red-200px1Every school serious about science should have a weather lab, but if yours can’t afford one, Vaavud’s Wind Meter for Smartphones is a good start. At $50, it is a fraction of the cost of a full weather center, but is accurate to within 4 percent and was developed using the wind tunnel at the Technical University of Denmark. The two-cup anemometer snaps into an iPhone or Android’s earphone jack and communicates with the phone via a Bluetooth link; it works with all recent iPhones and some Android phones. The app not only shows current speed, but averages and a histogram of recent wind movement; it works with metric and English units.

Software and More

1_Adobe 2014 CC ReleaseThe magic of Adobe’s Creative Cloud is that the entire suite of visually-oriented software is not only available for download (ridding us of pesky CDs) but they can be updated whenever needed. Get ready, because the suite has updated itself with 14 revamped apps, from Photoshop and Illustrator to InDesign and Premiere Pro. All have extra features as well as further moving towards a common interface among the Creative Cloud’s apps. There’re even a new sketching, line drawing and Photoshop apps for iPads.

3_Adobe Ink Slide AppsBut, by far, the biggest change is the introduction of physical drawing tools for CC software. The $200 set includes Ink, a pressure-sensitive stylus that connects to an iPad via a Bluetooth link, and Slide, an innovative ruler that also can be a digitally-oriented French curve and protractor. Both are sleek looking, clad in aluminum skins and can help kids learn the basics of drafting and mechanical drawing with an iPad.


Fold Open Whiteboard

Carousel-item-1In this day and age where teachers are meant to do their magic in odd out of the way places, the tools need to be portable and flexible. Take the Noteboard, which unfolds to be an instant whiteboard for teaching at the end of a hallway, library or repurposed room. When open, the board measures 35- by 15-inches and has a grid pattern making it great for making maps or sketching a function. The $12 whiteboard sheet comes with a black pen, can be set up in seconds and comes with a handy carrying and storage bag.



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