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Curriculum Reviews

Learning list bThere are so many sources and formats for getting curriculum materials that it’s impossible for one person to make sense of, much less rate, all of them on their merits. Learninglist.com is a site that gathers reviews of all the major services with an emphasis on content and alignment with state and Common Core standards. The site is continually adding new reviews and the service allows you to request new reviews. It costs about $245 per year for a school with 250 students.

Freebee Friday: Computer Field Trip

Apple field tripWith the number and variety of computers at schools proliferating, Apple has a novel approach, let kids try out the machines en masse before the district buys pallettes of them. You can schedule an hour and a half  field trip to a nearby Apple store to see what they offer education and let the kids and their teachers play with the machines, from MacBooks to iPads. While there, they can do typical school tasks, like editing videos and arrange photos with specialists and trainers. Everyone leaves with an Apple T shirt.



Freebee Friday: Projector Upgrade

Fb-logo-1Need a new high-end projector for an auditorium or lecture hall? BenQ might just give your school a projector make-over worth up to $5,000 with the company’s Colorific program. Just enter by explaining why your present projector isn’t cutting it. The contest ends on April 25.

CC Gradebook

Eschoolplus sisWhen it comes to understanding and implementing the Common Core standards, most of the talk has been about how curriculum will change. Well, there’s another aspect that will have to adapt to the new standards: the humble old gradebook. For instance, the gradebook section of SunGuard’s eSchoolPlus Student Information System has changed with the times to include a new main interface that can show a variety of items at a glance and streamline some tasks as well as a more personalized approach to education. The new software can better share the student’s activities and progress with parents and administrators. A big step forward, the software is a free upgrade for current users, and includes the ability for teachers to look at how the class is doing on certain sub topics, or do it for just a small group. 


In the Bag

Air_Protect_Case_for_Chromebooks_2It doesn’t make a whole lot of sense to spend $100 on a protective bag for a Chromebook that costs all of $200 or $250 and Belkin doesn’t expect you to with its $59 Air Protect Case. Designed with 11.6-inch Chromebooks in mind, the bag has straps to hold the system in place so that when the case is unzipped and opened, kids and teachers can work with the keyboard and screen without removing the system. There’s a front pocket for papers, all the ports are available and the case has rigid plastic inserts to protect the notebook from damage. Belkin also sells a smaller and lighter $29 sleeve with a handle.


Calculator Apps that Add Up

The standalone calculator in the classroom may become superfluous with a slew of high-quality, calculator apps available that can run on a phone or tablet. After all, who wants to spend thousands of dollars on a classroom full of slates only to also have to buy calculators for teachers and students.

The best part is that most of the calculator apps are free. The bonus is that any of these six apps can give you the right answer, but only if you ask the right question.

MathLab Mobile

MathlabOne of the most sophisticated calculator apps available, it’s a wonder that MathLab Mobile is a freebee. Available as a download on Google’s Play Store, it works with Android tablets and phones, but not iPads. It can replace handheld calculators with an array of high-end abilities, but is meant more for high-schoolers than younger students.

It does the basics well with the arithmetic and trigonometric functions, but MathLab’s repertoire includes everything from plotting multiple equations on a single graph to dealing with roots and slopes. The system can work with polynomial equations, fractions and matrices. The free version requires an Web connection and shows ads, but the $5.99 Pro version is ad-free and adds a handy library of constants and functions.

Graphing Calculator 3D

Graphing calculator 3dNo matter how carefully you look you won’t find even the most rudimentary calculator on an iPad. That’s where Graphing Calculator 3D comes in. It not only works with all iPads and iPhones with iOS 5.0 or higher, but mimics the inputs for TI 80-series calculators. Its forte is the ability to show beautiful 3-D graphs of functions.

It’s a lot more than a pretty picture. In addition to computing permutations, factorials and the norm value, the app can move in and out of a graph as well as paste it into another app. Plus, when you’re done, the result can be emailed, a perfect way to submit homework assignments. The app is available at the iTunes Apps store for 99 cents.

JMT Apps Scientific Calculator

Scientific calculator aIf you don’t want or need graphing, JMT’s Scientific Calculator does the trick with a deep library of abilities and math functions. It can not only be set up for traditional input or RPN operations, the Scientific Calculator lives up to its name with a built-in table of physical constants that will come in handy in the physics or chemistry lab.

It can hold ten different items in its memory and deal with fractions, basic math and trig functions as well as perform custom unit conversions. The Scientific Calculator keeps a running record of its calculations to go back and look for an error. It can work out permutations and combinations for statistics problems and perform modulus functions. As good as it is, the software is free for the download from the Google Play store.

Algeo Graphing Calculator

AlgeoIf you’re looking for a slate calculator that’s easy to use and understand, Algeo’s Graphing Calculator is the one to get. It can carry middle- or high-schoolers through graduation and get them ready for college math. In addition to handling Taylor series, definite integrals and the basics of arithmetic, the Graphing Calculator can work with trig functions and hyperbolic equations. The software is can work in degrees or radians as well as scientific notation.

With its large screen-based keys and area up top to display the current calculation, Algeo’s calculator shows it all. It’s free and ready to be downloaded, but shows ads, sometimes in an intrusive manner.

TI N-Spire

Ti nspire ipadEven if you have TI calculators, you can do calculations in software with TI’s N-Spire iPad app. There’s no Android software, but the latest version (3.8.1) goes beyond mere calculations to become a full math education program. It comes in two versions: N-Spire and CAS.

In addition to the expected data entry, graphing and statistical modeling, the TI app lets you work with inequalities, differential equations and conic sections. At any time you can take a photo with the iPad’s camera and overlay a graph or function on it to visually teach a math lesson about the slope of a roof or trajectory of a basketball.  Aimed at classrooms from pre-algebra to Calculus and statistics, the software should carry a middle school math student through graduation and into college.

A big bonus is that anything your can work on can be emailed or send to a student’s or teacher’s Dropbox account, a good way to share assignments or homework. There are several built-in lessons as well as a vast online library for sharing lessons or techniques. On the downside, the software is expensive at $30 per tablet.

Wolfram Alpha

Wolfram alphaIt’s not software in the traditional sense, but the Wolfram Alpha Web site is a quick way to figure out anything from a polynomial to a complex fraction. Just type in your equation or question and Alpha treats it like a PhD thesis topic, attacking it from multiple mathematical angles. For some there are solutions, graphs, visual manipulatives and even a calculus-based examination of the problem.

Alpha is a free Web site that every math class should visit and can be the basis of group projects. While the others return solutions in less than a second, Alpha can take a few seconds for it to formulate the answer and send it over the sometimes congested Web. There are unobtrusive ads for other Wolfram products, including its Differentiation and Integration calculators, two must-use pages for those classes. The Web page can be set up in several different colors and Alpha has the bonus of occasional pop-ups that ask math-related questions.

Becoming a 21-st Century Netizen

Learning.com digital citizen appNeed a comprehensive lesson what it means to be a U.S. digital citizen? The Learning.com Digital Citizenship App is aimed at middle- and high-school students and has a full look at everything from cyberbullying and online privacy to online intellectual property rights. The app works with both Android and iPads and is self-guided with the ability to go as fast or slow as the student wants and a quiz at the end.

Printing with Fire

XPrintServer-Cloud-Print-angledThose classrooms or schools that have been using Kindle Fire slates have had one big disadvantage: the inability to print most material. The Lantronix Print Server Cloud Edition allows Fire and Fire HDX tablets to print to any connected Cloud Print device without having to load any new software on the slate. The $150 Cloud Print Edition of the xPrint Server plugs into a printer and works with most Android tablets and phones as well as Chromebooks.

Year-Round Learning

Fuel Education Online Courses Forensics ScreenshotSo much of what’s learned from September to June is lost from July to August that Fuel Education’s Summer School can make learning a year-round thing. The system is a combination of online and blended classes that offer a variety of courses for students as well as development subjects for teachers. Aimed at 9th through 12th graders, the offerings range from AP classes to language study.

Freebee Friday: Software of Note

One noteThe free note-taking software for the PC, One Note, is now available for Macs at the same great price. It doesn’t include the ability to integrate the app with Microsoft’s SharePoint online technology, but is a good place to store and consolidate lots of materials, from typed class notes to documents, images and videos. It’s a freebee for students and teachers and that’s the way we like it. 



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