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Tech Tools

The latest and greatest in education technology

By Brian Nadel | August 2007
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Screen Test

For years, projectors and teaching have gone together like peanut butter and jelly, but large LCD screens have been catching up, and when it comes to resolution, flexibility, and economy, not much can compare with ViewSonic’s N4251w. At $1,300, it combines high-definition video with speakers and a TV tuner, making it an economical all-in-one school presentation system.

At 40 by 30 inches and just five inches thick, the N4251w is remarkably thin, but at 73 pounds, it’s too unwieldy to roll from class to class on a cart. Its black case should fit into any classroom decor, either with its included table stand or mounted on a wall. With a multitude of input jacks, including the latest HDMI plugs, it can connect with everything from a document camera or DVD player to a PC or Mac. The picture-in-picture feature is perfect for showing two things at once, like a televised shuttle launch alongside extra material about the flight from NASA’s Web site.

The included remote control makes the N4251w a quick starter, and—unlike projectors—it gets to full brightness immediately and doesn’t require an expensive new lamp every two years. Visibly brighter than classroom projectors, it isn’t washed out by direct sunlight, but the N4251w’s picture is only about half as big as with a projector and 60-inch wall screen. It should be fine for kids sitting up to 20 feet away, but schools with big classrooms might want to wait for the next generation of larger LCD screens. The classroom projector has finally met its match.



Like a welterweight punching above his boxing class, HP’s TouchSmart IQ770 is for schools that are short on space but need full-power computing. The TouchSmart micro-desktop PC may seem tiny compared to most systems, but under the skin it is a high-performance computer with a 19-inch touch-screen and 256MB of graphics memory. The list of features includes wireless keyboard and mouse, AMD’s latest dual-core processor, and even a place to stash a printer.


Getting high-quality digital cameras for an art class or school yearbook crew doesn’t have to cost an arm and a leg with Nikon’s CoolPix L10. These point-and-shoot digicams produce stunning five-megapixel images yet cost only $120. With a 3X optical zoom and two-inch preview screen, the camera will always get the right picture, whether a student or a teacher is behind the lens.


Kodak is changing the economics of the printer business, and your budget will be the main beneficiary. The company’s EasyShare 5300 and 5500 printers may cost a little more to purchase, but unlike other inkjet printers, they use less expensive ink cartridges. Rather than spending about $65 every time the printer needs an ink refill, the EasyShare ink costs about $25 a cartridge, yet the devices deliver brilliant photos and easy-to-read characters.


Don't let its eyeball shape fool you- JAKKS Pacific's Eye-Clops is not part of the new ugly toy trend, but a $50 digital microscope. Once connected to a PC via a USB cable, it has the uncanny ability to magnify just about anything 250 times and put it on-screen. EyeClops lets a teacher zoom in on the world to make crumbs look like boulders and insects like world-dominating creatures.


Two new tablet PCs that could change how we think about school notebooks have hit the market. Both are convertible models with keyboards and screens that swivel and fold away to reveal an electronic writing surface. Each is just as good at typing as at handwriting,costs less than $2,000, and has a 12.1-inch display, but the two couldn't be more different. While the Lenovo X60 Tablet has ThinkPad's sophisticated black case and uses an Intel Duo Core 2 processor, HP's Pavilion tx1000z has a more exotic appearance, is powered by an AMD Turion dual-core processor, and includes a built-in Web cam. It's also a little heavier because of its integrated DVD drive, and features two headphone jacks so that a pair of students can listen in. and


For when shouting just doesn’t cut it, FrontRow ToGo is a self-contained wireless public address system that cuts through the chatter. Perfect for auditorium assemblies, guest speakers, or keeping control on the playground, the 14-pound speaker tower can be set up anywhere. With the wireless microphone’s two-ounce clip-on transmitter, students, teachers, or staff can move about while still being amplified. The $900 device can set up in seconds and runs for a full school day with one charge.


Too many educators think that podcasts are the enemy of education, but writing, recording,
and sharing educational programming can be a valuable learning experience. With D&M’s PMD660 flash-memory recorder, any class can quickly create and upload audio lesson-casts on a variety of subjects. The handheld system costs about $450 and records with startling clarity onto inexpensive CompactFlash cards.


Say goodbye to expensive document cameras that are hard to connect, always seem to be in the wrong place, or tip over at the worst time, because Toshiba’s latest classroom projector has a competent video camera built in. Just unfold and extend the TDP-SC35U’s camera arm to show a video of a petri dish, demonstrate how to form cursive letters, or just display a page from a book. The SVGA projector-cum-camera is rated at 2,000 lumens of brightness and costs $900.

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