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The Latest in Ed Tech


School Storage Central

These days, even the smallest schools seem to be drowning in data, from student records and administration software to videos and podcasts. While a common solution is to create pockets of storage with external hard drives, there is a better way. DLink’s DNS-323 can create a secure online storage system that is dependable, expandable, and available anywhere in the school or online.

Think of the black-and-silver DNS-323 as a self-contained file server that can hold two hard drives. You have to buy and install the drives yourself, but the device can hold up to 2 terabytes of data. The drives slide in quickly and lock into place. A built-in fan maintains optimal temperature.

The DNS-323 is easy to configure: Just plug it in and run DLink’s EasySearch software. You have the choice of static or automatic IP addressing, and can define a variety of password protected groups with different access privileges. This lets you allow the office staff to change the calendar, teachers to update their grade books, and the principal to consult student discipline files. Because it can be accessed online via its built-in FTP server, the DNS-323 is an inexpensive way to distribute documents to parents, teachers, and staff.

A snag for some will be that the DNS-323 does not use the familiar Windows NTFS or FAT 32 formatting. It does, however, give the choice of Linux-based EXT 2 or EXT 3 formatting depending on whether you want top performance or stability. We used a variety of Windows, Macintosh, and Linux computers to read and write data.

The DNS-323 is password protected and can send â????e-mail alerts if the drives start to fill, overheat, or fail. It can be remotely managed via any Web browser, and a handy status screen displays vital settings in one convenient place. A big bonus is that the DNS-323 can be used to add a USB printer to your network.

In a two-month workout with a pair of 350GB hard drives, the DNS-323 never lost a byte of data. It read and wrote at an average of 37.1Mbps, about 15 percent faster than the SimpleShare NAS, and easily handled data requests from multiple computers without bogging down. The best part is that unlike other self-contained network file servers in its price range, you can set up the DNS-323’s drives to act independently, mirror each other’s contents, or stripe data across both drives. In other words, it’s one of the cheapest places to safely store a school’s stash of data.

The Mac Tablet Arrives

It’s been quite a wait, but the first Macintosh-based tablet is now on sale and ready for schools. Perfect for institutions that have standardized on Macs, the Modbook is made and sold by Axiotron, not Apple, and outdoes Tablet PCs in some areas. The slate tablet uses a Wacom pen digitizer with 512 levels of pressure sensitivity, has a 13.3-inch screen, and its sturdy magnesium alloy case is rugged enough for both inattentive students and clumsy teachers. The Modbook can be ordered with either a 2.0- or 2.2GHz Intel Core 2 Duo processor, and pricing starts at $2,290.

The Need for Scanning Speed
The latest development in high-speed scanners for schools is Pearson’s iNSIGHT 30, a tiny device that’s capable of turning up to 75 pages a minute into color or grayscale digital documents. Not only can it handle a variety of page sizes and paper weights, but the ScanTools software also automatically orients the image for the operator. Perfect for inputting and reading automated tests, grading, attendance, and employment records, the iNSIGHT 30 is a cost-effective way to turn paper into pixels.

Twist to Open
HP recently unveiled its most advanced Tablet PC, the Pavilion tx2000. Students and teachers alike can easily go from a pen-centric slate computer to a traditional keyboard-based notebook by rotating and folding the screen. Available with Microsoft’s Windows Vista only, the tx2000 is powered by an AMD Turion 64 X2 Dual-Core processor, and can run from two to three hours on its standard battery pack. Even with a 12.1-inch high-definition widescreen, a 250GB hard drive, a DVD burner, and wireless networking, the tx2000 still weighs just 4.5 pounds and can easily fit into a student’s backpack. Pricing begins at $1,300.

Big-Screen Debut
By building the PDG-DWT50L projector around two lamps, Sanyo has created what might be the best large-venue device for schools. Not only can it fill a 42-foot screen, but its dual-lamp system also pumps out 4,500 lumens of brightness and has a 2,100:1 contrast ratio. Based on Texas Instruments’ Digital BrilliantColor Light Processing imaging chip, the projector can use either a four-segment color wheel, for peak brightness, or a six-segment wheel, for color accuracy. The projector has a list price of $7,000.

Big Class, Small World
With the new Celestron LCD Digital Microscope, science teachers are not just limited to talking about the inner workings of bacteria and cells; now they can show it to the entire class as well. With its own 3.5-inch flat screen, the LDM’s 2-megapixel camera brings the micro up close. For $3,000, the kit comes with everything needed to explore the microcosmos, including three objective lenses that can yield up to 400X magnification, which can be raised fourfold with the microscope’s digital zoom.

Cheap to Keep?
Following in the footsteps of Zonbu’s inexpensive desktop PC, the company’s first notebook is a steal—but there’s a gotcha: At $279, the price tag may be hard to beat, but you’ll need to add the $15 a month per system Zonbu charges for support. Built by Everex, the Zonbu Notebook uses a 1.5GHz Via processor and has a 15.4-inch screen and built-in wireless networking. The clincher may be that it comes ready for the classroom with 20 Linux programs that range from the expected word processor, Web browser, and spreadsheet software to the bonus of music programs and games. At 5.3 pounds, it’s light enough for elementary students to carry, and its battery runs for about 2.5 hours.

Tech Tools Management

For schools that use Apple servers, Leopard, the latest vesion of OS X, takes a big leap forward by simplifying and automating tasks that schools do—or would like to do—every day. On top of the expected features, Leopard has iCal for scheduling meetings and coordinating events; PodCast Producer makes recording and distributing audio a snap; while Leopard’s Wiki Server with 20 premade templates can quickly create collaborative Web pages on any subject. Leopard costs $500.

Whether it’s a bomb scare, a natural disaster, or a broken water main, in an emergency, every second counts, and REACT Systems gets the word out to students, teachers, staff, and parents quickly. The system can simultaneously make telephone calls and send SMS text messages to thousands of recipients in a matter of seconds. 

Creating online or in-classroom digital lessons with eSchool Solutions’ InfoSource can make technophobic teachers into multimedia mavens. With a slew of templates, drag and drop tools, a variety of navigation buttons, and a rich library of content, InfoSource can streamline the process of creating an online lesson. The company’s financing option allows districts to defer payment to the following school year.

Principals and administrators can sleep a little later thanks to the Aesop service from Frontline Placement. With Aesop, you can get the right substitute teacher into the class automatically. When a teacher calls in sick, the system matches the subject, grade, and location with its database of subs in the area. Administrators can also use this Web-based system to monitor teacher attendance and track costs.

Intellinet’s iCare School Management System has the power to organize every aspect of a school or district’s operations. With modules that cover admissions, fees, tests, grades, and even conflict resolution, iCare can also take advantage of biometric identification of students and staff. The company offers a free consultation for those interested in the program.

Digital Schooling is a comprehensive school administration program that puts equal emphasis on students, teachers, and parents. The latest version covers all aspects of a school’s operation from reporting student progress to creating curriculum and adding multimedia to the classroom. Check out the free demo that’s available.

TES Accounting for Windows is the one program that a school needs to take care of all its financial recordkeeping, from paying bills to reporting results. The program can handle general accounting, purchase orders, and anything else that involves money. The latest version makes for easier backup of financial data and adds tighter security.
When time is of the essence, Lantiv’s Timetabler can help get a handle on a new schedule. Whether it’s to add a class or start from scratch at the beginning of a new academic year, Version 6.2 has the ability to plan for students, classrooms, and equipment,and can create the most efficient schedule possible. Downloads of the product are available.

Tech Tools Curriculum

[SCIENCE] Digital Frog dissection simulation software eliminates the need to kill animals while teaching biology. This version features full-screen videos, a text-to-speech engine, a comprehensive anatomy section, and built-in quizzes. Students use a digital scalpel to explore biology without spilling a drop of blood, smelling formaldehyde, or fainting. Pricing for the software starts at $155.

Let X equal fun. The DimensionM interactive educational video games use the latest 3-D video gaming technology to help students learn and apply mathematics. Pre-Algebra and Algebra 1 objectives are covered through a series of single-player and multiplayer missions that cover standards-based educational objectives.

Faster readers are better readers, so MindPlay has introduced FLRT, a fluent reading trainer for increasing reading speed, comprehension, visual memory, and more. Single-line reading improves eye-tracking and reading speed, while multiline activity translates newly acquired skills to a full page of text. The program lets kids read at their own pace by individualizing assignments to match each student’s unique abilities.

The Middle School Learning System 2007 from Fogware is more than a CD chock full of classroom software. The integrated system isn’t for everyone, but it has a variety of lesson plans, games, audio and video, activities, and reference materials. With sections on math, science, English, and geography, the program can help jump start any school’s curriculum. Middle School Learning System works with Macs and PCs, and sells for $30.

Elementary school teachers spend hours making classroom activities such as bingo boards and word wall cards. Now, teachers can use the Web-basedKnowledge Adventure Activity Builder to create a variety of classroom resources. Teachers can use the software to create in-class exercises, homework, flash cards, activities, and even tests.

MathMedia Educational Software’s Arithmetic Series starts with the basics and takes children right up to number sense, addition, subtraction, and word problems. The series is for students in grades 2–6, and comes with drills, assessments, and No Child Left Behind reporting tools.

About the Author

Christine Weiser is a writer and editor who has reported on K-12 education technology for more than 15 years.

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