The Latest and Greatest Education Friendly Tools
A budget-friendly telescope, a four-in-one computer,
best software bets, and more.
Canon PowerShot D30
Looking for a camera that can stand up to abuse and take beautiful pictures? Canon’s $330 PowerShot D30 is waterproof and shockproof and can survive being used at temps between 14 and 104 degrees Fahrenheit. It captures supersharp 12.1-megapixel images and shows them on its 3-inch glare-free display.
Acer Aspire R7-572
Like a Transformer toy, the $900 Aspire R7 can be converted into four distinct teaching computers, including a traditional notebook, a desktop, a slate, and, with the screen pointing away from the keyboard, a device for small-group work. It’s a little thick and heavy, but the powerful R7 can perform a variety of roles.
Tripp-Lite SRCOOL 12K
Got a server that’s overheating? Tripp-Lite’s $650 SRCOOL 12K is a portable air conditioner that can remove up to 12,000 Btus of heat from a server room or equipment closet. The portable cooler has casters and evaporates any water it produces.
Linksys WRT 1900AC Router
It may have a serious 1990s retro look, but the $300 WRT 1900AC router can speed up any school’s wireless network while remaining compatible with older computers. Based on the 802.11ac Wi-Fi protocol, it transmits data on both the 2.4- and the 5GHz frequency bands and uses beam-forming technology. It is powered by a dual-core 1.2GHz processor and should be available by spring.
Astronomers Without Borders OneSky
Setting up a school astronomy program doesn’t have to cost the moon and the stars—AWB’s OneSky is a reflecting telescope that sells for $200. The scope includes two eyepieces, and teachers can place a red dot in the field of view to highlight chosen celestial objects.
BenQ’s MW824ST interactive short-throw classroom projector can be a money saver because its lamp lasts for up to 10,000 hours of use, twice the usual lifetime. The MW824ST costs $900, connects to phones or tablets, and works with up to four PointWrite interactive pens, allowing students and teachers to collaborate on-screen.
The latest Chrome OS computer is not a Chromebook but LG’s all-in-one Chromebase. Good for everything from a computer lab to public-access systems, it’s self-contained, with a 21.5-inch HD display, an Intel Celeron processor, 16GB of storage space, and 2GB of RAM. Pricing TBD.
The RobotsLab Box can help teach science, math, and technology with the parts, knowledge, and lessons to create four automatons. The $4,000 kit contains a quadcopter, a robotic arm, a mobile robot, and a robotic ball, as well as an Asus 10.1-inch Android tablet containing 50 hours of instructions and classroom material.
Need to distribute files to a group of data-hungry kids beyond the network’s reach? It happens a lot these days. LaCie’s $200 Fuel runs on a battery and provides Wi-Fi access to its 1TB hard drive for up to five students at a time.
The maintenance-free projector has arrived. Instead of a traditional lamp, the $700 K335 uses LEDs that can last for a decade or more of classroom use. It weighs less than three pounds, puts out 1,000 lumens of light, and can connect with many phones and tablets.
Software Picks 2014
Adobe Creative Cloud
The beauty of Adobe’s online Creative Cloud is that it’s always changing, with frequent updates to its more than two dozen apps—from Photoshop to Premiere Pro. The Cloud covers all the design, illustration, and video-editing software that a school could need and costs $40 per month per user; school- or district-wide licensing is available.
With more schools adding PreK classes, VINCI Education’s ClassVINCI can give little learners a head start. The app works with iPads, iPhones, and iPod Touch systems, as well as with Android and Windows computers. It includes virtual trips to a zoo, a farm, and a robot factory. Pricing upon request.
Adaptive Curriculum’s Uzinggo online service can turn any computer into a classroom for math and science tutoring or enrichment. In addition to interactive elements and games, Uzinggo has motivational tools for students in grades 5–12 for a variety of math and science courses. It costs $134.95 per year for a class license.
Questar Degrees of Reading Power
The Degrees of Reading Power assessments can now be administered online to get a handle on every student’s reading ability and prepare them for college or a career. The service’s new reports identify mastery of Common Core Reading Standards. The test costs about $475 for 250 students.
Shmoop Math Shack
Running low on fresh math problems to get students ready for standardized tests? Sign up for Shmoop’s Math Shack and get unlimited access to the company’s huge library of examples. The exercises are organized into 200 categories, can be randomly generated, and are free for schools that license Shmoop products.