Posted in CLASSROOM TECHNOLOGIES, EDNews, Teachers' Lounge

iPad Alternatives for Education

For many the iPad is an exceptional mobile device. Unfortunately, its price may not be within the limited budgets facing school districts throughout the country. However, tech companies are developing some very interesting iPad-like devices specifically designed for education.

One such mobile device is the Kuno3 by CurriculumLoft. The Kuno uses the Android OS but can also work with CurriculumLoft’s  Explore 1-1 management software. The Explore 1-1 mobile operating interface allows school districts to embed web filters at the root level and enable which apps are accessible for an education environment.

It’s lightweight 1.4 lb. durable design features a high-definition screen with a camera on both the front and back. Initial price offer approximately $375 or less with available volume discount pricing.

CDI Computers Inc. is catering to the education market with the Unobook. CDI’s approach was to build a specific classroom mobile device with the power of an iPad but for half the price. According to COO Erez Pikar the tablet will cost $250 to $300. Pikar added the company’s goal is to offer schools a mobile device for $100 in the near future.

Schools are also experimenting with more popular consumer name devices such as Amazon’s Kindle Fire and Google’s Nexus 7 both listed for $199. Others include Barnes and Noble’s Nook Color $149 and Samsung’s Galaxy Tab 2 7.0 $249.99 (10.1 version $399).

Of course, the biggest tech buzz is the October 2012 launch of Microsoft’s Surface Tablet running on Windows new OS 8. Microsoft Surface will function as both a tablet and laptop. Although early reviews of Windows OS 8 are generally positive consumer reaction for the Surface Tablet remains uncertain until the October launch. But the question for educators is to determine if the Microsoft Surface will work well in an educational environment? In the past, Microsoft’s success has been more focused on the business sector.  Hopefully, Microsoft’s future will pay as much attention to the needs of education as it does for businesses. As of this writing, Microsoft has not officially announced a price for the Surface Tablet.

Other developing tech news worth following is the partnership between News Corp. and AT&T. Both companies have agreed to develop a pilot program for mobile technology with selected New York schools. The program named Amplify will provide K-12 students with a tablet and is scheduled to begin during the fall 2012 school year.

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Posted in CLASSROOM TECHNOLOGIES, EDNews, Open Source, Teachers' Lounge

Next Tech Revolution: 3D Printing

From space missions, to building homes, to replacing an 83-year-old woman’s lower jaw, to the robotic arm for a two-year-old child overcoming the effects from a congenital disorder — 3D printing is changing the world. As we move further into the 21st century, researchers are discovering enormous potential for 3D printing technology.

At the University of Hasselt, in Belgium, doctors used a technology called Laser Melting to replace a severely infected jaw bone of an 83-year-old woman. The 3D printing technology, developed by Belgium manufacturer LayerWise, uses titanium powder to replicate the patient’s original bone structure.

Another manufacturer Stratasys combines Fused Deposition Modeling (FDM) and 3D printing. This allowed medical professionals at Alfred I. duPont Hospital for Children to produce plastic arm supports for a two-year-old child suffering from arthrogryposis — a condition which limits the use of underdeveloped muscles.

NASA engineers are innovating new methods for developing 3D technology. Current testing conducted by NASA are designing parts for space rovers the size of Hummers. The test vehicles are adapting 3D technologies to explore mars and other future space missions .

Industry experts agree the potential applications for 3D printing are revolutionary. The cost for basic 3D printers is becoming more affordable. What was once only achieved in research labs funded by venture capitalists is now becoming readily available in consumer markets. In addition to affordability basic 3D printers have improved features for producing higher quality 3D prints. The popular 3D printer Replicator from Makerbot Industries is now selling for $1,749.  Other options are the Roland iModela for $899 and the UP! Personal Portable 3D Printer for $1499.

Education Outreach Curriculum Development Coordinator and middle school teacher Liz Arum is using 3D printing to teach young students engineering. Her classes incorporate a variety of open source software programs. The software used by her students to create 3D models are 3dtin, tinkercad, sketchup, blender, and openscad.

For business manufacturers high-end 3D printers can now shape models from various plastics, metal alloys, ceramics, and even food. As the technology improves so too will its impact on manufacturing different products. Business leaders note the technology will not only reduce manufacturing cost but also spark more innovation. The technology allows engineers to experiment with different 3D prototype designs with the touch of a button . . . “Beam me up, Scotty”.

Posted in CLASSROOM TECHNOLOGIES, Teachers' Lounge

3 Easy to Use Tools for Developing Lesson Plans

As a teacher, developing lesson plans can become a time consuming task. But quality online resources are available to help speed up the process. Depending on your school district, teachers are required to submit written lesson plans to administrators. The lesson plans indicate how time in the classroom is conducted. Each of these free online tools adds structure to improve student comprehension and assist teachers throughout the ongoing process for developing successful lesson plans.

1.) CorePlanner: Excellent tool for incorporating common core standards into lesson plans. Includes; goal setting and tracking, match learning objectives with core standards, progress monitoring by class and lesson, searchable core standards database, apply standards according to grade, subject and topic, easy set-up, no software installation required.

2.) Planboard: Easy to use interface specifically designed for educators. Features include; calendar sharing, schedule printing, reminders, quick edit, reuse lesson plans from previous years. No installation required. Access anytime, anywhere.

3.) PlanbookEdu: MS Word and PDF export, various day and week rotation, file attachment, mobile device support, quick edit features, collaboration and sharing capabilities, embed lessons into websites and more.

Time management is an ongoing challenge. But with the help of these online tools teachers can better manage their time. As a result, teachers will develop more effective lesson plans and students will learn more during classroom time.

Posted in CLASSROOM TECHNOLOGIES, EDNews, Parents' Corner, Teachers' Lounge

Texting . . . The Good? The Bad? and The Ugly?

The impact of technology is undoubtedly becoming a large part of American culture and the world. From smartphones, to home theatre systems, to the increasing use of tablets, technology is no longer a luxury but a necessity. For better or worse individuals need to know, with some degree of proficiency, how technology works in order to achieve the expectations in today’s modern-day work force.

Today, educators struggle to re-examine how to use digital technology in the classroom. The balance between our children’s’ ability to use technology and the educational system to measure academic standards are a constant challenge. Recent debate about “texting” is a clear example of how technology, negative or positive, is effecting the development of young minds.  Language Arts teachers are noticing more writing mistakes than ever before. The shorthand used in texting, called ”chat-speak,” incorporates numbers, symbols, and incorrect grammar. For example ”you” is spelled “u”. When used frequently, the standards between formal and informal literacy become blurred.

Critics argue that texting negatively influences an ability to develop critical thinking skills, while proponents claim that although texting isn’t a perfect means for communicating, it does prompt young people to write more.  Statistically, both sides agree that teens are texting more. On average, according to phone bills, teens send and receive about 1800 text messages per month. Studies suggest that for young people whose knowledge of language is still developing, those who text more have trouble differentiating between Standard English and the informal writing style used while texting.

According to a Pew Internet and American Life Project and the National Commission on Writing, 64% of teens who answered a phone survey admitted using shortcut texting for school assignments. Some argue texting is no different from the introduction of calculators used in the 1960’s. Back then hand-held calculators received criticism as an obstruction to the traditional methods used to teach math.  But the generation introduced to calculators also became the same generation to advance today’s digital age. Others argue the influence technologies had on previous generations as opposed to the current texting generation is “how” the technology is used. For example, the calculator introduced in the 1960’s was viewed as a tool, while texting, including other digital technologies, is perceived as a toy.

Many other factors enter the debate. But the constant challenge for educators, parents and students is to discover productive means for texting and the overall use of technology. Perhaps then technology can be used as both an educational toy and a tool . . . ne14*$? . . . L8r  . . . translation for non-texters . . . anyone for Starbucks? . . . Later.

Resources:

  • Bivens-Tatum, Wayne. “The Dumbest Generation?”.  Academic Librarian. September 9, 2008.
  • Dean K. Tomita. “Text Messaging and Implications for its use in Education.” University of Hawaii at Manoa. 2009.
  • O’Connor, Amanda. “Instant Messaging: Friend or Foe of Student Writing?”. March 2005.
  • Vosloo, Steve. “The effects of texting on literacy: Modern scourge or opportunity?”. Shuttleworth Foundation. April 2009.
Posted in EDNews, Parents' Corner, Teachers' Lounge

E-Readers for Dyslexics

E-Readers may provide a partial solution for dyslexia, a disorder affecting the reading ability of approximately one in twenty school aged children. Researchers at the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences released a study which states, “extra-large spacing between letters allowed a group of dyslexic children to read text significantly faster and with fewer than half as many errors as when they read passages with standard spacing.” Another study, performed at Tufts University, indicates not only the spacing between the letters but the size and font style of the letters affects the reading ability for those with dyslexia. Christian Boer, dyslexic and a graphic designer from the Netherlands has developed a special font called “Dyslexie“. Scientific American featured an article about Boer’s font. According to the article, “the font “dyslexie” proved to decrease the number of errors made by dyslexics while reading.”

Before digital technology dyslexic-friendly text needed special printing. But with the increase popularity of e-readers users simply adjust the device settings to achieve the desired results. For further enhancement a cover called the ReadRight Cover is available. The special cover uses color overlays which has proven to be effective for dyslexic readers on hard copy books.

Although e-readers are not a cure for dyslexia, the technology, depending on the individual, can provide a more enjoyable reading experience. Many experts agree, while digital devices can improve reading skills young students need to be reminded with or without an e-reader the more you read the more you will improve.

Other Resources for Dyslexics:
Bookshare an online library for people with special needs.
Zamzar converts files into a variety of file formats. Individuals with reading challenges can convert text, including the URL of web pages, into a mp3 audio file.