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Teacher Technology: What’s Hot & Affordable

In the past year, there have been few new innovations in affordable gadgets for the classroom. That is a good thing, since it’s not really about the gadget, but about how the gadget is used to support teaching and learning. What has exploded is the number of choices for each type of gadget along with the development of many, many applications that support teaching and learning!

Collaboration online

There are numerous no-cost, online applications for student-student and teacher-student collaboration. These tools can be used to re-activate student knowledge or as a summarizer or “ticket to leave,” giving you an overview of student understanding of content.

  • Corkboard.me - No sign-up needed. Create on the fly
  • PiratePad - No sign-up needed. Create on the fly.
  • Linoit - Share text, movies, and videos with other collaborators
  • PinDax - Share text, polls, and images with others
  • Stixy - Notes, comments. photos, and to-do’s can be shared.
  • Google Plus - is a very full-featured collaborative social networking application that allows the creation of “circles” to categorize your contacts, video-conferencing with up to 10 others, and the creation of “sparks” which provide you with up-to-date information on topics of interest. Google+ requires a Google account to participate, and will soon be accessible with Google Apps for Education accounts.

The touchscreen tablet

Touchscreen tablet computers have increased exponentially in the last few months. Expect to pay from $499-$829, depending on the tablet’s size, operating system, network connection options and internal storage space. Be aware that you get what you pay for. Paying $200 for a touchscreen tablet will save you money, but you’ll end up with a slow tablet, a horrendous screen and a small amount of internal storage.

There are 4 main points to consider when deciding on a tablet for your school:

1. The mainstream choices for tablets run one of 2 operating systems—Apple’s iOS and Google’s Android Honeycomb. If you know that you will need to run Flash-based applications on the tablet, then you need to purchase an Android-based device. If you are not concerned with Flash, and want the largest number of educational and personal applications to chose from, go with Apple’s iOS-based iPad.

2. The next thing to consider is the screen size. There are a number of 7” tablets available on the market, but I feel the 10.1” screen size really enhances the user experience.

3. Most tablets come in WiFi only or WiFi/3G versions. The WiFi/3G version costs more to purchase, and requires the purchase of a data plan to be able to use the cell phone network with the device. However, buying a tablet with the ability to use 3G does not mean you have to turn on that option all of the time. Having the ability to use the cell phone network when you are not in a WiFi environment is a useful feature to have built-in, and I recommend the WiFi/3G model of your tablet of choice so you have the capability of “surfing in the field.”

4. Most of the tablets have the ability to use an HDMI connector to attach to a television or HDMI projector. However, many do not have a VGA connector available, which is the common connector for classroom and presentation-station projectors. If you plan to present or teach with your touchscreen tablet, be sure to pick on that does VGA-out.

New tablets are coming out every day, but, as of July 5, 2011, these are the ones I would consider as the best in class. (In no particular order.)

Model (16GB with WiFi, if available)

OS

3G

VGA-out

Apple iPad2 ($629

Apple iOs

x

x

Motorola Xoom ($599)

Android 3.x

x

Samsung Galaxy Tab 10.1 ($529)

Android 3.x

9/11

Acer Iconia Tab A501 ($450)

Android 3.x

 

Asus EEE Pad Transformer ($399)

Android 3.x

 

x

Apps

The American Dialect Society voted “app” as the word of the year for 2010. “Got an app for that?” became a household phrase and for good reason. With the popularity of the touchscreen tablet devices, the Apple iTunes App Store and the Google Android Store were flooded with thousands of applications to do almost anything. The app developers continue to create these free and low-cost applications, and the impact on teaching and learning is huge!

There are many, many educational applications that can help students practice and review concepts. There are tons of applications that take advantage of the GPS capabilities of these tablets and allow location-aware applications to wow your students! There are specialized applications that use the still and video camera options on the tablets to read QR codes, take video and then edit it, and even some that simulate augmented reality features.

Portable video cameras

With the recent news that Cisco is no longer going to manufacture or support the Flip cameras, it is important to familiarize yourself with the alternatives on the market. These are great little devices for everything from recording classroom activities to student use in creating public service announcements and other project-based items. One of the best features of some of the alternatives is the option of a removable SD card. It is then very easy for students to keep their work on their own SD card as well as use a card reader to move the video files onto the computer for editing.

HD Camera

Internal storage

SD/MicroSD card

Takes stills

Image stabilization

Kodak

x

x

x

x

Sony Bloggie ($150)

x

x

x

Samsung HMX-HP 100 ($149)

x

x

x

Epson Bright Link Solo

Many teachers already have an LCD/video projector in their classroom. Epson has a new product, the Brightlink Solo, which is a $629 “baby brother” to their BrightLink 455Wi. The Solo works with the projector in your classroom and hooks up, via USB, to your computer. It turns any surface into a 96” or 102” interactive whiteboard. Software for annotation, capture, and control comes with the BrightLink Solo. If you want specific interactive whiteboard software for creation, it works with Smart™ and Promethean™ products, and the RM Easiteach™ package is available for an additional cost.

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