Jan 27 2009

The Right Tools for the Job

Take a look at some key technology helpers for the 21st-century classroom.

The 21st-century classroom relies on a wide range of technologies to help teachers connect with students. How students learn has changed over the past decade, in large part because of the technology available at our fingertips. This rapid pace of change requires teachers to adapt as well.

Twenty-first century classroom technology has much to bring to the learning experience. A teacher can use notebooks in the classroom to enhance the curriculum by acclimating students to current technology.

Wireless Internet and network access provide flexibility so users can take work with them no matter where they are. This unfettered access also offers a connection to the world outside the classroom. Add a wireless projector and a digital whiteboard, and you have just moved from the past into the future.

While technology can do a lot, it should never drive the curriculum; it’s an aid to delivering content to the students. One of the great benefits of bringing this technology into the classroom is that students get excited about using technology; it’s something that they already enjoy. So it’s important for teachers and schools to harness this enthusiasm by finding ways to integrate these tools into the learning process.

In the past few years, more and more schools have introduced technology programs into their curriculum, and many schools that already had technology programs in place have increased IT use in the classroom. There’s no hiding the fact that we are on the cusp of a radical change in how the typical class is taught.

To help your school stay current with the options that are available, here are nine tools that are driving the 21st-century classroom experience.

1. Lenovo X200 Tablet

Lenovo continues to be a leader in tablet technology with its ThinkPad X200 Tablet 7450. The X200 is an update from the X61 series, one of the best tablets in 2008. It comes with plenty of CPU horsepower, has up to 10 hours of battery life, is lightweight and includes multiple wireless options.

Imagine a student being able to carry around an extremely powerful tablet that weighs about 3 pounds and provides enough battery life to last the entire day: no more sore shoulders from heavy notebook bags or power cables running amok across the floor to charge batteries. Backed by Lenovo’s warranty and accident protection, the X200 offers flexibility to teachers and students and fits perfectly into the 21st-century classroom.

2. Acer Aspire One

Netbooks, or mini-notebooks, are the next big thing in the portable arena. Acer comes to the table with the Aspire One A150-1447, a powerful notebook in a small package. With the new Intel Atom CPU, 802.11b/g wireless and a 160-gigabyte hard drive, the Acer Aspire One will get the job done in any classroom.

The Aspire comes with an 8.9-inch screen and up to 5.5 hours of battery life. The price point is very attractive for such a well-designed notebook. It fits perfectly in the hands of younger children and can provide a small and cost-effective solution for those considering one-to-one programs. IT departments do not need to worry about repairs: The Aspire One has a rugged design, and the warranty provides complete replacement for any damage.

3. Bretford Laptop Storage Cart

The Bretford cart is an ideal wireless push cart. Made from welded steel, it can store and charge up to 30 systems at once, with extra outlets to power external devices. The Bretford Laptop Storage Cart has built-in cable management and comes with lockable doors. It’s a great solution for schools that share notebooks across several classrooms.

IT departments can rest easy knowing that they can charge 30 notebooks securely and simultaneously without taking up a lot of space. Using the cart, teachers can access an entire set of notebooks quickly. Mobile, secure, sturdy and roomy — the Bretford cart provides all the advantages that anyone might want from a notebook cart.

4. NEC NP901W Projector

The NEC NP901W Projector is a key component in any 21st-century classroom. This wireless projector really stands out in a crowd of worthy portable projectors. It comes with a network connection and special NEC software that lets teachers roam around the classroom with a wireless tablet while projecting images onscreen.

The software included also lets teachers display individual students’ computer screens on the board for the class to view. Setup is plug-and-play after you give the projector an IP address and name and install the NEC software. With proper filter cleanings, the NP901W has a long bulb life that will help reduce the long-term cost of using the projector.

5. Classroom Presenter

Classroom Presenter, a tablet-based interactive system, lets teachers and students share data instantly on their computers. This freeware, created at the University of Washington, provides a unique environment that lets teachers display slides on their students’ tablets and permits interaction with those slides.

Students can take quizzes, solve algebra formulas or diagram sentences, for instance. Everything that the teacher does on his or her screen will be displayed on the students’ screens. Classroom Presenter works on small to large networks, can be used wirelessly and requires no special setup.

6. Promethean Activboard

Take your classroom to the next interactive level with a digital whiteboard. The Promethean Activboard 78 comes in several sizes and requires a projector and a computer. The Activboard and its custom software are simple to use for all grade levels, but powerful enough for the unique needs of individual classrooms.

Teachers can get their students involved by creating an interactive lesson using the Activprimary or Activstudio software. Another great feature is that lesson plans can be created ahead of time if teachers know they will be absent; lessons can then be played to the class with audio of the teacher’s voice and interactive slides on the Activboard.

Lessons can also be saved so an absent student can download them, helping to keep students from falling behind. After IT mounts the Activboard in the classroom and makes a few quick calibrations, the system is ready to run.

7. Cisco 1250 Series Wireless Access Point

With everything going wireless, it only makes sense to use the best-of-the-best wireless devices in your classroom. Cisco Systems answers the call with its 1250 Series access point. The Cisco Aironet 1252G supports the new 802.11n Draft 2.0 standards, with data rates of up to 600 megabits per second.

As teachers and students stream video off of the Internet and conduct live web conferences with students around the world, they depend on these technologies every day. By combining the Cisco 1250 access point with a wireless controller, the IT department can manage hundreds of wireless access points with flexibility and ease.

8. Webroot Antispyware

Spyware can really slow down a computer and potentially cause harm to your data. Between 2006 and 2007, the world saw a 185 percent increase in spyware. With Webroot Antispyware Corporate Edition with AntiVirus, you have a bundled spyware and antivirus tool. Webroot is a no-hassle, enterprise-level tool that will help prevent students from bringing their notebooks in for repair because of sluggishness caused by spyware.

Students and teachers no longer have to worry about updating virus and spyware definitions or performing weekly scans because Webroot handles all of this for them. IT departments have complete control over how the client behaves and can control scan times, prohibit uninstalls, view detailed statistics on spyware and virus data, and push installs and updates remotely. Webroot will reduce IT service calls and create more-efficient classrooms.

9. Novell iFolder

How important is your data? You know it’s important, so check out iFolder, part of the Novell Open Enterprise Server suite. This automatic online backup tool can synchronize folders and files between multiple systems. No more reminding students and teachers to back up their work frequently.

Once set up, any file or folder you designate as an iFolder will automatically back up to a server and synchronize with any other computers that have iFolder accounts. This can happen on your local campus network or at any location on the Internet. iFolder will spare your IT department the hassle of recovering files from crashed hard drives and will spare teachers and students the disaster of losing their data.