When President Bush signed the No Child Left Behind Act of 2001, he committed millions of federal funds to support wise use of technology in our nation's K-12 schools. The money comes with a few strings, of course. But more districts than ever can expect to receive grant funds for technology under the flexibility provided by NCLB.
This is good news because schools continue to buy computers, peripherals and a variety of related hardware at robust rates.
Maintaining similar levels over the last three years, K-12 public schools will spend $5.6 billion for technology overall in 2001-02, according to Market Data Retrieval, a school research firm in Shelton, Conn. Of that total, hardware-networks, PCs, printers, projectors and the like-makes up 67 percent, or $3.7 billion. Thus, schools spend roughly $78 per pupil on hardware (plus another $40 for software and teacher training).
Planning for the Multimedia Future
Among the latest trends discernable in hardware sales to schools is more rapid adoption of certain technologies. For example, nearly a quarter of schools (24 percent) have computers equipped with DVD drives in 2001-02, according to MDR, up from just 5 percent the prior year. Considering the lack of much but movie titles for the format, this indicates educators are planning for a richer multimedia future they know is sure to come.
Wireless networks also remain favored by many schools, especially wheeled carts of rechargeable laptops combined with a WLAN access point and printer, etc. In fact, QED, a school research firm in Denver, Colo., estimates that as many as 22 percent of schools have deployed wireless Ethernet somewhere on campus, based on responses from building-level technology coordinators.
Four in 10 districts (39 percent) also report owning handhelds, notes QED's District Technology Forecast 2001-02. Currently, the vast majority of users are administrators (50 percent) rather than teachers (20 percent), but that ratio is likely to change. Enough new software applications as well as hardware add-ons usable for classroom needs have been rolled out by Palm, Compaq and other vendors to pique the interest and enthusiasm of teachers and students looking for personal technology tools.
Future hardware choices by schools and educators will undoubtedly reflect the mandates of No Child Left Behind. For instance, to help with the act's accountability components, assessment-oriented products-such as Scantron's Classroom Wizard, a Top 100 pick-should get a lot more attention. "Technology solutions for assessment, especially those providing quick feedback for diagnostic and remedial purposes, will be reviewed in a new light," agrees Jeanne Hayes, QED president.
"We saw strong growth over the past year in wireless technology and one-to-one computing models such as laptops," summarizes Kathleen Brantley, MDR's director of product development. "We expect to see continued growth in handheld devices, laptops and distance learning as the 'learn anywhere, anytime' model takes hold."
In the present and future, school buyers seek value, so one thread runs throughout all of District Administration's Top 100 Hardware choices: high utility. With the exception of Apple's iPod MP3 music player (just plain fun), these are hard-working classroom tools. Roughly a third are some type of presentation technology, for example, while another third are handhelds or related devices. Digital cameras are also well represented-another technology educators have been quick to embrace.
Terian Tyre, email@example.com, is special features editor and a freelance technology writer based in Oceanside, Calif.
www.apple.com, $1,299 and up
For students and educators on-the-go, Apple has enhanced its iBook line of notebook computers with faster PowerPC G3 processors up to 600 MHz, a new system bus running up to 100 MHz, larger hard drives up to 20GB and 128MB of RAM. The most advanced model, featuring a DVD-ROM/CD-RW "combo" drive, is now priced $100 lower at $1,699. Mac OS X version and Mac OS 9.2.1 come pre-installed.
As with previous iBooks, the new notebooks weigh 4.9 pounds and measure 11.2 inches wide, 9.1 inches deep and 1.325 inches thick to fit in a backpack or briefcase.
www.apple.com, $1,299 and up
Apple's new iMac, a desktop computer with a 15-inch LCD flat screen is brighter, sharper and easier on the eyes than traditional CRT displays. Ideal for computer labs, which serve different classes all day, the iMac's
display can be easily adjust
ed by height or angle. The three new iMac models are also faster than the original breed-with a 700 to 800 MHz PowerPC G4 processor; a SuperDrive for CDs and DVDs is available.
The iMac also offers students multimedia authoring. Using a FireWire-equipped digital video camcorder and the included iMovie software, assignments can include DV footage from field trips, video reports, virtual tours and class presentations with narration.
Besides the ability to pack up to 1,000 songs into its portable, 6.5-ounce design, Apple's iPod device has a number of educational uses. Some school districts are collecting teachers' reflections on classroom techniques with MP3 files for take-anywhere professional development. In addition, foreign language teachers may use it as a portable language lab.
School administrators are using the iPod to store presentations when traveling, preventing the need to bring along a laptop.
www.bluefishwireless.com, $1,000/server, $500 for each access point, plus additional license fee
This wireless data network platform allows handhelds to access the Internet, download applications and transfer files between students and teachers. The system includes three main components-Bluefish Access Points, Bluefish Server and the Bluefish Software. The access points can transfer data using the handheld's infrared port or Bluetooth Radio and the server is a Linux-based PC with a radio transmitter and a modem that can serve multiple access points.
Canon's LV-7345 plug-and-play projector, which weighs 7.7 lbs., has two brightness modes to allow users to deliver presentations in any room. The True Color mode projects 1800 ANSI lumens and is ideal for rooms where lighting can easily be controlled. The Turbo Bright mode, with 2100 ANSI lumens, makes the projected image easier for audiences to view in bright-room lighting, so projected images remain clear when room lights must remain on or when daylight streams through windows.
Compaq Computer Corp.
Evo D500 Ultra-Slim Desktop
www.compaq.com, $630 and up
The Evo D500 Ultra-slim desktop, which is up to 75 percent smaller than a traditional desktop PC, can be configured as either a desktop or tower unit.
The model comes equipped with a 20-GB 7200 rpm Quiet Seek and
Idle SMART IIII Ultra ATA/100
hard drive, 128-MB SDRAM, a 48X
CD-ROM Drive and a removable 1.44-MB diskette drive.
The desktop allows easy access for IT staff with quick release cover latches, an expansion card cage with lift levers, a tilt drive cage and a slide-out system board.
Compaq Computer Corp.
The new iPAQ Pocket PC H3800 Series offers a standard Secure Digital Memory slot for integrated memory expansion, a bright TFT screen with more than 65,000 colors and increased battery life. One new model also incorporates Bluetooth personal area networking capabilities.
New Compaq-supplied applications for the series include: iPAQ File Store (which provides 6MB of additional storage on flash ROM); iPAQ Task Manager (utilities for Backup/Restore to Memory Card, Self Test, Auto Run, Align Screen, Clock, Expansion Pack, Microphone AGC, Power Status, Sounds, Memory); and Dashboard (a plug-in for the "Today Screen" that allows the customer to show two days of appointments, program launcher and power status).
Inspiron 4000 notebook PC
www.dell.com, $1,699 and up
The Inspiron 4000 notebook PC, which weighs 5.2 lbs., is equipped with a 600-MHz Intel Mobile Celeron processor, a 14.1-inch XGA display, 64 MB of RAM and a 6 GB2 hard disk drive. Features of the Inspiration 4000 include: ATI Rage Mobility 128 video graphics card with 8 MB of SGRAM and 2X AGP; SDRAM memory configurable from 64 MB to 512 MB; Bay Manager software, which allows swapping of peripherals without turning off the computer; and a wide range of removable storage devices, including 24X CD-ROM drive, DVD-ROM drive, CDRW drive and Zip 100 drive.
www.dell.com, Price varies by district
This 4-way server is designed for customers who are deploying critical enterprise systems. The new electronics and mechanical engineering of the PowerEdge 6600 combine to deliver higher levels availability, scalability, performance and serviceability features than previously available in the 4-way server market.
While this server stands at the top of Dell's PowerEdge tower-oriented server line, it can also be ordered in a 7U rack-optimized configuration, giving this server a high degree of configuration and deployment flexibility.
Electronics For Imaging
The eBeam portable digital whiteboard appliance system works with existing whiteboards and other writing surfaces to class notes and diagrams as they are created.
Information can be viewed, saved, edited, shared and printed using a Mac or Windows PC.
EPSON Perfection 1650
www.epson.com, $199 and $249
The EPSON Perfection 1650 series offers two models: the Perfection 1650 and the Perfection 1650 PHOTO. Both models provide a resolution of 1600 x 3200 dpi, 48-bit scanning and a convenient four-button interface with start, scan to Web, scan to e-mail and photo scanning buttons.
The Perfection 1650 PHOTO unit includes built-in 35mm filmstrip adapter for added versatility and Adobe Photoshop Elements.
Both models are USB compatible for plug-and-play connectivity with Windows and Macintosh systems.
The new Solo 1400 notebook computer includes a high-resolution 14.1-inch XGA TFT screen, thinner design and greater overall performance than previous computers in the Solo line. Weighing 6.8 points, this model allows users to stay connected in a variety of settings with optional integrated wireless connectivity using Wi-Fi technology, an integrated V.92 56K modem and integrated 10/100 Ethernet. An 850MHz Intel Celeron processor and 128MB of RAM memory (expandable to 512 MB) are included.
The Visor Pro uses the fastest operating system available (3.5.2H2 Palm OS) and is designed for memory-intensive applications, such as searching large databases. The Fast Lookup feature allows users to access contact information more quickly and with one hand, using application buttons instead of the stylus.
The handheld's 16MB of memory can handle large multimedia files, databases and digital images. Its lithium ion battery charges right in the cradle.
www.hp.com, $1,119 (license deals available)
Hewlett-Packard's Omnibook xt6050's bundled features include a wireless LAN, a 56k modem and the Windows XP operating system. The laptop also supports Windows 98
HP also provides a shock-proof case designed to house the computer, even while in use. HP supplies an additional portable, re-chargeable battery that works with the main battery to extend the hours of operation. The Omnibook xt6050 weighs 5.1 pounds and is 1.4-inches thick; screen size is 14 inches.
ThinkPad i Series
IBM has released seven new models of its ThinkPad i Series notebooks.
The ThinkPad i Series 1400 models offer customizable easy launch buttons, a media center with instant audio, and Access ThinkPad, an easy-to-use application that helps users optimize their ThinkPad for maximum utility. Certain models feature the ThinkLight, suitable for working in low-light situations. The new models are available with either the new Mobile Intel Celeron or Mobile Pentium III 500Mhz processor; and offer bright displays of up to 15 inches; spacious hard drives (up to 12GB), integrated 56K V.90 modems and CD-ROM or DVD-ROM drives.
The LP530 projector is designed for multiple applications in classrooms or for use on the road and it weighs 5.7 pounds. Powered by Digital Light Processing technology, it ships standard with computer, video and audio inputs for multimedia presentations generated from multiple sources.
An advanced connectivity module, which attaches to the back of the unit, provides additional connectivity options and multimedia functionality.
The model also features variable brightness settings, users can choose between 2000 or 1600 lumen settings to adjust to different ambient light conditions.
PocketType is a portable keyboard designed for the Handspring handheld computers. The small, clip-on keyboard allows users to quickly and easily enter information without fussing with Graffiti or bulky keyboard attachments.
The keyboard's scroll wheel allows users to scroll through windows and documents or to select text quickly. The layout is essentially identical to the QWERTY keyboard, so users won't have to search for keys, and its software is compatible with other portable keyboards and handheld accessories.
Key Communications Technology
Pockey Portable Drive
www.pockeydrives.com, $249.95 to $329.95
The Pockey Portable Drive is a small, light and portable hard drive. This removable storage device connects to a PC or Mac, laptop or desktop, via a USB cable. It doesn't require an external power source, so an AC adapter or batteries aren't necessary.
Plug and play, hot pluggable and hot swappable features make the Pockey easy to use. With a transfer rate of up to 1.5MB per second and disk space up to 20 GB, the Pockey also delivers powerful performance.
EasyShare DX3600 camera
This mid-range 2.2-megapixel digital camera offers 2x optical zoom, 3x digital zoom and the ability to capture up to 30 seconds of video with audio. The camera, part of Kodak's EasyShare family, has 8 MB of internal memory and the ability to print 8 x 10 pictures. The Kodak camera dock, sold separately, recharges your batteries while automatically uploading pictures to your computer.
www.diskonkey.com, $49.99-$199.99 (8MB-256MB)
DiskOnKey is a portable flash storage device with a CPU that can run on any operating system without requiring the download of drivers.
Potential applications include uploading eBooks for students to read at home or school, having them turn in homework assignments (which can be automatically graded) on the device and allowing administrators and teachers to bring home student records or master files without a jazz or zip drive. The CPU allows applications such as Microsoft Outlook to be run directly from DiskOnKey.
The NEC LT156 projector, part of the Go! Series of projectors, can handle transmissions in both analog and digital formats. It features 1200 ANSI Lumens of brightness and an AutoSense technology to synchronize data with a source computer.
The LT156 includes a full-function remote control with laser pointer, a soft case that can hold the projector and a laptop computer, and a USB port for a mouse. The EcoMode can reduce the light output by 20 percent, to make the lamp last longer and use less electricity.
Nikon Coolpix 775 camera
This mid-level digital camera is easy to use with a lot of the features that make it easier to switch your photos to a computer or print them out. This 2.14-megapixel Nikon has a high-speed USB connection, a one-button upload feature, and the ability to print 8 x 10s. The camera also features a 3x optical lens and a 2.5x zoom.
Olympus Camedia E-10
This high-end 4-megapixel camera offers users high quality shots and a wide range of features. This camera can save pictures on either a SmartMedia card or a CompactFlash card and it comes with a version of Adobe Photoshop 5.0. Features include program auto, aperture priority, shutter priority and manual exposure modes.
The Palm m130 features a high-contrast backlit color screen, with support for more than 65,000 colors. Users can view and edit images or drawings in color, or watch short video clips and animations. Color also helps highlight data within various Palm applications, such as appointments in Date Book.
Powered by a Dragonball VZ 33 Mhz processor, the Palm m130 works with Macintosh and Windows computers. Its rechargeable lithium-ion battery lasts one to four weeks, depending on usage. The m130's contoured shape is easy for smaller hands to hold, while a rubberized flip lid protects it from drops and bumps.
The Xplorer Datalogger lets users log and display laboratory data within a class period, with no time-consuming setup required.
The unit is plug-and-play and has a variety of optional sensors, including Ph, dissolved oxygen, barometer, light sensor and voltage-current. It works with Mac and PC computers, but if no computer is available, users can collect the data on the device and scroll through it later to make tables and graphs manually.
Radium sound field system
www.phonicear.com, $1,350 (educational discounts available)
An FM sound field system, Radium was designed to improve classroom acoustics and overcome the effects that background noise, reverberation and distance can have on speech intelligibility. The portable system, at two feet tall and 11 pounds, has just one speaker, requires little set-up and is ideal for traveling teachers and mid-sized or shared classrooms.
Using a technology called phase angling, the Radium is able to direct more of the sound out toward the listeners, instead of into the ceiling and floor. The 110 Hz to 10 kHz frequency range means students hear a natural-not tinny or sharp-sound.
Plus Corp. of America
PoinTech allows users to record and save, in one integrated file, their spoken and written presentation in sequence. Information written in free-hand on the surface is automatically captured in a compact data file on the PC where it can be saved, printed or distributed over the Internet. The products also allows users to project software applications on its screen surface and then operate the application by touching the screen with a special Stylus Pen.
The Classroom Kit
www.scantron.com, $120 per year; Classroom Kit (30 Palm handhelds pre-loaded with Classroom Wizard scanner), about $4,000; scanner only, $600
With Classroom Wizard, students who access tests and quizzes via a handheld computing device can beam their responses wirelessly to Scantron's Quiz Wizard application. Answers and scores appear immediately on the teacher's desktop computer.
Combining online and classroom-based tools, this assessment system includes: a Web-based assessment portal offering assistance in integrating the system into the curriculum, collaboration with other teachers and information on issues related to testing. Besides scoring traditional "objective" test questions, the system allows educators to score short answer, essay and fill-in-the-blank answers.
DCR-TRV25 digital video camera
Every district should have a good mid-priced digital video recorder, and this model from Sony fits the bill. This video recorder includes MiniDV recording, a 10x optical/120x precision digital zoom, a 2.5-inch SwivelScreen LCD display, and the ability to take digital stills. It also includes a Memory Stick that had 8 MB of memory.
The Swift M2000DFDV microscope includes 4XD, 10XD and 40XRD objectives and has a 45-degree dual view head with two eyepieces, so a teacher and student or two students can view a specimen simultaneously.
Other features include a reverse nosepiece, a one-piece stage/stage holder, a .65 condenser, a disc diaphragm with five annuli, color-coded coaxial focusing knobs, an "Ultra Lite" illuminator and a one-piece field condenser housing/base.
TI-83 Plus Silver Edition
www.education.ti.com, about $130
The TI-83 Plus Silver Edition holds up to 94 handheld software applications and runs 2.5 times faster than a TI-83 Plus. Students and teachers will need the extra room too, because the Silver Edition comes loaded with applications, as well as TI Connect software that lets users download and share programs. The handheld features an equation solver, split-screen capability, graphical analyses, plotting, and the ability to create data groups and matrices.
www.education.ti.com, about $200
With 2.7MB of user-available FLASH ROM, the new TI Voyage 200 Personal Learning Tool lets both students and teachers quickly solve complex problems. Plus, advanced features allow checking of additional geometric properties and redefinition of objects, for example. The Voyage 200 PLT features a built-in QWERTY keyboard, an icon-driven desktop and a clock for timing experiments. Messages and menus may be viewed in five languages.
The TipLines system allows callers to pass on alerts of potential problems in a school anonymously. No computer is required to use the system. TipLine's Voice Disguise feature digitally alters the caller's voice to be unrecogniz-
able but understandable.
When a caller dials the TipLine
number, a greeting explains what to do. The caller can review the message as it sounds when disguised, or just hang up. The system then calls up to 15 responders to deliver the message, stopping when one of the responders takes responsibility for the call.
This product lets you write on a white board, any white board, and record up to 10 hours of notes. These notes can be downloaded immediately to a computer or uploaded later. This product comes with color-coded marker sleeves and an electronic eraser. This one-pound product has three power sources, battery, AC and USB. It allows users to see the order in which notes were taken, so you can see how a student arrived at an answer, or you can just view the end result. The Mimio Xi works with Windows 98 and both XP Pro and XP Home. It's compatible with a 166MHz Pentium computer, but not Macintoshes.