In case you hadn’t noticed, many free antivirus products are quickly disappearing as a way to get you to upgrade to premium -– and often quite expensive -- security packages. For instance, Trend Micro’s free antivirus scanning software has been replaced by what the company calls HouseCall. It’s quick and easy to use, and the program automatically updates itself after installation. It works with both PCs (Windows 7 through 10) as well as Macs (OSX 10.7 or newer). On the downside, HouseCall doesn’t leave anything behind. Instead, it does a fast online scan for the most prevalent attacks using Trend Micro’s Cloud-based Protection Network that lacks anything like real time scanning or behavioral monitoring for when you turn your attention to something else. It’s better than nothing for older systems, but every Windows 10 computer includes Microsoft’s Defender, which has its holes but can stop the worst things from getting onto a school’s worth of computers.
Ahead of Google’s merging of Android and Chromebook platforms, Epson helps those schools that use Chromebooks every day with some slick software. As is the case with the iProjection apps for iOS and Android are not only free but the new Chromebook version lets you pick what you want to show the class and it’s sent to the projector. On the downside, it only works with several Epson WiFi enabled projectors.
From when the first bell rings to start the school day we all have too much to do, but there’s not much more you can do to squeeze 60 minutes of solid work into every hour. Or is there? The following programs take different approaches to making every minute in the classroom count by scheduling and prioritizing the day’s tasks and events.
None of the four programs that follow are made specifically for school use, but are flexible enough to be adapted. In fact, they are just as useful for students as for teachers and a school’s administration –- maybe more.
You can’t be in two places at once, but any of these programs can make you more efficient at school and hopefully a better prepared educator. Regardless of whether you use a iPhone, iPad, PC, Mac, Chromebook or Android, there’s something here to make every minute count.
The 30/30 app can efficiently plan your day down to the minute and stuff more into the day without ever leaving your phone’s screen. That's because it runs on an iPhone and lets you do more with gestures than any other program does.
For instance, rather than digging through nested menus, if you want to delete an item, just swipe to the right or shake the phone to undo something. A two-finger tap moves the current task to the top of the list.
The big difference with 30/30 is that the interface is like no other app. To set up an item, like a reading period, type in its name (like “independent reading”), how long it will last and what icon you want it to show when time is up. The main screen always shows what the current task is and how much time is left.
To get the most out of 30/30 you need to buy in to its philosophy of 30 minutes of uninterrupted work is about all anyone – teacher, student or staff – can efficiently put up with. It’s a little looser than that because events and activities can be set to any length up to an hour, so it’s perfect for setting up classroom periods.
Got a Mac, iPhone or Android, but are always late for classes, meetings and parent conferences? 2Do can help with a rigid schedule that tells you what you should be doing. Utterly conventional in its look and feel, the system is both local and online with the ability to synchronize your schedule and too-do lists with Dropbox, CalDAV and iCloud as well as Toodledo.
It’s quick and easy to add items and you can create a task directly from an email, like a parent meeting. The program’s lists are deep and you can organize them into groups as projects, perfect for long term tasks like curriculum development or field trips. The best part is that 2Do is part nosey parent with the ability to continue to nag you until a task is finished.
Mac users can always have the moment’s pressing business in their faces with the included Widget that places items in a right pull out list. If you can’t always have your computer by your side, 2Do can print its lists the way they look on-screen. Unlike some of the others here, 2Do is not free, with Mac programs costing $50 and those for Android or iOS devices, $10 and $15. There is a three-week trial, but nothing for PCs.
Google Suite Calendar
It may not have the features and slick widgets of the others, but Google’s Calendar integrates well with email. For good or bad, Calendar is part of the Google ecosystem that bases everything off of a Gmail email account.
In addition to showing your daily schedule, Calendar can set up events from Hangouts and see if infrastructure items –- like projector carts or the computer lab -– are available. Best of all, Calendar lets you coordinate calendars of others and search for free time when you have a must-finish task. You can move your present calendar from iCal, Outlook or Exchange directly and publish your calendar online so your students know when they can contact you.
It works with anything that can run any of the most popular browsers and unlike some other Google products G Suite and the Calendar isn’t free and you can’t just buy the Calendar portion. The entire suite costs $5 a month with a business email account that has your school’s name or district as its domain. You also get unlimited video and voice calls as well as 25GB of storage space. If you move up it to the next level, $10 gets you a terabyte of storage space, advanced controls and a way to retain and archive every email ever written.
Finally, as more schools switch to inexpensive and rugged Chromebooks, the software is catching up. Wunderlist can help squeeze in an entire day without you raising a sweat. It’s three pane interface has the most pressing items front and center with details of any item on the right and your main categories on the left.
Best of all, Wunderlist actually works on just about any platform out there because there are versions of PCs, Macs, iOS, Android, Chromebooks as well as Windows Phones and Apple’s Watch. There’s one more: an online version does everything through a browser window. The basic app is free, but the Pro version costs $5 a month and allows you unlimited file sizes, break down large items into sub tasks and have the ability to assign some of them to others.
Preseident Obama gave teachers and administrators the best news they could ever hope to hear: the graduation rate has risen significantly. According to the National Center for Educational Statistics, for the 2014-15 school year (the latest that we have data for), the graduation rate rose to 83.2 percent, up from the previous year’s 82.3 percent. It’s up an astounding 10 percentage points from the 2005-6 year’s 73 percent graduation rate. This means that thousands more kids will have degrees, better jobs and the ability to go to college.
It may be the highest graduation rate on record, but there’s also bad news below the surface. Here it’s the segments of the population that while improving are still lagging the crowd. For instance, White kids had an 87.6 percent graduation rate versus Black and Hispanic students’ 74.6 and 77.8 percent.
Swivl’s Recap takes classroom video to a new level with the ability of the teacher to ask questions that students then respond to in clips that are uploaded, watched and evaluated. It leads to deeper responses that go beyond the simple yes and no with the ability to explain and elaborate. Meanwhile Recap’s teacher’s dashboard can show who’s responded, who hasn’t as well as categorize the videos for the class to see. It works on just about any connected platform, including Chromebooks, and the program has garnered more than 250,000 users.
The summer is not only a time to relax and rejuvenate – for students and teachers alike – but both seem to take a few months to get back into the swing of school. WPS’s Back to School Guide can help clear the mental cob webs with tips for more efficient studying with advice on getting back into the teaching and learning mindset as well as help with formatting Word documents for more impact and excellent study habits. But, by far, the best advice it can give teachers and students is to get ready for the next summer break with assignments.
The iconic blue and black WRT family of Linksys routers just got a lilttle bigger, more powerful and up to date. The WRT3200ACM is a tri-stream 802.11ac WiFi router that uses a a single 2.4GHz and two 5GHz channels to excel at delivering data to multiple devices. It combines wide 160MHz data channels with the latest Wave 2 MuMimo technology to bring up to 3.2Gbps to clients and can use open source software, expanding its usefulness. You can use it for regular old data duties, as a virtual private network or to remove advertisement tracking. It costs $250.
Microsoft’s Surface Dock is a great way to turn a tablet into a mini-desktop, but at 1.5-pounds it isn’t exactly portable and the current dock doesn’t work with older Surface systems. That’s where Tripp Lite’s USB 3.0 Docking Station for Microsoft Surface comes in. It works with every Surface system made, from the first through the current fourth-generation systems and should work with next year’s upcoming fifth-generation Surface family.
It starts by providing all the ports you’ll need but does so at only 5-ounces. Unlike the Microsoft device, the small black Tripp Lite dock clips onto the Surface’s pull-out kick-stand, creating as close to an integrated whole as you can get. It also makes sure that the dock isn’t dropped or left behind.
On its sides are a good selection of the ports you actually use every day. While there’s a trio of USB 3.0 ports, it adds the luxury of a plug-in RJ-45 port for a 1Gbps wired Ethernet connection.
A big step forward is that rather than the Microsoft dock’s mini-Displayport video connection, which generally requires an adapter to be connect with a display or projector, the Tripp-Lite device has a full-size HDMI port. It can handle resolutions from all the way up to 4K imaging and is unlikely to become obsolete anytime soon.
After plugging the Tripp-Lite dock into the Surface’s USB port and its included power adapter into an AC outlet, the system makes the connections and takes a second to set itself up. If you want to use the dock’s HDMI port, you’ll need to use the included Mini DisplayPort cable as well. The best part about Trip Lite’s dock is that there’s no software to load and it worked on the first try with a Surface 2 Pro, Surface 3 and a Surface 3 Pro. Since everything is automatic, it’s a great addition to school desks where teachers and students connect and disconnect all day long.
Using the Surface dock was like a breath of fresh air for my work. I used it with everything from USB thumb drives and a DVD drive to a Brother printer and a Philips monitor. About the only thing it doesn’t do is charge the tablet. To do that, you’ll need the full-size Surface Dock.
Even at its list price of $187.50, Tripp Lite’s dock is a bargain that can help a variety of Surface tablets to make their needed connections. If you shop around a little you can find it for less than half that amount at places like CDW, making it a must-have for any school that has a lot of Surfaces to cover.
Tripp Lite USB 3.0 Docking Station for Microsoft Surface and Surface Pro, USB-A, HDMI and Gigabit Ethernet Ports
+ Small and light
+ Clips to Surface stand
+ Has HDMI port
+ 4K resolution
+ Works with all Surface tablets
+ No new software needed
- Doesn’t charge tablet
Seeking to bridge the gap between actual ink on paper and digital bits stored in the cloud, Wacom’s Bamboo Slate and Folio (photo, left) pads not only let you scribble and draw with a real pen on actual paper, but the system saves what’s written for transfer to a computer. It all starts with Wacom’s Bamboo Slate (notepad) and Folio (letter-size) pads on which you can write anything from class notes and maps to geometry figures. The Bamboo pen saves it all and lets you send it to the company’s iOS or Android Inkspace app for editing and sharing. It all works with Evernote and One Note with Wacom’s free Basic subscription provides 5GB of online storage. The $3 a month Plus service adds workflow and 50GB of online storage. The pen and pad sets cost between $130 and $200.
Chromebooks may be an inexpensive alternative for schools but they lag behind Macs and PCs when it comes to monitoring them and finding lost or stolen systems. In addition to filtering out inappropriate Web destinations, AristotleInsight K12 software can gather detailed usage stats and show on a map where every running Chromebook is. It’s not detailed enough to find the system left in a classroom closet at the end of the school year, but can show those that are home with kids or ones that have been stolen or lost.