Classroom Technology – School Outfitters Blog Furnishing Great Places To Learn Fri, 05 Feb 2016 21:51:19 +0000 en-US hourly 1 Are You Cut Out to Teach Online? Wed, 09 Oct 2013 13:30:52 +0000 Many K-12 students (particularly high schoolers) now experience formal education exclusively in the form of online classes. For others, completing a few online classes before their traditional high school graduation is a requirement. Not surprisingly, controversy surrounds the topic of online learning’s effectiveness. But ready or not, here it comes. As more states and districts make the big jump into online education, many teachers are going along for the ride.

Even if you’re a seasoned educator, teaching online can present an entirely new set of challenges and rewards. If you are considering jumping into the online teaching ring, preparation will be key. Below are some links to sites that offer solid advice about strategies for teaching successfully online.

­– Writing at The Journal, veteran online instructor Richard Rose offers words of wisdom to his college students, many of whom hope to become online K-12 teachers.

Edutopia offers information on becoming a high-quality online instructor, as well as sample lesson plans from real K-12 online courses.

— Any classroom teacher can tell you that they wear many hats throughout the day. The same is true of online teachers. Faculty Focus discusses the roles specific to online educators. Although this piece is written with a bend towards higher ed, the concepts translate well for education at any level.

— Watch A Day in the Life of a great online teacher, Kristin Kipp. She was the National Online Teacher of the Year in 2010.

If you have experience as an online instructor, please share your tips and insights in the comments section below.

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4 More Great Educational Apps Fri, 20 Sep 2013 14:00:06 +0000

Screenshot from Learn With Homer

Netbooks and tablets are increasingly becoming the norm in classrooms. And with the start of a new school, this is as good an opportunity as any to try out a few new learning apps. (See our first app rundown here.) Here are four more we think you should try:

Learn With Homer
Learn With Homer is a colorful app designed by literacy experts to build language and reading skills in preschoolers. Full of beautiful, engaging illustrations, this app offers phonetic lessons, help with pronunciation and exercises to help children retain their skills. It contains classic children’s tales, plus new stories created just for the app featuring the titular Homer (a pigeon, named after the Greek poet) and friends. Children can also draw and make recordings related to the stories, all of which are saved to a special pinboard.

In 2011, Amazon stated that digital textbooks were outselling traditional textbooks. But even with a world of technology available, most digital textbooks are just as stodgy looking as their printed counterparts. Inkling changes all that, mixing pleasing design with interactive graphics for an optimal textbook app. These ebooks offer lessons in cooking, anatomy, music, travel guides from Rick Steves, all the paintings of the Louvre(!) and more.

Kangaroo Jump! Leap! Bounce! Music Education for Your Kids
Aside from having the distinction of being the longest named app on this list, Kangaroo Jump! Leap! Bounce! Music Education for Your Kids is also a really fun music app. This app teaches basic musical concepts by using actual classical music (Charles-Camille Saint-Saens’ The Carnival of Animals). For example, when called upon to help a kangaroo find her joey, students must tap the screen for a specific duration to create staccato or legato notes. As someone who took up violin at age 10, I’m a little partial to this app. While the jury might still be out on what effects early music instruction might have on students, it’s never too early to appreciate the arts.

Model Me Going Places
This free app provides autistic children with scene-by-scene pictures of common social situations to take anxiety out of everyday interaction. These grocery store, hairdresser, doctor, playground, mall and restaurant scenarios include narration, so whether your child is stimulated by visuals or audio, you’re covered. Model Me Kids makes several apps for children with autism; be sure to check them out for your special needs classroom.

Do you use learning apps in your classroom, or even your children at home? We’d love to hear your thoughts in the comments.

Document Cameras Make Teaching Easier Mon, 18 Feb 2013 20:46:37 +0000 If you have a document camera in your classroom, you probably don’t need to be told just how useful they are or the ways they can revolutionize teaching. For those who don’t have one, however, let me explain. A document camera is basically a combination of digital camera, microscope and overhead projector. While you still need to have a digital projector, TV or computer monitor in order to show the images to your whole class, the document camera allows you to display anything from a flat piece of paper to 3D objects.

The most popular document camera amongst educators is the TT-12i Interactive Teacher’s Tool from ELMO. The adjustable arm, intuitive controls and high-definition imaging make it the first choice for most teachers in search of presentation equipment.

TT-12i Interactive Teacher's Tool

However, for those who want a more budget-friendly document camera, you’re in luck. Lumens offers a line of portable Ladibug document cameras that feature attractive red casings, flexible goosenecks and LED lamps for illuminating your documents. The Califone Diggiditto DC596 Smart Document Camera is also an affordable option; the detachable camera head lets you get different angles for more convenient display.

When deciding on the best device for your specific situation, keep in mind that you’ll find more features on more expensive document cameras. So if you only need to show textbook pages or slide images, you’d be best served with a lower-end model. If you need to show more detail, record video and audio or need editing software included, a pricier model may be your best choice. Browse our entire selection of document cameras to find the one that best fits your classroom needs.

If you want to learn more about document cameras, visit our Buying Guide.


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Presentation Carts for the Future Wed, 16 Jan 2013 21:35:52 +0000 Overhead projectors and transparencies have been classroom staples for a generation or more, but we’re now 13 years into a new millennium; that means it’s time to say goodbye to the past. With the inclusion of laptops and digital projectors into classrooms around the country, teachers also need a new way of moving them around. Luckily, there’s the Laptop Caddy Presentation Cart from Norwood Commercial Furniture.

Norwood Commercial Furniture Laptop Caddy Presentation Cart

You can now stop worrying about finding space around your room for all your presentation components. The cart is an all-in-one station for classroom presentations, with shelves for your projector and computer, as well as an included power strip. The swivel casters allow easy movement around your school, and two of them lock for stability while you’re operating your equipment.

The laptop shelf adjusts in height along the frame so you can accommodate both students and teachers. A durable steel frame and fiberboard shelves stand up to years of rigorous use. If you need a larger presentation cart or other type of AV cart, you can check out our full selection.

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This year in STEM Tue, 08 Jan 2013 14:18:37 +0000 As we’ve noted, the country’s less than favorable showings in math and science standings have led to creative ways to get students interested in those subjects. Here’s a look at some of our favorite STEM stories from 2012:

The White House held its second-ever science fair to celebrate students winners of science, technology, engineering and math competitions across the country. Watch the video to see some brilliant students talk about everything from landmine detection to germ-killing lunchboxes. Joey Hudy of Phoenix even got to fire his marshmallow cannon in the State Dining Room. How awesome is that?

Photo credit: Kevin Lamarque / Reuters

The winners of the 2012 Siemens Foundation conducted some fantastic, potentially life-changing research this year.

Siemens also held the We Can Change the World Challenge, encouraging students to find green solutions to global problems. The high school winners’ ingenious proposals included ways to cook in third world countries without burning wood and resourceful methods for powering life-saving devices.

The WitsOn forum was founded to connect young women interested in math, science and engineering with women from Harvard, the California Institute of Technology, Princeton, Stanford, Cornell, and MIT, among others. Though more women earn college degrees than men, they lag in STEM-related degrees. This program aims to remedy that, along with answering questions on a whole host of topics.

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Headphone Madness Wed, 19 Dec 2012 21:03:09 +0000 Student headphones have been a staple of classrooms around the country since the invention of the cassette player, when teachers realized how effective individual audio lessons could be. The most popular headphone model is the Califone 3068AV, an affordable, durable option for both elementary and middle schools. Many teachers choose to get the 10-pack, a good choice when you have to get headphones for the whole class.

Califone 3068AV Switchable Stereo/Mono Headphones


For an even more cost-effective option, you can turn to the Pack of 10 Stereo Headphones from Hamilton Electronics or the Personal Stereo Headphones from Califone. Each of these personal headphone sets comes with a moisture-resistant plastic bag to prevent the spread of lice, a necessary inclusion for public school health safety.

Hamilton Electronics Stereo Headphones


For both listening and speaking lessons, you can also check out our line of headphones with attached microphones. Califone’s 3064AV Headphones with Boom Microphone are compatible with PCs and Macs and work great for interactive computer lessons.

Califone 3064AV Headphones w/ Boom Microphone


Whether you’re conducting speech lessons or just letting your students listen to books on tape, student headphones are a great way to communicate valuable information in a fun way. You’ll find a variety of classroom headphones at School Outfitters, as well as media players and listening centers for group activities.


Classroom Microscopes + Giveaway Tue, 04 Dec 2012 20:35:25 +0000 Using microscopes was always one of the highlights of science class. They offered a view of the world we don’t often see and it was fun to break down familiar (and not-so-familiar) substances to their basic building blocks. If you ever feel like your science lessons are a little dry, microscopes let you add pizazz with cool visuals.

Before you buy new microscopes, here are a few things to consider:

Type – If you’re working with younger students, stereo microscopes are easy to operate and offer high magnifications for specimen such as leaves, rocks and flowers. Compound microscopes are suited for seeing small details in cells and organisms in pond water.

Power – How are you going to use your microscope? If they’re going to be used often, opt for a microscope with a power cord. This prevents you from having to charge or replace batteries often. If your microscopes will be used outside the classroom, cordless models that use either a rechargeable battery or a UBS port are the way to go. Simply plug them in after class to recharge.

Head Type – Monocular head microscopes are less expensive and simpler to operate, though they offer lower magnification. Binocular head microscopes are good for older students and advanced labs; the separate eyepieces prevent eye strain and can be focused independently.

Capturing Images – Many digital microscopes hook up to a computer or projector so you can share what’s under the lens with the entire class or take pictures for future lessons. If tight budgets prevent you from getting more than one microscope for your class, it’s best to have something that all students can see and/or use.

Califone’s USB Computer Microscope


Traditional microscopes have also undergone a bit of a technology update. Celestron’s Digital Multi-Purpose Microscope with Camera is a workhorse of a microscope, perfect for small groups or lab partners, but the included digital camera makes it a versatile tool for teachers as well.

Celestron’s Digital Multi-Purpose Microscope Kit with Camera


Right now we’re giving away Celestron’s Digital Multi-Purpose Microscope Kit with Camera to three lucky teachers. This kit includes auxiliary pen light illumination, software that lets you save images and video, plus three prepared slides. Visit our Facebook page for more.

Looking for more information about microscopes? Read up in our buying guide.

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Educational Apps Tue, 02 Oct 2012 13:29:17 +0000 Whether you have a student who needs to brush up on math, science or reading, chances are there’s an app for it. Since mobile devices and tablets are everywhere these days, apps are an easy way to integrate classroom lessons with technology. Here are a few of apps you can use in your classroom or recommend to students who need a little extra study time at home. You might even want to use a few yourself.

Analogy provides a welcome break from the ABCs and 123s, while still requiring those basic skills. This app features questions that promote the kind of analytical thinking, creativity and memory skills needed placement tests. Makers of the app consulted teachers of talented and gifted students, special ed. teachers and parents to customize the questions for children.

Reading Rainbow is back in app form, and it’s bringing 26 years of reading fun with it. It’s ideal for readers aged three to nine. At $9.99 a month or $29.99 for six months, it’s one of the pricier apps mentioned here but the frequently updated content makes it worthwhile. Comes with 150 books and video “field trips” that tie into the stories. If children need more incentive, they can earn (digital) stickers for reading.

NASA has an app for Android, iPhones and iPads that keeps users up to date on current NASA missions, including tens of thousands of images, live streaming of NASA TV, space station and satellite trackers, videos, a list of Space Station sighting opportunities complete with weather forecasts, and much more. With so much to choose from, it’s perfect for hardcore and casual space enthusiasts.

Free Books features thousands of public domain books which, yes, you can get for free, but are you going to download 23,000+ books individually? That’s how many titles are available with this app. For $1.99 you’ll get everything from Siddhartha to the The Art of War. With classics by Jane Austen, Jules Verne and F. Scott Fitzgerald, this is one both parents and their children can enjoy.

Looking for a new tablet to try out some educational apps in your classroom? Check out our selection of tablets here.

Any educational apps you depend on? Let us know in the comments!

Robots Grading Essays, Cats and Dogs Living Together Mon, 11 Jun 2012 18:02:40 +0000 Grading student essays is a time-consuming experience that requires at least a little skill. Judging whether the student understood the purpose of the assignment, formed the argument logically and then used the correct grammar is exhausting, especially when you have to repeat the process for a whole pile of essays. Despite this hard work, I believe most teachers agree that they would rather continue grading themselves than hand over the responsibility to a machine.

Image courtesy of Jack Hollingsworth/Thinkstock Images

The prospect of a robot grading as well as a human might sound absurd, but that’s just what researchers at the University of Akron found during a recent study. The study began when researchers fed 22,000 pre-graded writing samples from junior and high school standardized tests into a program with a specially designed grading algorithm. The results were surprising: researchers found that computer grades were overall very similar to the teacher grades, in both source-based and traditional writing pieces.

The study was part of a competition amongst programmers to find the most accurate algorithm for robo-grading. In theory, these computer programs could save teachers loads of work and encourage more writing assignments in the long run. However, even the best computer program can’t provide feedback on ways for students to improve, the soundness of an idea or whether the description of a sunset was accurate.

Opponents of robo-grading, like Les Perelman of the Writing Across the Curriculum program at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, have even deduced ways of fooling the best computer algorithms. By writing grammatically correct sentences with no substance or meaning (sample below), Perelman got a passing grade from the program.

    There are three main reasons while Teaching Assistants receive such high remuneration. First, they have the most powerful union in the United States. Their union is greater than the Teamsters or Freemasons, although it is slightly smaller than the international secret society of the Jedi Knights. Second, most teaching assistants have political connections, from being children of judges and governors to being the brothers and sisters of kings and princes.

So, while robots grading essays sounds like fiction, it is close to becoming reality, regardless of the wisdom behind the idea. What do you think of computers grading essays instead of teachers? Let us know in the comments below.

Read more at Inside Higher Ed and Slate Education

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Teaching & Technology Wed, 02 May 2012 18:21:39 +0000 With the push to incorporate new technologies into the classroom, adaptation has become one of a teacher’s greatest assets. Feeling comfortable with interactive screens, changing software, the latest social media trends and the like can all keep a teacher ahead of the curve. Until recently, these tools were used as just that – tools. But, the more prominent advanced classroom technology becomes, the more it seems it does a lot of the teaching. Of course, nothing can guide and support a student the way a teacher can, but it’s becoming clear that an educator’s adaptability needs to include more than just embracing a Smart board.

Image courtesy of Jeremy M. Lange/The New York Times

In North Carolina’s Mooresville Graded School District, every fourth-through-twelfth grader uses a school-issued laptop. Many benefits are immediately obvious: Software can allow students to work at their own pace; students receive access to technology that they might not otherwise have, allowing them to stay on track for post-high school pursuits; and students who may feel shy or embarrassed about participating in a traditional classroom can confidently engage on a computer. But what does this all mean for a teacher?

As Mark Edwards, superintendent of Mooresville Graded School District, explains, it’s “not about the technology… It’s about the changing culture of instruction.” While conventional teaching calls for lesson plans designed to be delivered by a teacher to a single audience, tech-heavy teaching requires teachers to give up some of their reign. As classrooms become more lab and less lecture hall, there is much less “teaching the class” and much more “supporting the student”. With the right teachers, this method is highly successful; the Mooresville school district, for example, has experienced increased graduation rates, test scores and attendance. The question is: Are teachers ready for the change?