Apple spices its mobile labs with curriculum software bundles

Knowing that computers aren’t much use without software, Apple Computer has bundled its wireless mobile computer labs with leading, research-based educational programs. The result is a set of five new Curriculum Mobile Labs, each focusing on a specific subject and age group.

The Early Literacy Curriculum Mobile Lab: Grades PreK-3 features Destination Reading, a web-based literacy program developed by Riverdeep Inc. The Language Curriculum Mobile Lab: Grades K-Adult offers the Rosetta Stone, a set of online courses from Fairfield Language Technologies that provides instruction in more than 20 languages, including English, Spanish, French, Japanese, Chinese, Arabic, and Hebrew. The Math Curriculum Mobile Lab: Grades K-6 comes with Riverdeep’s Destination Math. The Math Curriculum Mobile Lab: Grades 6-12 contains Destination Math, Algebra in the Real World, and Mathematica in the Classroom. Lastly, the Mobile Digital Media Studio comes with a camcorder, digital camera, and scanner for input; a projector to present finished projects to the class; and FireWire drives to store large media projects.

The mobile labs are complete solutions that combine software, AirPort-enabled Apple iBook computers, Apple Professional Development courses, and a variety of accessories. Because they are portable and feature wireless networking, they can be brought into any classroom easily, immediately turning it into a computer lab. Prices start at $14,000. (800) MY-APPLE

Protect your IT infrastructure with this solution from Netbotz

Austin, Texas-based Netbotz Inc. has developed a network monitoring solution intended to protect school or business IT infrastructures from physical threats such as human error, extreme temperatures, high humidity, or water damage.

The Netbotz Physical Monitoring Solution features monitoring appliances with built-in environmental sensors and an integrated color camera that can capture live-motion events. With Netbotz Central—the software that ties the solution together—school administrators can view environmental readings and a camera image in real time from any site on the network where a Netbotz monitoring device has been deployed.

The Forsyth County, Ga., school system has deployed 24 Netbotz appliances to protect its network of 3,000 laptops and 7,000 desktops, which are mostly located in classrooms across 23 locations. “I never knew that such a clever creature as a physical monitoring solution like NetBotz even existed,” said Bailey Mitchell, Forsyth’s executive director of technical services. “Environmental factors are a huge problem for us, because schools are built for learning, not as housing for sophisticated and sensitive technology.”

In addition to monitoring maintenance issues such as heat, humidity, and water leaks, NetBotz also safeguards school technology from theft or tampering. “We can correlate who goes in and out of a room with the information captured by the built-in camera in the NetBotz monitoring appliance,” Mitchell said. “That means we can hold accountable any person who’s fooled around with our equipment.”

The NetBotz monitoring appliances range in price from $1,195 to $1,795. (877) 908-2689

Could this low-cost OS mean it’s ‘curtains’ for Windows?

With the launch last fall of the Lindows operating system, from Inc. of San Diego, school districts running Windows-based software now have a less costly alternative to Windows.

This Linux-based operating system costs $500 for a site license of unlimited computers and includes a year’s subscription to the Click-N-Run Warehouse on the web site, which consists of more than 1,600 software programs that run on Lindows. More importantly, Lindows is designed to be compatible with many legacy Windows applications, meaning schools won’t be putting their investment in Windows-based technology at risk.

The software’s friendly licensing plan allows school customers to install the operating system on any number of PCs without having to pay for additional installations. Using software from the Click-N-Run Warehouse, users can edit most popular file types, according to the company—including those for Microsoft Word, Excel, PowerPoint, Flash, Real Audio, and most graphic files types. The Click-N-Run Warehouse includes Sun’s StarOffice 6.0 productivity suite, as well as multimedia software and some educational titles.

The Lindows OS reportedly supports most PC hardware and periphals. For the most recent list of supported hardware, software, and devices, visit (858) 587-6700

Simplify reporting and communication with Aspire’s web portal

With the latest version of its web-based suite of teaching, grading, reporting, and communication tools, called Aspire 4.0, Cleveland-based Aspire Learning Corp. is taking a solution that has been piloted effectively in several Cleveland-area schools and rolling it out nationwide.

Aspire 4.0 is designed to save time for teachers, administrators, parents, and students by automating routine tasks. The program automatically enters the grades from online quizzes and worksheets into the teacher’s gradebook, and it can factor in attendance records when calculating final grades. Students and teachers can save and retrieve documents in a section called My Files, and the software can be used to create school-wide, group, or personal calendars, so users can check their schedules in one place. In addition, teachers can create message threads or topic areas for group, class, or team discussions, and a survey tool enables administrators, staff, and teachers to create and distribute surveys to groups of stakeholders. Responses are tabulated automatically and can be viewed by anyone designated by the survey creator.

Because Aspire is accessible via a web browser, it is easy to deploy and doesn’t require special hardware or software. Aspire is password-protected and employs the most sophisticated encryption technology available, according to the company. The program also features Quick Start Tutorial Pages that help new users navigate all the tools and options available, as well as quick tips and mouse-over descriptors that keep users working quickly and efficiently.

Aspire is sold on an annual, site-license basis. For most schools, the annual cost is about $2 to $3 per student. (888) 335-3788

Take the circus out of school bus routing with this program from Trapeze

Trapeze Software, of Beachwood, Ohio, has released a scaled-down version of MapNet, its popular bus routing and reporting software. At $7,500, MapNet Lite is more affordable than the original version of the software, making it ideal for smaller school districts. This easy-to-use application manages student transportation information, automatically creating safe stops and routes and allowing users to work with custom maps.

“There is a real need for low-cost applications among small student transportation organizations,” said Steven McKinley, Trapeze’s operations manager. MapNet Lite is designed to improve productivity in transportation departments by dramatically reducing route planning times, optimizing the number of buses in operation, efficiently deploying drivers, and providing staff with quick access to information, he said. The program runs on Windows NT, 2000, and XP platforms. (800) 880-3822

Rub out annoying internet pop-up ads with this utility from Aladdin

Are internet tracking devices and pop-up ads bogging down your network? Internet Cleanup 3.0, from Aladdin Systems Inc. of Watsonville, Calif., automatically blocks all pop-up ads, web bugs, and banner ads. It also reportedly removes spyware, tracking devices, unwanted cookies, Active X controls, and more.

Internet Cleanup’s Browser Guard is tightly integrated with Internet Explorer, so it allows users to block out ads, web bugs, and cookies. You can schedule automatic cleanups at start-up or other scheduled times. “With Internet Cleanup, users don’t have to view annoying flashing ads,” said Pauline Shumake, Aladdin’s product manager. Internet Cleanup works on Windows 98, ME, NT, 2000, and XP systems. The suggested retail price is $29.99, but educational pricing is as follows: a 10 to 49 user license is $18.25 per copy, a 50 to 99 user license is $15.25 per copy, and a 100 to 199 user license is $10.25 per copy. (888) 245-1723

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