More than 200 ed-tech companies exhibited at this year’s T+L² Conference. Here’s a sampling of news from the exhibitors offering hardware and peripherals:

Although it did not have a booth at T+L², AlphaSmart Inc. was well represented in Denver. The company provided its Neo computer companion to nearly 20 educators who volunteered to serve as eSchool News conference correspondents. Weighing only two pounds and offering more than 700 hours of use on three AA alkaline batteries, the Neo was a big hit with the educators, who were thrilled with its ease of use and powerful functionality. Its built-in word processor even offers large fonts to accommodate visual impairments. AlphaSmart’s line also includes the AlphaSmart 3000 and Palm OS-based Dana Wireless and Dana. Because AlphaSmart’s products are less expensive than any laptop on the market, the company claims to deliver one-to-one classroom computing solutions with the lowest total cost of ownership. Education discount pricing for Neo begins at $229.

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    Apple Computer was on hand to demonstrate a number of new and revamped products, including the company’s latest Wireless Mobile Labs. The wheeled carts come with a choice of 10 or 20 iBook computers, giving students and teachers wireless internet access from anywhere in the building. Also on display were products such as Apple’s new Powerbook G4 notebook computer, the powerful iMac desktop, and the popular eMac. Priced under $600, the sleek, all-in-one eMac continues to dominate Apple’s classroom sales. Apple also unveiled a new Educator Toolkit, intended to help teachers better meet the individual needs of today’s digital learners. The toolkit includes an Apple iBook G4 laptop computer, plus a wide array of tools for teaching digital literacy in the classroom and using technology to boost student achievement.

    Brother International Corp., a maker of printers, fax machines, and other equipment for schools and industry, is extending a special offer for education customers. Now through Dec. 31, schools that purchase any 10 eligible models, including HL-7050N and HL-420CN printers, MFC-8440 multi-function printer-faxes, and PT-1600 electronic labeling systems, will get an eleventh product for free, according to the company.

    CDW-G recently worked with educators in Temescal Canyon High School in Lake Elsinore, Calif., to develop a thin-client type computer infrastructure that would enable the school to boost processing power in a cadre of aging desktop PCs, without spending beyond its means to do so, the company reported. Teacher and technology coordinator Mark LaPorte worked with a group of 20 students who helped hatch the plan. Based on CDW-G’s advice, the school purchased seven e325 IBM servers and then began the process of converting the aging desktops to the new thin-client environment. Now, LaPorte says, computers that were previously considered unusable are again functional, and the district is poised to make the jump to 64-bit computing.

    GTCO CalComp Peripherals came to T+L² shortly after releasing Version 3.0 of its InterWrite PRS classroom assessment system software. This stand-alone product works with the company’s InterWrite PRS device to combine interaction and assessment.

    With InterWrite PRS in the classroom, the company said, all students are able to participate in quizzes using infrared wireless remotes. With a wireless tablet computer, teachers can manipulate the data for instant charting and displaying of results–enabling them to measure student comprehension of a particular topic. A teacher can walk around his or her classroom, helping individual students based on data collected through the PRS. The PRS device can also be used for taking attendance and eliminating other classroom-related paperwork.

    GTCO CalComp had been in the electronic whiteboard business for six years before acquiring Educue and its PRS technology earlier this year. The InterWrite device has been part of the higher-education landscape for years, but GTCO CalComp has now brought it to the K-12 arena. The company held off on marketing the product heavily until it had replaced the previously bundled Educue software with its own.

    “It amazed us that college professors saw such value in this product despite the limitations of the software,” said Rob Meissner, vice president of marketing and product management for GTCO CalComp Peripherals. “On Sept. 1, we issued our software and began to create more of a message around the complete solution.”

    Meissner also stressed that the purchase of an InterWrite PRS device is a one-time proposition with no annual licensing fee. Many colleges use the technology because an individual student’s PRS can be used in a wide variety of courses.

    Originally released four years ago as an exercise in philanthropy by Onset Computer Corp., the iScienceProject HOBO data logger is fast becoming a standard piece of equipment in school science classes, particularly at the middle-school level, the company said.

    The portable, battery-powered data loggers enable students to record heat, humidity, light sensitivity, and several other conditions. Students can then attach the device to a computer and run it through the iScienceProject software–turning their data into colorful charts that can be exported into Microsoft Excel.

    iScienceProject offers its $129 product free of charge for two months. If a school manages to create a new lab or activity for students using the data logger, it can keep the equipment free of charge. More than 2,500 schools have taken iScienceProject up on this offer, and 50 percent of those loaned devices end up being kept in exchange for a lab or activity, according to Rich Marvin, a former middle school teacher who is education program manager for iScienceProject.

    In September, the company announced its new HOBO Energy Challenge, a contest program for K-12 teachers and students. The contest, which runs until May 1, 2005, is designed to promote energy awareness within schools while offering students of all ages a fun, hands-on science learning experience with the HOBO data loggers. Students are challenged to use data loggers to find examples of energy waste in their schools. Participating classrooms receive a free HOBO Loaner Package that includes everything needed to start investigating energy usage: a HOBO data logger, software, and energy-saving contest activities.

    Handheld computing leader palmOne introduced the latest member of its Treo “smartphone” family, the Treo 650. The device combines a compact, full-featured mobile phone with an organizer, text-messaging capabilities, and eMail and web access. “Today’s school administrators live and work in a mobile society and need to be productive while on the go without sacrificing access to important school and personal data,” said Mike Lorion, vice president of vertical markets at palmOne. With features such as Calendar, Contacts, Tasks, and Memos, the Treo 650 helps administrators and teachers organize and simplify their school and personal lives, while also staying connected from wherever they are, Lorion said.

    PASCO Scientific unveiled a powerful new graphing datalogger, the Xplorer GLX. For $299, the device gives students and teachers ultimate flexibility in setting up a science lab wherever they need it, with or without a computer, the company said. PASCO took the best aspects of a computer–including a high-resolution display, large memory (10 megabytes), an operating system, a file-management system, and direct connection to a printer–and incorporated them into the Xplorer GLX, enabling students to capture data in real time; graph, analyze, annotate, and store a full day’s worth of lab experiments; and print the data by connecting directing to a printer. Because the Xplorer GLX is small and highly mobile, it’s perfect for field experiments, PASCO said. The unit contains four built-in sensors (two temperature, one voltage, and one sound) and four additional sensor ports. A high-resolution, backlit screen (320 x 240 LCD) allows data to be viewed even in bright sunlight or low-light conditions, and a voice annotation feature allows students to relate events to collected data easily during later analysis.

    Spectrum Industries, a manufacturer of computer lab furniture, introduced three new products for K-12 schools. The H3 Laptop Cart is designed to meet the ever-growing need for reliable, convenient, and secure storage of laptop computers. It features a retractable, 20-foot cord reel; two-point security locks on both ends; perforated sheet metal to allow for natural heat dissipation; a charging power outlet for each laptop; an additional 7-outlet power strip for any peripheral equipment; and individual pull-out trays that provide easy access to each laptop unit.

    The Ascending FPM Desk uses a super-smooth, automotive-type gas cylinder that instantly turns a traditional classroom desk into a computer lab desk. When the monitor is in the lowered position, the compartment is virtually undetectable, giving users an uninterrupted work surface. The lowered position also provides uninterrupted sight lines. When the monitor is in the raised position and used with an adjustable-height chair, students are ready to compute.

    The Media Manager embodies the next generation of technology lecterns. It can hold a full complement of rack rail equipment, house a tower CPU, and securely store a laptop and document camera. The work surface has ample room for desktop and laptop computers, projectors, or other equipment, and a Locking Laptop Storage Drawer doubles as a keyboard tray, featuring a flip-down, padded wrist rest.

    Exhibitor information compiled and written by Online Editor Dan David, Managing Editor Dennis Pierce, Associate Editor Cara Branigan, Assistant Editor Corey Murray, and Contributing Editor Laura Ascione.

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