Audio Enhancement says it designs its classroom-based sound amplification systems with the idea that if students can hear, they will learn more effectively. With a new necklace-like microphone smaller than the palms of their hands, teachers can speak clearly and be heard around the classroom, the company says. This microphone reportedly works well with several different sets of speakers, receivers, and amplifiers.

Califone International, a developer and manufacturer of audio-visual and supplemental curriculum products, joined the American Speech-Language-Hearing Association (ASHA) in announcing a collaborative nationwide effort to encourage the safe use of audio equipment in the classroom. In particular, the two organizations are seeking to make educators more aware of the risks of hearing loss that their students may face from improper use of personal MP3 players. So-called noise-induced hearing loss can result from listening too long to audio material that has been amplified beyond safe levels, Califone explains. The company’s product line includes headphones and a new education-focused MP3 player that “tops out” at a decibel level below that of other popular players. The Califone-ASHA campaign has its own web site:

Dell has partnered with the Conservation Fund and, two nonprofit organizations that plant trees in reforestation projects, to start a green directive called “Plant a Tree for Me.” This project aims to offset carbon emissions associated with the electricity generated to power numerous IT products, by asking businesses and consumers in the United States and Europe to donate two dollars for a notebook and six dollars for a desktop, and using the donations to plant thousands of trees. According to Dell, during a single tree’s 70-year lifespan, it can take in 1.3 tons of carbon dioxide from the atmosphere.

Fourier Systems announced a number of enhancements to its low-cost student computing device, the Nova5000. Designed to fill the gap between laptops and handheld solutions, the Nova5000 now has updated functionality, such as a longer battery life and brighter screen, Fourier says. The battery now runs for eight hours on a single charge, allowing educators and students to use the device continuously over an entire school day. The new LCD screen offers improved brightness and allows users to control the level of brightness with an 11-position scale. This allows students and teachers to use the Nova5000 outside, allowing for more in-the-field data collection, according to the company. In addition, the Nova5000 now supports active directory services, allowing for password-protected, single-user access to network resources; a Compact Flash Modem enables users to get online via a standard phone line to meet the needs of rural, developing, or underprivileged schools that don’t have broadband internet access; and the device comes bundled with ProScope HR software, allowing for the capture and magnification of images up to 10 times their size.

Hewlett-Packard Co. announced that it is partnering with SMART Technologies, Adobe Systems, and DyKnow to offer SMART Board interactive whiteboards, the tools to create digital images and video content, and collaborative management solutions, respectively, to schools that purchase HP hardware and solutions. According to HP, these software applications will help schools create 21st-century classrooms to educate a new generation of learners.

Renaissance Learning previewed the AlphaSmart NEO 2 laptop device. Available in late August, the NEO 2 will include all of the features of the original NEO–writing, keyboarding, and quizzing abilities; no boot-up time required; and up to 700 hours of runtime on three AA batteries–and will add new features, such as enhanced two-way communication through the use of radio-frequency (RF) technology, which can increase classroom participation, enable formative assessment, and provide wireless printing from anywhere in the room, the company said. NEO 2 also will run a number of Renaissance Learning software programs, including the company’s flagship product, Accelerated Reader.

Samsung showcased a variety of low-cost, easy-to-manage printers for schools, including its new CLP series of color laser printers. The CLP-600N prints up to 21 pages per minute (ppm) in both color and black ink, and it reportedly prints 350 pages without having to reload. The small, lightweight CLP-300 is easy to use, according to the company, with cylindrical cartridges and an easy pull-out paper tray. Samsung also demonstrated its SDP-6500DXA Digital Presenter, which the company launched in late April.