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Sunday, June 24, 2018

The Short List of Physical Tech Products That I Recommend

From time to time I am asked for recommendations on the purchase of physical tech products. I generally don't make recommendations for school-wide or other large scale purchases, but I will make recommendations for small purchases. Here's the short list of physical tech products that I recommend today.

Elegoo UNO Super Starter Kit for Arduino
If you're thinking about trying your hand at Arduino programming, this kit has everything that you need to get started. It even includes a comprehensive tutorial and suggested first projects. It's a good deal at $34.99 (less if you have Amazon Prime). I've purchased more than a dozen of these kits for use in some of my workshops.

Blu Snowball Microphone
I have been recommending this microphone for years. It's an affordable, high-quality microphone for recording on your Windows, Mac, or Chromebook computer. I own two of them. One of which has seen on four continents, been dropped countless times, and triggered more TSA "enhanced security screenings" than I care to count. At $49.99 it is affordable and durable. These have been around for so long that you can actually get refurbished ones now.

Acer R11 Touchscreen Chromebook
Today, I do most of my daily work on a Lenovo T470s Windows 10 laptop. But for a while I was using my Chromebook for the bulk of my work and the Acer R11 is the Chromebook that I still use whenever I host workshops geared toward Chromebook-using teachers. The Acer R11 is an affordable and durable touchscreen Chromebook. If I was buying a Chromebook for one of my kids today, the Acer R11 is the one that I'd go for. You can buy this new for $299 or refurbished for $219.

Essential Android Phone
I have been using and abusing Android phones since 2011. The Essential Phone is the one I am using today. The only one that I liked better was my custom Motorola Pure Droid X. The Essential Phone is one of the only truly unlocked smartphones on the market today. It doesn't come with any pre-installed apps other than what is absolutely essential to make the phone and camera run. You can buy it today for $443 and use it on any network. I published a detailed review of this phone on Practical Ed Tech.

Adobe Spark Post Now Available on Android

Adobe Spark Post is a free graphic design tool that has been available online and as an iPad app for a few years. Last week it finally became available for use as an Android app too. You can use Adobe Spark Post to create photo collages, to edit your images for sharing on social media, to make announcement graphics, or even to design great-looking slides.

Adobe Spark Post provides a huge gallery of design templates that you can use or you can go on your own to design from scratch. One of the thing that I like about Adobe Spark Post is that even if you don't work with a template it will make suggestions for color schemes and font choices when you import your own images.

Get the Adobe Spark Post Android app here.

Applications for Education
  • Students and teachers can create simple posters to print and post in their schools to announce club meetings, campaigns for class elections, or to post encouraging messages to students.
  • To help students understand and show that they understand what propaganda messages look like, I have had them create simple early 20th Century-style propaganda posters of their own. Adobe Spark has built-in Creative Commons search that can help students find pictures to use for those posters. Students can also upload pictures they've found in the public domain.
  • Create a meme-style graphic to share on your classroom, library, or school website. The graphic could be intended to encourage students and parents to remind each other of an upcoming school event. You could also create a meme to encourage students to continue reading over the summer.