Navigating TestNav and Java Woes for PARCC Testing

If your district or school has taken or is taking computer-based PARCC testing, you most likely spent a great deal of time preparing for it and still encountered at least a few technical struggles. Pearson has done a lot right in their efforts to bring sufficient and reliable computer-based testing to schools, but they have overlooked or underestimated the impact of some of their decisions. Here are some details of some issues along with some tips on how to resolve them:

  • Last year, schools that provide Windows devices to students needed to take the test within a web browser. Pearson created a Java version of TestNav that was accessible via web browser. Unfortunately, around the same time, the major web browser companies were in the process of either removing support of Java or at least making it more of a hassle to use (due to security vulnerabilities). The most painful consequence of this was for users of Google Chrome since Google had a plan to entirely remove Java/NPAPI support. So, if you were in a school that had set Google Chrome to be the default browser (or perhaps the only accessible browser), that was a big problem.   Continue reading
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Streaming Media Player Comparison: Roku, Chromecast, Fire TV, Apple TV, etc. – Cable Alternatives

comic_TVHave you ever noticed how ridiculously high your monthly cable or satellite bill is? Even basic plans can be as high as $60 per month after fees and taxes are factored in. Want service in multiple rooms for your kids too? That’s more money. And you are likely paying for channels you don’t even watch. There has to be a cheaper way! Luckily, there is: cut the cord!

In this article, we’ll take a look at the leading streaming media players: Roku, Chromecast, Fire TV, Apple TV, and more. All of these devices are a one-time purchase that will enable you to eliminate your monthly cable or satellite TV bill. There are many similarities between all of the devices, but there are also some important differences. Here is a comparison of the major features of these cable TV replacement devices:
Continue reading

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Android vs. iPhone Smart Phone Comparison

Everybody has a cell phone with them in today’s world. It’s like wearing clothes or carrying a purse when going out. It has become a necessity, albeit one that is primarily for communication and entertainment. To maximize our enjoyment, many people do not bother with regular “feature phone” cell phones anymore. Smart Phones are where it’s at. You can do so much more – nearly everything that you can do on a regular home computer – and you can do it anywhere.

When choosing a smart phone, there is 1 main choice that needs to be made: Android or iPhone. Sure, there are other options out there (e.g., Windows Phone, Blackberry, etc.), but they won’t be the best choice for most users due to a more limited selection of apps and other usability issues.

So, how do you choose whether to go with an Android phone or an iPhone? Keep reading to empower yourself to make a more informed decision.

We could compare phone specs, compare apps, compare prices, etc. but there are many other articles that already do this. What is really at the center of the Apple vs. Android discussion is the philosophy. If you want a nicely packaged and polished product from a company who feels that they know what you want better than you do, then go the Apple route. If you want to be able to make choices yourself and customize your experience, then go the Android route.

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Why My Weak, Old Computer Is Faster Than Your New Expensive One

The specs of a computer (e.g., processor, RAM, hard drive, etc.) determine the potential for performance. For example, an expensive Windows laptop with high specs (e.g., 8GB RAM, an Intel Core i7 processor, 7200RPM hard drive, etc.) has a higher ceiling for performance than a budget Windows laptop with modest specs (e.g., 2GB RAM, Intel Celeron processor, 5400 RPM hard drive, etc.). However, if the more expensive one is bogged down with tons of bloatware running in the background at all times, it is quite possible that it can be outperformed by the more modest one.

Most computers are bought from retail stores. They often come with free trials of antivirus and dozens of other pieces of software pre-installed – software that you never asked for and don’t want. Each time you start up your computer, these pieces of software start in the background. They take up your computer’s resources but don’t yield any benefit to you. They just slow down your experience. When you do want to open a program, you have to click and wait.

Luckily, there is a solution: get rid of the junk!

Ideally you would do this by first formatting your hard drive and then installing a fresh version of your operating system and all the drivers that your computer needs to run. However, that is a bit advanced for many users. Accordingly, this article will point you in the direction to clean things up without needing to be a computer nerd. It won’t be quite as effective, but it should make a huge difference. Here are some links to help you:

Microsoft’s Tips for Speeding Up Windows 7
TechRepublic’s Tips for Speeding Up Windows 7
MakeUseOf’s Tips for Speeding Up Windows 8
HowGeeksView’s Tips for Speeding Up Windows 8

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SharpClass Classroom Management Teacher Tool

SharpClass Classroom Management System

Easily Manage Your Classroom

Managing a classroom full of students is an art. Some teachers naturally have a strong presence that commands attention and respect; other teachers are highly organized. Regardless of your teaching style, SharpClass can take your classroom management skills to the next level.


There are a few different electronic/computer-based classroom management systems on the market, but none are quite like this. Here are some key features of SharpClass:

  • Free classroom management system
  • Behavior management with customizable behaviors lets you track and manage both positive and negative behaviors
  • Drag and drop seating chart
  • Hall Pass system helps keep track of when students leave the room to go to the bathroom, nurse, etc. Continue reading
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Nabi Jr. Educational Kid/Toddler Tablet Review

Nabi Jr.

Nabi Jr. $99 tablet for young kids

It’s amazing how young kids can be when they begin to develop the ability to use computer/tablet devices. Using a mouse or touchpad and keyboard is typically a bit too complicated for the youngest ones, but they all sure can use touch screens.

These digital natives, as young as about 1.5 years old, can interact successfully and happily with quite a variety of applications on tablets and smart phones. At first, they can watch and tap which lets them have fun with bubble pop and tap-and-see-what-happens games. Then they can start to slide, drag, and manipulate objects. This enables them to now manipulate puzzles, dress-up games, etc. There is an impressive progression of computing skills just as there is of real world/physical environment skills. The Nabi Jr. excels at harnessing and developing many of these skills while also allowing for a near-ideal tablet experience for the youngest kids/toddlers.  Continue reading

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Buying a Plasma, LCD, or LED HDTV

Image: Salvatore Vuono /

Although cheaper than ever before, TVs are still relatively expensive. Buyers should research all their options before shelling out hundreds or thousands of dollars. The first step is to figure out what features you want. These include:

  • 3-D capability (and how many sets of glasses you need)
  • Wireless or wired network access (for Internet access, streaming movies through Netflix, DLNA, etc.)
  • Viewing angles (will you always be watching from straight on or do you need good picture viewability from odd angles)
  • Refresh rate (will you be watching much content with fast action like sports and video games)
  • Resolution (1080p or 720p)
  • Screen size (usually measured as the diagonal of the screen, but you should also note the height, width, and depth of the set)
  • Television type (plasma, LCD, DLP, or LED)
  • Brand Continue reading
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Mac vs. PC Comparison – Which Should I Buy?


Image: scottchan /

Although there are some compelling reasons to go either way, I wanted to approach this article from strictly a cost perspective. Specifically, I wanted to draw your attention to the ridiculous pricing of Mac hardware. Although you are likely already aware of this, you may not have ever seen an actual comparison of similar machines. In any case, Apple is able to have such high prices since they do not allow other companies to produce Macs and consequently there is no competition in the Mac arena like there

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is in the PC arena. Consequently, their markups are exponentially higher than that of a typical PC that has essentially all the same hardware components.

Below are links to 3 comparable laptops for sale in early March 2011. The files include 3 specs and prices of 3 similar laptops: an Apple Macbook Pro 15″ (see basic specs on the right side), a Dell XPS 15″, and a Lenovo IdeaPad 15″. All 4 have comparable hardware (e.g., Intel Core i7 processor, 4GB RAM, 500 GB Hard Drive, etc.), yet the prices are very different.
Admittedly, the Dell & Lenovo machines may come with a bit more bloatware that would need to be removed and may need some more initial refining of configurations in order to perform optimally, but I just wanted to shine some more light on the topic as you make future purchasing decisions.


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Interior Design with a Free 3D Room Planner

Room Design

Image: Salvatore Vuono /

If you are planning on designing or redesigning the layout of a room in your home, check out this great tool from La-Z-Boy. Their 3D Room Planner tool allows you to design the room of your dreams before you go shopping for new furniture or moving things around. It can save you a lot of time and money by allowing you to plan the layout of your room ahead of time. Their site explains that you can “customize furniture styles and fabrics, change the room shape, add windows and doors, change the floorings, change the paint color…anything you can do in a real room.” Start planning your next room now!

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Read and Download Books Free Online

E-readers and e-books have become more and more popular since they were first introduced. The Kindle, the Nook, the  iPad, laptops, and other devices have made it convenient and even kind of cool to read books. Many folks regularly purchase e-books through Amazon and other services, and then read them on an e-reader or other device. - download free books!

What the masses may not realize, however, is that thousands of books (classics, rare books, contemporary literature, etc.) are available free online. There are many sites that offer free books available for download, but my favorite is Not only does it haave one of the largest selections (over 29,000 books), but it is also well-organized, searchable, and books are available in a ton of formats for download. Thanks to and other similar services, we all now have free, instant access to gigantic libraries from the comfort of our living rooms. Enjoy!

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