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HP Envy x2: Tablet/Notebook Review (gasp! it’s not an Apple!)

Posted by admin | Posted in Anastasis Academy, Teacher Resources, Technology | Posted on 26-07-2013

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Staples HP Envy x2 iLearn Technology

If you have followed my blog or Twitter feed for any amount of time, you know that this review is kind of a big deal.  I have been a hard-core Apple evangelist for at least 10 years now.  As in: Apple is the only technology product that I own and use.  Why in the world, you might wonder, has she suddenly switched gears and started using the HP Envy x2?  The good people of Staples invited me to do a review for them.  Full disclosure: they sent me a HP Envy x2 to play with.  Being the tech geek that I am, I couldn’t pass up the opportunity to play with a new gadget!

After taking some gratuitous un-boxing pictures, I plugged it in and got ready to play.

Staples HP Envy x2

Staples HP Envy x2

Staples HP Envy x2

The thing is…I haven’t used a non-Apple product in a LONG time.  I forgot that Windows likes you to promise your first-born before you actually get to play.  After signing my life away (not really, but it felt like it!) I played with the Envy and did the tasks normally reserved for my MacBook Pro and iPad.  I’ve been using the Envy for almost a month (and exclusively in place of my iPad today, @jtenkely snuck mine away for a client presentation) below are my notes.

Staples HP Envy x2

The Awesome:

  • The last time I used a non-Apple touch screen, it was a train wreck.  I was pleasantly surprised that this touch screen was everything you expect a touch screen to be.  It is incredibly responsive and works like you would (and should) expect it to.
  • The battery life is pretty great.  I had it on for 4 days of off-on use without having to recharge.  I’m pretty sure I got every bit of the 12 hours of battery life out of it.  The tablet alone gets slightly less battery life. The thought that HP put into charging is pretty impressive, the tablet gets fully charged before the keyboard gets charged.  This makes a lot of sense since you want the most out of the tablet.
  • The cameras are decent quality, the resolution of pictures seems better to me than what I get out of my iPad 3.
  • Beats Audio is a nice touch, the sound quality is good for a notebook/tablet.  This let me rock out to Spotify while I worked.
  • The Envy has inputs on the keyboard base including HDMI, two USB, and SD ports.  This makes transferring, adding, sharing content really easy.
  • The notebook/tablet combination are lightweight at just a hair over 3lbs.
  • Aesthetically the HP Envy x2 is nice.  It feels sturdy but still manages to look sleek (everyone seems to be taking styling cues from Apple these days…hard to go wrong with that inspiration).
  • Flash works all the time. Not having to open a new browser just for Flash is nice.  So many educational websites are still built using flash so for a classroom setting, this feature is handy!
  • Bluetooth connectivity.

The Less Awesome

  • I like the HP Envy x2 better as a touch-screen computer than I do as a tablet.  The screen size is just a little too big and heavy to hold comfortably as a tablet for reading, typing, etc.
  • On this device, I constantly used the touch screen instead of the track pad.  The track pad drove me absolutely crazy.  It  wasn’t as sensitive as I was used to, and there are spots on the pad that were way too sensitive for my liking and kept sending me into full screen mode.  It also has some little grooves in it that make it feel like it is sticky. When you work with children, things that feel sticky are never good.
  • Windows 8- I don’t get it.  It seems hard to complete even simple tasks.  This could just be my bias toward Apple’s OS, but I am not impressed.  When I got the hang of navigating, things got smoother.  I still wouldn’t trade Apple’s OS for it.  One of the things that I missed (and this may just be the apps I was using) was that apps don’t integrate seamlessly together like I anticipated they should.  The Windows 8 store is not my favorite.  It isn’t easy to search for something specific.
  • While the camera’s resolution was good, I wasn’t impressed with the response time to get it to focus on something.

What to Anticipate for the Classroom:

The HP Envy x2 would make a fine classroom computer/tablet.  I like that students can use it as a laptop, they can type on it easily, can access downloadable content, and it stores away nicely so you are not taking up too much space in the classroom.  I also like that it transforms into a tablet so that students can make their learning, and capturing of their learning, more mobile.  Our students constantly take photographs and videos of their learning whether they are inside, outside, on a field trip, etc.  The keyboard dock would be too cumbersome to tote all over so it is great that students could just use the tablet portion when a task called for more portability.  I found the Microsoft store a little lacking in apps that are available.  I think that in the classroom, this gets made up for by the free Flash content you can access online.  I anticipate that with the Windows 8 interface, the learning curve for using the device would be more significant than with an iPad (which has no learning curve).  This is especially true for the primary grades.  It really took me some playing around with to get it figured out, and although I’m all Apple, I am also tech savvy.

Fun Find:

Most of the apps that I downloaded are those that I use regularly on my other devices.  I was impressed with some (Twitter app was great!) and less so with others (Pinterest app was ridiculous…it was easier to just use the browser).  One of the fun finds that I immediately searched for afterward in Apple’s app store was wordBrush (not there).  It lets you type some words into a box and then draw with them.  Pretty awesome!  This could be fun for vocabulary/spelling practice, poetry, book quotes, etc.

I was impressed with the number of free apps available for download.

Overall Impression:

The HP Envy x2 is a nice device that would hold up well in a classroom.  My personal preference is NOT for Windows 8, but if you are used to a Windows environment, it probably won’t phase you.  I was extremely impressed with Staples customer service, after I ordered the HP Envy x2, it came within just a few days. Everyone I worked with on the Staples side was great! (They didn’t even ask me to say that!) :)  At $699 this is a good competitor for the iPad.  The combination tablet/notebook is nice.  It really was like being able to use my iPad and then instantly turn it into my MacBook.  Being small, it doesn’t have the same capabilities as my MacBook, but for the majority of what kids do in the classroom, it would be great!

We use Staples a LOT at Anastasis Academy.  I’ve been there every day this week getting school supplies true story.  They have some great back to school deals that you should check out.  The first is Teacher Appreciation Day.  20% back in Staples rewards on all purchases! You can also enter to win a $25 gift card.  Check out the website to find out when your local Staples is holding the Teacher Appreciation Day.

Staples also recently introduced Reward a Classroom.  Sign up and then invite parents to help you earn rewards by buying the school and office supplies they do already.  This could help keep you classroom well stocked all year-long!

**The thoughts and opinions expressed in this post are strictly my own. Thank you Staples for letting me step outside of the Apple world to explore!

 

Nota

Posted by admin | Posted in Art, Geography, History, Interactive book, Interactive Whiteboard, Language Arts, Math, Middle/High School, Phonics, Primary Elementary, Science, Secondary Elementary, Teacher Resources, web tools, Web2.0, Websites | Posted on 09-08-2009

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What it is: Nota is an incredible online collaboration tool that allows students and teachers to collaborate almost instantaneously on a shared whiteboard space.  Instantly create and share any kind of document, presentations, notebooks, report, artwork, etc.. Nota makes any type of document and media work together seamlessly.  The Nota interface is extremelly intuitive, it is quick to learn and use.  Materials can be shared and edited simultaneously making it a truly incredible collaborative experience.  Materials can be uploaded or added from sites like Flickr, YouTube, Google Maps, Wikipedia, and more.  The Nota drawing tools work with any media or document in Nota.  Public or private notebooks can be created.  Collaborate with one or a hundred people on Nota and create as many pages as you want.  Finished work can be stored, printed, or embeded.  Best of all Nota is totally free!

How to integrate Nota into the classroom: Nota is the ultimate in online collaboration.  It reminds me a little bit of a glog but Nota goes way beyond Glogster in so many ways.  Nota can be used to complete group projects between students.  The instant collaborative abilities mean that students can see each group members contribution instantaneously.  Imagine using Nota to work on difficult math problems, create science diagrams, compare and contrast historical figures, create a character sketch of a character from a classroom novel, etc..  The possibilities are endless for collaborative learning.  Work on a common notebook for whole class projects where each student is responsible for a contribution to the Nota.  Make interactive whiteboards a truly interactive experience by combining with Nota.  Throughout teaching, have students add their new learning to a common Nota notebook.  At the end of teaching, use the interactive whiteboard to view the Nota and add any additional information and resources to it.  Print out or send the Nota to students as a study guide that they helped create.  Nota creates an impressive mashup of media and documents and allows users to collaborate and combine knowledge.  When students work together to construct knowledge, they end up with a greater, more complete understanding of material.

Tips: Nota works with any web browser making it ideal for the classroom setting where students may not have the same computing platforms or Internet browsers at home.

Leave a comment and tell us how you are using Nota in your classroom.

Scholastic Story Starters

Posted by admin | Posted in inspiration, Interactive Whiteboard, Language Arts, Primary Elementary, Secondary Elementary, Teacher Resources, Websites | Posted on 08-04-2009

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What it is:  Story Starters is a fun site for students in kindergarten through sixth grade to use each day as a quick writing activity.  Students type in their name and select a grade to begin.  Students are taken to a special Story Starter machine that generates writing ideas for newspaper articles, letters, notebooks, or postcards.  They can get a new idea by keeping some elements of the idea and spinning again to change elements.   The site also features Scholastic’s Word Wizard which always floats on the webpage.  Students can type in a word or double click any word on the webpage and get a definition of the word.

How to integrate Scholastic Story Starters into the classroom:  Scholastic Story Starters is a fun website to use with the whole class or as a writing learning center.  This is a great site to use with an interactive whiteboard or projector to generate ideas for free creative writing time.  Let students take turns being the ‘spinner’ that generates writing ideas.  Encourage students to share their writing, it is neat to hear all the different ideas that kids come up with from the same story starter.  This would be a great website to bookmark on classroom computers for students to visit as a writing center that they can visit when they are stumped for writing ideas.

 

Tips:  You may have to spin a category a few times to get a story starter that makes sense.  This is very quick and easy!

 

Leave a comment and tell us how you are using Scholastic Story Starters in your classroom.

eyePlorer

Posted by admin | Posted in Interactive Whiteboard, Language Arts, Middle/High School, Primary Elementary, Science, Secondary Elementary, Social Studies, Teacher Resources, web tools, Websites | Posted on 31-03-2009

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What it is:  eyePlorer is a really cool site that allows students “explore and process knowledge.”  Student type in a word or words to research.  eyePlorer pulls information from Wikipedia and puts it into a color wheel of information.  When students hover over the different areas of the color wheel, they get a sentence or two about their subject.  There is a notebook where students can drag and drop facts that they want to remember.  Students can drag facts to the notebook and rearrange them as they need to.  Students can click the “i” button under the search box to get a quick summary of their topic, click on the “+” button to add search parameters, and click on the paper button to go to a Google search.  The idea behind eyePlorer is to improve the way “users interact with knowledge and information online.”  The goal is to provide innovative, interactive, visual methods for working with and discovering facts and information.  I think the result is pretty amazing and perfect for the educational setting!

How to integrate eyePlorer into the classroom: This is a truly unique way for students to research and explore new information.  Students quickly get a visual guide to their inquiry and can drag and drop what they are learning into a notebook.  This is a fantastic tool for research projects but would also be amazing for use with an interactive whiteboard.  As students are learning about a new concept, they can type the subject into the search and as a class decide which information they want to save in the notebook for later.  What a great introduction to any new material.   This site will definitely help wet students appetite for learning!  Make sure to bookmark this site on the classroom computers as a classroom research center.

 

Tips:  eyePlorer was created in Germany so the home page information is all in German, once you start a search you can choose to search in German or English.  When I searched “shiba inu” it automatically searched in English for me.

 

Leave a comment and tell us how you are using eyePlorer in your classroom.

Pocket Manila

Posted by admin | Posted in Blogs, History, Interactive book, Language Arts, Middle/High School, Science, Secondary Elementary, Teacher Resources, Web2.0, Websites | Posted on 01-12-2008

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What it is: Pocket Manila is a site that provides online notebooks that can be used as a journal, blog, idea bank, photo album, portfolio, group blog, ezine, story book, and more.  Pocket Manila is unique because it feels like a canvas-bound, manila paper journal.  Pocket Manila makes it feel like you are writing in a real notebook.  The pages turn, writing and pictures automatically flow to the next page and are sized correctly for the page.  Students can easily change the look of their notebooks with colors and themes.  The control panel is simple, streamlined and easy to use.  

 

How to integrate Pocket Manila into the classroom:    Use Pocket Manila in a creative writing classroom as a creative writing journal.  Students can work on their writing wherever they have an Internet connection without having to remember to tote their journals everywhere they go.  Pocket Manila’s sharing ability makes it wonderful for collaboration in writing classes.  Students can read and comment on each others writing, leaving constructive criticism right in their journals.  Pocket Manila is also great used in the science classroom as a place to take lab notes, record observations and the scientific method.  Teachers can use Pocket Manila as a place to collect and organize lesson plans, class notes, etc.  Younger students can use Pocket Manila to record thoughts about books they are reading, practice their writing.  Teachers can comment right in the student notebook.

 

Tips:   I love Pocket Manila because there is something special about having a notebook or writing journal of your own to record thoughts.  Those of us who didn’t grow up with the Internet appreciate simple pleasures like notebooks that feel like notebooks and day runners full of sticky notes and scribbled reminders!  Pocket Manila provides the nostalgia of a notebook and the convenience and cool factor of digital. 

Leave a comment and tell us how you are using Pocket Manila in your classroom.