Best Pencil Sharpener

Best Pencil Sharpener

  • A Review on the Best Pencil Sharpener

Update: April 2017:

Best Pencil Sharpener – A Clear Winner

The X-ACTO Pro X Beats them all hands-down

Best Pencil Sharpener
Best Electric Pencil Sharpener

Since writing this review, I have become a classroom teacher and have witnessed and/or peformed the sharpening of thousands of different pencils. When I did this review on best pencil sharpener I researched the numerous Amazon reviews and came to the conclusion that is the one pencil sharpener that consistently receives the highest rating. Now, I can affirm that the contest isn’t even close. The X-ACTO PROX is hands-down better than any other pencil sharpener I’ve ever tried. You can sharpen a brand new, completely unsharpened pencil (depending on brand), in around 5-6 seconds. The X-ACTO ProX is less than half the price as the Panasonic KP150BK. Like the KP150BK, the X-ACTO has a steel cutting wheel and an auto-shut-off feature to prevent over sharpening of your pencils. Another great feature is LED illumination which indicates when sharpening is complete. The X-ACTO has a larger receptacle for pencil shaving and a multi-wheel dial for selecting different sizes of pencils. These are features the KP150BK doesn’t. The best part is the $59.00 price tag. But wait, it gets even better than that. You can get them the XACTO PROX for around $58.00 on Amazon.

 

I bought this pencil sharpener about 18 months ago and dozens of students have used it. We go through a lot of pencils. I estimate that we’ve sharpened well 2,000 pencils with this unit. So far, it hasn’t failed. Prior to this I tried a couple of other electric pencil sharpeners such as the Wescott Evolution iPoint sold at Costco for around $15.00. I went through two of these. They are cheap, but they are noisy and they break. Other teachers have used these as well and have complained about how many times they have failed. At the failure rate of other cheap, electric pencil sharpeners, I would say that the $58.00 XACTO will actually save you some money in the long-run. But, most importantly, getting the right pencil sharpener will save you a lot of grief and headaches from the noise.

Please give me your own rating on the X-ACTO ProX Pencil Sharpener

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See my original review below

– back in the day when I thought pencil sharpeners were for Crossword Puzzles.

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Jaws Screen Reader

Jaws Screen Reader
Jaws Screen Reader

If there is a more important product for aiding the technology and communications needs of those who are visually impaired, it would be hard to imagine. Jaws Screen Reader makes personal computing possible for those who cannot see. For those of us who are blessed with site, it is hard to imagine what it would be like to face a computer without seeing the words on your screen much less make full use of word processing, spread sheets, email, internet browsing and many of the other software applications those of us blessed with sight take for granted.. The Jaws program was designed for computer users whose loss of vision prevents them from reading the content on the screen of their PC Desktop or Laptop.

I became familiar with the Jaws Screen Reader software through a blind customer of mine. My client sells computers as part of a bigger, visual-aid solution. His customers buy and use the same computers as my seeing customers. For the visually impaired, receiving a computer that does not have the Jaws software pre-installed is about as good as buying a brick.. For that reason, his computers are shipped to me, first, and I install the Jaws software for him. When his customers receive a system with Jaws preinstalled, they can remove the computer from the box and begin using it immediately.

The program works with just about all of today’s popular software applications: Internet Explorer, Fire Fox, Word Perfect, Corel, Lotus Apps, Adobe Acrobat, MSN Messenger and more. The Jaws software uses two, multilingual speech synthesizers which provide very natural, easy-to-understand speech of everything that is read on your screen. But Jaws does not merely just read data and applications text, it also turns all of your mouse-driven system commands into speech making it possible for the visually impaired to easily navigate windows menus and tasks. I am impressed with how quickly the program responds to the movement of your mouse. It never seems to miss a beat. The reader voice can be turned up as fast or slow as you want it. It is amazing how quickly my customer can read emails while speaking with me on the telephone. Thanks to Jaws, his lack of site does not hasten his ability to work or read data on the computer.

Use Jaws with Braille

Jaws is equipped with a refreshable Braille display. So, you can use the program to provide Braille output in place or addition to speech. The software produces several RealSpeak Solo Direct voices in different accents and languages which can be downloaded from their site. For instance you can choose between several variations of female-speaking or British voice accents, or numerous different languages; Indian, Spanish, Danish, German, Italian, etc.  Jaws is also compatible with the MAGic Screen Magnification Software; a cool piece of software that can magnify the text and images on your screen by up to 36 times!

How Much does Jaws?

If you think a program that is so powerful and useful might cost a pretty penny, you’re right. The Jaws Screen Reader Software isn’t cheap. You can buy the Pro version for $1,095 or the Standard Version for $895.00. The only difference I could see from the website of the makers of Jaws, Freedom Scientific, is that the Pro version works with Windows 2003 and Windows 2008 Server Operating Systems. There is also Multi-User License pricing for the product. See, the Freedom Scientific website for more information on the Jaws Screen Reader software.

 

A Small Italian Life

a-small-italian-life
A Small Italian Life

I normally don’t do much in the way of book reviews, but I will make an exception with this one. This particular story had such a powerful and positive impact on me that I felt compelled to talk about it and persuade you to buy the book and read it for yourself.  A Small Italian Life is not only an  inspiring and touching biography, but a powerfully, captivating success story.

There is a lesson in this book for everyone, regardless of your age, background and family.  Author, Jimmy Corso, overcame great adversity and disadvantages as a child to become a very successful teacher and role model for society. His book reminds us that true success isn’t measured in terms of money or how famous we become.  His book teaches us what it takes to succeed in life at any level. What he calls a “A Small Italian Life” in reality, is a bigger-than-life-lesson for all of us. Jimmy Corso’s story teaches us that it’s not what life gives us that counts, but what we are willing to give of ourselves in life to succeed. Reading this book, I was amazed  by how a boy with seemingly so little good fortune maintained such a fierce desire and commitment to succeed. His father was an alcoholic and his mother mentally ill. He and his parents were told by the school teachers that with an IQ of just 70, he would never be able to join the rest of his classmates. He was relegated to special education programs, then put back a couple of grades in later school years. As you read about his struggles with his family and school education, you will wonder how he could ever have a chance to succeed. But, the more you read, the more you will see his incredible commitment to persevere. One of the things which truly impressed me was how despite all of his family problems and negative influences, Jimmy Corso remained such a decent human being. His good character, integrity and work-ethic shines through in his book, from childhood to adulthood. While the book is indeed an inspiration and lesson in life, I don’t want to sell it short, by limiting it to just that. The story is a fascinating and colorful account of Jimmy Corso’s life and it is filled with rich details, characters, plots and history of the times.  Once I turned the first page, I didn’t want to put the book down. There is never a dull moment which explains why I finished reading the entire book the weekend I started it.

Though, A Small Italian Life, is not really a book about sports, it provides much of the same joys you might get from a sports story like Rudy, Cinderella Man or the recent, blockbuster hit,  Blind Side.  Like Jimmy Corso, the heros in these sports stories fought through adversity and overcame tremendous odds to win the battle in the end. When you think of the profound, positive influence on the thousands of children taught by the author of this touching story, you will agree with me that Jimmy Corso is a true, American hero. The book is a story that will continue to teach generations to come.