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These parents built a school app. Then the city called the cops

Öppna Skolplattformen hoped to succeed where Skolplattform had failed.

Enlarge / Öppna Skolplattformen hoped to succeed where Skolplattform had failed. (credit: Comstock | Getty Images)

Christian Landgren’s patience was running out. Every day the separated father of three was wasting precious time trying to get the City of Stockholm’s official school system, Skolplattform, to work properly. Landgren would dig through endless convoluted menus to find out what his children were doing at school. If working out what his children needed in their gym kit was a hassle, then working out how to report them as sick was a nightmare. Two years after its launch in August 2018, the Skolplattform had become a constant thorn in the side of thousands of parents across Sweden’s capital city. “All the users and the parents were angry,” Landgren says.

The Skolplattform wasn’t meant to be this way. Commissioned in 2013, the system was intended to make the lives of up to 500,000 children, teachers, and parents in Stockholm easier—acting as the technical backbone for all things education, from registering attendance to keeping a record of grades. The platform is a complex system that’s made up of three different parts, containing 18 individual modules that are maintained by five external companies. The sprawling system is used by 600 preschools and 177 schools, with separate logins for every teacher, student, and parent. The only problem? It doesn’t work.

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The Article Was Written/Published By: WIRED

You Can (and Should) Learn Almost Anything for Free

Education can be expensive, with a course at a community college costing $338 on average and tutoring for those learning an instrument or language potentially adding up to thousands. However, it is possible to learn almost anything for free these days.

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The Article Was Written/Published By: Dave McQuilling

The Best Chromebooks of 2021 for Students and Everyone Else

Today’s Chromebooks rival Windows PCs and Macs in functionality and quality. These “glorified web browsers” running Chrome OS are capable of everything you need for school or work, editing photos, and can even run Android and Linux apps. Here are the best Chromebooks you can buy.

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The Article Was Written/Published By: Joe Fedewa

What Are Dodging and Burning in Photography?

Dodging and burning are two of the oldest—and most important—photo editing techniques. It’s where you selectively brighten (dodge) or darken (burn) different areas of your image. Let me explain.

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The Article Was Written/Published By: Harry Guinness

Warren: Canceling $50K in student debt could ‘transform an entire generation’


Sen. Elizabeth Warren (D-Mass.) is reigniting her push for canceling $50,000 in student debt per borrower, arguing the move could “transform an entire generation.””It would help nearly everyone w…

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The Article Was Written/Published By: Mychael Schnell

The best educational toys for kids

It’s tempting to get your kid every shiny new toy they ask for. But some toys are better than others when it comes to actually stimulating your child’s brain while also keeping them entertained. The parents on the Engadget staff know this well, and we’ve tried out a bunch of educational toys with our kids, with various results. These are some of the ones that have had staying power with our children — and even we adults have to admit we found them pretty fun, too.

Smart Lab: Smart Circuits

Smart Lab: Smart Circuits for Engadget's 2021 Back to School guide.

Will Lipman Photography for Engadget

When it comes to introducing kids to electronics there are a ton of options, but I personally like the Smart Circuits kit. It can take a kid from simple blinking lights to complex motion-controlled games. The snap-together baseboard can lie flat on a table like a regular breadboard, but it can also be folded into a cube or the pieces can be attached at a 90-degree angle. This gives kids an extra element to play with when they graduate to designing their own circuits.

The kit itself only has a few pieces, but they’re quite flexible. And they’re all housed in large colorful plastic that should be easy for a kid to handle. There’s the usual electronics kid fare, like LEDs, a speaker, a potentiometer and two buttons. But there’s also a tilt switch, a light sensor and a microprocessor capable of handling some relatively robust tasks. The kit comes with instructions for 50 projects, but with the parts available a creative child could build quite a few more.

My one critique is that the jumper wires can be tough to insert and might require a bit of patience — something we know not every eight-year-old has an abundance of.  Terrence O’Brien, Managing Editor

Buy Smart Circuits at Amazon – $50

Playskool Shape Sorter

Playskool Shape Sorter for Engadget's 2021 Back to School guide.


A shape sorter is an awesome toy for younger kids because it encourages hand-eye coordination, fine motor skills, problem-solving and even vocabulary (by identifying the names of shapes and colors). My kids have a few of them, but the one I like most is this Playskool model and here’s why. The lid latches, which means they can’t just dump the shapes out easily; they have to learn how to work the mechanics of the lid as well. Also, the multi-colored shapes have tactile patterns on them that match the area of the box they’re supposed to fit into, and that gives me another teaching opportunity. The whole thing is durable, too — my son likes to chew on the shapes and my daughter likes to stand on the box, but despite that abuse, there’s not so much as a dent or a scratch on it. And because it’s only $9, it makes a great gift if you’re buying for someone else’s kiddo. — Amber Bouman, Associate Editor, Parenting

Buy Shape Sorter at Amazon – $10

Yoto Player

Yoto Player for Engadget's 2021 Back to School guide.

Will Lipman Photography for Engadget

The Yoto Player is the perfect toy for a young child who wants to play their own tunes and stories, but who isn’t ready for an iPad or smart speaker of their own. Yoto’s cute design and blocky, pixel-like display looks distinctly retro. It’s detailed enough for kids to make out images, but it’s insufficient for video, which should actually be good news for parents worried about too much screen time. Yoto calls the player a “carefully connected” speaker: You bring it online during the initial setup, but from there kids can access safe songs and other content through physical cards. — Devindra Hardawar, Senior Editor

Buy Yoto Player starter pack at Amazon – $110

Amazon Fire 7 Kids Pro

Amazon Fire 7 Kids Pro for Engadget's 2021 Back to School guide.

Will Lipman Photography for Engadget

While Amazon’s Fire tablets may not always be the best option for adults, the company’s kid-friendly models are a safe bet. Thanks to the included case, the Fire Kids Pro lineup is built to withstand frequent tumbles. The company offers adequate parental controls so you can keep tabs on content and includes one year of Amazon Kids+ for free. The Kids+ service offers access to over 20,000 apps, games, books, videos, songs and audiobooks from National Geographic, LEGO and more. You also get access to a digital store where you can install additional apps as you see fit. — Billy Steele, Senior News Editor

Buy Fire Kids Pro at Amazon – $100

Kiwi Crates subscription

Kiwi Crate for Engadget's 2021 Back to School guide.

Kiwi Crate

I am, admittedly, a sucker for a good subscription box. But Kiwi Crate is the only one that doesn’t feel like an indulgence. Each month my three-year-old gets a collection of simple DIY toys, crafts and games built around a theme. For instance, a recent box was all about bioluminescent animals. Inside was a plush lightning bug that we had to stuff ourselves and shape using hair ties; a mushroom that had us painting a Slurpee lid and then dotting it with glow-in-the-dark stickers; and a dancing, glowing jellyfish as well as several window clings of sea creates for him to create scenes with.

Past kits have covered farm life, dinosaurs and simple machines like ramps. The stuff inside the box is usually pretty simple (think: cardboard, felt and wood). It’s definitely not built to last, but my kid has gotten plenty of use out of each piece.

The best part is the crates will grow with him. As he gets older the projects will get more complex (and the price will go up). Later boxes include everything from screen-printing tools, to trebuchet kits and even robots. — T.O.

Buy Kiwi Crates starting at $16 a month

Lego Duplo My First Number Train

Lego Duplo My First Number Train for Engadget's 2021 Back to School guide.

Will Lipman Photography for Engadget

Sorry, folks, but this isn’t an electronic gizmo-toy that you can plug in, connect to the internet and treat it as somehow educational. As something of a traditionalist, I’ve always preferred solid toys that offer kids some license to imagine what’s going on, and this offers that in spades. Duplo’s My First Number Train is a train, with the coaches made from double-height number blocks running from 0 – 9. The aim is for your rugrats to place each block in chronological order and get familiar (almost subconsciously) with the concept of a number line.

Then, as they get a little older, you can do any number of things with the set, including (as we did) tie a ribbon around the chimney and fashion it as a pull-along train. Both my son and daughter (we bought one for each) love racing through the hallway with their pull-along trains. And, now that my daughter is in school, the train’s number blocks come in handy to help with the basics of her maths homework. Plus, it never hurts to have a surplus of double-height Duplo bricks for all of the (completely inaccurate) Frozen castles you’ll be building on Saturday mornings. — Daniel Cooper, Senior Editor

Buy My First Number Train at LEGO – $20

Kano PC

Kano PC for Engadget's 2021 Back to School guide.


The Kano PC may look at first like a cheap Surface knock-off, but based on our testing, it’s also a perfect introduction to the computer world for young children. It’s partially DIY — the base unit is a Windows 10 tablet with a pre-installed CPU, memory and storage, but kids will have to plug in a colorful battery and speaker module to get it going. Kano encourages youngsters to take a close look at all of the PC’s clearly labeled hardware with the bundled magnifying glass. And once they get going, it’s still a decently capable Windows 10 PC, with a Celeron CPU, 4GB of RAM and a 1080p webcam. Heck, it even comes with a keyboard cover, something Microsoft still hasn’t bundled with the Surface tablets. — D.H.

Buy Kano PC at Best Buy – $200

Playtime Engineering: Blipblox

Playtime Engineering: Blipblox for Engadget's 2021 Back to School guide.

Will Lipman Photography for Engadget

The Blipblox may look like a simple noise-maker for kids, but this gadget is much more than just a toy. While the device is loaded with 300 melodies and a synchronized light show, it also packs a capable digital synthesizer engine. There’s an oscillator with the usual assortment of synth parameters along with an amp envelope, two LFOs, modulation envelope and a low-pass filter. The Blipblox also has a MIDI input for use with a keyboard or other accessories in addition to a ¼-inch output. Lastly, it runs on three AA batteries or plugged in via a USB cable. Blipblox can teach kids about music through a basic approach to instruments and synthesis, but its features are advanced enough to offer noise-making magic for parents, too. — B.S.

Buy Blipbox at Amazon – $189

Montessori Busy Board

Montessori Busy Board for Engadget's 2021 Back to School guide.

Will Lipman Photography / deMoca

My kids are currently fascinated with snaps, zippers and closures, which is fun because it means it’s easy to amuse them, but awkward, too, because they often decide to undo the closures on the shirt I’m wearing. A busy board capitalizes on this curiosity by offering several different clasps, snaps, zippers, buttons and openings for little ones to work their fingers on. It intrigues children by activating their senses and helps them develop their fine-motor skills and problem solving by using real-world obstacles. It also adheres to the Montessori philosophy of simple, wooden toys that help children explore the world around them through play. The deMoca busy board is one of my favorites because it has bright, eye-catching colors, and 10 sensory activities including a zipper, a buckle, a latch and Velcro. It’s easy to bring along on trips, and deMoca also makes a “Quiet Book” — a soft-cover, fabric version that’s washable. — A.B.

Buy busy board at Amazon – $60

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The Article Was Written/Published By: Engadget

How to Learn About Engines

Engines are complex machines that power cars, motorcycles, airplanes, boats, and even factories. You could even say engines make our entire way of life possible! They’re fascinating machines, so whether you want to do some car repairs or are just curious, it’s only natural to want to learn more about engines. Luckily, we’re here to help and answer any questions you might have.


[Edit]How do combustion engines actually work?

  1. Engines burn fuel to release energy and produce motion. Basically, fuel enters the engine through an injector. The spark plug then ignites the fuel to release energy. This energy turns pistons in the engine, which makes the crankshaft turn. The energy then transfers to the car powertrain, which spins the wheels for motion.[1]
    Learn About Engines Step 1 Version 2.jpg
    • This process is how an internal combustion engine works, the type that is in cars and most other motor vehicles. But there are also different engine types, like steam, water, or air-powered ones.

[Edit]What are the parts of a combustion engine?

  1. Engines are complex machines made of many different components. These parts all work together to make the engine run. Some of the parts and their jobs include:[2]
    Learn About Engines Step 2 Version 2.jpg
    • Valves, which open and close the exhaust and air valves to let fuel and air into the engine.
    • Pistons, which compress the gas to make it ignite.
    • The spark plug, which ignites the gas to power the engine.
    • The crankshaft, which spins and produces power.
    • The engine block, the main support structure for all the other pieces of the engine.
    • Combustion engines are usually arranged in a V shape, with a row of cylinders on each side. A V6 engine, for example, has 6 cylinders with 3 on each side.

[Edit]What is the most important part of an engine?

  1. No single piece is more important than the others. Every part of the engine needs to work properly for it to run. If any part isn’t working, then the engine will either run poorly or fail to start altogether. The whole thing needs to stay in good working condition for the best performance.[3]
    Learn About Engines Step 3.jpg
    • Not all car problems are problems with the engine. For example, if your battery is dead, the engine won’t start. But this doesn’t mean there’s something wrong with your engine.

[Edit]What do combustion engines need to run?

  1. All engines need fuel, air, and a spark to get started. These are the main components of the combustion process that produces energy and makes the engine move. Injectors bring fuel and air into the engine, and the spark ignites the mixture. To continue running, the engine needs a steady supply of fuel and air, because the combustion process will stop without a mixture of both.[4]
    Learn About Engines Step 4.jpg
    • A broken or dirty spark plug is a common engine problem. Without the spark, the engine can’t start.
    • Oil isn’t part of the combustion process, but an engine can’t work without it. If the engine doesn’t have enough oil, the moving parts will lock up and the engine won’t run.
    • Every gas car needs to get an oil change.[5]

[Edit]What other types of engines are there?

  1. There are many types of engines and they all work a bit differently. Internal combustion engines are probably what you think of when you think of an engine, but there are lots of others. Here are a few of the other common ones:[6]
    Learn About Engines Step 5.jpg
    • External combustion engines, where the fuel burns in a different location outside the engine. A steam engine falls into this category, since the water is boiled in a different spot and then fed through the engine.
    • Reaction engines, also called jet engines. These spin very quickly to force air out the back end, creating motion.
    • Electrical engines use magnetic or electrical energy to produce vibrations. These vibrations when spin a turbine to produce power.

[Edit]What’s the best way to learn about car engines?

  1. Reading your car’s manual is best to learn about your own engine. There are lots of similarities between car engines, but there could be important differences too. That’s why referring to your car’s manual is the best source. This will include all the repair and maintenance information that’s unique to your car.[7]
    Learn About Engines Step 6.jpg
    • The owner’s manual should include a diagram of your car’s engine showing its main parts, as well as maintenance information like the correct oil type.
    • If you’ve lost the manual for your car, contact the manufacturer for a replacement. You might also be able to find the manual for your car online.
  2. Reading auto magazines and books or watching videos works too. Your car manual is great for learning the basics of your own engine, but it doesn’t have a lot of information about how engines work. Car magazines, books, shows, podcasts, and videos are all great sources to learn about how engines actually work. These are great sources to learn about engine operation and repair.[8]
    Learn About Engines Step 7.jpg
    • Magazines like Car and Driver or Popular Mechanics have lots of great articles about engines, and cars in general. Their websites are also helpful.
    • There are tons of YouTube channels focused on cars that show all the steps for any kind of engine repairs you might have to do.
    • It’s best to stick with sources made by people who actually work on cars, like mechanics. This way, you’ll know the information is coming from someone with experience.

[Edit]Can I work on my car engine myself?

  1. You can definitely do simple work yourself if you’re careful. Some simple tasks including cleaning or changing the spark plug, tightening the fuel cap, and replacing air or fuel valves. You can make these repairs yourself without a lot of experience and simple tools. Bigger jobs like a full engine replacement are better left to a professional.[9]
    Learn About Engines Step 8.jpg
    • Even if you’re doing simple work, always follow a good source like a mechanic’s video so you know the right process.
    • Working on newer cars is a bit more difficult than working on older ones because of all the electronic parts in modern cars.
    • If you’re not sure about your automotive skills, then it’s best to let a mechanic work on your car instead. If you make a mistake, then it might not be safe to drive your car.[10]

[Edit]Is anything bad for a car engine?

  1. Yes, lots of driving and operation habits can damage your engine. Like all machines, engines need proper care and maintenance to run smoothly. To get the most out of your engine, follow these habits:[11]
    Learn About Engines Step 9.jpg
    • Let the engine warm up before using it.
    • Rev smoothly so the engine doesn’t crank too hard.
    • Keep your fuel level above 1/4 tank so the fuel pump doesn’t clog.
    • Don’t carry more weight than the engine was designed to handle.
    • Perform regular maintenance to catch any problems before they get worse.


  • If you want to learn more about engines and maintenance, you could always take some classes at a local technical school.



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Dogs, Dinosaurs, and Wine: The Lost CD-ROMs of Microsoft

In the 1990s, Microsoft produced a wide range of multimedia CD-ROM educational and entertainment titles under the brand “Microsoft Home.” These guides covered topics as diverse as dogs, dinosaurs, wine, and gardening. We take a look at some of these forgotten classics.

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The Article Was Written/Published By: Benj Edwards

Maryland school district places largest-ever order for electric buses

This is a Saf-T-Liner C2 Jouley school bus, built by Thomas Built Buses and equipped with an electric powertrain from Proterra.

Enlarge / This is a Saf-T-Liner C2 Jouley school bus, built by Thomas Built Buses and equipped with an electric powertrain from Proterra. (credit: Daimler)

This week’s news about the new US Postal Service truck contract, and the USPS’s decision to order 90 percent of them with internal combustion engines, has been viewed by many as a missed opportunity. Thankfully, the news is better when it comes to electrifying another one of our public services—the school bus. On Thursday, Montgomery County—a wealthy Maryland suburb adjacent to Washington, DC—approved a contract to electrify its entire school bus fleet.

School buses are an ideal candidate for electrification, given the frequent stops and the fact that the buses usually only run a couple of times each day. With more than 1,400 buses, the Montgomery County Public Schools Board of Education, which has more than 200 schools and 160,000 students, has one of the largest fleets of school buses in the country. And now it’s getting 326 new ones, the largest single order of EV buses by a school district in the country.

The buses in question are Saf-T-Liner C2 Jouleys, built by Thomas Built Buses and equipped with electric powertrains made by Proterra. The Saf-T-Liner C2 Jouley uses a 226kWh battery to achieve a range of up to 135 miles (217km), with up to 81 passengers aboard. The switch to electric power should cut the district’s carbon emissions by 25,000 tons and reduce diesel particulate pollution.

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The Article Was Written/Published By: Jonathan M. Gitlin

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