Learning

Lux Digital Count Up/Down Timer

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Best timer for teachers

I’m a teacher in a school that uses a lot of timers. And it’s not just for exams – a well-paced lesson sometimes depends on hitting certain timestamps, and nothing can keep you accountable in quite the same way as the humble timer. The simple act of counting down is a surprisingly versatile arrow in the quiver of teaching practices.

At school, we need our timers to do just a few things but to do them well. The LUX CU100 scores high marks in all the necessary categories and gets extra credit for its ability to take abuse.

First, the digital display is large and extremely easy to see. Not only is this essential for quick glances from across the room, but it is easily read by students when I pop the device under a document camera set up to a projector. For timed writing and drills, the clear display helps kids self-evaluate their pacing and keeps them accountable. Being able to set the timer in second intervals – which are also given equal prominence in the display – is likewise a must in the classroom.

The ease of use is fantastic. Simple, chunky buttons – look at it once and you know how to use it. The timer has a good hand-feel, too, and the buttons chirp pleasantly and reassuringly when pressed. I seem to be allergic to correctly operating the stopwatch and timer function on most wristwatches – give me yours and I can accidentally find out how many laps it will store but for the life of me won’t be able to reset the damn thing back to that comforting row of zeroes – so it comes as a pleasant surprise in the middle of class to reach for the Lux CU100 and have it do exactly what I want, every time. Hit the start/stop button and it begins counting up; hit the button again and it stops. To count down, click the minute or second buttons until the desired time appears in the display and click start to begin the countdown. Hold the minute and second buttons together to reset to zero. That’s it. Even very small children have no trouble operating it without instruction – useful when a child needs a five minute break to cool down in the hallway and you can send them with a timer so they know when to come back in.

There are a few other things that commend its use for teachers. The thing is a workhorse: a single AAA battery powers the timer and I haven’t needed to replace mine in three years of daily use. And it just shrugs off abuse. I’ve literally kicked it across the room, stepped on it, and, on a weekly basis, dropped it half a dozen times from standing height. Aside from the battery cover popping off occasionally (without a loss of function and easily snapped back into place), the timer appears like new.

It also comes with a clip, magnet, and easel on the back. I don’t use any of these except the magnet, which exerts a significant amount of force. (In fact, I sometimes have a second or two of unexpected trouble pulling it off of the projector stand when it is laid flat on top.)

The alarm is loud enough to be heard over a room of chattering students, which, really, is all that I ask from my timers as a teacher.

A few caveats. I’ve noticed the display is sensitive to direct exposure to heat, darkening into unreadability if placed beneath a heat source for extended periods. (This crops up when I allow the timer to be blasted by the heat exhaust from my projector.) While it’s a minor concern for the teacher, it may be something to consider if you are using this in your kitchen.

Of bigger issue is that every button beeps when pressed. I personally don’t find this annoying but I can see why someone would. Need 60 minutes? Be prepared to hear 60 beeps.

If something is going to break on the timer, it will probably be the little metal bar that flips down to form the easel. I’ve noticed the tendency for this piece to snap out of its holder at times, usually because students fiddled with it too much. As I almost never use the easel, this has never been an issue.

Having used a variety of timers, both in the classroom and in the kitchen, I have to say the little bit of extra cash for the Lux CU100 is worth it. It’s not the cheapest but it is the most reliable, most durable, and easiest to use of the bunch. Teachers who know know: if the Lux CU100 were a student, she’d be the top of her class.

-- Joshua John Mackin 07/21/15