About this blog Subscribe to this blog

Clique Time

IMG7880--1Tired of having the Apple Magic Keyboard and Magic Trackpad 2 slide apart from each other as your kids do their work? Henge’s Clique² consolidates them into one unit that stays put. Both the keyboard and trackpad snap into the Clique²’s aluminum base and works just as well for lefties and righties. It costs $59, not including the keyboard and trackpad.

Freebee Friday: Toontastic, Take 2

ToontasticAppIconPlayThe latest in teaching story telling (and listening) is Google’s Toontastic 3D, an app that can turn anyone into an animator. Just draw a few figures, link them with a story and narrate the content and the app does the rest. Available for Android and iOS phones and tablets, Toontastic 3D lets kids move characters and objects on the screen while adding music and a voice over. It’s perfect for everything from creative writing projects to a replacement for the onerous “what I did over the vacation essay”.

Big Sound, Small Mixer

QscIf you think your auditorium needs a full-size audio mixer, look at QSC’s TouchMix-30 Pro. The mixer is just 7.5- by 18.1- by 16.9-inches and weighs 18-pounds, but has a prominent 10-inch color touch screen. Inside is a 32-channel mixer with 16 outputs, making it one of the most powerful small sound boards you can get. It features anti-feedback and room tuning set ups and the system has a 1/3 octave graphic equalizer for its outputs. Best of all, the whole thing can be controlled with an iOS or Android app so the room’s sound can be fine-tuned while walking around or sitting in the back row. It costs $1,900 and is light enough to be moved from room to room or school to school as needed.

Dock City

Henge cWith the right docking station an iPad can be transformed into a desktop computer that works better for stationary classroom tasks like writing and viewing video. All you need to do is snap the pad in place and you have all the amenities of a full computer, like USB and audio connections. The Henge Gravitas Mobile Dock can inexpensively turn a recent iPad or iPhone into a mini desktop.

Its brushed aluminum finish matches the look and feel of current iPad’s industrial design, but the Gravitas dock is made of a specially alloyed zinc alloy that’s nearly three-times denser than raw aluminum. This not only gives the Gravitas dock a more substantial feel, but it should stay put on a desk and provide a stable base. Its bottom has a thoughtful rubber base so cables won’t pull it around.

At only 3.5-inches across, the Gravitas dock works with most recent iPads and iPhones. The package comes with two inserts so that the Gravitas dock will fit everything from an iPad Mini or iPad Pro, Air and Air 2 to an iPhone 6, 6s, 6s Plus or the newer 7 and 7 Plus models. It can also work with iPads that are held in slim covers. 

Henge bUsing the Gravitas dock couldn’t be easier. Just plug the USB cable into the back of Gravitas and either an AC adapter or a computer if you want to synchronize the software on the pad or phone. Then, slide the phone or tablet directly into the dock’s opening and press it into the dock’s built-in Lightning plug. On the downside, none of the Gravitas docks work with older iPads that use the long narrow 30-pin port.

It has a well-placed indentation so you can easily get to the device’s Home button, but the dock lacks the magnetic guides that the Logitech Base Dock has. Regardless of whether you use an iPad Mini, large Pro or an iPhone, the device sits about 1.5-inches above the table top with the device held securely at an angle of 82-degrees. This makes it easy to read and tap the display, but the iPad can wobble when it’s been tapped, it must sit in portrait mode and its angle isn’t adjustable. 

Henge dWith an audio-out port and a USB connection, the dock can be used to drive a set of speakers, charge and synchronize the pad while it’s in place. Because the Gravitas’s audio connection lacks a volume control, Henge advises against using it with a set of headphones, but it worked fine for me.

The package includes a USB cable that can be plugged into an AC adapter or a computer, but Gravitas lacks a way to connect an external monitor or projector. While you can’t directly plug a keyboard and mouse in, a Bluetooth keyboard, like the Logitech K-780 that I used, should do just fine.

At $69 ($88 with an extra 12-watt AC adapter), the Gravitas dock is a bargain that can go a long way to turning any recent iPad into the equivalent of a desktop computer. It works particularly well with the large-screen iPad Pro. On the other hand, it includes only a 90-day warranty – hardly inspiring for a device that will need to stand up to the daily use and abuse at school.

Still, the ability of the Henge Gravitas Mobile Dock to turn recent iPads and iPhones into desktop computers makes it the best – and most stylish – place to stash an iPad.


Henge a

Henge Gravitas Mobile Dock

$69 ($88 with AC adapter)

+ Solid heavy base for iPad or iPhone

+ USB and audio-out ports

+ Works with recent iPads and iPhones

+ Comes with USB cable


- Short warranty

- Can’t adjust angle of screen

- No video-out port

AV Scheduler

CrestronIf you use Crestron software to control and connect the school’s AV gear, it can now be scheduled so there’s no fighting over the videoconferencing set up. The Crestron software not only shows what’s available but lets you schedule events directly with everything from Microsoft Exchange to Google Calendar to IBM Notes or with Crestron’s TSW-732 or 752 touch screen tablets.


Continuing the Dream

MlkIt’s the day we celebrate Martin Luther King’s all-too short life and what he gave to us, but it could be a lesson in giving back. After all in 1957, he observed that  “life’s most persistent and urgent question is what are you doing for others?” That’s where the National Service Web site comes in. In addition to direct links to places to volunteer to help others, there are clips of MLK. The best of the bunch are lesson plans from Scholastic (Tech Tools corporate parent) as well as a well-stocked page with a variety of service organizations for creating either individual opportunities to help others or as a class project. What better way to keep the spirit alive?

Freebee Friday: App Direct Support Line

Apple repairForget about calling Apple if a bunch of iPads get broken. The Apple Support app can help with everything from checking product manuals to seeing the hours of a local Apple Store. In addition to resetting a password and reporting damage to systems, the app can set up a text or chat line with a technician to help diagnose a problem or answer a question. If your iPhone is having issues, just turn to Apple’s latest iOS app for support.


Freebee Friday: Messenger Rebirth

Bloomz pictureUsing Class Messenger and are out of luck because it’s shut down? Bloomz has created a way to continue using your class and parent lists so every message gets through. The directions and access to a free account are on a special Bloomz page for those making the transition. In fact, the Bloomz app adds things like the ability to push out photos and videos as well as translate the notes into other languages.

Pre-School Cam

Arlo babyNetgear’s Arlo family of video cameras have done a lot to miniaturize HD cameras so they can go places never thought of before. The Arlo Baby might be meant for a home’s nursery, but it’s just as good in a preschool classroom so that administrators and parents can look in on class. The cameras are small, battery-powered and come with a pair of rabbit ears to make them blend into the background at school. The $250 camera sends out full HD video to the Internet or an optional $100 7-inch viewing tablet. It has infrared night vision for nap time as well as temperature, humidity and air quality sensors.

Tag IT

Tag_search2With the number of mobile devices at schools only expected to rise in the coming years, how do you keep track of all of them so you know what’s available and what isn’t. Hayes Software’s TIPWeb-IT can help track everything from a class’s worth of Chromebooks to every stationary projector with either a barcode or wireless RFID tag. In other words, every item not only shows up on a register but is trackable. The cradle to grave accounting provides information on every item until it is retired or removed from the system.

Disclaimer: The opinions expressed in Tech Tools are strictly those of the author and do not reflect the opinions or endorsement of Scholastic, Inc.