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The Big Board

Steelcase  - ēno FlexWhile other interactive whiteboards concentrate on the digital aspects of education, Steelcase’s Eno Flex provides what’s needed for interacting with curriculum materials while jotting notes on the side. It includes surprising design touches, like a marker tray and hooks for maps that make using it easier in the classroom. Made of sturdy e3 CeramicSteel porcelain coated sheet metal, Flex can stand up to daily use and abuse. It works with a variety of short-throw projectors and can work with up to four it its included Bluetooth pens at a time.

Coding with Dash and Dot

Wonder workshopWhen I played with and learned with Wonder Workshop’s Dot and Dash robots, I was disappointed that it was long on teaching potential but short on actual curriculum items. That has changed a lot with the introduction of 21 common core and NGSS aligned lesson plans for K-through-fifth graders. They can help a class of kids (and teachers for that matter) master the basics of programming and even submit lessons of their own for others to use.

Go-Anywhere Keyboard

Kb4 aOne of the biggest gripes about teaching and learning in a tablet-centric school is the lack of a physical keyboard with actual keys to type anything longer than a Web- or email address. Small, light and easy to use, Califone’s KB4 Bluetooth Keyboard makes any tablet more finger-friendly.

 Because it uses Bluetooth to connect with a tablet or phone, there’s no software to load and it should work with just about any recent device. The 9.6- by 5.9-inch black keyboard fits nicely in front of a Surface, iPad or 9-inch Android slate. It is only 0.3-inches thick, but lacks feet to give the keys a more comfortable typing angle.

The keyboard is tiny compared to Rapoo’s E9180p and lacks its built-in touchpad. But, if you have a tablet in front of you, chances are that you won’t need one. Just reach out and tap the display to move things around and navigate through the interface. It has a range of about 25-feet, but I expect it to remain much closer to a tablet.

Kb4 vidThere are 77 keys that at 17-millimeters wide are just large enough to make for comfortable and efficient typing. In addition to the expected letters, numbers and symbols, there are specialty ones for iOS, Windows and Android hardware. The keyboard also has keys for making the screen brighter and adjusting volume, although some of these keys may not work on all types of tablets.

It takes less than a minute to connect the KB4 to a computer via Bluetooth. After that, the two recognize each other and automatically link up. Its 110 miliamp-hour battery was good for more than 6-weeks of daily use and can be recharged with a micro-USB cable.

All told, the Califone KB4 puts you in touch with physical keys that can make everything from typing a paper to recording classroom notes a lot easier. 


Kb4 b

Califone KB4


+ Inexpensive

+ Responsive keys

+ Specialty keys for iOS, Android and Windows

+ Built-in battery

+ Bluetooth


- No feet

- Lacks touchpad


Projector Two-For

Boxlight deskboardWho says that a projector has to beam its images horizontally across the room to a screen? Not Boxlight, because its DeskBoard 75M is flexible enough to be set up as an interactive desk 36-inches off of the floor with the projector above or as a traditional vertical projection surface. With a width of 75-inches of projection space, the DeskBoard is the utmost in hands-on learning and lets kids and teachers interact with images, video and Web sites as if they were working with an interactive desk surface. With motorized tilt and height adjustment, it’s easy to get the DeskBoard just right and its screen is magnetic for placing all sorts of Deskboard 75mphysical objects. At over 200-pounds, it might not sound particularly portable, but the DeskBoard is on wheels, can be moved from room to room and set up quickly. While it can work with a variety of ultra-short-throw projectors, the DeskBoard 75M can be ordered with a Boxlight P10 projector, mini PC and lesson planning software for $6,300.

Stand Up for Tablets

ChenSlates are great when you have two hands free to hold and tap the screen, but they’re often second best on the desk. ChenSource’s Ep13212 stand works with any tablet with a screen between 7- and 11-inches and attaches it to any desktop while allowing the pad to be tilted, rotated or swiveled.

Touch or Say

997e6567-99e6-42df-bf5d-9163ef627c62If your school uses Crestron’s control system, the company’s TST-902 control screen should fit right in. The system has an 8.9-inch color screen that is touch sensitive and can control a room full of video gear by either tapping on an icon or just saying what you want. It can be carried around, comes with a table stand and because it can use Crestron’s ER wireless communications protocol, you don’t even need to plug it into your network. It can connect via WiFi.    

Digital Video Made Easier

Replacing analog video lines with a school’s networking cabling can not only cut costs and improve quality, but nobody said that the transition to using a network to distribute video throughout the campus was going to be easy. The latest gear can help with ways to put video in every classroom.

Startech hdmi with appStarTech’s latest HDMI over IP kit can not only distribute video over plain old network cabling, but with the company’s new apps, you can control it from a phone or tablet. The HDMI kit costs $430 and can be used with the company’s free StarTech.com Video Switching and Wall Control apps for iPhones, iPads and Android systems. At the touch of a finger, you can set up, control and choose among multimedia options as long as the tablet or phone is on the same network as the switching gear.

Tripp lite BHDBTKSILR-FRONT-LDistributing digital video often opens a can of worms because the signal needs to be periodically boosted. That’s where Tripp Lite’s family of HDBaseT extenders comes in. They support up to 4K resolutions and a variety of audio effects, like DTS-HD and Dolby TrueHD. The devices can transmit uncompressed HDMI audio and video over roughly 2,000-feet of network cabling.  

Freebee Friday: Projector Four-Way

Epson screen322x572Epson’s MultiPC Projection with Moderator software can change the classroom dynamic by letting the teacher select whose tablet gets projected. It works with Epson’s latest networked projectors and is available for iOS and Android systems and allows annotations. The teacher can choose from among up to 50 connected tablets or phones to project and can send the screens of any four systems to the projector to show on the class’s big screen. On the downside, the software can’t handle video and you need to pick the files you want to show, but it can let the teacher share any students’ screens with the class.



Educating the Educators

EduvateWho teaches the teachers? The School Improvement Network’s Edivate has more than 2,500 professional development videos available for an individualized professional development learning program. The topics range from classroom management and data-driven teaching to technology and effectively working with parents. A single copy of Edivate costs $120 per teacher, but schools and districts can reduce the cost with a site license.



Print and Digital Together

Total motivation aWhy choose between print or digital content for students when Mentoring Minds provides both. Its Total Motivation K-through-12 curriculum is browser based and includes printed workbooks for a single license fee. Its curriculum covers reading and math, is aligned with the latest standards and the package includes a progress monitoring screen so that teachers can keep track of every student’s work.



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