Teaching with the Web
The vast array of educational resources that the Web offers can help teach everything from foreign languages and technology to the goings on at the White House. For those schools short on computers or cash can tap into the Web with one of Netgear’s NeoTV systems. They range from $50 to $130 and differ in how deeply into the Web they can reach.
Regardless of which of the four NeoTV Streaming Players you choose, the devices are all black and small enough to hide behind or attach to a monitor or projector. While the $50 base (NTV300) NeoTV model can tap into about online 100 channels with full HD resolution and surround-sound via a WiFi connection, the $60 Pro (NTV300S) adds an Ethernet port and the bonus of WiDi for wirelessly showing what’s on your laptop. The $70 Max model (NTV300SL) also has a USB port for a USB memory key and its remote control has a mini-keyboard.
The latest model, the $130 NeoTV Prime (GTV100), brings GoogleTV to the classroom as well as an HDMI-in port to connect a DVD player or cable TV box. It can also grab items from a local server with the unit’s mini-keyboard on the back of its remote control. All four devices have downloadable iOS and Android apps that let your tablet take control of the streaming video.
Compared to the $60 Roku HD, even the least expensive NeoTV device can present full 1,920 by 1,080 HD video rather than 720p video, although the typical classroom projector is of a much lower resolution. On the other hand, the Roku device can work with older TVs and projectors because it can transfer audio and video over composite video ports rather than HDMI.
I looked at the NeoTV Max model and, like the others, it provides access to expected YouTube and Hulu, but there are several dozen channels available that range from movies and games to genuine educational resources. The best part is that all of the channels are free, except those, like Hulu Plus, that require a subscription.
Setting up the NeoTV Max is quick and easy. Just plug it in, connect it with your projector, TV or monitor and let it find and connect to your WiFi network on its own. If the signal isn’t strong enough, the Max model has a wired Ethernet connection.
The beauty of using HDMI to connect NeoTV with a screen is that audio and video flow over one cable, making it quicker to get started. When everything’s ready, pick a channel to watch with the remote control and get the class to sit back and watch. Be aware that it takes some practice to figure out the sequence to navigate around the screens, but it soon becomes second nature.
The NeoTV Max that I used worked with two different projectors as well as a LCD TV and a desktop monitor. My favorites for the classroom are videos from the TED conferences, PBS shows and videos from the White House, but there’s also a NASA channel that’s chock full of science related material. While there are channels in French, Italian, German and Spanish that can introduce language students to the actual cadences and accents of true native speakers, the Le Monde channel is stocked with short news reports that haven’t been updated since last June.
The best part about NeoTV is that the software and lineup are often frequently with new selections frequently added. While the Max model is good, I prefer the addition of GoogleTV on the Prime model. It transforms this platform into a teacher’s helper, but can’t work with things like the University of Colorado’s PHET simulations and other online teaching resources.
Overall, the audio and video quality is fair, not because the system’s graphics are wanting. It’s because many of the channels are lacking. More to the point, many of the videos that come from overseas have been converted and have odd artifacts.
Still it’s the cheapest and most effective way to put the Web into a classroom.
+ Works with variety of projectors or TVs
+ Reasonable assortment of program channels
+ Remote control mini-keyboard
+ Small unit
+ Notebook WiDi connection
- Web browsing only with Prime model