The days of charging a classroom’s tablets one at a time with a pile of separate power adapters are over. With Kensington’s Charge & Sync Cabinet, a teacher can get 10 slates ready for tomorrow’s lessons in a locked cabinet. You can even stack three of the cabinets for a full classroom set of slates. The slate safe has adjustable shelves, cooling fan and costs $700. The company has optional short power cables for everything from the old iPad cord to a micro-USB cable that range from $25 to $80 for a five-pack.
Why settle for a case that just covers and protects a tablet when the BooqPad for iPad Air can also act like a stand and hold a pad of 50 sheets of paper. Made of Nubuck vinyl, the case includes a screen protector and costs $60; extra pads are three for $10.
It doesn’t make a whole lot of sense to spend $100 on a protective bag for a Chromebook that costs all of $200 or $250 and Belkin doesn’t expect you to with its $59 Air Protect Case. Designed with 11.6-inch Chromebooks in mind, the bag has straps to hold the system in place so that when the case is unzipped and opened, kids and teachers can work with the keyboard and screen without removing the system. There’s a front pocket for papers, all the ports are available and the case has rigid plastic inserts to protect the notebook from damage. Belkin also sells a smaller and lighter $29 sleeve with a handle.
Tired of seeing an unsteady stack of tablets charging with cords hanging every which way? Belkin’s Secure and Charge can hold up to 10 systems that are 1.3-inches or thinner. That includes everything from an iPad or Android tablet to a Chromebook or Windows slate system. The Charging station is made of steel, has large venting holes and is capable of charging each unit individually. The Secure and Charge system has a sturdy lock and can be ordered with surge-protected AC plugs for $349 or 5-volt DC outlets for $549. There are dividers between the systems, a place to stash the spare cabling and a place to put a pad lock to make sure they stay put.
When it’s time to renovate a lecture hall multimedia classroom, think about who is going to use it and how they’re going to need to connect. Crestron’s Connect It is a self-contained plug center that can be ordered in a wide variety of configurations for different uses. Available in black or gray, the module fits right into a 4-inch grommet hole and can be set up with or without a power outlet and AV connections.
Anyone’s who has a server that’s overheating and causing network havoc knows that it’s not a pleasant experience, but there are things you can do to prevent it, like adding ventilation or active cooling. Tripp-Lite’s $650 SRCOOL 12K is a portable air conditioner that can remove up to 12,000 BTUs of heat from a server room, protecting the computers from heat-related damage. The system is small, self-contained and built on casters so it can be wheeled to wherever it’s needed. The system evaporates any water it produces so you don’t need a drain line or water container. The best part is that with Tripp-Lite’s data module you can remotely monitor the unit and the room’s temperature over the Internet.
Need to distribute files to a group of data-hungry kids, but the network doesn’t quite reach? It happens a lot these days, but LaCie’s Fuel can solve the problem with a WiFi connected 1TB hard drive. Priced at $200, it can connect with a variety of systems and connect with up to five clients at a time.
How many times have you crawled under a desk to plug in a USB cable only to find that you are putting the cable in upside-down? Tripp-Lite has an answer to this modern-day problem: cables that work either way you try them.
It may sound like magic, but the key to these new cables is that rather than having a standard Type A plug with a single set of USB contacts that are oriented in one direction, the Tripp-Lite Reversible USB plugs have two sets of connectors pointing in opposite directions that are separated by a thin piece of plastic. It’s a simple and elegant concept that allows the plugs to be used in either orientation.
There are a wide variety of reversible cables available that work with data at up to 480Mbps and can deliver up to 5-volts of electricity for charging a phone or tablet. There are regular Type A to Type B USB cables, but only the Type A plug can do the reversible trick. While they work with both USB 2.0 and 1.1 devices, there aren’t any reversible USB 3.0 cables.
In addition to full-size USB plugs, Tripp-Lite also makes Reversible USB cables with Mini- and Micro-USB connectors on the other end. There are even very useful Type A to Type A cables and USB extension cords. Some of the cables even have right angle plugs for tight situations. They come in cable lengths of 0.9-, 1.8- or 3-meter lengths, but nothing shorter for charging a phone without having a tangle of cable to deal with.
Priced at between $2.50 and $12 a cable, they cost no more than no-name cables. I used these unique cables for everything from connecting my phone and a variety of tablets to using an external hard drive and scanner. These plugs are a big step forward for convenience, although I wish that other cables, like for HDMI, VGA and DisplayPort connections, were capable of this plug magic.
$2.50 to $12
+ USB plugs work both ways
+ Variety of plug types and lengths
+ Data and power transfer
+ Lifetime warranty
- USB 2.0 only
- Type B plug works one way
iPads are great learning tools, but their speakers are sadly not up to the task of filling a classroom with audio. Califone’s PA-MBiOS iPad & iPhone Docking Station not only cradles the pad and firmly holds it stable, but has a pair of 2.5-watt speakers that sound great. It works with a variety of iPads, iPhones and iPod models and has a 3.5-millimeter audio input jack that allows it to amplify Android tablets as well. You will need to get an adapter to use one of the newer pads with the Lightning connector. The cradle costs $158 and includes a 1-year warranty.
There are stylus pens and a few brushes available that can turn a tablet into an artist’s canvas, but Crayola takes the idea of slate accessories to a new level with its $40 DigiTools Paint Pack. In addition to a paintbrush and airbrush, the kit includes a stamper and a paint roller. All the tools fit into a carrying case