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
Using HP’s 1200w Mobile Print Accessory any HP LaserJet printer that’s five years old or newer can be converted to handle near field communication (NFC) data. All you do is plug the small box it into the printer’s USB port, pick what you want to print from HP’s Mobile Print app and tap your NFC-enabled phone or tablet onto the mobile print accessory. The printer does the rest. The accessory costs $70 and HP also makes the $50 800W version that snaps into the company’s recent large commercial printers and copiers.
Tired of juggling pens and styluses while doing schoolwork? Kensington’s Virtuoso Touch Stylus & Pen can help with a stylus that is just as good with a tablet as with paper because it has both a soft dome stylus point for use with a capacitance screen or a regular old ball point pen at the other end. The Virtuoso is available in 13 colors, including gray plaid, and uses Parker ink refills. It costs $28 and is guaranteed for two years.
While you can get any number of cases for iPad tablets, for most other slates you have to settle for a generic cover that might or might not fit and could cover up its ports and cameras. No more, with Kensington’s latest cases for Samsung’s Galaxy Tab tablets.
The padded KeyFolio Pro works with the 10.1-inch Tab 3 system. It’s available in five colors as well as basic black and comes with a Bluetooth wireless keyboard that has six rows of keys. The keybaord is magnetically held in place. There’s a slot at the top for stowing a stylus when it’s not in use, but you’ll need to provide it yourself. The cover folds so that it can set up the slate at a variety of viewing angles for different tasks and costs $100.
While the Comercio Soft Case & Stand also has been designed to work with the 10.1-inch Tab 3, it costs just $40. It lacks a keyboard, but you can order it 7 different vibrant colors. Folded open, it has a two-position stand for viewing the Tab slate at different angles. There’s a place for an ID and pen or stylus as well as a room to stash notes and scraps of paper.
If your iPads are proving tough to travel, Bretford’s PowerSync Roller can get them from here to there and back without breaking a sweat or a screen. The hard plastic case protects them from damage en route, such as during a field trip or just going from an art room to the science lab. There are versions that hold 10 and 20 pads that have wheels and Lightning connectors built in so they can be charged.
With so many schools relying on small tablets instead of bulky notebooks, do students and teachers need the traditional (and heavy) notebook bag. According to Pelican and OGIO, the answer is a resounding no. The two bag-makers latest school accessories have been designed with tablets and smaller notebooks in mind.
With schoolchildren turning in hunchbacks with backpacks chock full of 30-pounds of gear and books, there’s never been a better time than now to limit what they carry. Either of these small bags can help, but they differ on how small you want to go.
Small, light and ready for anything from a small notebook to a tablet, OGIO’s $70 Covert Shoulder Bag is a great way to downsize a child’s gear and school accessories. While it is a comfortable shoulder bag, there’s no backpack version and it lacks a place for stashing a water bottle.
At 1.4-pounds, the Covert bag is roughly one-third the weight of the typical school bag and nearly a pound lighter than the Pelican bag. The bag is comfortably padded and has a single strap for carrying school gear over the shoulder. It comes in black or dark gray and is made of sturdy Kodra nylon fabric that resists ripping. It is water resistant and the bag has rubber zipper pulls.
The bag measures 14.0- by 9.5- by 2.5-inches, or roughly one-third smaller than the Pelican U145. It can hold up to about 9-liters of material, versus more than 15-liters for the Pelican U145 backpack, and puts the emphasis on what is truly essential to learning.
Rather than the Pelican’s rigid plastic handle, the Covert bag has a pair of fabric handles at the top for grab-and-go maneuvers or hanging it in a locker. It also has a metal ID tag riveted to the front
There’s still plenty of room inside for the basics with an iPad or a 13-inch notebook easily fitting in. It lacks the felt-lined pouch for a slate that the U145 provides, but has a nice zippered pocket on the outside for quick access items, like a phone or ID card. On the outside is a slip pocket, but it’s too narrow for a pad of paper or spiral notebook. These items easily fit inside.
The Covert bag has slots for three pencils, 2 small open pouches, a mesh area and a zippered area for valuables. Priced at $70, the Covert bag is a bargain and a great way to get kids to only bring what they need to learn. It comes with a lifetime warranty, a big bonus when dealing with kids that treat bags like sports equipment.
+ Small bag
+ Fold open front
+ Phone pocket
+ Lifetime warranty
- No backpack available
- A little too small
Pelican ProGear U145
With its rigid back and protective inserts, Pelican’s $77 U145 Urban Tablet Backpack is a great way to integrate small notebooks or slates into a school routine without overwhelming them with gear. It’s a little heavy, but has a lot of space for all sorts of items for school and other things.
The bag is made of heavy-duty polyester material and is available only in black. It is sturdy, water resistant and its zippers have bright yellow rope pulls. It measures 19.75- by 12.5- by 6.5-inches, or significantly larger than the OGIO Covert bag. As a result, it can hold a tablet and up to a 14-inch notebook computer for a total of 15-liters of internal space, making it much more utilitarian than the 9-liter Covert bag. On the other hand, the U145 pays for it with a 2.2-pound weight, more than three-quarters of a pound heavier that of the Covert case.
Unlike the soft floppy Covert bag, the U145 has three rigid plastic inserts that give the bag a more structured feel. One sits next to the back that provides additional support when carrying the bag There’s also padding around its edge that makes it more comfortable than just about any other school backpack.
The second structural enhancement is around the perimeter of the bag that gives it a solid feel, while the third plastic piece acts like armor to protect the tablet inside. There’s a padded felt-lined pouch that holds and guards the slate from any damage. It also has a rigid plastic handle that is much sturdier than the Covert’s fabric handles.
In addition to three pencil pouches, the U145 has a multitude of pockets for a variety of gear. There are compartments for everything from a phone and water bottle to a spiral notebook. It lacks the small zippered front pocket of the Covert bag, but has a place to clip a phone on the adjustable shoulder straps.
Despite being sturdier, Pelican includes only a one-year warranty with the U145.
Pelican ProGear U145
+ Perfect size for iPad or small notebook
+ Sturdy handle
+ Excellent back support
+ Felt lined tablet pouch
+ Extra tablet protection
- A little too big and heavy
- 1-year warranty
Even the most connected tablets still only provide a single USB connector for using a keyboard, memory stick or other accessory. Enter Bidul’s USBHub 4 in 1, which plugs directly into a slate’s micro-USB port, turning it into full-size and a mini-USB slots plus the ability to work with a pair of SD cards. It works for charging, synching data with a computer and has an LED light to show it’s working, but the best parts are that it costs $25 and requires no added software.
With a 12-year warranty, Bretford’s Store & Charge computer cart will outlive several generations of notebooks, tablets and projectors, and may be the last cart your school will ever buy. The MDMTAB30 model can hold up to 30 systems of any make or model that have less than 11-inch screens. Each computer can get up to 2-amps of current from the cart’s advanced power management system that adjusts its output to suit the system involved and keeps the batteries from overheating
What could make the eyes of a classroom full of kids light up more than a period of robot-making? Hummingbird Robotics Kit can get kids excited and interested in science, programming and technology by letting them make simple robots, like a cardboard dinosaur that waves when you get near. The kit was developed with Tom Lauwers and Illah Nourbakhsh at Carnegie Mellon University and includes a variety of sensors, actuators and motors as well as a circuit board with a powerful microcontroller that can be programmed by the students. The site adds a slew of suggestions, tutorials, lesson plans and even help writing a grant application. The only thing the $200 Hummingbird Kit doesn’t include is the creativity and imagination needed to build a project like this. But, the students should have more than enough of that.