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Tap ‘n Print

Hp_1200w_mobile_print_accessory_vertical_angle-100056393-largeUsing 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.


Mightier than the Finger

Virtuoso Stylus & Pen FamilyTired 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.


Open and Shut Case

Comercio Folio ColorsWhile 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 Samsung_KFpro_Stackit 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. 



A Moveable Pad

Roller1020.001If 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.


Rightsizing the Student (and Teacher) Notebook Bag

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.

OGIO Covert

  Covert aSmall, 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.

Covert bRather 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.


Covert a

OGIO Covert

Price: $70

+ Small bag

+ Fold open front

+ Lightweight

+ Phone pocket

+ Lifetime warranty


- No backpack available

- A little too small


Pelican ProGear U145

U145 aWith 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.

U145 bThe 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

Price: $77 

+ 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

Slate Connection City

Bidul usbhubEven 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.


Cart with a Future

MDMTAB30With 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

Class Robot

Hummingbird aWhat 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.

Classroom Weather Lab

HD_Netatmo_combo_no-LogoOne of the most interesting science lessons that can be taught at an elementary, middle or high school is that of weather because it is so immediate and touches on chemistry, physics, biology and math. Up until now, the only way for a school to have a weather lab was to install something like the Davis Vantage Vue on the school’s roof. No more, because Netatmo combines the best of local meteorological measurements with what the Web has to offer to create an inexpensive weather station.

Rather than a large array of sensors that’s mounted on a roof, Netatmo comes with two small silver and while cylinders. The small one uses 4 AAA batteries, goes outside and needs to be sheltered from direct rain; it comes with a Velcro strap. It communicates with the large cylinder that is set up indoors and is powered by a USB AC adapter. The two cylinders communicate over an 868- or 915-MHz data link and the readings are eventually sent over the school’s WiFi network to a computer and Netatmo’s servers.

The small cylinder has sensors for temperature and humidity (inside and out) as well as barometric pressure, sound and carbon dioxide level. Readings are displayed roughly every 5 minutes; after pressing the top of the indoor module, Netatmo will take instant measurements.

To that Netatmo’s indoor cylinder adds readings for sound level and carbon dioxide levels. While Netatmo lacks a rain gauge and an anemometer, the device is fed data for the area about rain, wind direction and speed as well as cloud cover and forecasts from Meteogroup. The company promises to store your accumulated data forever, making the system a great year-to-year classroom resource.

Netatmo - CopySetting it up is quicker and easier than a traditional weather station, but the cylinders need to be within 100-feet of each other; extra indoor modules cost $79. All told, figure on the whole installation taking about 20 minutes to perform, and it can be a classroom activity. A word of advice, though, download, print and read the system’s manual or you might get a little hung up.

You’ll need to use a Mac or PC to get the gear connected with Netatmo’s set up wizard. After that you can view current readings with an iPad or iPhone as well as a connected Android 4.0 device, PC, Mac or Chromebook using Netatmo’s Web interface.

The interface shows an excellent summary of the current conditions as well as the last time the numbers were updated. All the data is available in either English or metric units. It takes a few seconds for the readings to be displayed and you can roll back the days to see what the weather was like in the past. The data can be manually exported as an Excel file for further analysis.

Netatmo cEverything is presented in an easy to read format with large numbers and letters. You can switch to a fever chart of the temperature or rain amount for the day, week, month or year. The screen shows the Air Quality Index as well as the UV Index and what temperature it feels like outside. Netatmo can show notifications based on sensor triggers or National Oceanographic and Atmospheric Administration weather warnings, but only the Web interface shows the battery level of the outdoor sensor cylinder and the quality of the link between the cylinders.

For those contemplating using Netatmo with a large class or as the basis of a homework assignment, a big bonus is that an unlimited number of clients can access the data at the same time. It can also be shared over a variety of social media outlets or an email that links to the data.

Over the course of three weeks, I used Netatmo with an iPad Mini, first-generation iPad, Lenovo IdeaPad S2110 tablet, Chromebook Pixel as well as several PCs and shared the data with others. It refused to work with my LG Nitro phone, though, because it didn’t have the latest Android software.

Netatmo webThe system’s information was generally accurate compared to National Weather Service readings nearby, although once it registered a mind-numbing 107.1 degrees Fahrenheit, when the temperature was actually closer to 95 degrees. After realizing that the sensor cylinder was in the sun, I put it in a shadier location and got a truer temperature reading.

A great way to teach about all the components that make up climate, Netatmo is a must-have for every school.



Netatmo Weather Station

Price: $180

+ Accurate weather sensors

+ Small, inexpensive

+ Data transmitted to whole class

+ iPad, Android, Chromebook or Web interface

+ Carbon dioxide monitor

+ Easy to understand interface


- No rain gauge

- Android tablets require latest software


Power to the Pad

Powerdock5-1_1With a class full of iPads, the question becomes how to charge them all for tomorrow morning. Griffin’s PowerDock 5 has the answer with the ability to charge up five iPads in single device; it works with all recent iPads, iPods and iPhones. Just put each pad into a slot, plug it in and let PowerDock do the rest. It has the ability to deliver up to 2.1 amps of 5-volt current for each device and has an LED light to show its working. It costs $100.



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