If the last school concert recording you made with your smartphone sounded like it took place in a shower, you need more than a new microphone. With three microphones at its disposal, Zoom’s iQ5 weighs just over an ounce and plugs right into an iPhone, iPad or iPod Touch and can deliver high quality audio. It not only has a volume adjustment as well as a way to vary the area the microphones cover, but the iQ5 comes with a recording app, complete with special effects. It’s available in white or black and costs about $100.
With wireless tablet keyboards not making a lot of sense for standardized testing, Belkin’s Secure Wired Keyboard fits right in. Available for Samsung Android tablets as well as old and new iPads, the keyboard plugs directly into the slate, has full-size non-removable keys and doesn’t require batteries or additional software. The Samsung-based keyboard is available for $30 and the iPad versions with the older 30-pin plug or the Lightning plug are coming this spring for $60.
If you have a school full of Chromebooks, Asus’s Chromebox should fit right in. The basis of a desktop Chrome-based system, all the box needs is a monitor, keyboard and mouse. Priced at $179, the Celeron-based box comes with 2GB of RAM, 16GB of local storage as well as 100GB of free Google Drive space for two years. There will also be Core i3 and i7 versions available later this year. All of the models are so small that they can be attached to the back of a monitor, have both a wired LAN connection and 802.11n WiFi as well as 4 USB ports. The Chromebox can be used as a public kiosk, a library research machine or even as homework systems in study halls and works with just about any recent monitor or projector via either its DisplayPort or HDMI connector.
While Cubify’s Cube was the first out with an inexpensive 3-D printer, MakerBot takes this idea to a new level. The $1,375 Replicator Mini is a desktop 3-D printer that produces items up to 75 cubic inches 200 micron layers at a time. Students can create their own designs or print dozens of premade 3-D designs at Thingiverse.com. It’ll be available in the Spring.
Tired of having all those cables clutter up your desk? Epson’s WorkForce DS-560 is a sheet-fed scanner that can connect over a WiFi wireless network to a PC or Mac. It comes with TWAIN and ISIS drivers, has a 50-page hopper and can churn through 26 pages per minute while creating images of both sides of the sheet. The best part is that in addition to picking up the scans on a computer, you can have them uploaded to online repositories, like Google Docs or Evernote. It costs $449.
The next time the access point near the gym goes down, don’t get up, because it can be managed, updated and repaired remotely via Adtran’s ProCloud platform. The system is based on BlueSocket technology that monitors every aspect of the wireless data network every minute of every day. It features top security, a 99.99 percent uptime as well as a variety of 802.11n access points to choose from.
Rather than packaged as a notebook, the latest computer to use Chrome OS software is an all-in-one that can be an excellent public access terminal for email, Web research and working on assignments. LG’s Chromebase looks like it could be the iMac’s long-lost brother and has a 21.5-inch display that can show full HD material. It’s powered by an Intel Celeron processor and includes 2GB of RAM as well as 16GB of internal storage.
Even the most powerful WiFi standard, 802.11AC, needs a little help now and then. That’s where Netgear’s AC750 Range Extender comes in. It plugs right into an outlet and can add performance and range to any network by receiving the network’s wireless data signal and rebroadcasting it on both the 2.4- and 5GHz bands. All told, it can move up to 750Mbps of all sorts of data, uses the latest security settings and provides a gigabit per second wired outlet.
Teaching turns into interactive education with a touch monitor, like NEC’s V423-TM display. The 42-inch display can not only show full HD programming, but it has cameras at each corner that respond to four individual touch inputs, so two can use the screen at once. The screen has inputs for DVI-D, HDMI and DisplayPort as well as an RJ-45 networking port and can use video processing boards that use the Open Pluggable Specification. The V423-TM will sell for $2,399 with a three-year warranty.
As the bring-your-own-device ethic filters into the classroom, the problem of connecting them to monitors and projectors to share it with the whole class becomes paramount. Sceptre’s X325BV 32-inch TV is not only inexpensive and can show HD material but connects with a wide variety of sources, including phones and tablets.
The black TV-monitor is only 3-inches thick and has a thin bezel around its 31.5-inch display panel. This should allow it to fit into just about any classroom décor. It comes with a stand that raises the display 2.5-inches above a table or shelf, but you’ll have to put it together yourself; happily, the box includes a screwdriver. At 23-pounds, it’s light enough to be unpacked, connected and installed by one person and hung on a wall.
The display itself is very bright and sharp and is great for showing graphics and presentations. It can display 1,920 by 1,080 resolution, has automatic contrast enhancement as well as two different video noise reduction techniques.
With a wide 176-degree viewing angle, the TV has a wide assortment of adjustments, including brightness, color temperature and clock timing. In addition to analog and digital tuners for bringing in broadcast TV content, the X325BV works with a cable box and has one of the best assortments of connections. In addition to three HDMI ports, the TV has Composite, VGA and Y-Pb-Pr connections. The TV can also lift images and audio – but not video – off of a memory key plugged into its USB port.
At the heart of the display's connectivity is its ability to use one of its HDMI ports as an input for a Mobile High Definition Link (MHL) device. That opens up dozens of Android tablets and phones for use with the monitor. It worked like a charm with an LG Nitro phone, connecting on the first try, but you’ll need to use the HDMI-3 input, supply your own MHL cable and power it with a USB adapter; generic cables cost about $10 each.
In addition, the TV can work directly with a Roku streaming player and I was able to put the output of a Nexus 7 onto the X325BV’s display with a SlimPort connector. It also works with a ChromeCast wireless adapter.
Audio is just as important as video and the X325BV has a pair of 10-watt speakers at the screen’s lower corners and the ability to drive a surround sound system. To enhance and customize sound, the Sceptre X325BV has a 7-band equalizer for adjusting different parts of the audio spectrum.
It comes with a large remote control that has a variety of functions, from selecting the source and aspect ratio to adjusting the volume and changing the channel. You can even use it to control a sound bar, like Sceptre’s $200 SB301523 bar. The remote it is powered by a pair of AAA batteries and has brightly colored buttons, but no backlighting for teaching in the dark.
The screen is a power miser that uses less than a watt of electricity when it’s turned off. When it is being used, the X325BV consumes 33 watts of power, and the screen can be set to turn itself off after 10 minutes of not having an active input. All told, it will cost less than $7 a year if used for 8-hours every school day.
While it’s perfect for teaching and collaborating with up to about 20 children, the X325BV’s 32-inch screen might be too small for a larger group, particularly if there are students that are more than 15- or 20-feet away from the display. Still, at $300, about half the cost of a 47-inch screen, it is a bargain that can help bring phones and tablets to bear on teaching.
+ Instant MHL and Roku connections
+ 3 HDMI inputs
+ Slim design
+ Low power use
+ Analog and digital tuners
- Too small for big classroom
- Doesn’t include MHL cable