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Furnishing the New Classroom

Forget about rows and columns of desks with chairs neatly set up in a grid pattern because the classroom of tomorrow (and today, hopefully) is less formal and allows for ad hoc groups to form to work on problems, complete a project or just quietly read. Nowhere is this notion of change in the classroom more evident than in the latest thinking in school furniture. Whether it’s a padded reading stool or a self-contained desk on wheels, students are the winners.

BlenderThe best classroom organizational ideas often show up where we least expect them, such as Paragon’s Blender seating. The upholstered Blender measures 18- by 18- by 36-inches and sells for $350. Several can be combined in a variety of shapes, including a hexagon and an undulating snake-like shape. Made of hardwood, plywood and foam padding, the seat is covered in a stain resistant vinyl fabric that’s available in 17 colors.

Node_banner_813x456In a new take on a classic, Steelcase’s Node chair-desk can go both ways: it can live in a regimented classroom gird or be wheeled around for small group work. The molded seat is not only height adjustable but it swivels so that kids can interact with each other and the 7.25- by 15.0-inche work surface can pivot to make it easier to get in and out. Underneath, Node has a circular storage space that’s perfect for backpacks and stray books. You can even order it with a cup holder that makes a great place to stow pencils.

UXL_CrescentSmithSystem’s UXL Crescent Table takes this idea to the limit with a semicircular design that can accommodate two or more students on its own or be combined with others to deliver large work spaces. Measuring 29.5- by 72- by 36-inches, the Crescent system can be arranged in a variety of shapes, from a triangle to an undulating snake. It even has a connection center for kids and teachers to plug in.  

Rn1-backx378Even the library can do with some updating these days. Openingthebook’s Reading Nook is both a padded comfy chair and a set of four shelves on the other side that can hold up to 140 books. It can comfortably seat a pair of small children for reading time. Made in Birmingham, England, there’s also a circular wrap-around version.

Anrock18-analogy-chairSometimes the best way to deal with an over-active student is to let him burn off some energy, like with Virco’s Analogy Rocking Chair. An offshoot of the company’s Analogy 4-Leg design, the rocker has a contoured plastic seat that provides back support. The seat fits to the body and it has a plastic nub in the back to keep over-exuberant kids from tipping over. The chair is available in three sizes.

From Drive to Screen

Canvio AeroCast bThe ability of notebooks, desktops and tablets to wirelessly send images, video and sound to a Chromecast receiver and on to a projector can simplify delivering a lesson. Well, it just got a lot easier because you don’t even need a computer anymore. Toshiba’s Canvio AeroCast Wireless HDD not only holds a terabyte of data, lessons, videos and presentations, but can act as a WiFi access point for six clients. It can also connect with a Chromecast device for streaming all sorts of classroom content. The $220 drive has an SD card slot for adding storage and needs Toshiba’s Google Cast Ready app to cast to a projector or large display.

The Big Project Printer

Untitled ProjectEpson’s WorkForce Pro 8590 printer not only works with the expected 8.5- by 11-inch sheets, but can handle up to 13- by 19-inch paper and fill them less expensively than the typical laser printer can. The device not only has a scanner, fax and network connections, but the WF Pro 8590 has optional secondary paper trays. Its 75,000-page duty cycle means that it can cover a school office, department or floor, replacing dozens of smaller printers. Based on the company’s PrecisionCore technology, it uses Epson’s DuraBright inks and can pump out 24-pages per minute.


The Ups and Downs of Desk Work

Varidesk compositeAlways wanted to teach from a standing desk but need the option to sit and work? Varidesk has the answer with a 30- by 23-inch work surface that can be set up at different heights to suit your mood or the work at hand. The cantilevered mechanism is spring loaded so that it can easily go from being 5-inches off of the desk to being elevated by as much as 15.5-inches. Varidesk’s Single model, which is good for one monitor or notebook, costs $275, while the $300 Pro version can accommodate two big items. 

The Last Cables You’ll Need

Mos usbTired of having to buy new cables to charge and connect phones, tablets and small notebooks because they just can’t stand up to the daily use at school? Rather than plain old plastic, MOS has a better idea: cables with strong anodized aluminum plugs, woven covers and protective electroplated spring covered ends, making them just about impossible to tear, rip or break. In addition to an audio jumper cable, there are USB cables with micro-USB or Lightning plugs for charging an Android, Windows or Apple iOS device.

Mos audioOn the downside, there aren’t USB extension cables, those for first-generation iPads or anything for USB 3.0 although the latter is in the works. Plus, the MOS cables don’t have anything like Trip-Lite’s reversible USB plugs that can make plugging-in a less frustrating event. The cables are a little pricey at $19 and $30 for the 3-foot micro-USB and Lightning models and $25 for the 6-foot micro-USB version. They work with the company’s ingenious $20 magnetic Kick base that holds the plugs in place until needed. It includes a three-pack of magnetic cable ties that can retrofit older cables for use with the base; extras are available in five colors at three for $5.

It’s fitting that these cables come with a lifetime warranty, so think of them as a one-time investment that will likely outlast anything you plug them into.

One Cable to Connect Them All

Tego cable bTired of fishing for the right tablet cable for your class’s tablets? Tego’s Trio Cable is the only charging cable has tips for the new Lightning, the older 30-pin iPhone and iPad plug as well as a standard micro-USB one. That makes it the one cable that works with just about every tablet in the classroom. The 3-foot $30 cable is available in three-packs for $60 and can be ordered in black or white.

3-D Shop Class

Hp sproutKids, put down your saws, hammers and other tools of 20-th century shop class. The future will be built around 3-D printing because of its ability to made physical objects from computer files. You don’t have to wait because it’s all here now with HP’s Blended Reality system that combines a powerful workstation, dedicated peripherals and a multi-jet 3-D printer.

HP's 3-D printing scheme starts with the $1,900 Sprout desktop computer, a powerful Core i7-based system with top notch graphics and a built in 3-D scanner to turn physical objects into computer files for manipulating. There’s also a 23-inch touch screen, a unique tiny DLP projector that can show you what you’re making and a large touch pad to make changes or design something from scratch.

Hp 3-d printerOnce you have what you want, the data is sent to HP’s Multi Jet Fusion 3-D printer. It’s a bit bulky but the thermal inkjet printer is 10-times faster than conventional devices, can make bigger parts and you can change the physical and mechanical properties of the final piece. HP is working on imparting color but that is likely to be added at a later date. The printer is expected to be available sometime, although the Sprout computer is here now. 

Watch your Data

CognitoThere’s nothing worse than a smartphone ringing or buzzing during class, regardless of whether it’s the teacher’s or a student’s phone. The Cogito Classic watch can not only tell time but will discreetly tell you if you have any new messages, emails or unanswered phone calls. If you like, it can also get your phone to remotely snap a picture at any time. Unlike many other available smart watches, the Cogito watch works with both iPhones as well as Android devices and is waterproof enough to survive a cafeteria food fight, rainy field trip or a lab demonstration gone wrong. Available in five colors, the Cogito watch costs $179.


The Key to Mobile Teaching

41VLUMs7ipLAsk any teacher and they’ll tell you that every moment taken from classroom attention to go to a desktop-bound keyboard or notebook is a moment they’re not teaching. That’s where having a wireless keyboard, like Rapoo’s E9180p, comes in.

Whether you have a desktop, notebook or tablet computer, having a real keyboard that connects without cables is a big step forward. You can roam around the room while staying connected to the big screen bring up Web sites and select a child’s work for projecting onto the big screen.  

At 5-ounces, the E9180p’s frameless design is not only function but sophisticated looking and easy to carry around. It has stainless steel edging and its pair of AA batteries raises the keys to a comfortable angle. There’s an on-off switch underneath and the keyboard goes into a low-power mode when not in. To wake it up you need to strike one of the keys and it ran for a couple of months on a set of batteries.

Its 82 black keys have white lettering and are full-size at 19.6 millimeters. There is everything from a Windows key and a full set of color coded Function keys to multimedia controls and a generously-sized space bar. They have just enough depth for a comfortable touch typing and are a big step up from a touch-screen’s display keypad.

Rapoo transmitterThe keys are complemented by the E9180p’s large touchpad that takes up the entire right side of the keyboard. At 3- by 4.3-inches, the pad’s surface is lightly textured, the pad responds to right- and left-taps and can accept a wide variety of finger gestures that range from zooming-in and -out to going to the Start Menu. While the keyboard worked well with several recent Windows and Mac systems, the gestures won’t work on Macs.

On the other hand, the keyboard lacks an embedded numeric keypad that could have helped in math and science classes and it does without the backlighting that graces Logitech’s similarly priced K800 keyboard that is a big help when teaching by the light of a projector.

Behind the scenes, the E9180p comes with a tiny USB transmitter that doesn’t require any software or installation. Rather than the crowded 2.4-GHz band that is shared with proprietary wireless devices and WiFi, the E9180p keyboard connects via a 5GHz link. It had a range of 32-feet, more than enough for moving around the typical classroom or small lecture hall while tapping away on the keys.

E9180pThe E9180p is well made and durable, but school equipment can take a beating day-in and day-out. The keyboard comes with a two year warranty, which is good, but falls short of the three years of coverage that comes with Logitech’s K800 keyboard.

At $60, it’s a great way to stay connected while keeping your eye on the class.  



Rapoo E9180p


+ Sophisticated design

+ Good range

+ Big touchpad

+ 5GHz wireless connection

+ Comfortable feel

+ Two-year warranty


- Keys not backlit

Security in Hand

SL300_Top_LGSometimes all you need to do to enhance a school’s security stance is to communicate better, and that’s exactly what Motorola’s MOTOTRBO SL300 radios are all about. The handheld radios combine digital and analog technologies so they can coexist with old and new communications systems. They comfortably fit into the hand, weigh less than 6-ounces and the screen shows which channel is being used. They are more than rugged enough for school use, can cover even the largest campus and cost less than $500 each.



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