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Big Sound, Small Mixer

QscIf you think your auditorium needs a full-size audio mixer, look at QSC’s TouchMix-30 Pro. The mixer is just 7.5- by 18.1- by 16.9-inches and weighs 18-pounds, but has a prominent 10-inch color touch screen. Inside is a 32-channel mixer with 16 outputs, making it one of the most powerful small sound boards you can get. It features anti-feedback and room tuning set ups and the system has a 1/3 octave graphic equalizer for its outputs. Best of all, the whole thing can be controlled with an iOS or Android app so the room’s sound can be fine-tuned while walking around or sitting in the back row. It costs $1,900 and is light enough to be moved from room to room or school to school as needed.

Gotta Charge ‘Em All

Udoq_zpsimqvnjuqKeeping up with charging every phone and tablet at school is a daunting task, but one taken up by udoq. The charging docks come in a variety of sizes that can accommodate up to eight devices. For instance, the $129 tray is 10-inches long, while the $230 flagship is 27.6-inches long, although both come with four plugs to charge devices. The key is that the udoq’s charging rail has Lightning (for iPhones or iPads) or micro-USB (for Android systems) plugs that can be swapped and moved around to accommodate a variety of different designs. This gives uduq an incredible degree of flexibility.


Power Center

Powramid_Air_Black_Side_grandeEvery classroom needs at least a couple of power strips these days to keep everything from tablets to STEM gear fully charged up and ready for teaching. Accell’s $36 Powramid Air Power Center and USB Charging Station delivers 120-volt AC as well as more recent USB power in a single unit. Its six AC outlets are widely spaced around the circumference of the Powramid Air, leaving more than enough room so that none of those pesky AC adapters take up two outlets. There is also a pair of USB power outlets for phones and tablets on the edge. The whole thing is protected against a 1,080 Joule energy surge and the circular power strip has a 15-amp circuit breaker for extra protection.

Sound Foundation

BuddysmallerTo prevent hearing damage to young ears, BuddyPhones Explore headsets have a volume limiting circuit that doesn’t allow the audio to exceed 85dB. This is the World Health Organization’s safe limit and just above the level of the typical face-to-face conversation.

The headphones have a detachable cable that has a built-in microphone for video conferences or recording a podcast in class. Inside, the headphone’s 1.2-inch neodymium magnet drivers deliver audio with a frequency range of 20 to 20,000 hertz.

BuddyphonesThe headset sounded surprisingly good to a Kindergartner doing her school work, but the Explore is not just for single students. A key step forward for the Explore headphones is that the audio jack has a built-in splitter with room for another input so two can share a single audio source. If you have other BuddyPhones, up to four can be used at once, something that other headphones can’t do. More to the point, the BuddyPhones are durable and adjustable for a variety of small children. The headphones have soft earcups that are made of anti-allergic material and each set includes a storage bag. They come in four colors, include personalizing stickers and cost $30. 

Audio All Around

VG1-white-angle-lanyardWith SoundCast’s latest speakers, you can take digital audio everywhere the class goes, including outdoors and field trips. That’s because the VG1 handheld speaker not only delivers high-quality sound, but is waterproof and ruggedly built to stand up to abuse. The 1-pound package connects to phones, tablets and PCs via Bluetooth and has its own battery that can last for more than a full school day. It costs $149.99.

Hear without Fear

Jlab headphonesJLAB’s JBuddies headset are not only inexpensive at $20 per set, but have a circuit that limits its output to no more than 90dB so that no harm comes to your students’ delicate hearing. Available in black, purple, pink and blue, the JBuddies come with a lifetime warranty.


Light Up My Life

LB120(US)1.0-01_1473153047839aWhat if your classroom’s lighting responded to your mood or the time of the day rather than just pumping out a harsh white light? That’s the idea behind TP-Link’s Smart WiFi bulbs. They screw into a standard socket and look like a regular old incandescent light bulb, but inside is a bank of LEDs that respond to the company’s Kasa app. The bulbs are the equivalent of 60-watt incandescent bulbs, work with Androids and iOS systems and let you not only dim the lights but change the color from 2,700- to 6,500-Kelvins. You can even automatically change the quality and intensity of the light during the day. They’re expensive at $35 a piece but will likely never need to be replaced and use a lot less electricity than incandescent lights.

Connect Like No Other

Aukey hubGot a recent tablet or small notebook that only has a single USB port, but you need to connect to a room full of accessories, thumb drives and printers, not to mention a wired networking connection? AUKEY’s CB-H17 hub can inexpensively turn a single USB connection into six active data ports along with one for power and an RJ45 port for getting online with a wired LAN.

At 0.9- by 5.2- by 2.0-inches and weighing 3.4-ounces, the jet black CB-H17 is surprisingly small and can be carried around in a pocket or notebook bag pocket. It can just as easily be velcroed to the back of a notebook’s screen lid or the underside of a desk for convenience.

On the downside, like other USB hubs, it requires its own power source. It comes with a special male-to-male USB 3.0 cable as well as its surprisingly large 12-volt power adapter.

You can use the hub with a USB 1.1, 2.0 or 3.0 system and it provides six SuperSpeed USB data ports that top out at 5 Gigabits per second. There’s also a single USB charging port that delivers a maximum current of 2.4-amps for a phone or tablet. In addition to an on-off switch, power input and its USB connection, the CB-H17 includes an RJ-45 port with a gigabit LAN connection. It has an LED power indicator but nothing that shows activity on each port.

Aukey hub bThe hub works with PCs from Windows Vista forward, Macs (OSX 9 and newer), Linux (kernel 2.4.1 or newer) as well as most recent Chromebooks. The best part is that for most computers it won’t need any extra software, but the package includes a mini CD of software, just in case.

It extended the usefulness of a Surface Pro 3, Apple Macbook Air and Asus Flip Chromebook. The hub helped out with a variety of tasks, from connecting to external hard drives and DVD players to thumb drives and using a Brother laser printer. The Ethernet connection helped in rooms that WiFi didn’t reach and the power port was more than enough to charge an iPad Pro.

While most competitive hubs come with a 12-month warranty, AUKEY doubles that to 2 years. While it proved to be invaluable for making a modern tablet into connection central, the CB-H17 lacks one vital function that will increasingly be required: access to USB-C ports.


Aukey hub

AUKEY CB-H17 USB 3.0 Hub with Charging Port and RJ45 Port



+ 6 SuperSpeed USB data ports

+ 2.4-amp power port

+ No software needed

+ Works with PCs, Macs and Chromebooks

+ Gigabit LAN port


- No USB-C ports

- AC adapter

Lightning Two-For

Side.372Love the new iPhone 7 but hate the fact that it does without a traditional headphone jack and that you can’t charge it while listening to music or podcasts? Belkin’s Lightning Audio + Charge Rockstar is a Lightning two-for adapter that lets you plug in and listen to whatever you want while charging the phone. It can handle up to 12 watts of power, works with 48 kHz, 24-bit audio and lets you use the microphone and remote control on the Apple headphones. Even with the $40 adapter, you’ll still need either digital headphones or the Apple Lightning to headphone adapter as well.

Dock to Go

U342-HGU3-FRONTMicrosoft’s Surface Dock is a great way to turn a tablet into a mini-desktop, but at 1.5-pounds it isn’t exactly portable and the current dock doesn’t work with older Surface systems. That’s where Tripp Lite’s USB 3.0 Docking Station for Microsoft Surface comes in. It works with every Surface system made, from the first through the current fourth-generation systems and should work with next year’s upcoming fifth-generation Surface family.

It starts by providing all the ports you’ll need but does so at only 5-ounces. Unlike the Microsoft device, the small black Tripp Lite dock clips onto the Surface’s pull-out kick-stand, creating as close to an integrated whole as you can get. It also makes sure that the dock isn’t dropped or left behind.

On its sides are a good selection of the ports you actually use every day. While there’s a trio of USB 3.0 ports, it adds the luxury of a plug-in RJ-45 port for a 1Gbps wired Ethernet connection.

A big step forward is that rather than the Microsoft dock’s mini-Displayport video connection, which generally requires an adapter to be connect with a display or projector, the Tripp-Lite device has a full-size HDMI port. It can handle resolutions from all the way up to 4K imaging and is unlikely to become obsolete anytime soon.

U342HGU3-OTHER01-XLAfter plugging the Tripp-Lite dock into the Surface’s USB port and its included power adapter into an AC outlet, the system makes the connections and takes a second to set itself up. If you want to use the dock’s HDMI port, you’ll need to use the included Mini DisplayPort cable as well. The best part about Trip Lite’s dock is that there’s no software to load and it worked on the first try with a Surface 2 Pro, Surface 3 and a Surface 3 Pro. Since everything is automatic, it’s a great addition to school desks where teachers and students connect and disconnect all day long.

Using the Surface dock was like a breath of fresh air for my work. I used it with everything from USB thumb drives and a DVD drive to a Brother printer and a Philips monitor. About the only thing it doesn’t do is charge the tablet. To do that, you’ll need the full-size Surface Dock.

Even at its list price of $187.50, Tripp Lite’s dock is a bargain that can help a variety of Surface tablets to make their needed connections. If you shop around a little you can find it for less than half that amount at places like CDW, making it a must-have for any school that has a lot of Surfaces to cover.




Tripp Lite USB 3.0 Docking Station for Microsoft Surface and Surface Pro, USB-A, HDMI and Gigabit Ethernet Ports


+ Small and light

+ Clips to Surface stand

+ Has HDMI port

+ 4K resolution

+ Works with all Surface tablets

+ No new software needed


- Doesn’t charge tablet

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