If there’s one thing that today’s classrooms lack it is sufficient outlets to charge a class’s worth of tablets and notebooks while powering a projector. Steelcase’s Thread can put juice where it belongs with some innovative technology. Thread uses a thin modular track that is only 3/16-inch thick to convey AC power safely and inconspicuously under carpeting. This can not only reduce the cost of adding outlets by simplifying installation, but there are a variety of outlets available, including pedestals, in-floor and tabletop plugs.
USB 3.1 is here to stay and some of the latest notebooks (like the Chrome Pixel and new Macbook) have connectors you may not be familiar with or able to easily or cheaply get the cables you need. Monoprice has a good selection of the latest cables with quad shielding and reinforced zinc-alloy connectors at reasonable prices. The selection includes everything from a USB-C to USB-C cable ($24.99) and a USB-C to USB-A cable ($9.99) to a USB-C Male to USB 3.0 Female ($11.99), USB-C to DisplayPort Cable ($34.99) and USB-C to HDMI Adapter ($34.99)
Designed for small children, Kidz Gear Wired Headphones are a bargain that could help kids save their hearing. The $30 headsets have an adjustable boom microphone and its 30-milimeter speakers can reproduce between 20- and 20,000 hertz, roughly the range of human hearing. The big bonus is that the volume control limits the output to about 86dBA, 20 percent of its peak output to protect their sensitive hearing. The headsets come in gray, red and buy and come with a lifetime warranty.
Forget about taking up every outlet in the room to charge iPads and other tablets one at a time because Tripp-Lite’s 16-Port USB Tablet Charging Station can do them 16 units at a time with a single plug; Tripp-Lite also makes units for 32- and 48-systems. Each charging system can draw up to 2.4-amps of 5-volt USB juice so every slate is ready for school. The sturdy black steel can be screwed into a wall, floor or shelf and has adjustable dividers or can be mounted in optional casters for taking it from class to class. The vault-like steel door can be locked at the end of the day or between calsses. It comes with a 10-foot power cord has a powerful cooling fan and costs $675 with a two-year warranty.
The cure for sedentary students (and teachers) is Ergotron’s $475 LearnFit Adjustable Standing Desk. It not only gives the class the flexibility to work sitting or standing at whatever height is most comfortable, but can improve posture, circulation and alertness throughout the school day. Just press the small lever under the 23- by 24-inch desktop to adjust its height from 31.8- to 51.4-inches, allowing the LearnFit desk to accommodate everything from a skinny fourth grader to a hulking high-school senior. The all-black desk can be rolled into place, has a rugged phenolic laminate surface and comes with a five-year warranty.
How do you turn a room full of screens into a room with lots of desktop space for other activities? KI Furniture’s Flat Screen Garage can do the trick with a motorized lift that can hide a flat screen monitor, keyboard and mouse in a secret hiding place below. Just press a button and it’s gone or back in a few seconds. Whether the screens are up or down, they remain connected to power and data, so there’s a minimal start-up period. With room for a single screen, the 30-inch-wide tables come in 36-, 42-, 48- and 54-inch lengths as well as 60-, 66- and 72-inch long units with two screen units. KI includes a 10-year warranty on the tables and motorized mechanism.
If iPads have been breaking faster than you can say “iTunes Store,” then maybe you need a stronger case to protect them from clumsy teachers and students. Kensington’s BlackBelt 1st Degree Rugged Case for iPad Air 2 and Mini systems Built around cushioned rubber, the Black Belt cases can stand up to the drops that happen at schools every day. At $30 for the Air 2 and $25 for the mini models, the case is inexpensive insurance against breakage.
Despite its small size, Martin’s M-Touch has the power to turn any school’s Spring musical into a professional-looking production with a wide variety of lighting effects. It has a simple interface for independently controlling 10 different lighting channels that are controlled by moving your fingers over the touch-sensitive active surface. Any effect can be recorded for later playback at show time. Made of rugged aluminum, it weighs just 3.3-pounds so the board is easy to be moved to different venues or schools as needed.
While the TI-84 family of calculators continues to be the classroom choice, the latest version is not only 30 percent lighter and thinner, but available in a variety of colors as well. The TI-84 Plus CE is approved for most standardized tests and it does everything the older and larger TI-84 models can do, like graph functions, solve equations and even calculate probabilities on its 2.8-inch color screen. In addition to the pedestrian silver gray and black, the CE version can be had with red, hot pink, plum and blue cases. It’ll be available this spring.
While CyberTouch makes video tables as big as 103-inches, the Mono 65-inch model is most appropriate for classroom collaboration. It should be big enough for about a dozen kids to gather around and work on a joint project. It can handle 32 independent touch inputs and shows 3,840 by 2,160 resolution, making it perfect for a class imaging project or creating a map. It has its own cooling system and works with Windows, Mac and Linux software but requires its own computer.