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Stand by Me

Composite stands - CopyDue to their small size and low prices, Android, iPad and Windows tablets may have successfully invaded the classroom, but what do you do when you need to use your fingers? That’s where a good stand comes in. The best let you adjust the screen angle while freeing your hands to do other things, like manipulate a STEM experiment or scribble notes on a card.

Flote close upPossibly the most over-engineered stand of all is Flote, which lets you put a pad anywhere while keeping most of the desktop free for other items. That’s because the slate holder is cantilevered so that its weighted base can be over on the side or even on the floor. It can accommodate just about any pad and has fingers that securely the slate in place. The arms can be extended, you the stand can set the screen at any angle and at any time you can pull it free of its magnetic holder. It’s a beautiful piece of sculpture that works well, but costs from $130 (desktop Orbit) to $300 (M2 floor model).

SuperstumpMeanwhile, SuperStump is all foam and works just as well on a lap as on a tablet top. Able to hold anything up to an iPad Pro at three different angles, the stand is available in black, red or light green. It weighs less than a pound and costs $40.

Elago P3Made of aluminum, Elago’s P3 stand matches the finish of any recent iPad, yet can secure and hold it at a variety of angles. Everything is accessible and the stand has a place to thread cables through for a tidier desktop look. It works with everything from an iPad to a Samsung slate, has soft silicone feet and can be used with a cover still on the tablet. You can get it in black ($24) or silver ($30) on Amazon.

36_Product_wave-stand-02 - CopyBetter known for its computer cases and cooling gear, Cooler Master has one of the best stands around. The Wave curved stand is made of aluminum with soft rubber inserts that let you set a slate at a variety of angles, leaving your hands free for other work. All the ports are out in the open and there’s room for the power cord when the slate is in portrait orientation. The $35 stand can be folded up when not in use.

KantekThink small and the school can save even more because the smallest tablets are generally the cheapest. Kantek has a great Tablet Stand for those that are 10-inches and smaller. It doesn’t dominate the desk, yet keeps your hands free to do other things. The stand firmly holds the slate firmly and lets you swivel it between portrait and landscape modes. It works with iPads as well as a variety of tablets and e-readers and lists for $60, but if you shop around, you can get it for a lot less.

Satechi r1Made of aluminum, Satechi’s $50 R1 can also hold any 7- to-10-inch tablet securely and allow the user to adjust the display’s angle for the best view. Whether it’s an Android or iPad, the slate is held by a pair of rubber-coated supports at the bottom, which work just as well for portrait or landscape orientation. When you don’t need it, the R1 folds flat and includes a pouch for storage.

Inland 304Inland’s PAD304 stand can do double-duty on a desk or mounted on a wall or under a cabinet. The tablet can be rotated 360-degrees and the stand’s articulated arm has torsion adjustments that allow it to be used with anything from a 7- to 11-inch screen at just about any angle. In addition to the weighted desktop base, the stand includes a wall mount with a set of screws. It’s the bargain of the bunch at $20.


Wall or Table Screen, Your Choice

Pretop displayWe all know that interactive displays can outperform projectors and that table PCs are the coming thing for collaboration among teachers and students, but who has the money for both? PresTop’s PT-GT-955-PCAP-Smart-II can do both. It’s a vertical display that kids can walk up to the 55-inch display and work the screen, but if you press a button it can be converted into a horizontal table PC. Based on software from Omnivision’s Omnitapps software, it can work with a group of kids and you can not only adjust the screen height but tilt it to the angle that works best for its task.

Store and Charge

Bretford TechGuard Locker Web Photo 480x360If tablets, notebooks and phones are scattered throughout the classroom in bunches near the room’s electrical outlets or stored in large lock-up cabinets, there’s a better way to charge, store and secure every last system. Bretford’s TechGuard lockers can not only charge them when they’re not in use and hold a slew of systems, but they can be locked up individually or in small groups so that only those with a need can get access.

Made of sturdy powder coated steel with a polycarbonate window, the TechGuard locker is well-designed and -made. With interior LED lighting, you can easily see what’s inside each section. At 19- by 19- by 21-inches, it’s on a par with the TrippLite USB Tablet Charging Station, but rather than an open space with dividers, Bretford offers the luxury of five separate lockable sections that each measure 4.1- by 12.5- by 16.5-inches, which should be enough space for all but the largest notebooks and tablets.

While I looked at the version that has five bays, Bretford also makes a single- and ten-bay versions. They can be mounted on a wall or floor and Bretford will send you mounting hardware after you register. The single slot model can be attached underneath or on top of a shelf or desk.

CU-Keypad-Open-Empty_031_AnthThe back has a single 110-volt power cable that consolidates the power for dozens of devices; the unit is rated at a total of 15 amps. Each bay has a pair of USB charging ports as well as a 110-volt AC outlet. This is plenty for even the most power-hungry devices and provides the flexibility to mix and match what you use the locker for. You will need to supply the charging cables, though.

With an electronic keypad rather than a keyed lock, TechGuard can do things the others can’t. Just press the unlock button and pull the door open to get started stowing gear. After you put the devices away and plug them in, close the door. Finally, punch in the combination you want to use and press the red lock button. As you press each number on the keypad a corner of the lock icon lights up. When you’re done, you’ll hear the satisfying sound of the steel bolt closing. Later, you can open the locker by punching in your four-digit code.

The locker comes with two key cards for the administrator to maintain control.  The blue one opens any locker, but keeps its combination set, while the green one resets the combination.

While they rely on electrical power, the lockers can be opened even during a power failure with Bretford’s optional JumpStarter kit. It feeds enough power from a rechargeable battery into the mechanism to open any or all bays with the key cards.

Unfortunately, TechGuard misses some big opportunities because it is not connected to the school’s network, although Bretford offers carts with networking abilities. It would be great to see the next version of TechGuard include networking so that administrators could view a log of when each bay was opened and closed, or change the lock code remotely or automatically on a schedule to allow different people access during the day.

RFID-Cards_AnthI used it for a few weeks to charge and store everything from iPads, Android tablets, calculators, phones and all sorts of notebooks. It fit three units comfortably, but could accommodate as many as five tablets. All that were plugged in stayed charged, but unlike the Tablet Charging station there’s no way to connect the lockers to a network to stream updates and synchronize the systems.

While the five-bay TechGuard locker costs $1,600, it comes with a 12-year warranty, meaning that it can outlast several generations of schoolchildren and their technology.




Bretford TechGuard Charging Locker



+ Sturdy, well made

+ Individual lockers for tablets or notebooks

+ USB and 110-vots AC power

+ Individual combination locks

+ Security override keycards

+ Lighted interior

- Expensive

- No connection for synchronizing systems

FETC 2016: Type C Magnetism

BreaksafeFor Mac users who miss the MagSafe magnetic power cord, Griffin has a cool retrofit that lets you magnetically plug into a USB Type C connector. Called BreakSafe, the cable has two parts. First you’ll need to plug a magnetic base connector into the system’s Type C port. Then, the rest of the cable is magnetically attracted, yet can cleanly break away when it’s yanked, potentially saving the system from falling off a table or lap. It should be out by April for $40.

FETC 2016: Cart It

Ac_pro_2_bgrips-360x402From Mini iPads to full notebooks, Anywhere Carts has powered carriers that can not only make them easy to wheel from room to room, but they can be charged whenever there’s a plug nearby. The carts are lockable, have adjustable shelves and have baskets to hold notebook power adapters. The AC Pro II model can hold up to 41 full-size notebooks and you can even adjust when the systems are charged to cut the school’s power bill.

FETC 2016: The Creation Station

Dremel3DIdeaBuilder1HP’s Sprout workstation has evolved over its short life into one of the most capable education systems around. It can not only help teach basic lessons, but with the Dremel 3D Idea Builder 3-D printer, it can be the basis of the 21-st century shop class at school. At about $2,600, the package includes a high-performance Core i7 system that allows teachers and students to not only explore the world of CAD design, but lets them create small objects. There are lesson plans that help teach student and teacher alike in the intricacies of 3-D design and printing. A bonus is the system’s display mixer that lets you show exactly what you want on the classroom projector.


FETC 2016: Safe, Secure and Still Mobile

Kensington trolley cabinetToo many notebooks walking off campus? Kensington’s Secure Cabinet Trolley can make them stay put, yet not get in the way of them moving from room to room as needed. You can even stash it under a table. The wheeled base fits underneath the company’s  Charge & Sync Cabinets and works with up to two stacked cabinets (up to 40 tablets) at once. In addition to iPads, it can accommodate a mix of Surface and Android slates. The sturdy steel cabinet has a central lock and lockable soft rubber wheels. The cabinet costs $700 for a 10 slot model and the trolley base adds $80.

Hear Me

Kensington headphone micDoes it seem like you’re fixing or replacing headphones as fast as you can get them in? Kensington’s Hi-Fi Headphones with Mic can help with a rugged design that’s been built for the rigors of classroom use. At $25, they’re a bargain, even though they have high-end features, like a gold-plated jack, a padded headband and a rotatable boom microphone. With a maximum output of 94dB, the 40mm speaker drivers can pump out the bass without damaging young ears.


Stand and Deliver

Bkikwnlvtublm7kyiprtNeed a desk that’s more than a desk? The Aspirus standing desk can accommodate several different teaching styles, from sit down to stand up. The work surface can be raised and lowered via a button on the desk or a phone or tablet app. It can be used a laptop or a tablet and the desk is smart enough to track how much time you spend sitting, has a do not disturb light and it provides reminders to get up and walk around. It’s currently a fully funded Indiegogo crowd-sourcing project with a cost of $500 and an estimated delivery date of next September.


USB 3.0 Help

Satechi_HUB_gun_2Got one of those new notebooks that only have that odd USB 3.0 port and there’s nothing to plug in? Take heart, Satechi’s Type-C Hub Adapter can turn it into connection central. The $35 hub plugs right into a Type C connector and yields three Type-A USB 3.0 ports as well as flash card slots for full size SD and the smaller micro-SD cards. You can get it in gray, silver and gold.




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