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Reading Light as Sculpture

1448268203The latest reading lamps can help reduce eye strain, but BenQ’s dual-color WiT is also an ingenious piece of flexible sculpture. Capable of delivering 850 lumens of flicker-free light, the lamp is the equivalent of a single 100-watt conventional incandescent light bulb, but uses only 18 watts of electricity. Available in five colors, the WiT’s arm is articulated so that the light goes exactly where it’s needed. At $300, it's pricey, but the WiT lamp does something few other lights can: lets you adjust the color balance from 2,700 to 5,700 Kelvins

Hear the Light

Sengled pulseAny hallway, office or classroom with recessed lighting can be wired for sound with a new generation of LED bulbs that have built-in speakers. Not only will they cut the cost of lighting the school, but the connections are all wireless, so there’s no expensive electrician needed to conenct them. Inside each Sengled Pulse unit is a 1.75-inch JBL speaker that puts out 13-watts of audio, while delivering 600-lumens of light at a color temperature of 2,700 Kelvins or roughly the output of a single incandescent light bulb.

Screen322x572The beauty of the Pulse light is that it can replace a standard E26 bulb and screws right into the socket. The real pay-off, however, is it can last for a decade in typical use, consumes only 15-watts of power – a quarter the power use of the typical bulb – and connects to its audio source via Bluetooth. There are free apps for controlling and connecting for iOS and Android phones or tablets. While the first two speaker-bulb kits cost $150, you can add up to an additional six bulbs at $69 each as well as an adapter for connecting a subwoofer for $40.

The Big Sound

Jbl eon 16JBL’s EON615 looks like a professional loudspeaker because it is and has been designed to be abused. At $500, it has 1,000 watts of sonic power available and can be overkill. It sends out sound in a 90- by 60-degree pattern and can reproduce audio from 39- to 20,000-Hertz. It not only has handles on the side, which can help with its 39-pound heft, but the EON615 can be set up vertically or horizontally. In addition to wireless Bluetooth, the speaker can be connected the old fashioned way with a pair of XLR jacks. The$500 speaker has a built-in mixer.

Makes the Pen Much Mightier

CLEANSTYLUS-4Tired of losing the expensive active stylus on any of the recent Surface tablets? Cleanint’s Clean Stylus Holder can make it stay put, something Microsoft never managed to do. Basically a plastic frame that snaps onto the edge of the slate, the Cleanstylus has an open cylinder to slide the stylus right in. If you order through the company’s Web site, you can get it in seven colors and there are models for the Surface 3 and the Pro models for $20, but Microsoft has Pro stylus holders in black or blue for $15.

Sounds Good to Me

Who says you need bulky cables to connect a projector, tablet or notebook with a sound system so the whole class can hear? Not the makers of wireless speakers that use Bluetooth to connect them to anything from a phone or tablet to a full notebook or desktop computer.

While they can make a classroom look a lot neater these Bluetooth speakers are meant to be carried around, whether that’s to a corner of the classroom or from room to room. While they all have Bluetooth built-in and can connect with the old school way with cables, the best add battery power for when there just isn’t an AC outlet handy.

Alesis Transaction Wireless Portable Powered Bluetooth Speaker System

TransActiveWireless_anglewithipad_WebThe Alesis Transaction Bluetooth Speaker System not only has a spot to put an iPad, but there’re XLR and phono input jacks and the system can grab audio from a phone, tablet or notebook via a Bluetooth wireless link. It puts out 50-watts of power through the system’s 8-inch woofer and 1-inch tweeter. While you can power the device via a USB power connection, the Alesis speaker set can run for more than a full school day on a charge of its internal battery. Built to last, the system can be mounted on a permanent stand or wheeled around on its recessed wheels. It sells for about $200.

Bose SoundTouch 10

Soundtouch 10The $200 Bose SoundTouch 10 speakers can not only connect via Bluetooth but can with a school’s WiFi network as well. If you’re stuck on wires, it can use a standard audio input as well as a USB port. At just 8.3- by 5.6- by 3.4-inches and less than three pounds, it’s small and can be carried around, but has a full and rich sound. If it doesn’t get loud enough, any SoundTouch 10 can be linked with other SoundTouch systems and works directly with online services like Pandora and Spotify. It comes with a remote control, can be controlled by a phone or tablet app and comes in black or white.

Performance Teknique’s ICBM-2X12BT

410-Jv9Z1ML._SY355_Better known for its monster car stereo gear, Performance Teknique’s ICBM-2X12BT may offer the most sound for the money. At less than $200, the system has a pair of 12-inch speakers and a 3-inch tweeter to pour out the volume. The system has a pair of XLR microphone inputs as well as a phono jack. It can connect to a notebook, tablet or phone with built-in Bluetooth but it has an integrated FM radio. Happily, Performance Teknique includes a wireless microphone, making it an all-around sound system for the classroom or auditorium. The sound system may weigh in at a hefty 58-pounds, but it has a handle and pair of wheels for making it mobile.

Behringer Europort PPA2000BT

PPA2000BT_P0B01_Right_LWhile its attributes and $800 price tag make the Europort PPA 2000BT overkill for most school uses, it has a place in the auditorium because of its combination of high-power amps, large speakers and accurate audio. Unlike the others, it includes a carrying case and puts out 2,000 watts of amplified power that’s channeled through its individual right and left speakers that each have a 10-inch woofer and a 1.35- aluminum diaphragm tweeter for excellent reproduction, regardless of volume level. It has an 8-channel mixer that can not only take in Bluetooth streams but the output can be sculpted with the PPA2000BT’s 7-band graphic equalizer. It can work with a wireless microphone, but comes with a wired microphone.

                     TDK Trek-360 Bluetooth Wireless Speaker

Trek 300Small and easy to move around the room or the school, TDK’s Trek-360 is a lightweight in size only. It takes a different audio tack that rather than aiming its sound in a particular direction, the Trek-360 sends it out in 360-degrees, so putting it in the middle of the room makes a lot of sense. It can not only stream audio via Bluetooth, but the Trek-360 has an audio input. Inside are a quartet of 2 watt speakers as well as a central subwoofer that combine for rich audio. It’s weatherproof, has a battery that can deliver top audio for a full school day and costs about $150.


Build Your Own Power Strip

StackTired of power strips that either don’t have enough or have too many outlets for what you need and get in the way? Build your own with Oneadaptr’s Stack. That’s because Stack is composed of square modules that snap together. There are ones for AC power (two or three outlets), USB power (one or two ports) and even a surge suppressor module to protect your gear. In other words, make your next power strip exactly the way you want it. 


Take Control of Everything

Remote control compositeWith projectors, TVs, audio and DVD players, the classroom can now be thought of as a conglomeration of remote controls that are not only easy to lose but don’t work with each other’s hardware. That’s where universal remote controls come in. The right one has the power to control everything and relegate every individual remote control into a drawer forever.

With the ability to emulate just about any individual infrared remote control, universal remotes can combine the actions of several devices, but why not get an inexpensive one? That’s because these devices are devilishly hard to master and there’s a good chance that they were engineered for consumer use and won’t be able to talk to things like your classroom projector.


Bose remote 90 degRather than headphones or speakers, Bose’s RC-PWS III is for controlling an entire classroom. While it works directly with all of Bose’s Solo TV sound systems and as well as CineMate Series II, GS, 1SR and 15 home theater speaker systems, it can be programmed to control a variety of displays and sources, regardless of whether they use infrared or Bluetooth technology. While the black device lacks a screen to help make connecting and adjusting easier, The RC-PWS III can change the channel, raise or lower the volume as well as bring up and manipulate the device’s Menu. It costs $30 and requires a pair of AA batteries.

Logitech Harmony Home Control

Logitech-harmony-home-control-galleryWhile most universal remote controls stick to a handheld device, the Harmony remote lets you use your phone or tablet, which can make turning a projector on and off much easier. You’ll need to set up the Harmony Hub, which routes commands from the remote or phone to the device. Logitech has free Harmony apps for iOS or Android systems. With the ability to command up to eight individual devices, Harmony has programming codes for more than a quarter of a million displays, projectors, cable boxes, DVD players, smart light bulbs and other devices. It currently costs $100.

URC Digital MX-450

Urc angleWith the ability to control up to 18 individual devices, the URC Digital MX-450 URC Digital MX-450 is overkill for all but the most digitally connected classroom. At $220, the device has a 2-inch color screen that shows the status and possibilities of up to six devices at a time. That way you can quickly choose which item to take control of and there are buttons for everything from starting a DVD to turning a projector and sound system on and off. It can start up several devices at once and requires four AAA batteries.

Ray Super Remote

Ray remoteWith a 4.8-inch touch-screen, the $250 Ray Super Remote is not only the most expensive of the bunch but it is like a remote control on steroids. At 5.5- by 2.5-inches and half an inch thick, the 5.7-ounce remote control looks more like a smartphone. With a 4.8-inch touchscreen and dual-core processor, it has the ability to show and manipulate five devices at once. It's not called a super remote for nothing, because the Ray device can work with a wide variety of infrared-controlled devices via apps, such as for Apple TV as well as ones individually. It can control a variety of things, regardless of whether they use infrared, Bluetooth or WiFi. Rather than replaceable batteries, the Ray Super Remote has a rechargeable battery.

Rosewill RRC-126

Rosewill remoteIf all you want to do is control a computer from across the room, Rosewill’s RRC-126 will do the trick. About the size of the typical universal remote control, the RRC-126 works with Windows 7 and 8 systems and can pick what gets played as well as pause it and skip tracks forward or back regardless of where you are in the room. It comes with an Infrared receiver for the PC and has a prominent Windows button. The $47 PC remote comes with a pair of AAA batteries.


Pens for Less

United stylos penTired of buying tablet styluses for $10 or $20 only to have them break or disappear? There are a bunch of generic slate pens that you can easily buy from Amazon that go for about a dollar a piece or less. From Iclover’s stubby Touch Screen Pen to the extendable MPero Retractable Soft Touch Stylus, there’s a lot that you can get for about 50 cents per unit. My favorite, though, is the United’s 2-1 Twist stylus that has a traditional pen at one end and a tablet stylus at the other and goes for $10 for a ten pack at Amazon.

Tips Accepted

Pencil tipsSpeaking of the Pencil stylus on the iPad Pro models, there’s been no way to get replacement tips for those that have worn down, become broken or lost. They actually do wear out and can now be removed and replaced. Apple only recently started selling the tips. A package of four costs $19.


Server Cooler

SRCOOL24K-BACK-XLGot a rack or two of servers that just keep getting hotter as more email, grades and assignments filter through them? Tripp Lite’s SRCOOL18K can blast it with enough cool air to get it under control. It can be set up right next to the digital gear, delivers 18,000 BTUs of cooling – about the cooling power of three room air conditioners – for about $2,000; Tripp Lite also sells a larger 24,000 BTU unit for about $2,700. It has a pair of output ducts so the cooling can be directed to exactly where it needs to be, even if one is used to supplement the AC in a warm room. The best part is that the chiller takes up only 2- by 2-feet of floor space and doesn’t require a plumber to install.

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