Administrators who think they can’t do any better than fluorescent lighting need to bone up on Cree’s latest self-contained canopy or soffit fixtures that use LEDs to save on electricity. The Cree CPY20L can be ceiling mounted puts out up to 20,000 lumens of light and is a great way to light up a gym or outdoor area. the fixture's light is a pleasing 4,000 or 5,700-Kelvin that is less harsh compared to fluorescent lights. The big bonus is that because it uses long-lived LEDs, it will likely still be working after everyone working at the school has retired.
Just gotten one of those cool new notebooks, tablets or phones that only has a USB-C connector and you’re not sure how to connect it to projectors, thumb drives or even a mouse? You’re not alone, most people confronted with one of these next-gen systems are at a loss.
To help ease the transition, I’ve created a USB-C survival kit with what you’ll need to use, charge and connect your new computer to the rest of the school and world around you. The items come from Aukey and include a USB-C to USB 3.0 cable, an HDMI converter and hub as well as a USB-C to USB 3.0 converter for use with everything from an external drive to a printer. About the only thing Aukey doesn’t sell is a USB-C to Ethernet adapter for plugging into a school’s wired network, but there are plenty of them available.
I tried the cables out and lived with each of them daily with an HP EliteBook Folio G1 and Asus ZenPad S8. All the cables and adapters were well made, sturdy and came through with flying colors, although the ZenPad S8 doesn’t output USB-C Alt mode video, so it can’t work with the HDMI adapter; it worked fine for charging and moving data into and out of the tablet.
The kit starts with Aukey’s CB-C26 USB-C hub, and for some it will be all they’ll need. It’s small, light and has five USB slots, one of which is a USB-C connection. The HDMI output can drive a projector or display at up to 3,840 by 2,160 resolution along with supplying it with high-performance audio. The black hub has a green LED to show that it’s connected, doesn’t need an AC adapter, unless you want to use it to charge a system’s battery. I used it with a bunch of thumb drives, an external hard drive, mouse and Epson PowerLite W29 projector.
If all you need is a way to send images and video to a display or projector, Aukey’s $20 CB-C40 HDMI adapter should do the trick. It can send images and sound from everything from a MacBook, Chromebook Pixel or just about any USB-C-based notebook to a display’s HDMI port. It worked just as well with an Epson PowerLite W29, an LG PH-550 projector and an AOC 27-inch screen. While the others are jet black, the HDMI converter is bright white and has a 6.5-inch soft plastic cord.
Aukey’s CB-CD5 USB-C to USB-C cable is perfect for connecting two systems together so they can share data and a charger. The cable has a nicely textured braided black 40-inch cable with high-quality USB-C connectors at each end. There’s also the $10 CB-CMD1 has a USB 3.0 plug at the other end and can be used with a conventional AC adapter to charge your USB-C system.
Finally, the most useful of the bunch is also the smallest, lightest and least expensive. It’s Aukey’s $7 CB-A1 USB-C to USB 3.0 adapter. Plug it into a USB-C port and it converts it into a USB 3.0 port ready for anything from a thumb drive to a printer.
While Aukey doesn’t sell these cables together as a kit, you can easily assemble them on your own, as I did. After you have them in hand, I suggest getting some Velcro cable ties so they don’t turn into a tangle. I went a step farther by putting them into an old zipper case that I now keep close at hand and take it with me when I travel.
While each item comes with either an 18- or 24-month warranty, if you register them with Aukey, they’ll add another six months to the coverage. If you’re anything like me, you’ll probably lose them before three years goes by.
+ Good variety of USB-C connection cables and adapters
+ Well-made, sturdy
+ Many have braided cloth cables
+ Good compatibility
+ Warranty extension
- Need to buy items separately
Trying to listen to an educational game, podcast or music track with headphones can be impossible in the typical classroom because of all the ambient noise. That’s where the Bose QuietComfort 35 headphones come in. They not only cancel out the typical noisy classroom environment but connect with a computer or tablet via Bluetooth and have a near field communications touch-spot for instant hook-ups. At $350, they’re beyond the means of most schools, but they can turn a cacophony into a quiet zone.
Apple Macbook Air and Pro systems are popular school computers, but they often suffer from not having enough storage space for teachers and students to stash all their assignments, notes and videos. Tardisk Pear can double the internal storage in a sneaky way. It works with 11-, 13- and 15-inch models and uses the system’s SD card port to hold a tiny card with either 128- or 256B of space. The extra storage sits in a solid aluminum case below the surface and software integrates the extra space. The modules cost $150 and $400.
Have you broken a Surface Pro because it just couldn’t stand up to the constant use, dropping and spills at school? MobileDemand has the answer – its X Cases for Surface 3 and Surface Pro 4 can protect them from even the clumsiest students and teachers. They cost $75 for the S3 and $90 for the SP4 for the basic case that protects the all-too delicate tablets and provides a place to stash the stylus. At $125 (SP4) and $110 (S3), the premium cases add a pull out stand, hand straps and VESA mounting screws. You can buy the cases on their own or with the tablets.
Looking for a better way to control a computer’s cursor than the typical mouse for things like digital artwork, video editing and Web browsing? Kensington’s $100 Expert Mouse Wireless Trackball can easily put clicks and scrolls exactly where they need to be.
The 5- by 5-inch black trackball base sits firmly on a desk and has a two-inch bright red ball, although if you turn the base over, you run the risk of the ball falling out and rolling onto the floor. It has a snap-on wrist rest and the trackball can be a good choice on a desk or kiosk so small there’s no desktop room to maneuver a traditional mouse.
The best part of using the Expert Mouse Trackball is its middle name: Wireless, so there's not a cable to be seen. To get started, put a pair of AA batteries into the back of the device and either plug the included Nano USB dongle into your computer or connect it through the system’s Bluetooth page. If you use the Nano receiver everything is automatic and the trackball worked on the first try.
To set up the system’s Bluetooth link, you need to press all four of the trackball’s actuation to make the device discoverable and then click on the Expert Mouse Wireless Trackball in the computer’s Bluetooth screen. It also worked on the first try.
I used the trackball for everything from basic classroom uses (like Web browsing, playing educational games and working with spreadsheets) as well as more specialized roles (such as using Photoshop or math simulations). It not only was more precise than the optical mouse I had been using, but you can roll your hand over the ball to move between places quickly.
In addition to using the trackball’s individual four actuation buttons independently and assigning individual tasks to them, you can add two more actions by pressing the top two or bottom two buttons at once. There’s a central scroll wheel that lets you zip through a long Web page, which you can customize as to which way it is spun to go up and down.
The good news is that the trackball is ambidextrous, and unlike symmetrical mice, works well for righties and lefties. Under the skin is Kensington’s DiamondEye optical tracking system that smoothly and accurately registers where the ball is. You can make a slew of adjustments with the downloadable Trackball Works software, like changing the pointer speed and adding acceleration as well as changing the scrolling speed.
Unfortunately, you can’t adjust the trackball’s resolution, but the Wireless Trackball can be set to change its button settings based on the program that’s being used. There are versions of the Trackball Works software for Mac OS X (version 10.8 to 10.11), PCs (Windows 7, 8.x and 10) and the trackball works natively in Chrome systems.
To save power, the trackball goes to sleep when it’s not being used. That’s good in giving the batteries a longer life, and the set I used had no problem lasting for the 6 weeks that I used for several hours a day. On the other hand, it also means that if you use the host system’s Bluetooth to connect to the trackball, be prepared for the trackball to lag by a few seconds as it wakes up.
Kensington backs the Wireless Trackball with a three-year warranty, but if it’s like earlier Kensington trackballs, it will last a lot longer than that. At $100, it costs the same as Kensington's Expert Mouse Wired Trackball, making it a bargain in the classroom. There are much cheaper mice and trackballs available, but none that better put the cursor in its place.
+ Customizable buttons
+ Three-year warranty
+ Includes USB receiver
+ Wrist rest
- Can take a few seconds to wake up
- Ball can fall out
Nothing gets kids more productive, particularly after lunch than a standing desk and Marvel’s Focus Desk goes up and down. Made of sturdy steel, the Focus desk has a spring loaded height adjustment that any child can change from a 26- or 36-inch high work surface. The desk has a 28- by 20-inch tabletop and the desk has an optional shelf and screen for test time.
Getting tablets and notebooks to the right place at the right time all charged and ready for learning is no easy task, and Tripp-Lite’s CSC32USB can hold and charge 32 systems. With 2.4-amps of charging current ready so that all the batteries are at full, the cart works with the latest iPads, Kindles, Androids and Surface slates as well as anything that’s smaller than 1.5- by 16.5- by 10.5-inches. All the cords are out of sight, the CSC cart can synchronize the systems’ software and its flow-through ventilation can help them keep their cool. While the $1,300 cart weighs a hefty 130-pounds, its 4-inch casters let it glide from room to room.
The 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
Any 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.
The 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.