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Tidying Up those Tablets

Gc35538_powerdock5_1The biggest downside of the digital classroom is all the portable gear that now inhabits schools, from notebooks and phones to tablets and speakers. If only there was an inexpensive way to organize and store the gear while it’s charging. Enter, Griffin’s PowerDock 5 Charging Station + Storage, which at $99, can end slate chaos, at least as far as warehousing goes.

The design is ingeniously clever. Inside the 5.1- by 8.3-inch stand is a 50-watt power supply that sends out five streams of 5-volts of electricity to power and charge all sorts of devices; each device can grab up to 2.1-amps while connected. On the side are five USB outlets, which line up with the storage rack’s opaque plastic dividers that hold the devices.

The Charging Station does the rest, doling out power to each and every system. It works with tablets, phones and even portable hot spots. In fact, it can power just about anything that uses a USB-power plug.

Gc35538_powerdock5_3All you need to do is put the devices in between the dividers and plug their power cords into the USB outlet on the side; it can’t power devices that don’t use USB power. The computer rack can comfortably accommodate a variety of slates in their cases, from both iPad models, and just about any Android tablet up to those with a 10.1-inch screen. Beyond that, the charging rack gets unwieldy.

The result is that rather than having a warren of power strips and extension cords, each Charging Station can neatly store and consolidate the electrical cables for five systems into one power cord. Happily, it uses a two-prong plug, so the system works easily in older schools with antiquated wiring.

Over the source of several weeks, the Charging Station worked well, powering a variety of gear and never got more than warm to the touch, even when it was charging two iPads, an Android tablet, a Windows tablet and a Samsung hot spot. It can work with devices up to about an inch thick and everything fits in neatly.

The best part is that the Charging Station can put an end to leaving the classroom at night with stacks of tablets charging with individual power adapters. While the typical classroom will need five or six Charging Stations for a one-to-one arrangement or two or three if the devices are to be shared, they don’t take up a lot of precious shelf or table space and have soft rubber feet so they won’t scratch a countertop.

Gc35538_powerdock5_8If the gear travels to the kids, the Charging Station stand can be used on a cart. When it’s time to start digital school work, it’s easier and safer for students to grab a system from the rack rather than from a pile of slates or a shelf.

Because of the variety of items it works with, the unit doesn’t come with the charging cables you’ll need, but you likely to already have them. The problem, and it’s a small one for schools, is that with the tablets and the power outlets next to each other, you really don’t need cables that are 3- to 6-feet long. My advice is to either buy some shorty cables or get Velcro tie-wraps.

In fact, its only shortcoming is that you can’t stack the Charging Station units to make best use of a classroom’s limited space. Griffin and others, make cube-shaped storage systems that can be stacked, but they cost a lot more than the Charging Station’s $99, which is one of the best classroom bargains available today.



Griffin Technology PowerDock 5 Charging Station + Storage


+ Neat, efficient storage for five tablets

+ Full USB charging

+ Works with iPads and other tablets

+ One power cord for up to five tablets

+ Inexpensive


- Can’t stack units

The System Mover

Carrier30_01Getting a class’s tablets from A to B isn’t as easy as it seems, but lockncharge’s Carrier system can help. The big part is a lockable cart that can store and charge up to 30 mobile systems at once, from Chromebooks and small notebooks to Android and iPad slates. The small, but deceptively useful, part is a small plastic basket. It can hold five systems at a time. Just grab it and pass the systems out. The equipment should be out in the fall.


ISTE UPDATE: Macs on the Cheap

Mac to schoolGot a school full of Macs, but not enough money to replace the old and broken ones? Mac to School refurbishes Macintosh computers for schools and makes sure they’re ready to handle the Common Core assessments that will be part of most educational plans. To make sure that they are ready for this level of instruction, Mac to School’s refurbished computers now meet the requirements set down for CC assessments. All desktop systems have at least 1GB of RAM and can work with Apple’s OSX 10.4 operating system while MacBooks come with at least 2GB of RAM and OSX 10.7 or higher.

ISTE UPDATE: The Rugged Tablet

Prod-hero3ePanasonic’s 3e tablet just may outlast them all. Its design stops short of the company’s ToughBooks, but the 3e has been designed and manufactured to take a beating at school, while standing up to dust and water. Powered by a 1.3GHz Intel Atom processor, the 3E comes with 2GB of RAM and either 32- or 64GB of storage space. On top of a snap on keyboard that transforms the 10-inch slate into a mini-notebook, the system comes with a magnifier for the camera and a temperature probe. It will cost about $500 for the tablet. 

ISTE UPDATE: Pre-School Slate

InnoTabMax aWith so many schools extending downwards into offering pre-school classes, VTech has the right tablet. With a 7-inch screen, multi-core processor and 8GB of storage space, the InnoTab MAX can easily fit into small hands and can run all Android educational apps. It comes with 16 age-specific apps, including programs for problem solving as well as recognizing letters and numbers. Unfortunately, it won’t be available until after the school year starts.


Android Grows Up

Slatebook b (2)Think Android is just for tablets? There’s a new classroom notebook on the market that is a pure Android system based on version 4.3 of the operating system. HP’s Slatebook weighs less than 3.8-pounds and is one of the smallest and thinnest notebooks around with a 14-inch touchscreen that can show full HD material. Powered by a quad-core Nvidia Tegra 4 processor, the Slatebook has 2GB of RAM and either 16- or 32GB of storage space. The system can run all day on a charge and pricing starts at an enviable $429.

The Tablet that Shines

Galaxy Tab S 10.5_inch_Dazzling White_12Forget about squinting with low-resolution tablets because Samsung’s Galaxy Tab S family breaks through the brightness and resolution barriers with super-sharp screens. Available with either an 8.4- or 10.5-inch screen, the Tab S features a bright 2,560 by 1,600 pixel AMOLED display that puts the iPad Retina display to shame with a wider color gamut, less glare and the ability to use it outdoors. Powered by a 1.9GHz Exynos processor, the slates come with 3GB of RAM and use the latest Android 4.4 (KitKat) software. The smaller one weighs 11-ounces while its bigger brother is 1-pound. The pair should be available over the summer.

Tablet that Goes Both Ways

HP_Pro_x2_612_FrontLeftOpen_UndockingThere’s no shortage of hybrid tablets with snap-on keyboards that are great at being a slate but not so good at being a keyboard-centric notebook. HP’s ProBook X2 612 is first and foremost a notebook with a comfortable keyboard that can be removed, revealing a 12.5-inch tablet. The system can be ordered with a Pentium, Core i3 or i5 processor and includes a smartcard reader as well as a passive pressure-sensitive stylus. There’re two optional backlit keyboards that turn the X2 612 into a full notebook: one has a second battery for extra time away from an AC outlet and the other is lighter but has a kickstand for upright use. Look for the X2 612 model later this summer starting at $600 (for the tablet) and $800 (with a keyboard).

The $100 Slate Has Arrived

100 billIn the coming weeks, look for small Android slates to drop in price below Acer’s $130 Iconia One7 with several new designs that put the emphasis on value in the classroom. The next generation of small slates will arrive over the summer and start a price war among manufacturers. The big winner will be schools and districts interested in small slates for their students and staff.

Toshiba Excite_Go_ANGLE1_WhiteTo start, Toshiba’s Excite Go has a suggested retail price of $109, but I expect to see its price drop below $100 very soon. The system has a 7-inch display that can show 1,024 by 600 resolution and can interpret 5 independent touches. Based on Android 4.4, the system has a quad-core Atom processor that comes with 1GB of RAM as well as 8GB of storage space.

HP 7 PlusMeanwhile, HP has been busy as well with its own econo-slate, the 7 Plus. Based on an A31 Cortex quad-core processor, the 7-Plus also comes with 1GB of RAM, 8GB of storage space and a 7-inch display that can show 1,024 by 600 resolution. It weighs just over 10 ounces and at $99 is one of the opening salvos in the upcoming tablet war. A big bonus is that if you shop around you’re likely to find it for less than that.

Instant Notebook

Arcbook_full_keyboardIf the price of Windows notebooks has you – and your budget – down, Archos has a nifty idea. The company’s ArcBook features a 10.1-inch touch-screen and at $170, it’s about the price of a tablet, but it has something few tablets have: a physical keyboard. Based on Android 4.2, the ArcBook comes with a lot of software and 15GB of online storage with Google Drive.



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