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Animate Learning

HUE_ANIMATION_BOOK_GREENWe teach math, languages, history and a slew of other things, but rarely think about, well, creative thinking. There’s nothing like being faced with a camera and editing software to make you think about a story to tell and how to tell it. The Hue Animation Studio has everything needed for getting a class to turn an idea into a story. It comes with a USB camera on a goose-neck arm, a base, cables, apps and a book on how to animate anything. About the only thing you’ll need to supply is a computer and ideas.

Hueanimationeditframewindow2The software lets you become a producer, director and animator, all in one. In addition to the expected editing operations, you can record your own soundtrack or import one as well as use special effects and do green-screen backgrounds or time-lapse sequences. The best part is when you’re done, the mini-movie can be shared on YouTube for everyone to see. There are tons of online tutorials so that kids can learn as they create their masterpiece. Available in red, green or blue cameras Hue runs on PCs (Windows XP to 10) as well as Macs (OSX 10.5 ore newer) and costs $70, but the company discounts school orders.

Freebee Friday: Everything You Always Wanted to Know about AV over IP

Atlona logoAtlona is hosting a series of online seminars that go a long way to explaining the ins and outs of how AV over IP works and how to make the most of this technology. Hosted by Seth Powell, the 20-minute Webinar will focus on identifying where you can use this valuable technique and how to optimize Atlona’s Omnistream devices. It’s followed by a 10-minute question-and-answer session. There are two presentations scheduled on Tuesday, Apr 18 and 23, starting at 1:30PM (Pacific time). Its free, but you’ll need to register.



Go Pro For Less

Apple pro bundleApple’s Pro Apps Bundle for Education professional media tools is now on sale for $200 teachers, faculty, staff and students. The package includes everything from Final Cut Pro X (video-editing) and Logic Pro X (music creation) to Motion 5 (3-D animation), Compressor 4 (media encoding) and MainStage 3 (live performance app) for a complete creating and editing toolkit.

Jack of all Video Switches

AT-UHD-CLSO-840s_3x4The latest network video switch from Atlona can not only deliver smooth streams of ultra-HD video but adds a bunch of new abilities. The two-piece AT-UHD-CLSO-840 matrix switcher has eight inputs (three of which use HDBaseT) and four outputs (two of which are HDBaseT).  This variety and the ability to go between any input and output adds up to allowing high quality video conferences and split-screen set ups just about anywhere. It can be powered by the school’s CAT-6 cabling, has a range of 330 feet and can be controlled over the network with the company’s AMS software. It’ll be out early next year at $5,000.

Connecting the Classroom

Screen beam 960The dream of inexpensively enabling students and teachers to take over the classroom’s big screen has arrived with ActionTec’s ScreenBeam 960. At $300, it undersells the competition but it isn’t as inclusive as it should be.

It’s role in today’s classroom is to wirelessly receive audio and video from a notebook, tablet or phone so everyone participates and has a good view of the action. Able to tap into dual-band 802.11ac WiFi networks, it’s essential for the high bandwidth data flow in today’s classrooms. The best part is that because it uses WiFi Direct’s peer-to-peer connections, the Screen Beam doesn’t add any overhead to the network. 

At 1.0- by 6.5- by 6.5-inches, the black domed ScreenBeam looks like a conference call phone. It lacks a microphone and speakers.

Around its edge, the ScreenBeam base station has an HDMI port for connecting with the room’s large monitor or projector as well as connections for power and the school’s wired LAN for making adjustments to the ScreenBeam 960.

In addition to an audio jack for speakers, ScreenBeam has a USB connector for linking the device to an interactive whiteboard, but unfortunately, not a thumb drive containing images or videos. The device has VGA-in and -out ports for working with older computers and projectors. There’s a power connection and a recessed reset button.

Screen beam 960 aAlthough it is well designed and easy to use, the ScreenBeam 960 is basic with no controls on the unit or a remote control. Setting it up takes about five minutes and starts with positioning it near the projector or large screen. It lacks VESA mounting hardware or an optional bracket, but is light and small enough to use Velcro tape to secure it in place.

Setting the system up starts with plugging in its power and video cables. Using the Connect wireless display selection in Windows 8.1 or 10 or the Miracast abilities of an Android phone or tablet, all you need to do is type in the ScreenBeam’s security code and 15 seconds later you’re connected.

On the downside, the system ignores Windows 7 systems that are so prevalent in education today. There is a work-around by using the product’s $40 USB Transmitter on an older computer. Unfortunately, there’s no way to connect a Windows XP PC, Chromebook, iPad or Mac to the ScreenBeam.

Using a Samsung Galaxy S2 Tab, Asus Zen 8 and a Toshiba Radius notebook, ScreenBeam worked reliably and delivered clear and smooth video. It has the annoying tendency to refuse a connection but always worked on the second try. Aside from the occasional artifact or hiccup, the video looked great at 1,920 by 1,080 resolution and 30 frames per second.

Because it uses WiFi and not Bluetooth, the range of the ScreenBeam was close to 100-feet. This makes it appropriate in a standard classroom as well as an auditorium, lecture hall or repurposed cafeteria after lunch.

SBWD100TX01It’s not in its element as a quick-change artist. To move to a different source, you need to manually disconnect and then let the next user connect, at least a 30-second process. Plus, unlike other similar, though more expensive, systems such as Barco’s ClickShare, ScreenBeam can’t put two, four or more screens up at once for comparison.

The device’s Central Management System (CMS) makes updates and configuration changes easy, regardless of whether you have a dozen or a hundred ScreenBeam systems. You need to use the system’s Ethernet port.

Actiontec’s ScreenBeam 960 is not nearly as slick as ClickShare, but at $300 you can outfit five classrooms for the cost of one $1,750 ClickShare set up. Plus, you don’t need to pass around the USB clickers to those who want to connect. On the other hand, ClickShare covers the bases better with PC, Mac, Android and iPad compatibility.

Late in 2014, Mesa (Arizona) Public Schools equipped 3,600 of its classrooms with ScreenBeam receivers connected to Hitachi projectors, while revamping its WiFi infrastructure with Cisco 802.11n access points. It’s in use every day for teachers to project lessons to the class.

In any event, Actiontec’s ScreenBeam 960 can turn a projector or large display into a device that the whole class can use and share without busting the budget.


Sb960 b

Actiontec ScreenBeam 960


+ Quick connections

+ Long range

+ PC and Android

+ Ethernet connection

+ Central configuration and update software


- No XP, Chromebook, iPhone or Mac software

- Can’t display two or four inputs at once

Video without WiFi

Arlo_Gen4_LTE_Version-Viewset iso R top.2281There’s a new Arlo in town and it is a big step forward from the other second-generation surveillance cameras from Netgear. The latest Arlo Go Mobile Camera doesn’t need WiFi to move its video clips to Netgear’s cloud storage network because it relies on a high-speed LTE-based mobile data network, completely untethering the camera from a school’s network. Perfect for everything from covering the football field, parking lot or anyplace that the WiFi network doesn’t reach, the Arlo Go Mobile is weather-proof and can capture audio as well as video. It costs $450, uses AT&T for its data provider and will be out early next year.


Arlo Goes Pro

Arlo Pro VMS4130_Hero_MedResAs if the original Arlo surveillance cameras weren’t enough, the second generation does so much more. In addition to the wireless cam's 100dB siren for reporting break-ins and emergencies, the Pro version now has rechargeable batteries to replace those hard-to-find C123 cells. They should go for something like 6-months before needing a charge, according to Netgear.

Arlo has an IP65 weatherproof rating and still sends out mobile alerts when it sees some motion or hears intruders. The system comes with cloud storage and playback of up to a week of intermittent recordings for up to 5 cameras for free. It also now has two-way audio so it can be an intercom at a remote entrance or a parking lot gate.

The Arlo Pro model is built around an ultra-wide 130-degree field of view lens that can see more and is able to trigger the motion sensor quicker. On the downside, the Pro ARLO-Day1-01784cameras are slightly larger than the original Arlo cameras and are a little more expensive at $189 on their own or $249 with the base station. The good news is that you can use the new cams with the current base station and Netgear has a four-cam package for $650.

Look for a bunch of accessories that can make the Arlo Pro more independent. To start, Netgear has thin black rubber covers so the cams can blend in with the background while keeping rain off of the lens. There’s also mounting hardware that can be wrapped around a pipe or set up as a tripod. The big new device is a two-battery charging station to make sure that Arlo’s batteries are always ready. Then, early next year, Netgear will introduce a $59 solar panel that will deliver 2-watts of power when the sun shines. This should be more than enough to trickle charge the camera’s lithium ion battery so the camera is always fully charged and ready to catch the action.  

Two Screens, No Waiting

Startech thunderboltThunderbolt 3 has the potential to run a pair of top resolution monitors at once, but you need the right connections. StarTech’s Thunderbolt 3 Dual-4K Docking Station for Laptops can do the trick. It can handle either a single 5K resolution screen or pair of 3,840 by 2,160 displays.  The key is that is connects to a PC (sorry, no Mac support as yet) via a USB-C port and provides access to a trio of USB 3.0 devices, Gigabit wired Ethernet as well as audio-in and -out ports


See and Say

Recap kid tabletSwivl’s Recap takes classroom video to a new level with the ability of the teacher to ask questions that students then respond to in clips that are uploaded, watched and evaluated. It leads to deeper responses that go beyond the simple yes and no with the ability to explain and elaborate. Meanwhile Recap’s teacher’s dashboard can show who’s responded, who hasn’t as well as categorize the videos for the class to see. It works on just about any connected platform, including Chromebooks, and the program has garnered more than 250,000 users.

New Age Story Tellers

Product_intro_SNAP_PRO_03_47d7d3eb-fbdc-40ba-8995-91da94a1f7dfRegardless of whether it’s for a teacher training film or student movies, creating, distributing and showing videos is all about storytelling, but few schools are equipped with the right gear to get the most out of the medium. For instance, shooting smartphones can be awkward to shoot with and produce jittery vids that sound like they were shot in a shower, but there are things you can do to clean up the image and audio. Snap! Pro Premium’s case and lens kit can turn an iPhone 6 or 6s into a competent camera. It includes the case with a comfy grip handle and a shutter button as well as a tripod mount. The kit costs $130 and comes with wide-angle and macro lenses and a soft felt bag.

Eos-rebel-t6i-creator-kit-shotgun-microphone_1_xlCanon’s Video Creator Kit takes this to a new level by combining a professional Eos Rebel T6i camera, an 18-to-55 millimeter zoom lens and a high-end Rode Video Mic Go shotgun microphone that snaps onto the camera. The camera can create vivid HD video streams that can be controlled by Canon’s phone app and your smart phone or tablet. The kit comes with a 32GB SD card to store your clips, but the whole thing comes together if you get Canon’s $300 Connect Station CS100. The small base can move your videos without having to plug it into the camera because it connects with the camera using Near Field Communications (NFC) technology and WiFi. Just put the camera on the CS100 and the videos can be sent to the network or displayed on a monitor or projector. All you need to do is say, “Action.”


KD-HD8x8Lite_hBut, video clips are never in the right place and the right time. That’s where Key Digital’s KD-HD8X8 Lite comes in. The video switcher and distribution system can not only switch between video sources and output, but it can handle both HDMI and network-based HD Base T streams. Able to work with HD and Ultra HD resolution clips, it can also integrate 3-D signals. The device can work with eight inputs and 16 outputs, but Key Digital also sells versions that use 4X4 and 6X6 architecture. They all include a lifetime warranty.

MW883UST_WallMountThe final step is in this trail of video is actually showing the videos and there’s nothing like the theatrical experience of a projector. Benq’s $1,500 MW883UST can light up a classroom with 3,300 lumens of light. Based on TI’s digital light processing imaging chip, the ultra-short throw MW883UST delivers 1,280 by 800 resolution and can fill screens as big as 11.7-feet, so it can be used in an auditorium. Everyone can go up to the screen and interact with the projected image by using Benq’s PointWrite pens. Teachers can save and distribute lessons with the company’s QWrite software.



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