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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.



All in One Video Conferences

PNG 72 dpi (RGB)-Connect bundle 05 silverIf you like the Lifesize ConferenceCam videoconference gear, it has just gotten better with the inclusion of a full computer to control everything. The ConferenceCam Kit has everything that the ConferenceCam has but adds an Intel NUC micro-PC, giving you a self-contained VC setup. The PC has Intel’s Unite software installed that can help make everything connect first time, every time. The $1,500 package includes a Logitech K400 Plus wireless keyboard.

Put Video Anywhere

B126 bWhile there’s no explicit limit on the length of how long HDMI video cables can carry high-quality streams, the practical limit is about 50-feet. Beyond that for larger rooms, auditoriums or classes, you need a different approach. The best way is to convert the video stream with audio included into a digital format that can travel over regular old Cat 5 or Cat 6 LAN cables. You will need some special hardware at each end to pull it off, and that’s where Tripp-Lite’s B126-1A1 kit comes in.

The good news is that the $150 B126-1A1 set is not only inexpensive and easy to hide but doesn’t require adding any software. It doesn’t compress the video because the cables can actually handle a gigabit of data per second. In fact, you can think of the kit as an extra-long video cable. There’s a dedicated sender and receiver with an HDMI port at one end and an RJ-45 LAN port at the other. Both require power from an included AC adapter and include brackets for mounting the devices on a rack.

Able to support 24-bit color, 3-D and eight-channel audio, setting the B126-1A1 up literally takes a minute. Plug the sender in to the source material, connect the LAN cable and then plug the receiver in to the display. Each power plug can be screwed into the B126-1A1 device so that it doesn’t accidentally get loose at exactly the wrong moment.

B126 aDon’t get worried if after powering the devices up, the system doesn’t work because there’s an equalization dial that might need to be adjusted. Calibrated from 0 to 7. The only way to figure out the right setting is trial and error.

Using the B126-1A1 pair with a variety of Cat-6 LAN cables, I was able to move a 1080-p signal for as far as 180-feet. A little farther and the signal starts to lose frames and show odd artifacts. That’s slightly farther than the company’s 150-foot spec. According to Tripp-Lite, the system can move an interlaced signal 200-feet. If that’s not enough, the company sells B126-110 repeaters that roughly double the extender’s range and you can use up to three without degrading the signal.

If you’re requirements aren’t that demanding, Tripp-Lite’s B126-1A0 set uses USB power, costs about $70 and worked well up to about 150-feet. Either way, using HDMI over Cat-6 cables lets you to put video displays exactly where you want them without having to think about how far HDMI cables can reach.


B126 kit

Tripp-Lite B126 1A1 HDMI over Cat5/Cat6 Active Extender Kit

+ Uses networking cables to move uncompressed video
+ HD capable
+ Full 7.1 audio
+ No software to install
+ Lockable power input

- Can’t work on active network
- Need to adjust equalization


Welcome to the Next-Gen Teacher Conference

PNG 72 dpi (RGB)-11_ GROUP Bundle_Lifestyle_Mics_ Clean Empty Room Set-upThe next time you put the sign-up sheet on your classroom door for a round of parent-teacher conferences just might be your last. That’s because the latest video conferencing gear can bring teachers and parents together while allowing them to be in separate locations. The Lifesize Group kit includes an HD video camera with a wide 90-degree field of view that uses the latest H.264 codec with video scaling for high quality streaming. This allows everyone in the room to be seen or you can zoom in on a single head with the auto-focus 10X optical lens for a one-on-one video chat. Its remote can control the camera’s panning and tilting as well as its zooming.

In addition to a connection hub, the Group kit has a speakerphone with 4 microphones for lifelike audio. By using beamforming technology, participants as far as 20-feet from the speakerphone can be heard. The speakerphone’s display shows that you’re connected.

At $1,000, it is the videoconference bargain of the year, and adding a second microphone brings the total cost to $1,250. Either way, it’s a small fraction of what similar gear from Cisco, Polycom or Vaddio cost and the Group kit is easier to set up and use. All Lifesize group byou’ll need is a connected computer, which can be a mobile phone, a tablet or a notebook. 

For schools worried about extra monthly service bills for video-conferences, the Group is agnostic as to what service it uses and works just as well with free ones as with ones that charge. It can be set up on Skype, Lync, Google+, WebEx, Vydo, Zoom and others so that you can connect with any parent, anywhere without leaving the school.


Freebee Friday: Selfie Assignments

Recap_scrolling_dashboard-300x281If a thoughtful, poised answer counts for as much as elegant writing, then Swivl’s ReCap should catch on quickly. The app works directly in iOS systems and there’s a browser based version for PCs, Chrome and Android machines. It lets a teacher ask a typed, audio or video question of the class that then gets recorded replies and answers sent back to the teacher for analysis and grading. A daily review reel consolidates all the answers to the question as soon as three have been received, making viewing a snap. It’s a beta at the moment but the company will smooth off some of its rough edges over the coming months, but they plan for it to always be free.

Video All the Time

Vp71xd compositeThe essence of digital signage is to use a video monitor to show teachers and students everything they need to know, from today’s lunch menu to escape directions during an emergency. Videotel’s VP71XD can feed it with HD video and sound. In addition to media-playing software, device has an HDMI and RCA outputs, comes with a remote control and scheduling software. It costs $382.

Let There be (the Right) Light

ZylightOften the difference between cheesy and professional-looking video is lighting, and Zylight’s Newz compact on-camera light can illuminate the situation. It’s based on LED technology so it doesn’t drain batteries quickly and the lighting element may never need to be changed. The $429 light can attach to a camera, has an articulated arm and barn doors for cropping the beam to just where it needs to be. The best part is that the light’s 60-degree beam is not only dimmable, but can be set to a color temperature of anything between 3,200K for indoor sequences or 5,600K for daylight shooting.

Five Easy Video Editors

Video editors compositeTurning a series of clips into cogent videos is a skill that all kids need to learn, but which platform is right for 21-st century story telling? I think that kids need to master the ability to edit video on all the major platforms in use at schools, from PCs and Macs to iPads, Androids and Chromebooks. That way they won’t be caught short on video skills.

Not only can you use any of these apps to create visual repots on science and English lessons but enhance each child’s story-telling skills. Next stop, Hollywood.

Windows Movie Maker

MoviemakerOnce a part of every Windows computer’s software, Movie Maker is now relegated to a free download that anyone can add to their system. Version 12 still uses a timeline for creating a video and works with all recent versions of Windows. In addition to adding and rearranging clips, you can work with transitions and even get rid of camera shake. When you’re done you can share the movie online or add it to a Web site for the world to see.

KineMaster Pro

KinemasterAndroid tablets can now make full movies with KineMaster Pro. The center of attention is its multi-track timeline where you can slip in videos and edit them on a frame-by-frame basis as well as add audio tracks and transitions. Rather than having to use a mouse, everything can be manipulated by a finger or stylus for things like adding titles. The completed movie can be shared via YouTube, Facebook, Google+ and Dropbox.



IPhone5s_iPadAir_iMac27_MBA13_iMovieThe iMovie app that comes with Macs puts the emphasis on simple movie-making with a few frills, like Apple’s excellent online how-to section. One of the rare video editing programs that can handle 4K resolution, iMovie has templates that you just type in a name and drop in the clips. You can take that to a new level with the ability to use iPad vids as well as ones from a camcorder or phone.


We Video

WevideoDespite being basic and not exactly high-performance systems, Chromebooks are surprisingly good at editing videos. WeVideo lets you use a storyboard approach for a mini-movie or the more traditional timeline. Just drag a variety of files into position to be integrated and the app does the rest. If you don’t have what you need, the program includes 100 royalty-free effects and sound clips as well as the ability to use slow motion or time lapse effects. You can have kids team up to make movies and the free version allows up to 5-minutes of final movie time. The K-12 package costs $249 a year for a classroom of up to 50 students and allows each student to save an hour a month of videos and 5GB of online storage space.


Pinnacle Studio Pro

Studio proVideo editing on iPads takes a big step forward with Pinnacle’s Studio and Studio Pro apps. The basic Studio software is free and lets users quickly create basic videos in a timeline format, while the $15 Pro version adds the ability to edit in up to 4K resolutions and save the results online.



Freebee Friday: See and Say

FoxDen_ScreenShotSmall groups of students and teachers can now video chat online or free with ReadyTalk’s FoxDen collaboration platform. The software is still in development, but you can use it to provide high-quality real-time interaction from within the Chrome browser as well as any Android device, iPhone or iPad. It can connect up to 10 users.


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