If your school’s old cable TV network doesn’t cut it in a digital world, think about using its wired Ethernet cabling for distributing video throughout the building with Belkin’s HDBaseT HDMI audio/video extender. The device converts the video signal into one that can travel long distances over regular old Cat 5 cables and can plug into a projector or large screen monitor in the classroom. Booth 1356.
Blackmagic Design’s $3,000 Compact Videohub can turn a school into a TV studio. From kid news shows to morning video announcements, the Videohub can make sure that every room is connected. The device is small and rack-mountable, but has 40 SDI inputs and outputs as well as intelligent switching that re-clocks the video signal for long cable lengths and the system has an iPad app.
Most schools restrict the use of smartphones on school grounds to keep the student body’s limited attention span on the lesson at hand and reduce the temptation to cheat on exams. But, what about embracing the phone as the next step in teaching? It could end up that smartphones, which many students and teachers already have, are the ultimate in Bring Your Own Device technology.
But, how do you go about getting a lesson out of a phone and onto the big screen for the whole class to see? While some phones have an HDMI port built-in, it can make for a thick and heavy device. That’s where the Mobile High Definition Link (MHL) comes in. It’s a small adapter that can turn many smart phones into lean screen machines by sending an HD audio-video signal to a projector, large screen monitor or TV.
At the moment MHL works with about 30 phones, and the current version of the spec can be used with just about any TV or projector that has an HDMI port. The good news is that it doesn’t require any special software at either end and can put everything from a Web site to a YouTube video to an Acrobat file on the big screen.
Accell’s MHL to HDMI Audio/Video Adapter is tiny and uses the current version 1.1 of the MHL protocol as well as the high-speed HDMI specification. About the size of a memory key, it’s a marvel of miniaturization. In fact, at times it’s so small that it’s too easy to lose or leave on a desk after class.
The adapter relies on the phone’s microUSB connector and works with many Android smartphones on the market. It won’t work with an iPhone, which lacks the needed USB port, or a Samsung Galaxy S III, which uses its own plug and requires a specialized cable, but is classroom-ready for many tablets. A word of advice: MHL technology is so new that you should do your homework and make sure it’ll work with your gear before you buy.
To get it the Accell MHL adapter to work, plug it into the phone and the classroom projector and then power it on. The chances are that you can use the AC adapter that came with your phone or a generic USB adapter. Finally, set the projector , TV or monitor that you’re using to display the HDMI input. In a second or two what’s on the phone’s screen is projected for the class to see.
Along with an LG Nitro Android phone, I used the adapter with Dell’s S500wi, Epson’s X15 projectors as well as an LG LV4400 47-inch TV. The adapter produced surprisingly strong video and audio from such a small device. It delivered perfect sound synchronization and images that were free of static. The video is shown both on the phone and on the projector, making navigation a snap.
With a two-year warranty and a 6-foot HDMI cable, Accell’s MHL to HDMI $30 adapter is a bargain that can turn a phone into a teaching tool. The best part is that rather than packing up a notebook or tablet for the move to the next classroom, all teachers have to do is unplug their phone, put it in their pocket and leave.
+ Sends audio and video to projector or monitor
+ Small and light
+ Excellent image and audio
+ Includes HDMI cable
- Requires AC power
- Too easy to lose
Think that a wireless network is only good for moving data around, printing and sharing an Internet connection? Peerless-AV’s HD Flow Wireless Multimedia Kit is an 802.11n router that can add audio-visual distribution to its list of classroom duties. It can move HD video to a projector or large screen monitor as well as surround sound audio to a set of speakers, but is limited to a 131-foot range, plenty for most classrooms. Each transmitter can service up to 4 receivers and the $429 kit comes with a transmitter and receiver and a remote control. While the transmitter has a pair of HDMI, VGA and composite video, the receiver has an HDMI, composite and component video ports.
Tired of boring announcements that nobody listens to or ecologically destructive printed hand-outs? StarTech has a better idea with its Digital Sign Broadcaster and Receiver, which can put all sorts of announcements onto screens in hallways, cafeterias and other open spaces. The DS128 sells for $600 and can send high quality video and stereo audio from a standard Ethernet cable to as many as 9 separate screens. It requires the $400 DSRXL receiver and the system comes with Java-based software that lets an administrator monitor each screen.
One of the hardest things that the digital classroom requires is getting what’s on the teacher’s screen to a projector or large display so the entire class can see. Without rewiring old buildings, which can cost as much as installing a new projector, means cables hanging all over the place. HP’s Wireless TV Connect has a way of sending the PC’s output to a high-definition screen without wires. It doesn’t require loading any software, but the desktop PC or notebook needs to have an HDMI port for the audio and video as well as an unused USB connection for power. The computer’s USB port and hang it on the back with the included clip and the audio and video are streamed to the TV or projector. There’s a slight delay, but it works quite well, although it’s limited to a range of about 10-feet.
For many all the possible classroom connections are enough to drive a normally sane teacher crazy. Altinex’s CP451-008 Wireless Touchscreen Controller can make sense of it all with the ability to control a dozen different audio-visual devices, all by touching the 8.4-inch color screen. Because it’s wireless, there are no clunky cables to deal with and the teacher can roam the classroom with it in hand. It comes with AVSnap software for integrating an entire classroom’s digital equipment.
When teaching a difficult subject there’s nothing like a well-made short film to bring it all together. ePals and SnagFilms are teaming up to put non-fiction titles in front of school students. Called eFilms, the service has movies on a variety of subjects from a look at Incan tombs to a history of the Wright Brothers. The service is free, the flicks can be shown full-screen and there are ads on and around the player. So far, there aren’t many videos available, but the catalog will grow as the venture gets started.
Finding appropriate resources to engage elementary school children in scientific inquiry can be a challenge. Enter Discovery Education Science for Elementary, the new digital service from the creators of Discovery Education streaming that is basically an extension of Discovery Education Science for Middle School, launched in 2007. The service is organized into four areas: Learn, Explore, Demonstrate, and Extend. This provides a well-rounded approach to elementary science, giving students and teachers plenty of opportunities to understand tricky concepts using a variety of tools.