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Dock City

Henge cWith the right docking station an iPad can be transformed into a desktop computer that works better for stationary classroom tasks like writing and viewing video. All you need to do is snap the pad in place and you have all the amenities of a full computer, like USB and audio connections. The Henge Gravitas Mobile Dock can inexpensively turn a recent iPad or iPhone into a mini desktop.

Its brushed aluminum finish matches the look and feel of current iPad’s industrial design, but the Gravitas dock is made of a specially alloyed zinc alloy that’s nearly three-times denser than raw aluminum. This not only gives the Gravitas dock a more substantial feel, but it should stay put on a desk and provide a stable base. Its bottom has a thoughtful rubber base so cables won’t pull it around.

At only 3.5-inches across, the Gravitas dock works with most recent iPads and iPhones. The package comes with two inserts so that the Gravitas dock will fit everything from an iPad Mini or iPad Pro, Air and Air 2 to an iPhone 6, 6s, 6s Plus or the newer 7 and 7 Plus models. It can also work with iPads that are held in slim covers. 

Henge bUsing the Gravitas dock couldn’t be easier. Just plug the USB cable into the back of Gravitas and either an AC adapter or a computer if you want to synchronize the software on the pad or phone. Then, slide the phone or tablet directly into the dock’s opening and press it into the dock’s built-in Lightning plug. On the downside, none of the Gravitas docks work with older iPads that use the long narrow 30-pin port.

It has a well-placed indentation so you can easily get to the device’s Home button, but the dock lacks the magnetic guides that the Logitech Base Dock has. Regardless of whether you use an iPad Mini, large Pro or an iPhone, the device sits about 1.5-inches above the table top with the device held securely at an angle of 82-degrees. This makes it easy to read and tap the display, but the iPad can wobble when it’s been tapped, it must sit in portrait mode and its angle isn’t adjustable. 

Henge dWith an audio-out port and a USB connection, the dock can be used to drive a set of speakers, charge and synchronize the pad while it’s in place. Because the Gravitas’s audio connection lacks a volume control, Henge advises against using it with a set of headphones, but it worked fine for me.

The package includes a USB cable that can be plugged into an AC adapter or a computer, but Gravitas lacks a way to connect an external monitor or projector. While you can’t directly plug a keyboard and mouse in, a Bluetooth keyboard, like the Logitech K-780 that I used, should do just fine.

At $69 ($88 with an extra 12-watt AC adapter), the Gravitas dock is a bargain that can go a long way to turning any recent iPad into the equivalent of a desktop computer. It works particularly well with the large-screen iPad Pro. On the other hand, it includes only a 90-day warranty – hardly inspiring for a device that will need to stand up to the daily use and abuse at school.

Still, the ability of the Henge Gravitas Mobile Dock to turn recent iPads and iPhones into desktop computers makes it the best – and most stylish – place to stash an iPad.


Henge a

Henge Gravitas Mobile Dock

$69 ($88 with AC adapter)

+ Solid heavy base for iPad or iPhone

+ USB and audio-out ports

+ Works with recent iPads and iPhones

+ Comes with USB cable


- Short warranty

- Can’t adjust angle of screen

- No video-out port

AV Scheduler

CrestronIf you use Crestron software to control and connect the school’s AV gear, it can now be scheduled so there’s no fighting over the videoconferencing set up. The Crestron software not only shows what’s available but lets you schedule events directly with everything from Microsoft Exchange to Google Calendar to IBM Notes or with Crestron’s TSW-732 or 752 touch screen tablets.


Continuing the Dream

MlkIt’s the day we celebrate Martin Luther King’s all-too short life and what he gave to us, but it could be a lesson in giving back. After all in 1957, he observed that  “life’s most persistent and urgent question is what are you doing for others?” That’s where the National Service Web site comes in. In addition to direct links to places to volunteer to help others, there are clips of MLK. The best of the bunch are lesson plans from Scholastic (Tech Tools corporate parent) as well as a well-stocked page with a variety of service organizations for creating either individual opportunities to help others or as a class project. What better way to keep the spirit alive?

Freebee Friday: App Direct Support Line

Apple repairForget about calling Apple if a bunch of iPads get broken. The Apple Support app can help with everything from checking product manuals to seeing the hours of a local Apple Store. In addition to resetting a password and reporting damage to systems, the app can set up a text or chat line with a technician to help diagnose a problem or answer a question. If your iPhone is having issues, just turn to Apple’s latest iOS app for support.


Freebee Friday: Messenger Rebirth

Bloomz pictureUsing Class Messenger and are out of luck because it’s shut down? Bloomz has created a way to continue using your class and parent lists so every message gets through. The directions and access to a free account are on a special Bloomz page for those making the transition. In fact, the Bloomz app adds things like the ability to push out photos and videos as well as translate the notes into other languages.

Pre-School Cam

Arlo babyNetgear’s Arlo family of video cameras have done a lot to miniaturize HD cameras so they can go places never thought of before. The Arlo Baby might be meant for a home’s nursery, but it’s just as good in a preschool classroom so that administrators and parents can look in on class. The cameras are small, battery-powered and come with a pair of rabbit ears to make them blend into the background at school. The $250 camera sends out full HD video to the Internet or an optional $100 7-inch viewing tablet. It has infrared night vision for nap time as well as temperature, humidity and air quality sensors.

Tag IT

Tag_search2With the number of mobile devices at schools only expected to rise in the coming years, how do you keep track of all of them so you know what’s available and what isn’t. Hayes Software’s TIPWeb-IT can help track everything from a class’s worth of Chromebooks to every stationary projector with either a barcode or wireless RFID tag. In other words, every item not only shows up on a register but is trackable. The cradle to grave accounting provides information on every item until it is retired or removed from the system.

Big Data Gets Schooled

BigData_2267x1146_whiteThere’s nothing worse than giving children a battery of tests and then not knowing what the results mean for the students, school and its teachers. That’s where applying the lessons of big data analytics come in. Used to predict what we buy and where we want to travel, the technology can help in schools as well.

Based on a deep dive into the data, teachers and administrators can not only spot those who are leading or lagging, but find school- or district-wide trends. The latest additions predict educational outcomes, both good and bad.

More than mere trend-mongering, data mining at schools can be a valuable tool in identifying students who are at risk or spotting places that need new resources. A server filled with test results, grades and demographic information is meaningless unless you can lift out what’s important and act on what it is telling you.

In a very real sense, the trends are all there waiting to be spotted. All you have to do is have the right software to see both the forest and the trees.

Guide K12

Quick 12Composed of four parts, Guide K12 is an all-in-one analytic package that can help districts to visualize the raw data with graphs, charts and especially maps. To start, Explorer is for quick trend spotting and trying to see how the numbers – such as test scores or student demographics – relate to each other and are changing over time. By contrast, GK12’s Planner package can create hypothetical what-if scenarios at school and the program’s Adviser can deliver reports that administrators can use and distribute to staff, state officials and parents. Finally, GK12’s SchoolSearch is a window on your district that the community and parents can use to see what’s going on at the area’s schools.

Panorama Education

PanoramaBig data is at the heart of Panorama Education with the goal of making every bit of student information count toward their future. Behind the scenes, Panorama churns through reams of test and activity results to create comparisons among students within a school, district or against national averages. The program is pwoerful enough to not only use your district’s current information but it produces good looking informative reports that are personalized for each recipient for everything from state officials to parents.

                            Renaissance Learnalytics

Renaissance aIf your district uses Renaissance math and literacy programs, there’s already a big data engine at work behind the scenes. Called Learnalytics, the database securely stores the results of problems and quizzes and analyzes them for student-by-student and class changes as well as big picture trends. Behind the scenes, the Learnalytics program also tracks what each child likes to do academically, how they learn and can even suggest new books for individual students that would not only fit right into their educational goals but ones they just might enjoy to read.

SAS Enterprise Analytics for Education

SasThis company’s software helps just about every manufacturer and retailer deliver the right mix of goods on time to customers, and it can help to create a data-driven school. SAS software can provide a unique view of every student based on the totality of what he or she does. In addition to always having the right data at your fingertips, the SAS software slices and dices your district’s data and let you decide how its presented without the need for programmers. The SAS school analytical software is secure, can work with Office and the results can be distributed to mobile devices. 


Long-Life Projector Lamp

300Wx300HThe latest Epson projector may not have LEDs that never need replacement, but the lamp on the PowerLite 975W is rated to last 10,000 hours rather than just 2,000 or 3,000 hours. That rating is based on use in its brightest mode, not the lower-power (and longer lasting Eco mode), so it can save several lamps over the projector's lifetime. The projector is no classroom weakling with the ability to pump out 3,600 lumens of light in wide-XGA resolution. It has WiFi built in, can be set up in split screen mode and can connect wirelessly with the most popular systems used in schools today. The PL-975W sells for $1,300 but can make up much of that in lamps that won’t need to be replaced.

Hide and Seek

NewsfeedThe Web can be a game of hide and seek with more irrelevant items that what you want. That’s where Declara comes in. Using its CognitiveGraph engine, the service uses the latest big data techniques to separate a school’s IT wheat from the chaff. It uses the artificial intelligence methods to program bots that sift through everything the Web has to offer and delivers a report that eliminates extraneous items. When everything is compiled, Declara creates a customized report that teachers and students can comment on in a collaborative space.

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