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A New Angle on Cables

CompositeDoes your server room look like a tangle of cables with neither rhyme nor reason? A new generation of networking cables with plugs that sit at a right angle and can be stacked for great neatness and visibility. They meet all the requirements for Category-6 status and are shielded against interference with a channel separator and load bar to maintain performance despite its right-angle bend. They cost only a little more than budget cables.

Freebee Friday: Back to School Images

Back-to-school-graphic_23-2147487097Making kids feel welcome after a long summer break isn’t easy and a slew of back-to-school posters can help. Freepik has a good selection of thousands of samples of school art, including back to school posters for classes, hallways and libraries. They’re free if you credit the artist but you can fully license the collection for $10 a month.



Drop-Proof iPads

Mbank254096_w560_h560How many iPads have been damaged or broken by clumsy kids (and teachers) dropping them? If the answer is too many, Kensington’s SafeGrip cases not only protect but can also hold them steady on a desktop. There are models from the latest iPads, Air and Mini versions that cost between $40 and $60. Made of padded plastic, the cases protect the delicate tablets from shock while keeping the screen from being scratched. Each has a hinged handle that doubles as an upright stand that can angle the pad so that typing is less of a chore. The cover comes is green, blue and red, has a pen holder and the connections and cameras are all in the open.


The Fun Tablet

NextbookFlexx11A_L_09At around $200, the E Fun’s NextBook Flexx 11A is all business. Based on Windows 10, the Flexx is built around an 11.6-inch touch screen that can show 1,366 by 768 resolution and is powered by an Intel Z8300 Atom processor along with 2GB of RAM. The tablet can be docked with its included keyboard for writing projects and assessments.


Be a Notebook Cannibal

Satechi enclosure aEvery school has broken notebooks and rather than looking at them with scorn, disdain and guilt, look at them as a resource for future use. A boneyard for use in repairs, there are batteries, RAM modules and the system’s hard drive available for resurrecting other systems. 

I recently raided a dead notebook with a broken screen that yielded a working battery, 4GB of RAM and – the mother lode – a 500GB SSD storage system. The Crucial M500 2.5-inch drive will be the basis of an external hard drive that can store whatever doesn’t fit on my notebook.

The first step is to get an enclosure that will not only house the drive but has an interface for communicating with the host computer. Here, I selected Satechi’s $35 Type-C Aluminum HDD/SSD Enclosure. You can get it for $30 from Amazon.

Available in four colors, the drive box is made of pressed aluminum and despite being thin and light it’s rugged enough to take daily abuse. At 6.3-ounces with the drive in place, the drive can go anywhere during the school day and fits into a jacket pocket. The drive case has a single blue LED to show it’s on.

The kit comes with a screwdriver to loosen the two screws that hold it together and a 12-inch USB-C to USB-C cable. Unless you use a hub or adapter to convert the signal for USB 2 or USB 3 systems, it’s only usable with the newer USB-C based systems. This is balanced by the fact that you neither need to load any software to connect nor use an AC adapter to power the drive.

Satechi enclosure composite-2Inside is a Via Labs interface chip that can move up to 10Gbps of data back and forth and works with 1- or 2.5-inch hard drives and SSD modules, but not the newer M.2 cards. After plugging the drive in and putting it together, it worked on the first try with a Samsung TabPro S system, although it took up the tablet’s only USB port. That means that you can’t charge and use the system at the same time. It was able to play two 4K video streams at once and topped out at a throughput of 1.8Gbps, not bad for a salvaged part.

I now have a reliable and speedy external drive to catch the overflow from my notebook, holding everything from videos and images to lesson plans and presentations.


Satechi enclosure a

Satechi Type-C Aluminum HDD/SSD Enclosure


+ Inexpensive

+ Easy to install

+ Thin and lightweight

+ No software or external power needed

+ Good speed

- Doesn’t work with M.2 modules

Small but Powerful

BenQ_i500BenQ raises the bar for small projectors with the $750 Colorific i500, which not only can wirelessly stream video but can be a Bluetooth speaker as well. Small and weighing just 3.3-pounds, the i500 is powered by LEDs so there’s no expensive lamp to change, although the projector delivers 1,280 by 800 resolution at only 500-lumens so turn the lights off. It can do something few projectors can: directly stream video from YouTube, Netflix, Hulu and other services. 

Remote Therapy

Lightyear ScreenshotIf your district has chosen to do speech, occupational and behavioral therapy via video conferences, PresenceLearning’s Lightyear can help by minimizing its data requirements while adding games and other goodies to the product mix. This can help those in unserved rural and urban areas that high-speed broadband still hasn’t reached. All the online sessions are secure while delivering sharp video of the participants on the left with a large shared work space to the right.

More Gray Matter

COVER -Rubicon (front only)Getting elementary- and middle-school boys to read anything can be a teacher’s biggest headache and chore, but B.C. Tweedt’s series of Greyson Gray books can excite just about any male reader. Rather than mono-dimensional sports stars, astronauts or rap singers, the series shows characters for what they are: human and full of fun and frailties. The fourth in the Greyson Gray series, “Rubicon” is out and ready for reading groups. Available in Kindle, Audible and good old paperback book, it’s essential adolescent reading where the hero tackles everything from intolerance to terrorism.

Freebee Friday: Stop the Copy and Paste Essay

Traffic tools aPlagiarism checking software is de rigueur these days to prevent the copy-and-paste essay from dominating an English or Social Studies class. You can use Traffic Tools’s Plagiarism Checker to look for similarities to popular and obscure texts that are on the Internet by copying anything into its window. It’s good for up to 1,000 words, so the typical school essay should fit. It found four major passages were plagiarized in a 250-word passage I checked out, reporting “0% Unique.”

The good news is that the site has a slew of other tools, like for checking grammar and spelling, but the bad news is that it’s also chock full of banner adds that you’ll have to ignore. Be careful if you use this plagiarism checker because the site also has an Article Rewriter to avoid direct plagiarism. Just paste in the passage and it rewrites it, although the online app delivers gibberish on occasion.

Cloud Sale

Adobe cloud saleAs school starts, Adobe’s Creative Cloud is on sale for $20 per month per student -– a 60-percent reduction -– but there are heavy discounts for school- or district-wide purchases. The Cloud is the right set of image, video and Web tools for both teaching about these subjects and actually retouching photos, editing clips and creating action-packed Web sites. In addition to the expected Photoshop, Premiere and Illustrator, the Cloud now includes several tablet apps, like Spark (storytelling), PremiereClip (video editing) as well Photoshop Sketch and Illustrator Draw, two apps for drawing and painting.



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