Saturday, January 28, 2012

An interactive white board in your teacher tote bag!

Learning Resources recently sent me their new now!Board, a tiny, portable, interactive whiteboard tool, to review. What a neat device! It turns any surface into an interactive whiteboard and all you need is a computer and a projector!

now!board package contents
Those of you who follow me know that I love cases, and the main components fit nicely in the included 10" x 7" x 2" case. 

To set-up the now!Board, I simply installed the software on my laptop, hooked up a projector, hooked the now!Board camera via USB to my computer, and placed it about 12 inches behind the projector, pointing at the surface I was projecting on. 


I launched the software, adjusted the angle of the camera, and started to calibrate the now!Board on the wall in my house. It was hard to find a blank wall in my house and the projected image was extremely keystoned which made it difficult to calibrate all the points. I decided to find a dry erase board at the right level and try again.


The now!board wand, camera, and stylus


 

Once the projector, image, and now!board camera were pretty much level with each other, the calibration was a snap! I used the handheld stylus on the right for calibrating. This was also the stylus I used for the movie below. This stylus is intended for use with a dry-erase board or regular whiteboard. It has the ability to right-click, too. The 24" wand (on the left in the photo) is for using with surfaces the handheld stylus might scratch up or for younger students so they can reach the projected tools and images.




The tool set in the software offered all the necessary IWB tools including screen capture, scaling, an on-screen keyboard, blank whiteboard desktop, and more.









I did a short Jing screencast of my computer screen as I used the now!Board software tools via the handheld stylus on the dry-erase board.


video


The now!Board would come in very handy for sharing among classrooms and rolling computer carts, since nothing has to be mounted on the wall or classroom board to hold it, any surface can be used to project on, and it is very easy to set-up and calibrate once everything is close to being on the same level.

Teachers have asked me if the now!Board can be used with an iPad in the mix. I decided to test out some options. I first hooked the projector and the now!Board camera to the computer and launched the now!Board software. I wirelessly streamed the computer screen to the iPad screen via Splashtop Remote and Splashtop Streamer. I could not use the tools effectively, though, using the iPad as the "stylus". I could definitely use the arrow and control file menus and such and pick any tool on the tool menu. But I had a hard time highlighting and drawing. I was envisioning that someone could be at the projected image using the now!Board stylus and someone else could be remotely using an iPad, but that did not pan out as a viable option. It was only a trial run to see what would happen and who knows what will be available for the iPad in the future to make it work!


Here is a brief hardware set-up video, produced by the company, to give you a better feel for the hardware set-up process. A series of tutorial videos come on the software CD.

video


And here is the short (2:35) product video, created by now!Board.



The now!Board portable interactive whiteboard device will start shipping in April of 2012. You can find out more about it and order it for $499 at the Learning Resources site now. You can also follow them on Facebook to keep up-to-date!

Update May 21, 2012:
Last last week I received the new wand for use on surfaces that the hand-held stylus might scratch up. It worked perfectly for calibrating, marking up a projected page and using the menus and on-screen keyboard in the now!Board software on the Mac. Below is a quick photo of my set-up and a screenshot taken from the software.


now!Board and stylus and wand set-up

Screenshot from within the now!Board software of the projected image


Friday, January 20, 2012

Cool stuff from BoxWave

Derek Gillette of BoxWave recently contacted me and asked me to review a few items that I thought might be useful for schools. I went through their online catalog and picked out the items below. Please let him know if you are interested in purchasing any of these items yourself or need a quote or volume pricing for your school or district!



BoxWave In-Ear miniBuds

The first thing I looked at was the BoxWave In-Ear miniBuds. BoxWave has always been in the forefront of the retractable cable devices and I have used many different types of cables from them over the years. This set of in-ear, stereo headphones are retractable and come with three different size ear tips and a clip you can attach to the cable reel to hook it to your collar or jacket if you wish. 
BoxWave In-Ear miniBuds




With the one-to-one initiatives and laptop and tablet carts in schools, I notice many students using their own headphones in class. However, I also notice the amount of time it takes students to unwrap the tangled cables that are wrapped around the stuff in their backpacks or purses! The retractable cable on this headset solves that problem and saves precious class time.


The BoxWave In-Ear miniBud headphones are very comfortable, the sound quality is great, and very little sound would "leak out" to surrounding students with the in-ear design.


 Tri-Connect Mini DisplayPort Adapter


Tri-Connect Mini Display Port Adapter
The second item I asked to review was the Tri-Connect Mini DisplayPort Adapter. This under-$12 device provides three different connection types to your Macbook, Macbook Pro, or Macbook Air with the Mini DisplayPort. It includes the laptop to DVI connection, the one encountered on many external monitors and LCD projectors; the laptop to DisplayPort connection, the full-size version of the Mini DisplayPort on the Macs which is slated to become the the future VGA and DVI replacement; and the laptop to HDMI connection, to hook up the laptop to flat-panel TV's and many new LCD projectors.


For classroom use, you probably already have a laptop to VGA adapter for use with an LCD projector or flat panel TV or monitor. However, VGA is an analog connection, and use of a DVI or HDMI connection is so much clearer for the viewer! As schools get new devices in the classroom, they should consider accessories such as this Tri-Connect Mini DisplayPort Adapter to make sure teachers have the connection they need in their classroom, in the conference room, and in the auditorium for projecting their Mac laptop.



Manila Leather Envelope


Manila Leather Envelope
The third thing I asked to review was the Manila Leather Envelope for my 11.6" Macbook Air. (For those of you that follow my blog, you know I am a bag and case "connoisseur"...okay, junkie!)

Ever since these Manila Leather Envelopes first came out, I really wanted to see one in person and I was not disappointed! It is pretty much the coolest case on the market, IMHO. I was surprised at the quality of the leather and the soft inside lining. The Manila Leather Envelope also has reinforced corners which protect the laptop even more. 

These Manila Leather Envelopes are available for tons of devices-- the Macbook Airs, the iPads, the iPhone 4 and 4S, Amazon's Kindles and Kindle Fires, many brands of smartphones, all the e-readers, and Android tablets like the Motorola Xoom and Samsung Galaxy Tab. (You can find links to all the cases starting on this page.)


Are these the definitive case for school-owned or one-to-one initiatives? Well, they look like a school supply, protect the devices with a form-fitting case, and are just so "cool for school"!




  
Thanks to Derek Gillette of BoxWave for allowing me to have a day of fun putting the BoxWave products through their paces and coming up with ways they would be useful for the classroom, students, and teachers! Don't forget to contact him for pricing or a quote if you need one!

Wednesday, January 18, 2012

I love bags and cases and holders...

Okay, I admit it. I love technology bags and holders of every type. I have roller bags, Vera Bradley laptop-holding bags and backpacks, neoprene cases for the Macbook Airs and iPad, and many, many more bags. I mean, it's like shoes...you have to have ones for the right purpose, right?

In any case, I thought I might share some of my newest bags, sleeves, cases, and holders with you, in case you are thinking about what works and what does not!

Tech Bags and Sleeves

The 11.6" Macbook Air is a hard item to find a special bag for. Here are some of my favorites.
Roocase 11'6" netbook case

Roocase has a bag in their netbook category that is for 11.6" items. It fits the small MBA well and you can even fit the iPad and cables in the bag, too. It comes in various colors, is sturdy, and has rubberized "feet" on the bottom to keep it clean when setting it down. The laptop compartment is padded and has a Velcro closure.  (I also have the larger version for the 13.3" Macbook Air.)



Be.ez LA Robe Allure


My favorite sleeves for my iPad and the 11.6" Macbook Air are made by Be.ez and are hard-sided and sturdy. The model is the LA robe Allure sleeve for iPad and 11.6" MBA. The LA robe Allure is also available for the 13.3" MBA and 13.3" and 15.4" Macbook Pros.







Tocano Finatex Extra Small


When I am really traveling light, and just want my iPad, my 11.6" Macbook Air, and my iPhone, I take a bag that I found in an airport technology shop-- my Tocano Finatex Extra Small. It holds all three items without any cases on them.




Sherpani Flite FL

The rolling bag I take with me most of the time is the Sherpani Flite FL. It is very well-made, has rolled handles to hold as well as a shoulder strap in case you do not want to use the extendable handle, and has a sturdy strap on the back for attaching to other luggage handles. It does not have an attached laptop sleeve area inside, but has a nice elastic strap for holding your laptop in place in its own sleeve. It is well-sized at 16.5" x 13.5" x 6". You often find it for sale on Overstock.





Tech Cases and Holders

I have all different types of cases for my iPad2. Again, it depends on how I am planning to use it as to which one I take with me!


One that I use around town is the YakPak Portfolio Case. (I picked mine up at Bed, Bath, and Beyond.) It is a nicely lined case with places for business cards, a small tuck-in area, and can hold the iPad with the Magic Cover on the front or back behind elastic corner straps. It is minimalist, but protects the device well.







IPEVO Typi Folio Case
When I need to have a keyboard with me, I use the IPEVO Typi Folio Case and Wireless Keyboard. What is nice about this well-made leather case, is that the keyboard is easily detached and used on the table. This comes in handy when you are working with someone since they can then see the iPad's screen easily or can share in the typing tasks! The Bluetooth keyboard has a nice touch and lasts through about 12 hours of typing.
IPEVO Typi Wireless Keyboard

The case itself is not bulky, and you can access all the ports on the iPad while the case is on and there is even an opening in the back of the case for the camera lens.

It is available on Amazon or from IPEVO. 







When I am presenting with the iPad, I have three different iPad holders I can use.

Higher Ground Podium iPad 2
The Higher Ground Podium iPad 2, which is a sturdy, reinforced nylon case like all of Higher Ground's products, also includes an innovative strap/Velcro method of adjusting the viewing angle of the iPad2 to your liking. This really helps when presenting on the podium, too. The iPad is held in by the built-in silicone case.




Higher Ground Podium iPad 2
 However, the coolest thing about the Podium iPad 2 is the built-in elastic hand holder on the back. (Not just a simple strap!) You can see from the photo that you slip your hand through the elastic and grip the edge of the case. It makes you feel safe carrying your iPad around the classroom, workshop, or conference area since you have a really good grip on it!




IPEVO Perch


The next item I use when presenting is the IPEVO Perch Desktop Stand. This iPad stand easily rotates from landscape to portrait mode and is a perfect "perch" for the presenter podium when using the iPad to present my talks. The Perch has a weighted base that comes in three lengths-- the small height I use at the podium, a taller one for using while sitting in a chair, and the tallest one that is its own podium! The Perch is available through Amazon or IPEVO.






Merkury Innovations Swing Stand

And, finally, the last iPad stand I use lives in my tech stuff carry bag. It is the Merkury Innovations Swing Stand. It is lightweight, foldable, allows the iPad to be either in landscape and portrait mode, and is easy to use on the tray table in the airplane! It also works with any tablet or eReader, too.







Addendum 1/19/2012: I have been wanting one of the Pan Am retro bags and finally found the Pan Am Secret Agent laptop bag at a "reasonable" price (and with a coupon) on Punk.com. They have just come out with a new version of this bag, which costs about 30% more, and I like the original one better, so I finally made the purchase. Can't wait to use it!





 What is your favorite tech bag, sleeve, case, or holder? Please share in the comments and include a URL so I can look at it! Thanks!

Sunday, January 01, 2012

Pen with a purpose

I had an electronic pen many years ago, even before tablet PCs were out, and it worked pretty well, but technology sure has improved this type of gadget!


I just purchased a Livescribe Echo 8 GB Smartpen Educational Bundle. 


The bundle includes
  • The smartpen, 2 ink cartridges, 2 pen caps, and the USB cable
  • A small starter notebook
  • Livescribe Connect and Desktop software
  • One license for a Livescribe Self-Paced Training Course
  • The K-12 Idea Book
  • A non-inking stylus
  • The My Script Software for handwriting-text conversion
Livescribe Echo Smartpen

This smartpen can do so much, I do not know where to start! It has both a camera on the  tip (which records your writing) and a mic on the side (which records your audio) and the ability to attach a mic/headphone to the top to make your audio recordings cleaner. 

You control the collection of data by the pen by using special paper (which you can print out on your own printer, too) and by using special control areas on each page of the notebook to start the recording, set a bookmark as you go along, and playback, in addition to some other functions.

Controls on special paper

You hook the smartpen up to your computer with a USB connector when you are ready to move the files off the pen. You can then send the recordings to various places including your computer, your own Livescribe site, Evernote, Facebook, and, with certain models, Google Docs and Google Sites.

If you save the recording to your computer, the pencast, as the recording is called, gets wrapped in a PDF file that anyone with Adobe Acrobat can watch and listen to.

If you save the recording to your Livescribe site, you can make it public, send others a URL, and even embed it your blog or Website, like mine below. (Click on any text that is not yet green and you can see that the audio attached to that spot in the recording is played.)



The pen does much more, too!

  • Once you create the file and move it to your Livescribe Desktop software, you can click on any word in the file and hear the audio.
  • As with the Windows TabletPC OS, you can conduct a search on any word across all of the handwritten notes.
  • There are over 125 (mostly paid) applications you can install on the pen that do any number of things. The pen has a small OLED area, which is utilized by the pen software and installed software.
  • You can record just audio with the pen, without any special paper, if you wish.
  • With the My Script software (included in this bundle but not in the regular package you find at your local retailer) you can turn the handwritten text into typed text by OCR'ing your notes.
Livescribe supports K-12 use of the smarten with a site that includes ideas, as well as incentive programs for educators including the Livescribe Ambassador program.

If you are an educator and are interested in purchasing the educational bundle, please contact Debbie Yasenka of Engaged Learning Solutions at 404-731-3504 or via email at dyasenka@engagedlearningsolutions.com for information and pricing.