Wednesday, October 14, 2015

Speck Technology Cases

Those of you that know me well know I love backpacks and technology cases! And, for some reason, I especially love technology items that are pink. I have always thought the juxtaposition of hard-core technology hardware and the color pink was interesting!

When I read Speck had released two road-warrior backpacks, the MightyPack and MightyPack Plus, and they were available in a backpack that was "Zinfandel Pink/Pomegranate Pink, Polor Grey, and Glitter Pink", I wrote and requested a review copy. I received a note from the Speck rep, asking me what device models I use, and I received a (mostly) pink present in the mail yesterday!

MightyPack pink backpack, 15" pink SeeThru MBP protector, 12" clear MB protector, and pink iPad 2 cover

I have used Speck hardshell cases on many of my computers over the years and I have always loved them. They kept my laptops in pristine condition, even with all my traveling. And my first iPad Air slim case was a Speck case. I am a minimalist when it comes to protecting my technology devices. I like slim and lightweight protection.


The MightyPack backpacks come in two models-- MightyPack ($79.95) and MightPack Plus ($99.95). The MightyPack (pictured above) is 17.9" H x 6.3" D x 11.8" W and weighs 1.8 pounds. The MightyPack Plus is a little taller and deeper at 20" H x 6.7" D x 11.8" W and weighs 2.2 pounds. The difference between the two models is that the MightyPack Plus includes a TSA check-point friendly option that allows the laptop compartment to open flat for easy screening without having to remove the laptop from the case.

The other features of the two MightyPacks are similar.

The MightyPack backpack includes a hard-sided compartment at the top which is lined with fur and includes a mesh pocket, too. This is an invaluable feature for holding those items that need to be protected, such as headphones, sunglasses, cameras, and phones, as well as providing easy access to these devices when the backpack is in the airplane overhead or under the seat in front of you.

The front pocket is zippered on three sides, which provides easy access and includes one slip pocket, three mesh pockets (two-half width, one full-width), and a passthrough opening to the back compartment to allow for charging of devices. There is a nice padded grab handle at the top and the bottom and bottom corners are very padded to provide protection for the devices.

The back compartment includes dedicated padded pockets for both a laptop (up to 15") and a tablet. There are two slots for a pen and a larger stylus, and two half-width slip pockets.

The back of the MightyPack backpack is padded and has padded straps, too. One of the straps has a pocket which will fit a smaller smartphone or a snack bar. There is a small zippered pocket on one side of the MightyPack that fit my iPhone 6s+ in a slim case with some finagling. 

The one thing missing from the back of the MightyPack backpack, in my opinion as a road warrior, is a wide fabric strap to go over the handle on a piece of rolling luggage. I often need to have access to items in my backpack before taking off and after landing, and it would be nice to be able to "attach" it to the luggage so I can easily get to the items I need.


The Speck DuraFolio cases are available for both the iPad Air and the iPad Air 2 ($59.95), as well as the iPad Mini ($49.95). This slim case (0.3" in depth) includes sleep/wake magnets in the cover as well as two ways to fold it for both typing and viewing. The front cover also fold around to the back for easy one-handed reading on the iPad. It comes in various colors, but the one I received is Fuchsia Pink and White!

The bezel around the iPad is a little bit raised to protect the screen of the iPad if it is dropped on its face. In addition, the DuraFolio has met or exceeds the Military Drop Test Standard, which is a standard to determine the durability of equipment after repeated free-fall drops.

Front of Speck DuraFolio iPad Air 2 case

Back of Speck DuraFolio iPad Air 2 case

Speck DuraFolio folded for viewing at many angles

Speck DuraFolio folded for typing 


Speck is well-known for its SeeThru laptop protector cases. They make them for the Apple laptops. The one I received, the SeeThru MacBook Pro with Retina Display 15" ($49.95), comes in eleven color choices and clear. (The one for my 12" MacBook currently only comes in clear and onyx black.)

These cases are thin, sturdy, and snap-on easily to the top and the bottom of the laptop. They allow full access to all the ports on the laptops, and the bottom part of the case has rubber feet to keep your laptop safe from sliding while using it.

I have had Speck SeeThru cases for all my Mac laptops over the years. I have found that they fit nicely over a thin vinyl skin or decoration, too, if you have one of those applied to to your laptop. 

Since I am one that often sells my laptops, the Speck SeeThru cases keep the top and bottom of my laptop looking brand new!


I spent some time looking around Speck's website to see what else they offered in pink.

Pink tech cases, backpacks, and protectors are to my liking, but Speck offers great items in many colors and styles for all the newest devices, so visit their site!

Thursday, October 08, 2015

Bing in the Classroom

Microsoft  has a great new initiative for K-12 education called "Bing in the Classroom" which can help support digital literacy in schools. The program was created to do three things-- to provide a safe environment for students to learn their digital literacy skills, to offer digital literacy lesson plans for teachers, and to provide an easy way for schools to get more hardware.


Technology directors can sign up their school district for an enhanced search option for Bing that provides an ad-free search environment for the staff and students. This option eliminates the ads that usually appear when searching. It enhances privacy protection for students and teachers and includes the ability to filter adult content via SafeSearch.


The Bing in the Classroom program offers daily mini-lessons focused on search and digital literacy skills. These lessons include mapping to the Common Core Standards and have been created by the educators who are members of the Microsoft Educator Network. This network includes a collection of over 1500 lesson plans.

The lesson plans can be narrowed down by grade level, subject, the 21st century skill set, and instructional approach. Here is a sample of a search page for one of the digital literacy lesson plans.

Bing in the Classroom digital literacy lessons

Each lesson includes the learning objectives as stated in the Common Core standards, as well as an overview which contains the skills, instructional approach, Microsoft tools needed, and any required hardware. There are details to help the teacher use the lesson plan, and many lessons include an attached product, such as the Microsoft PowerPoint attached to this searching lesson. 

Sample digital literacy lesson

The PowerPoint presentation presented with the lesson above contains a teacher guide, slides to use with students with speaker notes, and a background slide about the lesson creator.

Support material for a lesson plan

In addition to these digital literacy lesson plans, Bing already has many features that make it a good choice as a district-wide search engine. Here are my favorites!

Search by "calculator" in the Bing search box to get a working calculator

Search by "unit conversion" in the Bing search box and convert almost anything

When searching Bing for images, students can limit the search to Creative Commons-licensed items

Another useful search limiter in Bing Images is to search for images that have no background


The third component of the Bing in the Classroom initiative allows those (13 years or older) who sign up for Bing Rewards, an program that allows users to earn credits while using Bing to search, to donate their credits to a school of their choice. The schools can earn free Microsoft Surface tablets through this reward program!  

Take a look at Bing in the Classroom for your schools!

Disclosure: This is a sponsored post to raise awareness for Bing in the Classroom.

Thursday, October 01, 2015

Buzzwords in education

This article originally appeared in the Discovery Education blog "Kathy Schrock's Katch of the Month" in October 2015 and is re-posted here with permission.

The Using Technology Better blog recently posted an article about the buzzwords currently trending in education. The most powerful part of the article was the advice offered about when (and when not) to pay attention to certain trends.  It is all about school culture, goals, and overall vision.
“Understand your local school culture – specifically, do you adapt to change?
Understand how your teachers teach and why – this ties in with your school culture
Look at why you are making changes – is it so you don’t feel like you are falling behind the trends?
Don’t copy someone else’s plan – it more than likely will fail in your context
When the educational buzz you’re hearing fits into your culture, then you should pay attention.  If you are looking for a new trend to help redefine or shift your culture you are doomed to frustration and mediocre results.”
As an early adopter, I am always anxious to research the new “one more thing” in educational technology and think about ways it may support teaching and learning. As I study and learn from other early adopters who have shared their successes and failures, I weigh the implementation against the heaping stack of initiatives teachers already have on their plates. If a new trend can support teachers and students in a meaningful, pedagogically-sound way, I come up with presentations and Webinars to help those wanting to try it. That is why my site is now called “Kathy Schrock’s Guide to Everything“. That leaves me the license to share all manner of topic-based practices and resources for teachers.
There are some trends that I have yet to embrace. These are noticeably absent in my guide, although I have researched them, attended sessions about them, and are happy they are successful for other educators.  I cannot promote something I don’t believe is in the best interest of students and teachers. Enough said.
I decided to look at the trends that are talked about now and provide you with some resources to begin or continue your investigation of them. I hope this helps expand your thinking about them.
Since I believe that data literacy and data visualization are important skills for our teachers and students to embrace, I have decided to use infographics with citations to illustrate the trends. Many educational infographics can be found at the site, a site dedicated to gathering research and data and creating and categorizing educational infographics. (Side note: I am an infographic purist, and many of these images are “infographic-like posters”, since it is difficult to find those that target the way people skim infographics– with the catchy title and main info on top, followed by secondary and tertiary supporting information. My data literacy post here can help you learn more about design of an infographic.)



Maker spaces

Open education resources, Creative Commons, and copyright

Blended learning

UDL/Adaptive design

Personalized learning

Cloud computing

Lifelong learning

Digital literacy

College and career ready

Right-brain thinking

Disruptive technology