Wednesday, March 30, 2016

Higher Ground Technology Cases

Way back in 2000, I purchased a very cool computer case that was perfect for traveling. It was called "The Lapdog", and it held my laptop, computer cables, chargers, and PalmPilot. The neatest thing about it was you could unfold it and use it on your lap while in an airport. It was well-made and sturdy, and all the business people in the airport asked me about it! It was made by Shaun Jackson Designs.

The Lapdog, Shaun Jackson Designs

Fast forward a few years, and Shaun Jackson designs launches Higher Ground to bring cases to the education market. I have been a fan of Higher Ground technology cases since they first launched. They were one of the first companies that understood how important it was to offer cases that would protect student laptops as one-to-one programs were rolled out in schools.

I purchased a few Higher Ground cases over the years, as they expanded their line of products to include tablet cases and sleeves. However, from day one to today, the common component throughout their product lines has been a hard-sided protection model that is both light-weight and functional.

I remember, at ISTE 2011, everyone received either a Higher Ground iPad 2 sleeve or a 15" Higher Ground laptop sleeve in their registration bag. There was all kind of trading going on! I still have my laptop case and it now houses my Dell XPS15 laptop.

15" laptop sleeve from ISTE 2011

Last week, Higher Ground sent me several cases that fit my current technology gadgets to review. It has been so much fun to explore their capabilities!

Higher Ground currently has cases that fit in computer and tablet carts, cases that students can put in their backpack or carry separately, cases that allow students to use their devices while they are in the case, and traditional protective sleeves for devices.

I will showcase what device(s) I will be using with the cases I received and provide a quick overview of the Higher Ground cases. 


I am always on the look-out for cases for my iPad Pro 12.9" tablet. The tablet is an odd size, but several cases from Higher Ground work perfectly for protecting it!

The Flak Jacket Slim is both a sleeve and a carry case that works with the iPad Pro 12.9" and also the 11" Chromebooks. (Dimensions of laptop compartment: 12.25" x 8.75" x 1.25")

This slim case will hold the device and, on the back, it has a handgrip at the bottom that students can use when carrying the case sideways. I also has a small pocket that can hold a small power supply or a cell phone.

Front view of the Flak Jacket Slim

Back view of Flak Jacket Slim with handgrip and pocket

Another case Higher Ground sent me that works with the iPad Pro, my Macbook 12", and a Chromebook (it comes in 12" and 13" sizes), is the Flak Jacket Plus. This carry case has a sizable front pocket for carrying the adapters and accessories.

Flak Jacket Plus 12"

A third item that will protect the iPad Pro 12", a Macbook, or a Chromebook is the new Higher Ground DropIn. The DropIn protects the mobile device when it is traveling in a backpack. It has a open top with a velcro strap, and allows easy access to the device. In addition, if students are carrying their books by hand, it simply feels like another book! The 11" DropIn fits a device up to 12" x 8.5" x 1.25".

Higher Ground DropIn protective sleeve

Higher Ground DropIn: top view


The DataKeeper is a case that allows the student to keep the 12" x 8.75" x 1.25" laptop in the case while they are using it. The laptop is held in place by slide-in front corners and elastic on the edges which help keep the case open and the laptop in the case while using the device. The outside has a pocket for pens, pencils, styli, and a cellphone. 

Higher Ground Datakeeper with computer inside

Front of DataKeeper with pocket for phone and pens and ID slot


 The Shuttle has been a staple in the Higher Ground line of products for a long time. This version, the Shuttle 2.1, comes in 11", 13" 14" and 15" sizes. The case allows students to keep their laptop or Chromebook in the case while using it. It "floats" on sticky feet in the case, which also allows for air flow, and is held nicely in place with straps while traveling with the laptop.

The back of the Shuttle 2.1 has a large slip pocket and the front has a zippered accessory pocket that can hold power adapters, flash drives, dongles, and more. The shoulder stray attaches so the case is in portrait orientation when being carried which makes it easier for students to keep from bumping others and their device.

Shuttle 2.1 front view

Inside view of Shuttle 2.1

A laptop being used inside the Shuttle 2.1


I own the 2014 version of the Dell 11" Chromebook. The Guardian is a new product that is a hard-sided shell with protective corners. It stays on the Chromebook, and can both fit in a cart of Chromebooks as well as protect the Chromebook if it is in a student backpack. To find out which Chromebooks this is available for, take a look the Guardian page on the Higher Ground site.

Top view of Guardian for Chromebook

Bottom view of Guardian for Chromebook

Closed view of Guardian for Chromebook

Open view of Guardian for Chromebook

Higher Ground also has a tech backpack, cases for iPads, the Nexus 7, and additional cases and sleeves to provide protection for teacher and student mobile devices and laptops. So, if you are planning a roll-out of a 1:1 program, want to protect the devices you have in rolling carts, or simply want a great case for your own device, take a look at the Higher Ground products!

Friday, March 18, 2016

Brenthaven BX2 Edge iPad Case

Searching for a sturdy iPad case for the classroom or for personal use?

I was sent a Brenthaven BX2™ Edge protective case to try out. I have an iPad Mini 4 and put the case on two weeks ago and have been using it ever since. The BX2™ Edge is available for the iPad Air, the iPad Air 2, and all versions of the iPad Mini (1-3 and 4).

The case is a protective case, intended for schools, but having one on my personal device has been great! There was a lot of thought put into the the design of the case. The case is is a one-piece full case for the iPad.

The case latches shut which both protects the iPad's screen as well as keeps the screen off. And the case comes in bright colors, including my favorite yellow!

The case has a clear back which allows for an asset tag to show through and also includes bumpers to protect the device.

A very useful feature, which is missing from many cases, is the ability, when the front cover is flapped around to the back of the device, to fold down the corner to allow access to the camera lens. Brilliant!

There is a slot on the back of the case that allows the latch to slide in to hold the iPad sturdily in  both typing and viewing mode.

Here is the most current information sheet on the Brenthaven BX2™ Edge iPad case. The Web site does not have the color options, yet, so, please ask your rep for more information!

Tuesday, March 01, 2016

Tools for the SOS (part 2 of 2)

This article originally appeared in the Discovery Education blog "Kathy Schrock's Katch of the Month" in March 2016 and is re-posted here with permission.

SOSAs I wrote about in the February 2016 issue of Kathy’s Katch, the Spotlight on Strategies Series (SOS), located on the Discovery Education site, includes a wealth of pedagogical and practical strategies for the use of the digital resources from Discovery Education in the classroom. Each weekly strategy is different– some are for introducing a topic, others target collaboration, and still others provide a path to an assessment project or product. All of the strategies include a downloadable PDF version of the ideas as well as a vignette, which may include a slide show or additional information by the author of the strategy idea. Readers are encouraged to share the ways they utilize the strategy or ideas on how to differentiate the strategy for a grade level or for individual students.  The goal of these strategies is both to focus learning and to move knowledge into long-term memory.
This post will continue what I began last month– taking some great strategies for student activation of prior knowledge and summarizing of information that are in the SOS series, and suggesting some online tools, Chrome apps, and iPad apps that students can turn to when using these strategies.


Flip Flop

The Flip Flop strategy is based on the “I used to think…. Now I think…” Visible Thinking Routine, developed by Harvard’s Project Zero. It helps students reflect on their thinking and determine how that thinking has changed. This strategy is used when students learn new things that may have changed their thinking. It is both an activator and a summarizer strategy which can be used at the beginning or end or of a lesson or a unit of study.
  1. The teacher introduces a topic and the whole class discusses their current understanding of the topic.
  2. Students are told they will be responding to the prompt “I used to think…now I know”.
  3. A video or audio file from the Discovery Education collection is played.
  4. In pairs or small groups, students share and discuss their responses.
Technology enhancements
When the topic is introduced, and the entire class is “discussing” their current understanding of a topic, there are many collaborative tools that can be used to allow the students to enter their thoughts and, when done, the teacher and students can easily discuss the results. Students should be instructed, if they see their thought already in the collaborative environment, they should think about adding a different idea.
The online tools that work well for this activity, and which also work on iOS and Android devices, are Padlet and Today’s Meet.
Padlet is a great sharing tool that has three ways to present information– sticky notes that can be moved around, a linear mode arranged in from newest to oldest, and a grid mode. For this strategy, the grid mode would most easily allow students to see the entries by others. Padlet is more powerful than just text, although text is all that is being used here. It also allows students to upload images, videos, and include URLs in the postings. And the sticky note option allows for re-arrangement or categorization of ideas.

Padlet linear mode
Padlet grid mode
Padlet sticky-note mode

Today’s Meet is an easy-to-use tool that allows the teacher to create a room, send out the URL to students, they simply add their name and they can then add notes on the page. The room can be open for a specified time, and a transcript can be created at the end of the activity. The format is a list format, with newest to oldest posts showing up.

Setting up a Today’s Meet room

Students easily add themselves. Teachers have access to tools.
For the second part of this strategy, the “Now I think…” reflective component, a simple audio file or podcast is a perfect formative assessment. I prefer using the podcast tools since the recordings are both stored online and can be “subscribed” to by the teacher for reviewing the student work.
I like the podcast creator Audioboom which is available online and as both an iPad and Android app. It is very easy to create the podcast on the tablet or via the Web and post it for others to listen to. In addition, students can record their audio file locally with a computer and upload the it to the Audioboom site to create the podcast. The Audioboom site automatically creates the RSS feed for any user, so it is very easy for the teacher to aggregate the class podcasts if all students have a separate account.
Audioboom recording on the iPad

Uploaded podcasts on Web site. Note RSS and iTunes buttons.

It’s In the Bag

The It’s in the Bag strategy targets the student’s ability to infer. This ability to infer ties together both prior knowledge and the ability to deduct. This strategy is an activator.
  1. The teacher collects a few real items related to the instructional topic and puts them in a bag.
  2. The teacher explains that the items in the bag are clues to the next unit of study.
  3. The teacher pulls one item out of the bag at a time and students share their thoughts as to why it may be related to the new topic.
  4. The comments are all recorded on chart paper.
  5. The teacher reviews the list with the whole class and comes to consensus about what they think they will be learning.
  6. When the students correctly identify the topic, students can discuss what they already know about the topic and how the clues led them to infer what the topic was going to be.
  7. Start the teaching of the unit with a Discovery Education video clip or image to introduce the topic more fully to the students.
Technology enhancements
Gathering real objects for this strategy could take a lot of time and effort on the part of the teachers. Using Creative Commons-licensed images from the Photos for Class, which includes the citation to the image when the image is downloaded, can both save time and showcase the tool to students. Teachers can easily create a slideshow on their computer using PowerPoint or Keynote, online using Google Slides, or create a self-running presentation using Movenote. There are tons of tools both for the tablets and online that can be used, but the feature they must have for this strategy is the ability to show one item at a time. A collage or photo gallery would not be the  correct tool for this activator.
civil war food
Search results in Photos for Class

Downloaded image from Photos for Class with attribution
Downloaded image from Photos for Class with attribution

At the same time the teacher is showing the slideshow to the students, they can be adding their thoughts using a collaborative brainstorming tool such as Padlet in the grid or sticky-note mode, AWW which is an online collaborative whiteboard, or Connected Mind, a collaborative mind-mapping tool which is available online, for iOS and Android devices, and in the Chrome app store.
Connected Mind
Connected Mind

AWW: A Web Whiteboard
AWW: A Web Whiteboard

Once the topic has been correctly identified, students can reflect on the process using Penzu, a personal journaling program that is available online and as an iOS and Android app. Students can write about what they already know about the topic and how the images presented helped them infer what the topic might be.
Penzu journaling tool

Have you used the SOS Strategies and embedded technology tools to enhance them?