Wednesday, April 03, 2019

I love Brenthaven!

If you follow this blog, you know I regularly review items from Brenthaven, a great company with an awesome focus on the educational market! Their designs are intended to withstand even the most careless student, with cases that can take being thrown in the locker, to headphones that have a breakaway plug for those students who get tangled up in wires easily. And, although we can try to control how the school's technology is treated while in school, we have little control over the out-of-school safety of the devices, as illustrated below! It is important schools invest in protective and proven device protection of the type Brenthaven offers.

"A mess of wires" by Marshall Vandergrift. CC license: CC-BY-SA. Flickr, 2007. 

Brenthaven allows me to look through their offerings and pick two or three I personally feel are items that would be great for schools! I view their collections with a different point of view each time. Sometimes, as I did in my previous reviews of the Tred Zip Folio and the Edge Carry Case for the iPad, I am considering ways the student devices can be kept safe when in and out of the backpack.

This time, I was interested in reviewing two backpack-- ones that work well for student and teacher smaller devices.


Brenthaven's Tred Slim Pack backpack is made especially for the K-12 environment. I chose to review it because of its smaller size. With many schools supporting a 1:1 laptop initiative and providing students with digital copies of textbooks (with sets of paper textbooks being kept in the classroom), there is no need for students to carry the large backpack of a few years ago that weighed in, with books and larger devices, at 20-25 pounds.

Below is a video I created in 2013 illustrating this transformation of a student backpack because of smaller and more powerful technology tools and apps.

The Tred Slim Pack holds a 14" (or under) laptop or tablet, and the Tred's back zippered pocket is totally padded to keep it protected. The shoulder straps are also nicely padded.

In addition, there are two large zippered outside pockets that can be used for cables and power supplies, snacks, or even a water bottle. There is also a full-width horizontal zippered pocket located on the outside for a cell phone, sunglasses, or a wallet.

Brenthaven has included some specific features on the backpack to support its educational users. First, there is a reflective item on the front, back, and sides of the Tred Slim Pack to keep students visible and safe as they wait for the early morning bus or walk home in the late afternoons. In addition, the rear of the backpack includes a clear card pocket for easy access to gift students easy access to their ID card.

The Tred Slim Pack is very sturdy and protective, but also very lightweight at less than 1.2 pounds. Its external dimensions are 16.5" high, 11.5" wide and 4" deep. I loaded up the Tred Slim Pack with my 13" MacBook Pro, the power adapter and charging cable, my Apple XS Max phone, my headphones, a filled metal coffee travel mug, and a paper notebook. The full backpack weighed only 5.4 pounds!

Band for excess strap

Another nice little feature is the inclusion of a stretchy band to hold the excess from the backpack straps nice and neat. As one who hates those hanging straps, it is a great addition! And, again, it is a safety feature for students who might be riding a bicycle to school or any other activity that may cause loose straps to get caught.

The Tred Slim Pack would be a good choice for students in grades 4 -12 due to its smaller size and light weight! Give it a look, and, if you are considering this backpack which will protect the technology and the posture of your students, request a sample unit of Brenthaven's Tred Slim Pack to review!


Brenthaven also makes a line of bags and backpacks for educators. I am partial to the Collins series, which comes in graphite or indigo, and I already own the ones starred below. I decided I wanted to review the Collins Backpack.

The Collins Backpack is a feature-rich, professional-looking backpack for any educator. It is large enough to replace your "teacher bag" with lots of storage!

The side-load, fully padded and quilted laptop pocket can hold up to a 15.6" laptop. (I actually plan to use that area for books, papers , and a light sweater, since my 13" MacBook Pro fits nicely in the middle section padded, quilted pocket (shown on the left with the iPad in it).

This second full-size zippered section is an organized teacher's dream! It includes a smaller padded and quilted pocket that can hold a tablet, small laptop, or a sheaf of papers. The front of the padded section includes three pockets for power bricks, cables, and  a cell phone. The front flap of this section also includes a half-height zippered pocket to hold additional teacher necessities!

This section of the Collins Backpack is very deep and can hold notebooks, papers for grading, and your lunch bag, too! The dimensions of the entire backpack are 16.6" high, 12.5" wide, and 6" deep. It weighs practically nothing -- 1.8 pounds!

The front of the backpack includes two zip pockets. The top one could hold a cell phone, small e-reader, or a snack for the teacher's room. The second zippered section unzips on the top and right side and provides access to a key fob, a small padded pocket I would use for glasses or sunglasses, a pencil or stylus pocket, and a small slip pocket for a license, ID card, or credit cards.

I love the "vegan leather" bottom on the Collins Backpack since it is easy to sponge off after setting it on a dirty floor. If you load this backpack evenly, the 6" deep bottom will also allow it to stand on its own. The matching integrated handle on the top of the backpack is substantial and allows you another way to tote the bag. However, the padded back and backpack straps make the Collins Backpack comfortable to wear as a regular backpack, too!

If you are looking for a nice backpack to tote back and forth to school, take a look at the Brenthaven Collins Backpack!

Monday, April 01, 2019

Using tech to promote digital citizenship

This article originally appeared in the Discovery Education blog "Kathy Schrock's Katch of the Month" in April 2019 and is re-posted here with permission.

The most quoted definition of a global citizen is a 1997 one promoted by Oxfam in the United Kingdom. It states a global citizen is someone who:
  • is aware of the wider world and has a sense of their own role as a world citizen
  • respects and values diversity
  • has an understanding of how the world works
  • is outraged by social injustice
  • participates in the community at a range of levels, from the local to the global
  • is willing to act to make the world a more equitable and sustainable place
  • takes responsibility for their actions
In addition, Oxfam Education offers a great set of resource guides to infuse these aspects of becoming a global citizen across the curriculum.
There are many similarities in the development of a global citizen and digital citizen. However, in order to become a global citizen, students need to have guided connections to students in other countries and cultures. Students will realize, through collaboration and communication with other students, that they have more in common than they have differences. This personal connection to others will help students become both knowledgeable and empathetic towards other cultures and countries.

Global Projects

There are many global projects that can help students attain the qualities of a global citizen. Some of these are free and others are paid projects. Here are a few of the most popular.
One Day in the Life hosted by iEARN : This project pairs students across the globe who share photographs of daily life and special events, accompanied by written overviews. The students then discuss the similarities and differences in their countries and cultures.

K-12 Global Art Exchange hosted by One World Classrooms : This long-running project has two levels of participation . The first is the physical sharing of creative art projects with other classrooms and the ability to follow up the sharing of the work with a VoiceThread conversation with them. The second digital option provides your students with a digital art exhibit with art created by students from over fifteen different countries or allows your class to connect with a single global classroom. When collaborating with another classroom, students conduct an online VoiceThread conversation with the partner classroom about their works of art.

Rock Our World hosted by Rock Our World : On their site, the project is explained as “using Apple’s GarageBand, each country creates a 30 second drum beat.  Every Friday, that drum rotates to another country, where the bass guitar is added…At each stop, one more instrument is added.  When it comes back to the original country, it has touched students from all over the world! While the music is moving, students are meeting each other in live video chats to discuss various topics of curriculum.”

Partner School Science Program (PSSP) hosted by Global Friendship Through Space Education : This project brings together classrooms from around the world with a focus on space education. Using NASA materials, students in partner schools study a curriculum unit together, and have an “ePal” to work with from the partner classroom. The goal is to both foster cross-cultural communication and collaboration and have students develop an interest in the STEM fields.

Mystery Skype hosted by Microsoft : This project had the teacher connecting a classroom to another classroom or speaker via Skype. “The aim of the game is to build cultural awareness, critical thinking skills, and geography skills by guessing the location of the other classroom through a series of yes/no questions.” Microsoft provides a OneNote notebook with instructions and ideas for using this project in the classroom.

Global Citizenship Activities and Resources

Educators freely share ways they are promoting cultural awareness in their classrooms. One great resource is the weekly Twitter chat #globaledchat, where you can discuss ideas, find international classroom partners for a specific project, or share something you are doing in your classroom.
Here are some ideas from other creative educators and organizations.

Discovery Education Resources

Discovery Education includes many resources that can help students understand world problems, other cultures, and becoming a global citizen.

Your thoughts

What resources do you use in the classroom to promote global citizenship? If you have participated in any global projects, please share your experiences on Twitter. And, if you have created your own project, feel free to invite others! #kathyskatch