September 15, 2014
Teachers Talk - New for the Summer of 2014
Colin Hill, Director of Computer Services, Canadian University College, Lacombe, AB

As a new school year starts, I hope you are taking the opportunity to look around and see what new technology you can incorporate. This summer's InfoComm (the world's largest professional AV show) was held in Las Vegas and attracted over 37,000 attendees from 114 countries, showcasing 947 exhibitors.  When something gets an award at InfoComm, that usually means that it is worth looking at.  While I did not attend the show, for this month’s column I would like to present to you a few of the award winning products revealed that may be worth considering for your classroom.  Links to demonstration videos and the product web sites are included in the descriptions.
 
Best Overall New Product:  SMART Kapp.  
SMART Kap is the ‘coolest interactive whiteboard’ that melds that old flipchart easel with a dry-erase board, and combines mirroring to mobile devices to redefine how notes can be taken in a meeting or how teachers can more fully engage students.  You may find it a challenge to compete with mobile devices in the classroom, so why not use them to your advantage.  With the Kapp, you can easily and instantly mirror what you write on the device to each student's personal or school supplied mobile device.  By having students write on the Kapp, they can feel that their contributions are valued by the entire class while allowing for the retention of all that information.  If SMART can figure out how to manage (easily) what mobile users may add to the content that will show up on the Kapp and other devices, this would be a truly amazing product.  Maybe the next iteration will do that.
 
Best New Document Camera:  HoverCam Solo 8
The world’s first USB 3.0 document camera that offers 8 megapixel for high clarity and 30 frame per second full motion video.  Likely the best document camera yet made with a price of only $350, this product can really add value to any classroom.  If you are a traditional classroom, document cameras can be used to magnify and display the tiniest of items for the whole class to see and it will also allow you to annotate on top of documents  much like a whiteboard.  For a hybrid classroom, they can act as a webcam to display your face-to-face class to the remote students.  For the distance learning classroom, they allow you to display content to your remote students just like they were by your side.  All of this can be recorded for later review and integrated with most classroom presentations systems that you already have.  Few classrooms should be without a document camera,  Other brands that can be worth considering are Lumens with their ladybug series, Smart, and Ipevo.
 
Best New K-12 Classroom Product:  Creston DMPS Integrated Classroom System.
If anyone is lucky enough to have the opportunity to outfit their classroom with the ultimate presentation system, this could be the one to choose.  Everything that usually comes in 4 or 5 devices that have to be hooked together is built into this one box.  
 
Best New Portable Projector:  InFocus IN1146
If you want a small (paperback book size), portable (0.9 kg), tough projector, this is likely the one.  Since it uses LED’s for the light source, it is not as sensitive to motion and being banged around.  It will last ‘forever’ (30,000 hours), and it throws out 1000 lumens of light.  So while not likely suitable for a classroom presentation system, it would be ideal for small groups, staff meetings, travelling displays, and other such uses.  WIth its price at under $700, it is going to give offerings by other makers stiff competition.  
 
Best New Up And Coming Education Produc & Best New Wireless Product:  ELMO Circle P2MP
Elmo is partnering with Circle Technologies to market their solution that allows a teacher to control what is displayed on each student's mobile devices.  This solves the problem of wondering what your students are actually doing on their mobile phone or other device when they should be paying attention. By setting up a captive wireless network in your classroom, you can now be sure they are only looking at what you are pushing out to them.  You can monitor who is not following along allowing you to ensure that all are on task without wandering around the room or using those eyes in the back of your head.  They offer solutions to accommodate a small group of 3 to 4, a larger class of about 15 devices, or a full classroom of 40 devices and will work with PC’s, iOS and Mac products, and Androids.  They are working on Chrome Book integration.  This could be the start of the transition from having a large classroom display (projector and interactive whiteboard) to using what students already have, their mobile devices, as the presentation medium.  I think we will see more products developing that trend.
 
Best New AV Accessory:  FSR LITE-it:  
Well, if nothing presented so far has grabbed your fancy or fit your budget, this could be the product for you.  While intended for lighting up those dingy media closets or spaces under desks, you can get one for your bathroom, cabin, tent, RV and even keep one in your purse or toolbox.  This mighty little light will fasten securely to any magnetic material, turn itself off after 75 seconds, provide 12 lumens of light (more than most LED flashlights) and last for 4 years on the included set of batteries even if used a couple times per day.  
 
I hope that at least one of the above products has inspired you to try something new.  Existing products continue to get smaller, faster, and cheaper while other trends toward mobile device usage and wireless technologies show us that technology in education is here to stay.  So don't let it overwhelm you, but embrace what makes sense for you. Master that one aspect or product, and then move on to another.