Google Form + Google Calendar = Zapier!

UPDATE: I’VE INCLUDED THE LINK TO THE CALENDAR, THE GOOGLE FORM AND THE ZAP AT THE BOTTOM OF THE POST

Here is the problem. Our teachers want to have a shared assessment calendar. That way they can see what tests are scheduled for each class and know how to not overload a kid. What student wants to have four tests on a single day? Well how to do this?

So we are a G-Suite school and we have the ability to create a Resource calendar. This is just a calendar that no one owns and everyone has the ability to create events. The trick here is that when teachers make an event in Google Calendar they will need to select the calendar when they make an event.

Again, this seems easy enough, but it’s also pretty easy to forget to do that. It’s very easy just to type in the test details and hit Save and not realize it’s not on the correct calendar. You can see where this goes.

Enter Google Forms and Zapier. Here the teacher does not need to worry about that information. The form will capture all the pertinent information and then using Zapier – it will create the event and schedule it on the correct calendar. Oh yeah – it is free too.

This isn’t hard but there are a lot of steps. Don’t worry though – I’ll link the calendar and the form out and the workflow from Zapier at the bottom of this post.

What is Zapier?

Most people know what Google Calendar is (if not it is pretty obvious) and Google Forms, but not everyone knows about Zapier. This is a service that allows you to take two different services and make them work together by creating triggers (or Zaps as they call them). So basically when someone fills out the form, Zapier will take that information and put it into a Google Calendar event and then schudule it automatically. Pretty great huh?

Step 1 – Create the calendar

This would be best if you go to your Tech department and have them create a Resource Calendar. This makes it easy for anyone to view and control. If your Tech department is not open to such requests, go ahead and make a calendar of your own.

Open Google Calendar (calendar.google.com) and sign in if need be. On the left hand side you will see Other calendars click the + symbol.

Now some new options will appear. Select Create new calendar.

Now you can name your Calendar and set the appropriate time zone (kind of important that last part).

Now we need to set the sharing settings up. So let’s go back to your calendar list by clicking the left arrow near the Settings 

From the list find your new calendar. Move your mouse over the calendar name until you see three dots. Click those dots.

Now click on Settings and sharing

Make sure that Make available for [your school name] is checked and then save those settings.

Step 2 – Setting up the Google Form

This is pretty easy. Create a new Google Form either through Google Drive or thby going to forms.new and you can make your form look like mine below.

Now that your form is created, we need to create a spreadsheet for the responses. This is very easy. Click on Responses at the top of your form and then it will take you to another spot. From here click on the green Google Sheets icon.

It will ask you to name the spreadsheet and that is all you have to do with that!

Google Forms is pretty intuitive, but if you have any issues just let me know and I’ll give you hand.

Step 3 – Set up the Zap: Part 1 – The Google Form

With Zapier, you can sign in with Google and while there are paid versions of the service there is a limited free version that will be more than enough for my needs. So head over and sign up/sign in to Zapier!

Once you hav access to your dashboard, from the left hand side you will see an option to MAKE A ZAP

Now Zapier will start walking you through the process one step at a time. It is pretty fantastic what it can do. So obviously, when someone submits a Google Form so just type in Form to find the Google Form choice. Then select it.

Now it gives you two options. It can be whenever there is a new response from the Google Form or when there is a new response or if it has been updated. I like to go with the later. So it should look like this now.

This part may seem a little weird, but they want you to grant Zapier access to your Google Drive (which is where the form and the spreadsheet live). Go ahead and give it permission and then click Continue.

Now you need to tell Zapier which spreadsheet to look for and which worksheet of that spreadsheet to look at. Since this is from a Google Form, pick that spreadsheet where the responses will be stored and there should only be one worksheet, so it should look similar to mine.

Now it will ask you to test the trigger. If you have no responses recorded this will fail. If you want to see a result. Go to the Google Form and fill it out then run the trigger.

When it finds a response it will show you something that looks a little weird like below.

Step 3 – Set up the Zap: Part 2 – Google Calendar

Now that the Google Form is all set up, let’s move onto the Google Form part. So this is the Do this… part of the Zap. It will want you to pick what app you will use when it sees the Google Form has been completed. From here select Google Calendar.

It will ask you what you want to do. Select Create Detailed Event. This will allow you to provide much more info on the calendar event. Then click the big blue


Then it will ask you to confirm your account. I guess you could post this on another account if you wanted to. Now we get some options and boy-oh-boy are there options. Don’t worry we will just be dealing with the basics.

The good news is that it will pull data directly from the Google Form to populate the particular field. You just need to click the drop down menu and select it. Check out what I did below to see an example.

I basically put the grade level, subject and what the test was about all in one line. Be sure to put a space between those values so it looks nice.

Then scroll down to find the Start Date & Time and the End Date & Time. This will be the same field from the Google Form.

Now scroll down a little further and for All Day be sure to select Yes. This will put all the assessments at the top of the calendar and in my opinion will make it look a little cleaner and easier to see.

Now scroll all the way to the bottom and select Continue.

Guess what – it’s finally made and ready to test. Once it tests, it will ask you to turn on the Zap – go ahead and click that button!

Step 4 – Test it for real!

So I go to my Google Form and fill it out

Now all I have to do is sit back and wait.

With the free plan it can take up to 15 minutes for Zap to take action and for the calendar event to be created. For the paid account it is much faster, but you still need to wait a few minutes for it to actually work, but work it will!

So here is the calendar for October 1

Only as good as…

This is  a nifty tool that can bring a lot of transparency to a school, but of course there is a weakness. That weakness is noncompliance. If teachers forget on a regular basis or just ignores it all together this tool is not very effective.

That is where leadership comes into play. There has to be a driving push and force behind using this to make sure that what teachers, students (maybe even parents) see is accurate so they can plan. It does not necessarily need to be principals it could be department heads or just some people who are looking to improve things.

I’m not going to lie. Teachers have a lot on their plates and remembering this small simple task is not always on the top of their to-do lists.

The Links

Here are all the links needed for you to test this out for yourself. Just fill out the form, wait for about 15 minutes and you should see the details appear on the Google Calendar.

I did notice that the Zap was saying there was an error, but it never failed putting the event on the calendar. I think it has to do with the event starting and ending on the same day. If it works, it works I guess 🙂

Google Calendar: https://calendar.google.com/calendar/embed?src=c_f56lrph45nl9lgp9vmabs0kac4%40group.calendar.google.com&ctz=America%2FNew_York

Google Form: https://docs.google.com/forms/d/e/1FAIpQLScB2gyWv61il1qK546Zno_ixGieXhOFV0TdYBKKPGhboofySg/viewform

Zap: https://zapier.com/shared/49316bed1b334217ad5de23f6cab26c0876bdb52

 

 

 

 

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Episode 183 – Damn Fine Cans

Tony and Patrick are back! It has been long overdue too. It’s a longer than normal episode but there is a lot to talk about! As always, subscribe to us on Apple Music or your favorite podcasting app.

1) Back at school in a COVID world
a) Tony’s motto: “You have to think of every student as a virtual student that occasionally comes to school and if you do that your planning will fit every scenario.”
b) GoGuardian: https://www.goguardian.com
c) Cisco Umbrella: https://security.umbrella.com

2) Why your online streaming is bad and mine is good
a) iPad solution
b) Euro Mic Stand with Klip
c) Disable iPad audio
d) DJ Podiums
e) iPad is a “person” in the meeting

3) Virtual Parent Conferences
a) Zoom
Waiting rooms
b) Prep with teachers and parents
c) Google Meet deadline – Sept
ember 20, 2020

4) Streaming in the Classroom – Final verdict!
a) Windows schools – Microsoft Wireless Display Adapter
b) Mac schools – Apple TV
c) BYOD schools – BenQ Instashow/Barco WePresent

You can download the episode HERE!

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Augmented Reality – Don’t be bamboozled!

Hey are you looking to buy bridge? I mean who doesn’t need a bridge? I’ll sell it to you and you can charge a toll for all the cars, bikes and people that will cross it and before you know it, you’ll be swimming in money! So what do you say?

Apple is holding an event next week (September 15, 2020) where they will announce some new iPads and a new Apple Watch and augmented reality (AR) will be a big part of the event. If you’re not familiar augmented reality watch the video below (it’s a little annoying but short).

The Pitch (I mean) Promise

Apple (amongst others) has been trying to push AR onto us as the next big thing for a while. It was first brought up during the release of the iPhone 8 and 10 and while it is pretty neat to see a life size tiger in your living room and to have the ability to view furniture in your home before you purchase it, AR does not solve any problems.

Microsoft, makers of the HoloLens, have changed the focus of their device from an everyday, every person device; to a more industrial vision of a workers consulting with experts back in a home office who can see exactly what the employee sees and can interact through their display by overlaying instructions, schematics and directions onto their real world through AR. They focused the use of their product and found a place where it can be used.

So why bring this up?

These companies keep trying to sell AR as an idea and to show what it can do as opposed to showing what problems it can solve. They do this by having very flashy, professional examples of what it can do and the promise that developers can take it to the next level. They want you to buy and then find a place for it in your school or classroom.

The problem is this doesn’t solve anything. Computers in the classroom solves a problem. It gives students and teachers access to the Internet and tools with which to collaborate, create and organize their classwork, their curriculum and multiple ways to present said curriculum and work.

Projectors and displays in classrooms solve a problem. They allow teachers to present videos, documents and electronic examples of projects to an entire class so everyone can easily view that information. This is technology that solves a problem and has a purpose.

Now ask yourself, what problem does AR solve? What is its purpose?

Don’t worry if you can’t come up with big educational issues that AR addresses. You’re not alone. Check out this article from CNET: Apples AR Plans are becoming more of a reality by Ian Sherr.

Here is a professional tech journalist having difficulties to even guess what “reality” actually means with AR. What is its purpose and how can it fit into the everyday world. It still sounds like a hobby for some developers and not really a serious option for businesses, education or the everyday person.

This sounds familiar?

We heard the same thing with virtual reality. It was going to be the next big tech! It was going to transform how we:

  • Work
  • Shop
  • Collaborate
  • Game
  • Live
  • Etc

It didn’t really shake up the world like people had predicated. Outside of video games (most have not been very impressive) I don’t see people reaching for their VR goggles when something needs to be done.

Now you only see it for video games and simulations. It is a far cry from William Gibson’s Neuromancer novels. The first one is a really good read by the way.

Not useless though

I am not saying that this isn’t cool tech because it is pretty neat and I have seen it in use. Some of the more common examples are in the medical field where doctors can simulate operations or view scans and cross-sections of the body without actually having to physically lay their hands on a cadaver. I have also seen examples in industry. Where a technician could be teleconferencing with an expert back at an office going and working in tandem to solve a problem, install a product or troubleshoot issues.

Why the hate?

It’s not hate, its cautionary. Companies are going to try and sell this to you. When Apple takes the stage next week they want you to buy their products. I guarantee a “revolutionary” feature they are going to talk about is augmented reality. In reality, no one needs this.

If you are a bleeding edge educator and want to dive into the deep end with AR go right ahead. Just make sure that when you are promoted, leave for another job at another school, retire or change departments; that you have left enough documentation, projects, support and ideas for the next person to step in and take it over. If you don’t, it will wither on the vine and that investment right along with it.

Remember that it is just a sales pitched. I encourage you to spend your money elsewhere and continue to watch the space. It may develop into something more. Right now, in its current state, it’s not going to leave a dent in education.

Don’t be suckered.

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Streaming in the classroom: Microsoft Wireless Display Adapter

READ ALL THE REVIEWS ON THIS PAGE – STREAMING IN THE CLASSROOM SERIES

This is the final post of this series. I’ll link all the reviews at the end of this post and link them all on their own page.

Here is the rundown. It uses something called Miracast technology. It is found in a lot of devices. I think Epson even makes some projectors where it is pre-installed. It’s cheap and it works. Let’s dig into it

Price

This is the champ when it comes to price. One of these adapters will run you $50 USD (though currently on sale for $40). The next cheapest option is the Apple TV HD which costs $150 so this thing is $100 cheaper than its next competition.

So price is great!

What can it do?

It can display video and sound from your Windows 10 computer to an external display wirelessly. It can be used to mirror your display or extend it as a second screen. There is a way you can rename it and you can add a password to it if you’d like.

One thing it cannot do is work with Macs. There maybe a third part software that you could install to make it work, but you will be better off just using Airplay with an Apple TV.

As you can see above there are two parts to this setup. A USB connection (which is how it powers itself) and an HDMI which is how it delivers the image and sound to the display or adapter. There is no audio line out so the sound will be going straight to the projector or display, so there is that limitation.

Connecting is pretty straightforward. Your PC (using Bluetooth) will pair with the wireless adapter.

Streaming Video

I picked another TedTalk because they usually have lots of talking and closeups so you can see if the audio is in sync with the video. As you can see here it’s not too bad. Sorry for the low volume – there was a class going on next door.

It’s not too bad but there is a small lag. The original video was for 45 seconds but there were a lot of cuts to visuals and wide shots. Is it as good as an Apple TV or BenQ Instashow? No, but it is better than the Mersive, Barco and Airtame.

Issues

Honestly – there weren’t too many issues. It does take a little time to power up and be ready to connect to. I did use this for 6 weeks last school year as I filled in as a math teacher and was only dropped once during that time. I rarely streamed any videos though, just me and other students using it to solve math problems.

There was one time I accidentally connected to the wrong adapter and a teacher next door politely me asked to disconnect. 😬 Sorry about that Trent. So you can’t just kick someone off but that may be an OK thing.

Another time I was having an issue connecting to it and quickly tracked down the issue that my SurfaceBook’s (1st gen) WiFi adapter was locked to only 5GHz signals and couldn’t see the adapter. This is obviously not something that your average teacher would know to look for, so that could be a problem for some.

Managing

There is no management of them. Even Apple TV’s can be placed into an MDM (mobile device management) and somewhat managed. These on the other hand must be individually managed, but like most of these devices covered in these reviews, there isn’t a lot to do with it once it is plugged in and set up. You just leave it there.

You can rename them using your computer and you also can add passwords to them for security. I do know that you cannot kick someone off once they are connected.

Would teachers like it?

YES! It’s simple, easy to use and it works fairly well. It’s obviously not perfect but at $50 a unit I think people could learn to live with its short comings. Obviously, the big caveat here is that it only works with Windows 10. If you have a mixed environment (like a BYOD) then this is not a solution.

Will it replace Apple TV’s?

No – we are an Apple school for the most part. We do have a single teacher who uses a Surface Book and he does use this adapter while teaching and he seems very content with it. Since this doesn’t work with MacBooks then it is a quick no for us.

If you’re a Windows 10 school – it is seriously worth your consideration. The price is hard to argue with and the performance is surprisingly good for something so cheap.

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IPEVO VZ-X Document Camera – Review

Corona virus is disrupting how the whole teaching and learning process happens. When it hit the US back in early 2020 it sent a lot of schools spinning to figure out how to successfully implement distance learning and what tools would be needed. One tool that our teachers wanted or found very useful was a document camera. Our school was rocking an old Elmo TT-02RX document camera.

This document camera is a tank. It is very durable, tough, and it works fine . . . as long as you are in the classroom.

Here are problems our teachers ran into with these Elmos at home. They are large. They can easily dominate a desk or kitchen table. Carting them from school and then back again isn’t the easiest task. The built in camera is less than 2 megapixels which is OK but far from great especially now that even Chromebooks have HD displays. Finally the software is bad. It works, but it is not easy to get around and looks horrible and getting it on computers also was a pain.

This particular model we have is almost ten years old so looking for a replacement was a priority. At first I looked at Elmo for an updated model of what we currently have. They had it but . . .

That is a lot of money. In fact that is nearly as much as our teacher’s MacBook Air just to put that in perspective.

Now Elmo does have some more affordable options that looked good but there was a problem with those as well. A lot of schools were looking for document cameras as well and they were sold out.

So finding document cameras over the summer was a challenge. After some research I found a company called IPEVO out of Taiwan. They make a number of document cameras and within our budget. We had purchased one before and it worked out fine and they had stock which was something else important to us 🙂

So we landed on the IPEVO VZ-X – and it was on sale for $260 US dollars. Now it retails for $299.

Image 2020-08-24 at 3.47.15 PM.png

So let’s break it down.

The good

  • It’s a document camera and nothing else. It is not trying to be a computer/document camera, it is only a document camera and that works well.
  • It is fairly compact. The arm with the lens can fold down, making it a pretty small footprint on a desk and if you need to ferry it back and forth it is doable. If you need to travel all over the place for work, then maybe look for a more compact design – they’re out there.
  • It has a good battery that lasts 9-10 hours. This is good for distance learning as you only need to plug it into your computer for that connection.
  • The image quality is good. It has an 8 megapixel camera and the image looks very sharp.
  • The build quality is good. It is all plastic and it is not as durable as the Elmo, but I don’t expect to be replacing these in the next few years. If they can last 4-5 years I will be happy with the purchase.
  • It focuses fast and stays in focus. There have been sometimes where it was confused and didn’t autofocus. This happened because I was moving lots of objects in and out at different heights, but a push of the button forced it to focus on the image.
  • The arm moves! So you can manually “zoom in” but simply dragging the arm closer to the subject. Likewise you can manually “rotate” the image on your screen by rotating the head of the camera.
  • It has a good light sensor that handles lots of lighting situations. When the room is dark it does have an LED light that you can turn on which does a surprisingly good job of illuminating the area.
  • The software works . . . most of the time. It looks fine and is easy to use. The fact that you need to go to the Mac App Store or the Windows App Store means that it has been vetted to some degree.

The not-so-good

  • The battery takes a long time to charge. The cameras arrived at our school dead and it took 9-10 hours to charge them.
  • The document camera did not include a charging block in the packaging – only the USB cable, so that was something else we needed to purchase.
  • The software doesn’t work some of the time. We’ve run into issues of recording and it messing up the audio. As long as you are using the software for the basics (short recordings and image capture) you should be good.
  • You can connect to it via WiFi but this is gimmicky. You must join its WiFi network which means your laptop, mobile device must sacrifice its Internet connection in order to work. I guess it could be OK if you’re taking video or some pictures with it outside, but other than that I wouldn’t bother with it. (I know I said this is handy in my video above, but after some reflection – I am wrong:(
  • The zoom on the device is not the best. It is a digital zoom which means that the closer you get, the worse the image will look. Also, the zoom in has its own preset so it is not a smooth zoom in. This is why moving the arm is a better solution to zoom in then using its own buttons.
  • There are filters on the camera. Not sure why they are there, but they are kind of silly.

Overall, this is a solid document camera. It does what it needs to do and nothing more. I like having a device that only does what it is designed to do and does it well. This is one of those devices. What document cameras are you using in your school and how do they fair? Leave those in the comments below!

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Zoom vs Google Meet: Zoom wins

I applaud Google and Microsoft for their efforts for beefing up Google Meet and Microsoft Teams respectively, but honestly speaking, if you are looking for a video conferencing application for your school or district, then Zoom is still your best option.

Google has added some nice features to Google Meet. They even have their own official blog page from Google: https://www.blog.google/products/meet/

But Google is not terribly interested in servicing schools here. They are going for the broader picture which is the everyday Gmail user to get people on their platform. Let’s take a look at the features for the free version now:

  • Blurring the background
  • Showing more participants at a time
  • Unlimited length of meetings
  • Integrated with Gmail and Google Calendar
  • Screen sharing
  • Chat window
  • Record meetings
  • Live Closed Captions generated in real time (surprisingly good)
  • Can allow people to call into a meeting
  • The ability to mute/unmute participants

I am sure there are more feature that I am forgetting but what I want to emphasis is that this is a lot of features and it’s free! However, when you are teaching virtually it is a different scenario than a casual call with a friend or family member. The teacher and students have an objective to reach and have a path to get there. Teachers need to better control the meeting. Here is what Google Meet cannot do:

  • Keep students muted
  • Restrict who can use the chat
  • Allow for nonverbal communication (thumbs up, down, raised hand, etc.)
  • Remove students from a class and not allow them to return
    • Technically you can do this in Google Meet, but you must give it a nickname
    • They also must be a member of your G-Suite organization
  • Turn off video and microphone of participants
  • End the meeting for all

Now Google does have plans to beef up Google Meet by adding many of these features. You can read all about them here: https://www.blog.google/outreach-initiatives/education/new-meet-features-for-edu/

The catch is you need to be a G Suite Education Enterprise school. This is not a free upgrade either. They have an introductory rate of $2/user/month. User is anyone who has a Gmail account.

I know that you get a lot more features than just an improved Google Meet with the Enterprise edition, but holy smokes that gets expensive real quick.

Let’s say you have a school with 500 users (450 students and 50 faculty). That means you’ll be paying over $10,000 the first year alone! Then when it goes up to $4/user the cost doubles to over $20,000. Yeah, that’s a lot of money.

Now let’s talk about Zoom and what you get with the K-12 account:

  • Keep students muted
  • Restrict who can use the chat
  • Allow for nonverbal communication (thumbs up, down, raised hand, etc.)
  • Remove students from a class and not allow them to return
  • Turn off video and microphone of participants
  • End the meeting for all
  • Breakout rooms to further differentiate the meeting

Zoom on the other hand only charges you for “Licensed” accounts. These are the accounts with all those fun features that Zoom offers and it costs about $90 per user. That means we are only paying for those 50 faculty accounts (for our 500 student/staff example) so that costs $4500 per year. Yep – a whole cheaper.

Microsoft Teams

Now you might be an Office 365 school. On one of the paid plans (let’s go with the A3 plan). This means you are already paying for Office and a number of other apps. Switching to Zoom is a harder sell in that case, but I would still argue for it.

I would argue that Zoom is a better tool for teachers to better control the video conferencing environment. Now Teams is getting some serious updates coming soon, but still this is a product that was designed for business and adults. It was designed to create a space with focused project based conversations and an emphasis in sharing resources in a contained and searchable environment.

I’ve played around with it and I think it does this well, much like Slack. As a video conferencing application though, I think it falls short.

I’m going to wrap this up. Basically I feel that Google and Micrsoft are trying to transfer a square peg into an octagonal peg so it will better fit in a round hole. Zoom isn’t perfect but when you consider the options that are out there for schools, I think Zoom’s solution is a better fit than any competitor I have seen so far.

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Episode 182 – Cheap Phones

A fantastic episode we talk about distance learning in the fall, learning management systems and how they are not adequate for distance learning and some great ideas of how to make it more successful. As always be sure to subscribe to us on Apple Music or your favorite podcasting app.

Tony’s new phone (Moto G Stylus), Patrick’s desk project & Fred Willard RIP

  1. Learning Management Systems are not Distance Learning Systems
    1. LMS is built with a linear perspective
    2. You can’t prevent cheating
    3. Examity.com
    4. Modify your LMS (if you can)
    5. Teacher website (MS and up)
    6. Project based learning instead of Assessment
  2. Azure and G-Suite Connecting Provisioning and SSO
    1. https://itbabble.com/2020/05/13/azure-and-g-suite-connecting-provisioning-and-sso/
  3. Distance Learning in the Fall?
    1. Using Curriculum map as road map
    2. What have we heard?
    3. Possible options
      1. Hybrid systems
      2. High school take some classes completely online
    4. What should teachers do?
      1. Start recording your lessons ahead of time
      2. Focus on flexibility
    5. What should schools do?
      1. The free products are gone
      2. Make sure your services are good to go in the fall
      3. Document cameras – https://www.ipevo.com/
    6. V2 Stand – https://ipaddocumentcamera.com/pages/justand-v2

You can download the episode here!

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Azure and G-Suite Connecting Provisioning and SSO

Tony DePrato | Follow Me on LinkedIn

Posted in Tony DePrato, tutorial, Video, VideoTipTrick | Tagged , , , , , | 1 Comment

Streaming in the classroom: Barco ClickShare

READ ALL THE REVIEWS ON THIS PAGE – STREAMING IN THE CLASSROOM SERIES

Not too long ago I reviewed the Barco WePresent and found it pretty good especially at its price point. Now we are taking a look at the ClickShare. Barco offers a few options with their ClickShare product and this one is the CS-100, the current entry level. This can be managed remotely with additional software from Barco at an additional price, but we did not have access to that for our review unit. So let’s get into it!

There are newer models on the horizon but I am not sure if they are available for sale yet.

Price

$1000 for this unit. Yep – that’s a lot. I looked the price up at a number of different retailers and for the average Joe that’s what you’ll need to shell out. Barco is really focused for the corporate world and I am not sure they have an educational discount. The unit has a receiver and one button one transmitter. Also remember that this is the entry level model as well.

For that money you will get one base station, one button and a power adapter.

What can it do?

It will mirror your screen to a projector, monitor or television with just a click of the button. The BenQ Instashow and the ClickShare seem to work the same way. The receiver and transmitter create their own private network and transmit all the data over it. This reduces stress on the school’s network and usually keeps a much more solid connection since no other device is on it.

The base station has all the standard ports you would come to expect.

It has a power port (no power over ethernet here), a port for the included power adapter, a network port and an audio port for audio out. I like this and I don’t think we’ve seen it on any other device thus far. It’s a small thing (no pun intended) but I like it. There is also a USB A connector on the back and one on the front. I believe these are used to pair other buttons to the base station.

The button is small, plugs into the USB port of a computer and has a satisfying click when pressed. Mine was USB A but the latest models has a USB C option. In my testing, the USB A worked just fine with a standard USB A to C adapter and never felt like it was going to fall out of my laptop.

Set up was ridiculously easy. Simply plug the base station into power and then connect it to a display via an HDMI cable. Wait for it to boot up, then plug the button into your computer and wait a few seconds for it to boot up, then click the button and you’re connected! If you ever forget the default Barco screen displayed will guide you through it all.

Here is a video of of me connecting the button. It seems to take a long time, but once you press that button you are connected with no hesitation. Then when you press it again, you are disconnected. It is fast.

I do believe you need to install the software each time you plug the button in. I may be wrong about this, but I do find that a little annoying.

Another thing to keep in mind is that you can only mirror your screen and not extend it. For most teachers I don’t think this would be a problem. A lot of teachers I know don’t seem to care about that and prefer mirroring to the extended set up, but if you rely on it then it will cramp your style for sure.

As you can see in the image above, it even has iOS and Android apps. It even works fine with a Chromebook [need to check this out.]

Streaming Video

OK – with all of these reviews – this is one of the most important factors. Can it stream video well. This is what teachers want to have. Mirroring their screen is nice, but teachers are demanding more now and we have been searching for something that can rival the Apple TV. So check out the sample below from another TED Talk.

It’s not good at all. Every few seconds it seems to drop frames and audio for a moment. It is jarring and not acceptable in any situation. In a classroom just showing a slideshow, webpage, or some documents, this is fine. If you want to stream even a short video, this is not going to work.

Issues

Outside of streaming video and the high cost, there really aren’t any. I mean the setup is super simple, connecting to a computer or device is very easy and secure. It does require a power cord and I really wished it had power over ethernet and who knows – maybe the next generation of ClickShare will. I also wish the base station was a little smaller. We have projectors and they are a little bulky sitting on top of it, but I imagine you could easily mount it or even stick it to the ceiling.

Managing the ClickShare

This can be done remotely but like I mentioned earlier it requires additional software to be installed on a server and we did not have access to it. I am sure it will allow you to update the base station, add more buttons to a base station, turn it off and on again if necessary all from the comfort of the IT office, but really, these things are pretty bullet proof.

They don’t seem to need much in the way of maintenance. I imagine updating the firmware could be done via USB or even remotely if you connect to the device itself and push it from your computer.

Would teachers like it?

If it is a BYOD environment then yes. I think they would though the BenQ Instashow is the same amount of money, works pretty much the same way and is vastly superior than the ClickShare. Of course, you  may not have access to the Instashow but there are good chances you do have access to the Barco. Of course the money is the real sticking point here. $1000 per unit is nothing to sneeze at and you may be able to cobble together a cheaper solution that works pretty well.

Will it replace our Apple TV’s

No – there is no way. Teachers want to stream video and for the money the ClickShare cannot touch the Apple TV in that regard. While the Barco product creates a near perfect connection each time and doesn’t rely on our network, teachers will trade away that stability to better streaming each time.

I do like how customizable the Barco ClickShare is and I can see the appeal from an enterprise perspective but not an educational one.

This is clearly a product that was developed for enterprise and is not a 100% fit with education. It is like an octagon fitting into a round hole. It will fit with a little force but there are better options out there that fit a lot better.

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