Recently Apple and Microsoft held events and unveiled some new products. Looking through my educator glasses I thought I’d write about them and try to evaluate if they are good for schools. When I say that, I mean, are they good to buy a whole bunch and give them to teachers, staff and/or students. So let’s dive in.
No. There you go. The iPad Mini looks great. It probably has good battery life, the screen looks bright and the build quality is solid. In the past the iPad Mini was the “cheap” iPad, so schools bought them and teachers/students liked them. The landscape has now changed. Now schools can buy an iPad Mini for $449 (education discount) but the “cheap” iPad is $309 (education discount).
Back in June I wrote this same article. You can read it here. Basically it was in response to an article written by Monica Chen of The Verge. The article “recommends” the best laptop for students at all levels by students.
Well, they just republished the article again and I thought I’d just remind parents and students out there to use these articles as a jumping off point. A place to start your research not as a definitive source.
Remember that all of these sites are powered off of ad revenue. All of them, so I wouldn’t be surprised if some of these recommendations were actually paid for. For example, no way I would recommend an iPad Air for a high school student where I live. I know that all the surrounding high schools are either Google Workspace schools or Office 365 schools. There are much better options at that price point for those students than an iPad. An advertisement that looks like an actual article is a native ad and it may be what is happening here.
Again, check with your school. They will have recommendations and can help you narrow down your search much better than a tech journalist or a blogger like myself 🙂
This is going to be an ongoing series. Here I am talking about what we currently do and are planning. In future posts I will talk about the testing of the equipment, the use of the equipment and finally changes that we’ve made.
Streaming school events (concerts, athletics, presentations) has always been a bit of mystery for me. In theory it is pretty simple. You need cameras that feed into a computer and that computer then encodes and feeds the video to a streaming service. In practice it is pretty complicated and there are lots of questions:
What cameras do I use?
Do I have to wire the cameras?
How do I manage multiple camera feeds?
Can I brand or add graphics?
How do I capture audio from the event?
How do I encode the video feed so it streams properly?
Does it have to be 4K?
What service do I use?
What programs do I use?
What we do now
Right now, we have it super simple. We use a Mevo Plus camera. They have a newer version but here is what ours looks like.
Here is how you use it. You turn it on (it has a battery) and it connects to your smartphone via its Mevo app. Once they connect you control the camera with your smartphone. You can zoom in, out, and even pan all digitally. It can stream from your phone to YouTube, Ustream, Facebook and others live or you can record it to its micro SD card and then edit the footage later. The camera is a wide angle lens so it does a good job of covering a large area and the output can be up to 4K.
The quality is very good and while the camera we purchased was $400, outside of a tripod we did not need much more. We did buy some accessories, but we have figured to run audio from a soundboard or mixer into the Mevo for greatly improved sound. Overall, we have been very happy with our Mevo and will continue to use it.
There are some issues though. The Mevo is a single camera. There is no way to integrate it with other cameras. It is its own singular solution for streaming. You have one camera and that is it. It is simple and straightforward and that is the beauty of our Mevo, but as we look at covering athletic events, having more than one camera is desirable to cover more of the action. This has led to some good conversations and more importantly a plan.
We are looking to stream with multiple cameras but as you add complexity to any solution, it usually requires more equipment, training and of course – money. We are looking for this equipment to be managed by middle school students (with appropriate teacher/administrator supervision – of course) so the solution has to be pretty easy. Easy to set up, use and tear down. All of this is important.
The first part is the BlackMagic Design ATEM Mini Pro ($499). This is going to be the brains of the operation.
This thing looks expensive but it offers a lot of flexibility and power when it comes to streaming. You can have 4 HDMI inputs, professional switching between the inputs as well. You can have two microphone line ins and if you hook it up to a monitor you can view all four inputs at once. Great for producing. Also, you can attach a hard drive to it to record if you don’t want to stream. There is also powerful software you can download and use to get even more power out of this thing. Best of all, it is pretty easy to use. I’ve watched a few demo videos about it and I think that middle school students could be up and running with this deck with some minimal practice and training. This video by Zebra Zone is particularly good. He shows the set up and goes through all of its features one at a time. Just great!
Now on to cameras. We don’t want super expensive prosumer cameras. We are looking to save a little money and through my research we are going with the Canon Vixia HF r800. Yeah that name just rolls right off the toungue there doesn’t it? Here it is from BH Photo.
Now here is the expensive part. We don’t want to be running HDMI cables all over the place, especially if student athletes are going to be walking or running in those areas. We want to do this wirelessly if possible and so an HDMI wireless transmitter/receiver set is in order. This starts expensive and can get really expensive. We decided on the Hollyland Mars 300.
Another piece I would like to add into this setup is the ability for people (ideally students) to announce the games. Rather than just have coaches and athletes talking to each other, it may be a nice touch, but how do you do this?
The ATEM Mini Pro does have two mic inputs and so we were thinking of just adding them that way. Perhaps purchasing some “cheap” broadcasting headsets. The problem with that is that many of them are only XLR and we need a 3.5mm input instead of XLR or 1/4″ inputs.
Another issue is the price. The cheaper headsets are starting at $50 and they quickly go up from there.
The equipment has been ordered. Once we set things up and try it out we try to find a workflow that works for us.
How did I not know about this?! If you’re like me, then you rarely have more than 10 tabs open at a time. However, not everyone is as . . . considerate to their computer as I am. I have seen colleagues of mine have anywhere from 30-50 tabs open and not feel shame!
I know each browser has there own way of managing lots of tabs and there are more than a few extensions out there that can help people as well. Since my school uses Google, it only makes sense for me to use Google Chrome, plus I like all the extensions they have to offer, but this feature is built right into the browser itself. No need to install anything else or create an account with a third party. Just open tabs up and group them!
I saw this article on the Verge titled What’s the best student laptop? We asked students by Monica Chin. Being I am in IT and education I am always interested in these articles and this one asks students themselves. What would students say they like? Here is a group of people who typically don’t have a lot of spending power, so I was curious what they would suggest. Needless to say I was pretty disappointed.
This website is geared for middle school students and up and unlike block programming (like the super popular Scratch) this has students working with actual code, but it does it with a lot of hand holding which I like. Just to be clear I am no programmer. I have dabbled here and there with mostly Python but with this review I was learning right along everyone else. Let’s see if it is worth using.
So I saw a comment on my TeacherMade review. It felt like a bit of advertising for Teacheasyapp which is fine. Apps and services have to get their name out there so I don’t mind too much. After taking a quick peak at it, I figured to do a full on review of it. It basically is a way for you to annotate and leave comments on PDF files that students share with you. It has some interesting features and I will be looking at the online app that you use with your computer and the Android app (it has an iOS app as well).
Luckily WordPress.com keeps versions of all your posts and I was able to find the finished version and publish those versions in place of the drafts.
Here is what I think happened. WordPress.com has two post editors. One is called the “Classic Editor” and it is rock solid. The other version is the called the “Block Editor” which is a little buggy but clearly the future of what WordPress.com wants its users to use. In all three of those posts I used both editors thinking that the content would have updated regardless of editor but I guess not.
I’ve learned and will keep a more watchful eye on those posts going forward.
Growing up in Ohio there were the occasional day when the snow or ice was too much and the school district closed. Those joyous occasions are snow days! It was a free day for students. No homework or tests; everything just paused.
As a student, those days are golden. As a teacher those days are nice. Time is as valuable as diamonds for a teacher and anytime you can get a little more unexpected time injected into your day is a good thing.
As a parent, they can be troublesome because it effects your work. You may have to take some time off to be with your child, or that could be something that you absolutely don’t mind doing from time to time. I guess it is all up to your perspective. Continue reading “Snow days – are they gone?”→
I am quite interested in this. I have seen some Chromebooks with touchscreens and even a few of those may have a stylus, but the quality of those Chromebooks may leave a little something to be desired.
Then I saw this article in Engadget that says Wacom now has a drawing tablet that works with Chromebooks – no drivers or software installation needed! If you’re not familiar with Wacom, they make some of the best drawing tablets in the world. They also have some entry level tablets too which is where the One by Wacom (lousy name) comes into play. Continue reading “Chromebook + Wacom tablet? Interesting”→