ChronoFlo timeline maker – Review

To check out my sample timeline click this link.

I have to admit I am a sucker for a good timeline maker. Way back in 2011 Omar Ghosn (the co-founder) and myself decided to review a bunch of timeline generators to find the best one (at the time). You can find all those articles here.

Sadly many of those are no longer (RIP Dipity and TimeGlider) but now there is a new contender:

ChronoFlo Timeline Maker

This review will take a look at this new site and see if it is worth your time.

Signing up

This is pretty easy, but it will require you to create a username, give an email address and create a password. There is no SSO for Google Microsoft or other social media accounts. Once you give them that information it will take you to their dashboard


The dashboard is very straight forward. If you have any timelines, you can find them here. If you want to start a new timeline, again you’re in the right place.

You can also update your profile such as your password and email.


Finally you get to the pricing. The free account will allow you to make a single fully functional timeline, but you cannot embed it into a website or upload your own videos or images. You can add photos that are already hosted someplace on the web and videos (YouTube, Vimeo) already hosted on the web.

I know this is a new company and maybe there are educational pricing but I couldn’t find any on the website. For $120 a year I would expect to be able to make more than 5 total timelines. The Silver account will run you $354 a year and a limit of only 25.

It just seems a little steep for students/schools/teachers right now.

Creating a Timeline

This is obviously why we’re all here. What can you do with this tool? To get started, name your timeline and pick a theme. There are only 8 themes to chose from but they all look nice. Here is what they offer:

  • Standard timeline – The timeline is at the bottom of the page and all the events are above it.
  • Split timeline – The timeline is in the middle of the page and the events are above and below it.
  • Vertical timeline – The timeline goes up and down and they offer a standard and a split timeline.
  • 3D timeline – The event cards and timeline are staged a little to make it appear 3-D.
  • Snake timeline – The timeline looks like a snake instead of a straight line.

I picked the split time line theme and named it IT Babble Rocks.

Note, I didn’t see a way to rename a timeline or to change the theme. This can be changed! I found it in the Options menu on the right hand side of the screen and it is very easy to make those changes.

When working on your Timeline here is the workspace.

Before we get to adding an event, let’s talk about this time scaler tool. Click the magnify glass and you can change the span of what you are viewing, increase or decrease the time (I’ll let you decide what that all means and more.

To see this in action check out my super cool GIF below.

Adding an event is all pretty straightforward. Just click that + sign in the bottom left hand corner. From here you the even will appear on the timeline and a new side menu will slide out from the right hand side.

As you can see you can add the basic information such as the title of the event, a description of said event and date. Then there are some nice features below that. You have the ability to categorize the event. When people think category, they think of some text tag that is applied to that content.

Not in ChronoFlo folks!

You get a tremendous amount of customization. You can change the accent color, is above or below the timeline, they style of the card and more.

What this means is that when you add an event, just categorize it and ChronoFlo will go ahead and do all the formatting for you. AWESOME!

This is also a good lesson for students about presenting data and how to work smarter, not harder and to introduce them into CSS, it is a little similar.

Mic Tests!

We have some teachers who need to teach from home even though we are teaching in person. So I worked with them and worked out a solution with the devices we currently have on hand. The teachers will want to Zoom in to do their instruction so the students need to see and hear them and the teacher also needs to see and hear the students. Seeing isn’t too difficult with built in webcams but hearing the students is a different problem, so I tested a few mic options. In this test I test the following mics:

You can check out the results in the video below. I read the same description of a book around the room in a normal speaking voice to make sure the test is pretty fair. You can also check out Tony’s post about his Hi-Flex iPad option.

Continue reading “Mic Tests!” – A review

Hello readers, today I am reviewing another online whiteboard website. What makes this site different is how basic and minimalist this service is. There aren’t a ton of features and there is a very low learning curve but is it enough to be a good to be considered when there are already strong contenders in this space.

Signing up & the tools

You don’t have to! When you go to you are immediately dropped into a whiteboard and can start working. No need to sign up, sign in or anything else. If you want to sign up, you can do with either an email or with your Google account – so pretty simple.


Continue reading “ – A review”

Lucidspark – A review

There are a bunch of whiteboards out there you can use to collaborate with your colleagues or to use with your students. There is Padlet, Wakelet, Google Docs, OneNote and more. However, when I saw that Lucid had created their own whiteboard collaboration website I was excited.

For those of you who are not familiar with Lucid they make some great web based applications. Lucidchart (for flow charts and the like) Lucidpress (for dynamic web publications that look exceptional).

I really like what they make and I find their products to be simple yet powerful and most of all effective. This is why I was so excited and let me tell you, Lucid did not disappoint.

Continue reading “Lucidspark – A review”

Teacher Made – Review

Teacher Made is a website that will take a PDF, JPG, PNG, GIF or DOCX (Microsoft Word file) and add interactivity to it such as text boxes students can fill in, multiple choice questions and more. It basically allows you to take a worksheet and make it so the child can complete it on a computer or mobile device and then submit that file. Oh and there is Google Classroom integration

Sounds like a good idea and much of it works pretty well, though there are some short comings. Let’s take a look together.

Getting started

You can sign in with your Google account or sign up with your email address. Both are straight forward and easy to use. If you plan on using this with Google Classroom, I encourage you to sign up with your Google account. This will make this process a bit easier.

The Dashboard

This place is sparse. You really have two options at this point. You can go to My Worksheet were you can work with those already created or you can go to Create Worksheet where you can (you guessed it) create a new worksheet.

That’s it and in some ways this is pretty good. I’ve seen systems where there are so many options and so many actions that it can get confusing and a user can even get lost or forget where their content is!

On the other hand, having a little more organization in the My Worksheet section would be great. Allowing teachers to make folders or tags to help keep certain units together would be nice. I can see teachers making over a hundred worksheets with this service and then having to go sort through them.

I also wish there was a preview of the worksheet. Sometimes that visual cue (especially if they are planning on reusing these worksheets the next year or later in the year) will be very helpful in figuring out what worksheet is what.

There is a timestamp when the worksheet was made, but I was there was more. To be fair though, this seems to be a fairly new service and I wouldn’t be surprised if these features roll out in the near future.

Creating a worksheet

I feel this goes without saying, but you need to have access to a PDF or picture of the original worksheet first. Teacher Made is not a scanning service, that is not what they do, so you need to have a way to scan these documents. There are plenty of ways to do this and the easiest would be to use an app on your smartphone.

For this example I have a simple addition worksheet from the Math is Fun website. I printed it out and then scanned it as a PDF and emailed that to myself.

Now I go to the Teacher Made website, sign in and click on the Create Worksheet link at the top of the page.

Again, I am greeted with a very straight forward and sparse page. Here it wants me to name it and give it a description which I did.

When you upload the document Teacher Made gives you a preview of what it will look like. If you have a multi page PDF it will show each page and you can even select to omit pages which is very nice, but you cannot reorder the pages. Not a big deal, but if you want that ability you would need to do it ahead of time in another program.

Once it is uploaded you can go ahead and Edit the Content. This means you can add various elements to your document to make it interactive for your students.

Here is what this editing looks like.

The toolbar at the top is where all the magic happens. You can add the following elements to your document:

  • Short answer
  • Dropdown
  • Open answer
  • Matching
  • True/False
  • Multiple Choice
  • Checkboxes
  • Hot Spot (used for maps or images where you want students to click on certain areas)
  • Math (you can add fractions, numbers, mixed numbers or Algebra expression)

This is a very robust set of options, but here is where the issues start to creep in.


The box where students can answer. This is a good place to start. Check out the image below.

By default there is no border where students can enter their answers. I have added places for answers for questions 19 and 20 but there is no way for a student to know this.

However, Teacher Made has thought of this. In the Format section there is a way to Set Default Borders and to Update All Borders.

I just wish by default there was a border.

When you add a question type to the worksheet, you also can add the correct answer so Teacher Made will grade it automatically. This is nice, but more on that below.

Some of the choices for questions aren’t the greatest. There are areas where students can type words or numbers and those areas are pretty straight forward. However, when you get to the multiple choices – well, just look at the image below.


OK Those 4 circles are the multiple choice questions. It only adds these radial dots that you can select. There is no way to add text to the choices. So you need to use a text box to make the choices or have it built into the worksheet originally. It just seems a little silly not to be able to add text next to the circles. This is the same for the Checkbox option as well.

I will say that it is very easy to orient the circles. If you want them smaller and vertical that is pretty easy and intuitive.

Deleting these elements from the worksheet is kind of a pain. I think this is just something that should work but doesn’t right now. In order to delete one of these boxes (say my 4 choice multiple choice), I would think that I would select it and then hit the Delete button. Unfortunately this does not work. I need to select it, go up to the menu and select Edit and then select Delete from there.

Not difficult but it is something that slows down your workflow.


Nice features

There are some nice features too. I really like the ability to add your own text box. This is great for adding additional instructions such as show all work. Another nice feature is the Color Block/Eraser. Despite Eraser being in the name it does not do that at all. Instead it will place a white block (with a white border) on the page to cover up unwanted information. For example, if I want to get rid of the Date area of this worksheet I will just place a white block over it.

Let me add the white block

Ah, that’s better.

You can also preview the worksheet and check to see that they auto grading system is working.

I really like this.

That way teachers can quickly experience what their students will

Assigning the worksheet

If you want students to complete the worksheet online you need to go to the My Worksheets section.

From the list each worksheet has an Action button. Click that and you see these options and briefly here is what they do:

  • Edit Content – Allows you to edit the worksheet
  • Edit Properties – Allows you to change the name and the description of the worksheet
  • Make a copy
  • Sharing – Allows you to share the worksheet with another teacher. They can then make a copy for their account
  • Assign
  • Preview
  • Delete

If you assign it to students, they will need Teacher Made accounts. If you are a Google school, they can sign in with Google so that is not hard. If they do not have a Google account there is still a somewhat easy way to do this.

You can add a list of names or ID numbers to the assignment so it will be easy for them to access the assessment. This is pretty simple and clever. A good way to get around a student not needing an account. When it is Assigned it will look like this.

You can see my fake account daisy13579 and on the right hand side you see the link and you also see a way to share it to Google Classroom. The link is really long (which is to be expected). If you are teaching first graders who don’t have Google accounts the link is a problem. Here is what mine looks like:

The best way around this is to use a URL shortener like to make it manageable for people to type in.

If you go the Google Classroom route, it is pretty straightforward. You pick which class you want to post it to. If you have multiple classes I imagine you would go through this process each time.

Then you can pick if it is an assignment, a question, a post, etc.

When you click Go it takes you to the new assignment on Google Classroom. Here you can set a due date, how many points it is worth (if any) and add it to a Topic. All the good Google Classroom stuff. You will notice that it is just a link to the Teacher Made worksheet.


When a students submits their worksheet Teacher Made will grade it automatically (that is if you provided the correct answer for the question). Obviously if it is a short answer or written response, it would be best for you to grade. You can see those submissions in the My Worksheets section. To see a student’s work just click on their score

The green boxes are correct answers and the red boxes are incorrect. When you move your mouse over the box, the correct answers will be displayed next to it.

One thing I do not like is that there is no way to override Teacher Made’s grading. If you wanted to give partial credit, there is no way to do that here as you can in other programs or services.

Also, if you want that score to reflect in Google Classroom you will need to go into the assignment and add it for each student. This is not a limitation of Teacher Made but more of a limitation of Google Classroom.

Another thing to know is that once a student has submitted their worksheet on Teacher Made it will not allow them to go back into the worksheet to make any changes or to submit it again.


Should you use Teacher Made? The short answer is yes! It does solve a problem during this weird time in our lives right now. It allows teachers to transform their physical worksheets into digital versions that students can then complete and submit online.

That being said, there is a lot of work that Teacher Made needs to do. There are some features (mentioned above) that need some tweaking or need to be added altogether to make this a slam dunk.

Just know if you are going to use teacher Made you should know what it can do and can’t do before jumping into it fully.

If you know of a similar service you wold like reviewed then let me know in the comments section below.




Streaming in the classroom: Microsoft Wireless Display Adapter


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


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.


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.


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.

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!

Streaming in the classroom: Barco ClickShare


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.


$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.


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.

Streaming in the classroom: Airtame 2


I wrote a review about Airtame back in July of 2018 and I was pretty impressed by it. The price point was fair, the fact that it could mirror most devices (limited with iOS and Android but still not bad) and it could be used as digital signage. Oh yeah, let’s not forget that we can manage them in a cloud dashboard. Yep – there is a lot to like.

Now there is Airtame 2 and I have thoughts people. Some good and some not so good but let’s get into it. Oh, before we do that – I would like to mention that we had to purchase this Airtame 2 from Airtame itself. They did give us (my school, not IT Babble) a 50% discount for the purchase which I felt was very generous.


Got to start here. The original Airtame was a little north of $200 if I remember correctly. The newer Airtame 2 costs $400. I believe they have discounts for buying in bulk, but that is almost double the original price which should raise your eyebrows a little.

That price is not just greed though. The Airtame 2 has much better internals. The original Airtame was pretty underpowered and since it plugged directly in a display, that can sometimes make it difficult for it to connect and stay connected to the wifi.

This new design allows you to place the Airtame out in the open so it has a better chance to grab onto and hold onto the wifi signal. Smart.

What can it do?

Well – it can do pretty much everything the first Airtame can do, but since it is more powerful inside, it can simply do it faster and better. Loading times are cut down for digital signage (in my experience), connecting your computer to it to share your screen is faster as well and the streaming is better, but more on that later.

You still have the cloud dashboard which can let you reboot the device if it gets stuck, update at appropriate times (Apple TV – I’m looking at you) and of course change the on screen directions and customize the screen to have your school’s logo. Nice

The first Airtame took a while (a looong while) to update. This new Airtame 2 updates really fast. To give you an idea – the Airtame 2 had an update waiting right out of the box. It took 2-3 minutes to update and reboot. The Airtame 1 would take more than 10 minutes. This was not a one time occurrence either. It was painfully long.

The unit itself has three ports:

  1. USB C connector
  2. Micro USB (for power only)
  3. Kensington lock hole

To connect the Airtame to your display you will use the Aircord. One side is the USB C plugs which goes into the Airtame 2 and then it the Aircord splits into two other cords. One is an HDMI that clearly goes into the display and the other is a USB that must go into its own power source. I was told to not plug it into the projector/display. The display will not provide it enough power to work properly. We used an included USB plug and then plugged that into a power strip.

To connect your device to the Airtame 2, you will need to download the Airtame app. If you have a Mac or iOS device, you can use Airplay, but I wouldn’t recommend it. You will get significantly better results streaming through their app. In fact, I was told by a sales rep that it will use a third less data when using their app.

When connected, basic usage has a noticeable lag. The mouse looks a little choppy gliding over your desktop. All the other devices seemed to perform a little better in this regard. Trying to use my trackpad and looking at the display really threw me for a loop. I got confused and had to just look at my screen. If I was just showing a slideshow, website or PDF this would be fine as the lag isn’t terrible enough to disrupt what was being displayed.

I also didn’t have any unwanted disconnections while testing, which of course is a good thing.

Streaming Video

How did the Airtame 2 fair? Really well 🙂 I am impressed with the performance. It is nowhere near as nice as the BenQ but it was far superior to the WePresent and the Mersive Solstice. In fact, I would go so far to say that it is almost in the same league as an Apple TV – almost. The audio was never out of sync with the video. There were times when frames would drop out but when the video resumed on the display the audio was right there with it.

It really was impressive.

Teachers may grouse about these dropped frames and without longterm testing I can’t say if it gets worse but for right now I find this completely acceptable. Below is my example. You don’t see any dropped frames in this example. By the way – the TV color is wonky – not the color of the video.

The worst I saw was a bunch of dropped frames in period of 5-7 seconds and then it seemed to stream just fine after that.

The Airtame 2 does have Airplay built into it, but the results are stinky. I didn’t record a video, but the lag between the audio and the video was there and consistent through every video test with threw at it, so use the app fellow reader. If you want a video – let me know in the comments below.


The biggest issue I have is the Aircord (that is its actual name). It is just not practical. The connection to the Airtame itself is a USB C. Because the unit is circular in shape, when I plug the USB C in it feels loose, as the cord can wiggle. I do find this disconcerting, but it doesn’t feel like so loose as it will fall out.

Now we get to the “Y” part. This is what I really don’t like. So it goes from a USB C cord and splits into two: an HDMI cord and a USB A cord. The cord itself feels like it is made of quality material, but that material also means that it is stiff and not easy to manage.

Also, the length of the cord is problematic. Obviously the Airtame needs to be near the display, so HDMI isn’t an issue but then you have to plug the USB A plug into its own dedicated power source. This can be a stretch – literally. It really limits where you can plug this into. If you have a projector and the power outlet is more than a meter (or about three feet) from the power source you will need an extension cord (which Airtame will sell to you) or reposition your outlet.

It is just maddening! All the other units we’ve tested have much more flexible power options:

  • Mersive Solstice – POE or a USB plug
  • WePresent – POE or a USB plug
  • BenQ – Draws power from the device via a USB cable

I believe the USB option for the Airtame 2 is an option and it may give you a lot more options when placing it than the Aircord.

There is also a POE adapter that you can buy from Airtame which would work, but that adapter currently sells for $119 USD, which seems an outrageous sum for any adapter. I mean it is more than a quarter of the price . . . for an adapter!

Maybe I am making too big of a deal out of this cable, but it really bothers me. The POE adapter does give you some more flexibilty but then that cable is not super flexible and managing it is awkward. It is almost too long to really hide behind a device but not quite long enough for the power. I don’t like it.

Managing the Airtame 2

Like I mentioned earlier they have a dashboard that is in the cloud, so you can access it anywhere and do some basic management. It is included in the price but they do have a cloud plus subscription that will give you much more power over them. This is more for the digital signage aspect than the actual streaming uses. It’s good, easy to use and pretty straightforward.

Would teachers like it?

Ultimately, yes – I think they would. I am not sure if it streams better than an Apple TV, but it does a pretty good job. The Aircord worries me with its longevity and the price of the POE adapter is also a worrying cost for a dongle. We had an Airtame 1 that lasted only a year and a half before completely dying, but the Airtame 2 feels much sturdier and a higher quality of production.

Will it replace our Apple TV’s?

Probably not. Having a few on hand for presenters doesn’t seem like a bad idea, but on a large scale it doesn’t offer enough, given the price. The Apple TV may not be the best streaming device we’ve tested but for the price it is hard to beat that value. Digital signage is something we do implement in a few places at school and having and owning the device (with no subscription) may be a good way forward in that aspect, but I can’t think of the Airtame 2 replacing the Apple TV’s . . . yet.

Streaming in the classroom: BenQ – Instashow


The journey continues! This time we are looking at the BenQ Instashow. A lot of people may not be too familiar with BenQ in North America, but they have it looks as though they have been making steady inroads into the continent. They may a bevy of products and this is one of them.

If you are familiar with Barco’s ClickShare (review coming soon) you will notice an immediate similarity, and you would be correct! It basically works under the same principal which I’ll check out below.


OK – let’s get this out of the way. The BenQ Instashow is expensive. I looked the cost up on CDW and the cost for this system is $1100 USD. That’s a hunk of change people. The version I have is USB but they do have other connector types available to purchase and all are around the same price point.

One unit is good for one display. We do have two buttons that will allow you to quickly (and seemlessly) switch between one computer and another on the same display.

What can it do?

It can mirror your screen or allow the second screen to act as an extended display. Let me tell you fellow reader – it works really well. That is all it does though. No whiteboard, no multiple computers on the same screen simultaneously, just takes your screen and puts on a projector/TV.

You get a button or two and a base station. The base station obviously plugs into the projector or display and the buttons plug into the computer. The first time, you will need to pair the buttons with the base station. This initial pairing is pretty quick and you only need to do it once.

On the back of the base station you have few options.

As you can see, there is a pairing button, an Ethernet input, and HDMI connector and a microUSB connector (for power). Unfortunatelye the BenQ Instashare does not have Power Over Ethernet (POE). Meaning you need to use the micro USB port to power the device. The good news is that connecting it to a TV or projector’s USB port is sufficient to power the base station. The packaging does include a traditional plug if your device doesn’t have a USB.

What makes this different from the Mersive and the Barco WePresent is that no software is needed. There is no client to download, install and run to connect. It just connects. You plug in one of the buttons into your computer, wait for the light to turn green, press the light and you’re connected.

The lag is nearly nonexistent and the image is crystal clear. It really is pretty nice.

How this works is that the button and the base station form their own private (and encrypted) network. You don’t have to connect the BenQ to your schools’s WiFi or even the LAN. All you need to do is plug it into the display make sure it has power and you’re off and running. Something to note though, the dongle must be plugged in the entire time to work. Which means you are carrying that dongle plugged into your computer with you at all streaming times.

When it is connected to the display here is what is shown.

That is really all the instructions you get. No navigating to an IP address or anything else. Just very straight forward which is really nice.

Streaming Video

Ease of use is one thing, but performance is another. How does the BenQ stream video? It streams video great! There is no lag, no distortion of picture or dropped frames. Audio came through with no problems (though I did have to change the audio output on my Mac each time I connected).

It worked very, very well. I would go so far as to say it streamed video better than an Apple TV and at this price point it had better. Check out the example below. Again, I used a random Ted Talk because you get to see a lot of people talking on screen.

Pretty good eh?

When we had two buttons connected, all a person had to do was hit their button and the image switched instantly. There was no loading screen, no black screen while it was processing. It just switched. We did this many times even trying to see how fast it would go. The BenQ handled it all with ease. Very impressive.

It does take a little time to connect but more about that below.


It’s not all sunshine and lollipops with the BenQ though. It works pretty well with MacBooks, Windows laptops and Chromebooks, but it was a no go for iPads or mobile phones with USB. I am not sure why, but it wouldn’t react at all when plugged into my OnePlus 6. Does this mean it won’t work at all? Not sure, but we had no success with it.

Then there was the time it took to connect. I would hope that all I had to do was plug in the dongle and a few seconds later I could connect. Not quite. I plugged in the dongle and then after about 25-30 seconds I got a green light on the ring, but when I pressed the button to connect it failed. Here is a video of that happening. I sped up the speed by two but put a time code in the upper left hand corner for reference.

If you were thinking that you could pass the dongle around from student to student to seamlessly stream you better have some buffer time planned in between. This seemed to be the case with any of the computers we tried including the Chromebook. Sometimes we got it up and running in about 30 seconds, but it was always 30 seconds or more.

Once connected though, it was solid. It stayed connected and nothing we threw at it seemed to deter it at all.

The range of the BenQ Instashow is pretty decent at around 8 meters (26 feet) as advertised in its included documentation. It didn’t stutter or try to keep the connection. When it hit the limit it just disconnected instantly – this is nice. No games, no maybe I can stretch it today, it just stops.

The reason I include this in the Issues section is that if you wanted to use this in your theater or large multipurpose room, it may restrict where you can place it. Keep that in mind, before plunking down all that cash. In most classrooms though this would work without issue.

The last issue is the dongles. They’re not heavy or poorly built, in fact they’re feel good. In order for this to work, your computer must stay plugged into the dongle at all times. I had no issues plugging it in, and picking up my computer and walking around the room with it. It worked just fine. Even accidentally bumping the dongle didn’t interrupt the stream.

Managing the BenQ

Well, there is no management option I could find, but really there isn’t much to manage. Since they are plugged into the projector/display via USB, they pull their power from it. If it were to freeze, we would simply restart our projectors. Since we have laser projectors this whole process would take 15 seconds and then a short boot time for the BenQ. That’s not too hard.

I do worry about the dongles (buttons) getting lost as classrooms can move pretty fast but overall teachers could easily power cycle these units themselves.

Would teachers like it?

Hell yeah! Great video streaming and solid connection? You bet they would. I am sure they wouldn’t be too thrilled with the dongle but right now that is where technology is. I do like the fact that it works with Mac, Windows and Chromebooks. The long load times may keep teachers from freely passing the dongle around the room. The cost of a dongle is around $600 USD, so that may also keep teachers from passing it around as well.

Will it replace our Apple TV’s?

Not a chance. It is just too expensive. I like what BenQ has made, but the cost is waaaay out there.

$1100 vs $179 (that’s the 4K version)

There is no way I can sit in front of our CFO and justify the price per unit cost. I’ll be sure to keep my eye on the Instashow but at this point it may be a good idea to have one in the building for presenters.