Students at Barbers Hill ISD competed to see who could assemble their PowerGistics’ towers the quickest. In the summer of 2015, the two middle schools in the Barbers Hill (TX) Independent School District were getting Acer 740 Chromebooks for all of their classrooms. The high school already had Chromebook carts, and teachers had complained about them being time-consuming, with chargers and moveable parts. “We wanted to improve the situation for the middle schools,” says Katie Russell, director of technology. “Luckily, we discovered PowerGistics’ wall-mounted towers.’”
Although the PowerGistics’ products were more expensive than the carts in the high school, Russell says they are totally worth it. “They have saved our teachers so much time,” she says. “We call them our ‘power towers.’ They are rugged and haven’t generated any help desk tickets.”
Every summer, the tech department “hires” six student workers to serve as interns. Last summer, the students worked in two-person teams to assemble the towers. “It became a contest to see who could assemble the quickest,” says Russell. “One guy worked very smart, and the goal was to beat his team.” Once they were assembled, students drilled holes and installed them.
There’s only one issue now, says Russell. “All the high school teachers are asking for ‘power towers,’ too! The PowerGistics’ towers are one of the best investments I’ve made for our Chromebook initiative. They just work.”
Easy Access = Quality Instruction
The LocknCharge color-coded systems makes it easy to store and find iPads. “We had other carts before I came, but a reseller introduced me to LocknCharge carts and I was hooked,” says Michelle Murphy, chief technology officer (CTO) for Coachella Valley (CA) Unified School District (USD), a 1:1 iPad district for grades preK-12. She particularly liked the way LocknCharge stores devices in baskets and purchased 400 carts for her elementary schools (grades K-6). Each color-coded basket can hold up to 10 devices. “Now a teacher can say, ‘Please get the blue basket for your table,’ and the student can quickly do that. Everyone is happy,” she says. “Teachers used to complain about the amount of time it took to get devices in and out of the former carts. With the baskets that issue went away.”
The elementary teachers love being able to use the iPads so easily and on the fly. One class recently Skyped with a class in Australia to learn about cultural differences, such as how to play cricket. “We started with a group of pilot teachers and small pockets of greatness. Now the iPads are getting more integrated and the pockets have expanded,” says Murphy.
A True Partnership
Oakland USD loves its secure, customized Bretford charging lockers. In 2014, Oakland (CA) USD was in serious need of a technology makeover. Sixty percent of classrooms reported lack of wireless access, most computers were in labs or located in the back of classrooms, and the majority of computers were more than four years old. With Common Core funding of $7 million, the district upgraded its network and bought 10,000 Dell Chromebooks and 250 Bretford NETBOOK36 carts with integrated access points (APs).
“We knew that for online testing we needed an equitable, supportable, standardized environment, but we had different computers and operating systems across the district,” says CTO John Krull. “With the Bretford carts we were able to bolt on a Meraki AP and execute quickly.”
After receiving some additional funding, the district removed the APs from the carts and put one in every classroom.
“The carts are good for securely storing our Chromebooks and moving them around. We developed a custom lock, and we’ve had no theft of carts,” says Krull.
Oakland chose full-service delivery of carts from the company it purchased the Chromebooks from and Krull says that’s been terrific. “The carts come all wired up with the Chromebooks in place, and the computers have an RF asset tag and a sticker with our naming convention. There are no empty computer boxes outside, advertising that we bought thousands of PCs.” He’s also been pleased to develop a strong partnership with Bretford. “We give the company input for future carts and storage and they listen to our ideas.”
Carts That Evolve
Teachers at Bethel Park School District are thrilled to access their Chromebooks so easily. Bethel Park (PA) School District started its 1:1 in 2014, with a goal of 1:1 for all students by 2018. For students, that means easier access to online textbooks, collaboration, peer editing, and programs like Compass Odyssey, Study Island, Spell City, and Math Counts. The district selected Chromebooks for their cost effectiveness and compatibility with Google Apps. They needed affordable, well-built Chromebook carts for grades K-6 since those computers remain at school.
Bethel Park School District selected Black Box carts for a variety of reasons. They wanted a functional cart that could grow with their 1:1, and the one-size-fits-all shelving of Black Box’s low-cost carts (LCC Series) allows the district to be ready for the future. Each cart accommodates up to 30 devices, is backed by a lifetime warranty, and features heavy-duty locks and locking wheels. “Working with a local, high-quality, affordable vendor made sense,” says Ron Reyer, director of technology services.
“We love, love, love the Chromebooks and use them every day,” says Bethani Bombich, a third-grade teacher. “The kids love using them and it’s amazing how quickly they get up to speed and can do different things. It just brings a new dimension to the classroom.”
Furniture & Carts Roundup
► Boxlight: Boxlight’s newest offering is the ProColor Touch Table 470, an interactive touch table that helps students develop teamwork skills while having fun. The ProColor Touch Table 470 features 12 touch points to support multiple users, accommodates multiple chairs and wheelchairs, and has built-in educational software. Best of all, it is spill-resistant.
Also new from Boxlight is the DeskBoard Mobile Cart, a portable, height-and tilt-adjustable desk surface made interactive via an attached, ultrashort throw, interactive projector. The DeskBoard is perfect for schools that need mobile, customized interactivity as it can be used as an interactive screen or interactive desk with the ability to raise, lower, tilt, and move from classroom to classroom.
► Steelcase: The new Brody WorkLounge by Steelcase is the first and only lounge-seating product designed for both the brain and the body. It features advanced ergonomic design, eliminates physical discomfort, and helps students focus by creating a microenvironment that shelters them from visual distractions. The Brody WorkLounge’s adjustable work surface holds technology at eye level to reduce neck and shoulder strain, and the movable modular solutions can transform under-utilized libraries and inbetween spaces into covetable destinations
CARTS & CHARGING STATIONS
► LocknCharge Joey 30 Cart: The new Joey 30 Cart, for Chromebooks, iPads, tablets, and more, is a small-footprint cart that lets districts charge, store, secure, and transport up to 30 devices. It can accommodate devices with or without covers in its new divider storage system and includes a padlock for security. For extra portability, Baskets by LocknCharge can be purchased separately. Last but not least, the Joey 30 has a top-loading design so that devices can be accessed quickly and easily.
► Tripp Lite Charging Stations: The 16-device AC Charging Station (top), with Secure Storage and Cord Management for Chromebooks and laptops, offers secure storage for up to 16 Chromebooks and laptops. This locking steel cabinet features flow-through ventilation and adjustable device dividers, ships fully assembled, and mounts to wall, desk, table, or floor. Thanks to AC outlets, device AC adapters and cords are stored out of sight.
The CSC32AC (middle) charges 32 Chromebooks and laptops, up to 17” screen size and secures devices in a locking, vented, wall-mountable steel cart. It has protective shelves with removable dividers and cord management, a wide-grip handle, and locking casters with non-marking wheels.
The CSC32USB (bottom) offers fast 2.4A USB charging and syncing for up to 32 iPads, Androids, Surface, or Kindle tablets (with or without cases). It also charges mobile phones and other USB devices. Like the CSC32AC, it secures devices in a locking, vented, wall-mountable steel cart, has protective shelves with removable dividers and cord management, and ships ready for quick, easy installation. The USB uplink port connects to a host computer for wired syncing.
► PowerGistics: PowerGistics’ wall-mounted towers were designed to solve some of teachers’ most pressing issues. The small footprint uses vertical space so devices are out of the way, and the shelves simplify the taking out and returning process. Because the towers are open, teachers can quickly take inventory—even when the door is closed. They can see that devices are plugged in, making sure they’ll be fully charged and ready for next use. Cords are managed along the side of each shelf and held in place by a pinch point that prevents them from pulling, tangling, and wear and tear. Devices lie flat with charging ports facing out, eliminating damage and device warranty claims. PowerGistics products are made in Wisconsin and can be customized with school colors and mascots decals on the doors.
► Bretford: Bretford’s latest product is the EVER Cart with MiX Module System (left). EVER Carts are designed to be the last cart a school will need, thanks to the future-proof MiX Module System, customizable modules that can be continually modified to accommodate future devices. The MiX Module System is removable, adjustable, and reconfigurable. With a MiX Module, shelf heights and device slot sizes can evolve without the need to replace the entire cart. The EVER Cart can house two shelves with two MiX Modules or three shelves with three MiX modules, to support between 20 and 45 devices. Shelves adjust from 10 inches for tablets and small computers to 12 inches for larger laptops. Thanks to the power management system, all devices are charged quickly with one cord from the cart to the wall outlet. The top shelf of the EVER Cart provides a practical work surface for a printer, projector, or document camera.
Bretford has also introduced three new MacBook and iPad charging carts. The Mobility MiX, PureCharge MiX, and PowerSync MiX carts include the Bretford MiX Module System (right), customizable modules that can be continually modified or replaced to accommodate future devices. The Mobility MiX provides AC power for use with MacBook and iPad power adapters, the PureCharge MiX provides USB charge for iPad with preinstalled lightning cables, and the PowerSync MiX provides USB charge and sync for iPad with pre-installed lightning cables. The new carts include a 12-year warranty on the cart and three-year warranty on the electronics.
► Black Box Mass Charging Cabinets: Black Box cabinets can store, charge, and secure 60 to 192 devices—from iPad minis to 15” Chromebooks. To get the same capacity with charging carts, IT administrators would have to buy three or four carts. Designed for grades K-12, the cabinets are ideal for stationary, centralized storage and charging. Each cabinet features adjustable shelves that can be reconfigured to accommodate different mobile devices in the future. Some models also include an automated power controller to protect from power surges and optimize charging. Customization options include shelf liners, rubber-coated dividers, syncing modules or network switches and equipment for managing and updating multiple devices at once, and patch cables. All charging cabinets include a lifetime guarantee and free, 24/7, tech support.