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Being in school IT, I get a lot of sales calls. It especially heats up in the spring when schools are making all the buying decisions for the following year. Most of them are sent straight to my voicemail, so it’s hard to wade through the junk from the great. A few weeks ago, I got an email from the folks at Bretford wanting to talk to me about Juice Mobile Power. I was immediately intrigued when I saw the first paragraph on the website:
When the average schools were built 40-some years ago, contractors never imagined that each student would need access to power to keep their textbooks charged. As most educators know, the average classroom has 2–3 outlets, and they are almost always in the most inconvenient locations.
Our school building is 65 years old, so we certainly have this problem. It’s often not even just the lack of outlets that is the problem. It’s the cost of adding new ones. We have a lot of concrete walls, so running new wiring is a serious challenge for our facilities department.
So what is Juice Power? Let me show you.
[vimeo 239791690 w=640 h=360]
The folks at Bretford sent me a unit to demo, and I was immediately impressed with what it could do. Juice Mobile Power is a simple way to roll out power to the classroom, securely and safely charging up to 20 mobile devices from one outlet. Could you do this with a host of surge protectors and extension cords in the past? Sure, but it was a fire and tripping hazard.
Modern mobile devices have great battery life, but sometimes students might have forgotten to charge the night before or have been rendering files from a movie editor. Batteries can last all day, but it’s not guaranteed. When you’re building your lesson plans around digital content, students have to have the option to charge mid-class.
With built-in FLI Charge safety technology, Juice Mobile Power detects foreign objects and powers down to ensure safety. When the object is removed, it instantly powers up, making it safe for everyday use. Juice’s connection points are magnetic, so they easily break away if someone trips on it.
One of the things I love most about Juice Mobile Power is that it’s easy to roll out and move around. Let’s say that you only have the budget for a couple of them. You can keep them in storage and roll them out when needed. If you have a class that is going to spend time coding or doing movie editing, you can quickly roll it out in the classroom. I was able to set up the demo unit in just a few minutes, and now that I’ve done it once, I could quickly do it again in no time.
Overall, I’m impressed by Juice Mobile Power. If you are needing to expand power capabilities for mobile devices in your classroom, deploying it will likely be a lot less costly than having your facilities crew add power outlets. It will bring the charging capabilities right to the desk in an easy to deploy way. It starts at $1328, and they have options for Lightning, USB-C, Micro-USB, Acer, Dell, HP and Lenovo cords. They even include the device cords with the kits. One neat feature: the cords are locked into place with the initial setup so they can’t “disappear.”
Check out Juice Mobile Power on the Bretford website.
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Building an IT system entirely on campus is one challenge, as is making one for completely remote is another challenging process. Trying to come up with solutions for when some kids are off-campus, and others are on is a daunting challenge, though. As we headed into summer, we knew that some of our kids would not return for the start of school regardless of what was going on in the world, so we wanted to be ready.
We knew that we’d be using Zoom for the communications technology as we’d used it before, and we’d been quite happy. Zoom has had a wild 2023, but it’s the most accessible video conferencing software on the market. Our teachers were already familiar with how to use it, and our students already had it installed on their devices at home. Students receive an email each morning with meeting links for their scheduled classes. It takes a bit of work on the teacher’s end to set these meetings up, but it’s worked well for the most part.
We then set up Google Classroom to help facilitate the assigning of work and handle the turning in of work. We use FACTS SIS, and they have a built-in sync for Google Classroom that allows us to connect student accounts in Google Classroom back to their profile in FACTS. With this integration, the grades sync from Google Classroom back to FACTS SIS.Meeting Owl
Our next decision was how to improve the camera and audio quality in the classroom. I am certainly not an audiovisual expert by any stretch of the imagination, but I know enough to know that the built-in camera on the 2023 MacBook Air wasn’t going to provide an excellent experience for the students. Why Apple still includes such a low-quality camera in brand new laptops, I’ll never know, but I hope that changes with the transition to Apple Silicon. We decided to invest in Meeting Owl Cameras. Each teacher that has virtual students has one in their classroom hooked up to their Mac. The camera is also connected directly to Wi-Fi to download new software upgrades and be controlled from an iOS device. The camera shows a 360-degree view, has a high definition camera, and eight microphones that will pick up from 12 feet away. We were using them during our back to school meetings, and we had a few teachers who watched from home, and they even joked they could hear conversations they usually wouldn’t have been able to hear from other tables.
Setting up the cameras is pretty straight forward. Once it’s connected to Wi-Fi, you plug up to your computer over USB. In Zoom, the Meeting Owl then becomes your camera, speakers, and microphone. We quickly ran into issues where it wouldn’t connect to the Mac. It wasn’t just one of them, but all of them. After researching the problem online, I found that Meeting Owl doesn’t work well with most USB C adaptors. The Owl comes with a Micro USB to USB A cable, and we were using an adaptor to connect them to our Macs. Meeting Owl works best when using Apple’s adaptor or a direct cable. I opted for the direct cables because it would be one less adaptor to have to keep up with for teachers. Since we swapped those cables, it’s been flawless.Wrap up on hybrid learning solutions
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Smartphones are more or less an essential part of our daily lives and living without one, if even for a couple of hours, could prove to be very difficult. At a time like this, keeping your smartphone’s battery charged is of utmost importance and running out of battery before you can reach a power outlet could make anyone panic. This is exactly why portable power banks are so popular nowadays. You can charge them up and carry them around with you without worrying about your smartphone running out of battery. In order to help you select a power bank that suits your needs we’ve compiled a list of the best fast charging power banks available in the market today that not only offer a large battery capacity, but also support Qualcomm’s Quick Charge 3.0 fast charging technology which can charge up your device four times faster than conventional power banks. Without much further ado, here’s a list of the 10 best fast charging power banks you can buy:Best Fast Charging Power Banks (December 2023) Best Fast Charging Power Banks Under 2000 INR 1. Xiaomi Mi Power Bank 2i
The Xiaomi Mi Power Bank 2i is arguably the best budget power bank in the market today which comes with Qualcomm’s Quick Charge 3.0 (QC 3.0) support. Priced at just Rs. 1,599, the Xiaomi Mi Power Bank 2i packs in a 20,000mAh battery, along with two full-sized USB ports and a micro-USB port for charging the power bank itself. The power bank utilizes QC 3.0 when one device is plugged in to either of the USB ports and if you plug in two devices at the same time it supports a maximum output of 5.1V/3.6A.
The power bank includes nine layers of circuit protection to ensure efficient charging and prevent any short circuits. The Mi Power Bank 2i features a row of four LEDs on the top face to indicate the current charge capacity, along with a power button off to the side to turn the device on/off. Xiaomi backs the Mi Power Bank 2i with a 6 month warranty, allowing you to get your faulty charger replaced at any Xiaomi authorized service center across the country.2. Pebble PICO 1000 mAh Fast Charging Power Bank
Pebble PICO is one of my favorite affordable fast-charging power banks available to buy. Firstly, the Pebble PICO looks quite unique and in a good way. The power bank is pretty small and can easily fit in the palm of your hands. It has a capacity of about 10000 mAh and can charge two smartphones simultaneously. That said, only one of these ports support fast charging at 5V and 2.1A while the other one delivers normal charging speed with 5V and 1A output.
By far my favorite feature of the Pebble PICO is the smart digital LED display at the top which shows the remaining charge. The LED panel makes it very easy to see the charge status at a glance so that you are never caught off-guard while traveling with this little dude.
Buy From Amazon (Rs. 999)3. LCARE QC 3.0 Power Bank
There’s a nifty LED indicator up front, which displays the current charge capacity when the power bank is turned on. In order to prevent any malfunctioning, the power bank comes with two way protection which intelligently detects the connected device and supplies power depending on its specific requirement. On top of that, the LCARE QC 3.0 is backed by a 2 year warranty, which makes it a rather compelling buy.
Buy from Amazon (Rs. 1,395)4. Portronics POR-695 Power Wallet 20
You can also opt for the Portronics POR-695 Power Wallet 2 power bank which packs in a 20,000mAh lithium-polymer battery in a rather slim and light weight body. The power bank houses two full-sized USB ports, both of which support Qualcomm’s QC 3.0 standard and can deliver a max output of 5V/3.4A. The power bank features Smart IC Control to protect it from short circuits, over-voltage, and over charge/discharge.
The LED power indicator along with the power on/off button are locator on the front face of the power bank, while the full-sized USB ports and the micro-USB port for charging are located on the top. The micro-USB port supports a max input of 5V/2.1A, which means that you’ll be able to charge up the power bank itself rather quickly.
Buy from Amazon (Rs. 1,799)Best Fast Charging Power Banks Under 5000 INR 1. QuantumZERO Standby Power Bank
If you’re looking for something a bit more compact, but still powerful enough to keep your smartphone charged, then you can opt for the QuantumZERO Standby power bank which packs in a 10,050mAh battery in a rather compact case. Much like all other power banks on this list, the QuantumZERO Standby supports Quick Charge 3.0, along with the company’s own SmartQ technology which detects the connected devices and supplies suitable current to charge them at the fastest speed possible.
Buy from Amazon (Rs. 2,199)2. Anker PowerCore+ Power Bank
The Anker PowerCore+ is a compact power bank with a premium metal chassis that packs in a 13,400mAh battery and Qualcomm’s QC 3.0 support. The device has two full-sized USB ports and it makes use of Anker’s exclusive VoltageBoost and PowerIQ technologies to ensure that your devices charge as fast as possible. The power bank features a micro-USB port for charging and can be charged from 0-100% in just 5 hours.
The Anker PowerCore+ features a stylish power button with an LED power wheel built in to indicate the remaining battery when it is turned on. The power bank is backed by Anker’s 18 month warranty so you can rest assured that you’ll get your money’s worth even if the device malfunctions.Best Fast Charging Power Banks Under 10000 INR 1. Anker PowerCore+ 26800Power Bank
In case you’ve got an even larger budget and are looking for an very high capacity power bank which you can take with you on long excursions where you won’t have access to a power outlet for two to three days then you can go for the Anker PowerCore+ 26800 which, as the name suggests, packs in a massive 26,800mAh battery and houses three full-sized USB ports which support Qualcomm’s QC 3.0 fast charging technology.
Much like its smaller variant, the Anker PowerCore+ 26800 makes use of Anker’s exclusive VoltageBoost and PowerIQ technology to deliver the optimum amount of current to your connected devices to charge them as fast as possible. The device has the same trendy looking power button with an LED power wheel built in which indicates the remaining battery. The power bank is backed by a 2 year warranty as well, so you can rest assured that your investment won’t go to waste in case it malfunctions.
Buy from Amazon (Rs. 5,799)2. OUTXE Outdoor Power Bank Solar
Buy from Amazon (Rs. 10,494)
SEE ALSO: 10 Best Power Banks Priced Under 2000 INRBest Fast Charging Power Banks You Can Buy
When teachers feel free to be themselves at school, it has a lot of benefits for them and their students.
Popular movies with teacher characters cover the spectrum from dryly professional (Ferris Bueller’s economics teacher) to inappropriately candid (Miss Halsey in Bad Teacher). The media is constantly sending us the message to be ourselves with maxims such as “You do you” and “Keep it real,” but should we bring our authenticity to a room full of young people? In an article on authenticity at work, McGill University professor Patricia Faison Hewlin writes, “When we experience authenticity—when we feel that we’re living out our personal values and perspectives—we feel a greater sense of well-being.”
When we bring our true selves to our classrooms, we enhance the learning environment and improve our overall job satisfaction.
4 Ways to Be Yourself at School
1. Share your home life… with boundaries. My middle school students have seen photos of my family and pets. They know that I’m obsessed with peanut M&Ms and that I earned two Ds my first semester of college (this is part of a purposeful lesson I give on productive failure). What they don’t know is how I vote, my favorite wine, and a myriad of other personal details that are off-limits. I tell family stories occasionally, but I’m careful to not share information about someone that the person wouldn’t want me to share.
As an example, I used to tell funny toddler stories about my daughter, but as she grew older and eventually attended the same middle school where I taught, these personal stories came to an end. And I might casually bring up the fact that my feet are sore from a long hike but not mention that I have a strange rash that I need to have checked out.
2. Confront challenges to being authentic. In an episode of Adam Grant’s WorkLife called “Authenticity Is a Double-Edged Sword,” journalist Alicia Menendez says that employees who identify with a nondominant group at work, which could mean being a person of color on a predominantly White faculty or a member of the LGBTQ community, can find authenticity in the workplace to be especially challenging. In her book The Likability Trap, Menendez suggests that those who are not of the dominant culture seek out a sponsor to help push through. Does your school offer affinity groups for faculty and staff? Is there someone in leadership who can help promote a culture of authenticity for everyone?
Cornelius Minor, author of the book We Got This: Equity, Access, and the Quest to Be Who Our Students Need Us to Be, writes about being our authentic selves in the classroom to promote student learning. In an interview with education podcaster Angela Watson, Minor challenges the hero narrative that teachers are often held to. Those held to the hero label can’t have imperfections, fears, or struggles. “I think the term ‘being there for the kids’ in many ways is divisive. It is my work as a teacher to walk right into that division and stand for children. I always say that it is my role as a teacher to initially create opportunities for children and to eventually teach them how to create opportunities for themselves.”
3. Be inspired but not a carbon copy. When I first started teaching a new course, I literally copied every lesson from the veteran teacher next door. I mistakenly believed that if I did everything he did, I would be a successful teacher like he was. Wrong! Every day, I felt defeated and lost because I wasn’t bringing my personal touches to the class.
After some reflection and coaching from my department head, I rebalanced by committing to stay in step with the timing of the units and closely aligned assessments. Everything in between was open space for my personal teaching style.
It’s tempting to emulate a master teacher, but Lisa Dabbs reminds us in an Edutopia article to “be that unique teacher you were born to be, and share your experience and passion with your students. Try out those great ideas that are percolating, and watch the magic happen in your classroom.”
4. Smile (and frown) well before Christmas. If you’ve been teaching for quite a while, you might have heard, “Don’t smile till Christmas.” In fact, you should smile, laugh, frown, and maybe even cry well before December. We are humans. We have emotions, and our expression of emotions serves as a model for our kids. It’s OK for kids to see you cry in response to a tragedy, frown when you’re frustrated, and light up when they walk in the room. I still vividly remember my teacher crying when we learned of the Challenger tragedy in 1986.
Try verbally labeling your feelings for your kids. “I’m frustrated that the classroom was left messy yesterday” or “I’m really sad today because my uncle isn’t well.” Heather Wolpert-Gawron encourages teachers to think aloud: “Let the kids into your thinking process, and you will have shared both your personality and your expertise.” When you make a mistake, laugh about it, demonstrate how you’re correcting it, and if needed, apologize.
Another option for bringing realness to the classroom is through humor. What if you’re not the slapstick or stand-up routine type? Explore ways that resonate with you personally that may bring some levity to the classroom. There are many brands of humor: Some teachers use cringey puns, some wear quirky ties or socks, some use dry irony (especially with older students), and some welcome the lighthearted self-deprecating variety.
If you find yourself distinctly switching from your teacher self to your real self, take some time to reflect on how these suggestions might help you bring your true self to school. Small shifts in how you show up, how you speak, and how willing you are to open up will help the kids get to know you as a real person.
Immigration remains one of the most contentious issues facing America. Social studies teachers, therefore, need to bring the conversation about immigration to our students. One way we can do this is to bring immigrants and new Americans into our classrooms, be it as guest speakers or through the use of testimonials, books, or videos.
Incorporating immigrant voices in the classroom offers two important benefits. First, students consider the American experience from new perspectives. Why is our Constitution different? Why do people risk their lives to come here? Second, it provides a compelling springboard for conversations on difficult questions about who our nation should accept into its ranks as citizens.
A Personal Story
Last year, my friend Ferki, who immigrated to the United States from Kosovo as a 16-year-old refugee, spoke to my class about his experiences.
Ferki, an Albanian Kosovar, watched as the government of Slobodan Milosevic sought to destroy Kosovo’s independence movement in the 1990s. As the repression intensified, the country descended into bloodshed. Ferki and his family made the journey to Macedonia, where they settled in a refugee camp before entering the U.S. in 1999 and moving to Erie, Pennsylvania.
Despite initial obstacles, Ferki grew to love the U.S. He and the other refugees from the Balkans began to shed old identities and become Americans.
Ferki emphasized to my students that liberty and pluralism are not natural elements of a society. They must be cultivated and protected. Creating a society in which people and opinions are universally respected, Ferki explained, demands that we talk to one another, meet our neighbors, get involved in our communities, and take an interest in the well-being of our institutions and ideals. Because he had personally witnessed what happens when the rule of law and civil society erode, his words carried extraordinary weight.
Ferki recalled one story my students found particularly chilling. Before the outbreak of the war, administrators at Ferki’s school enacted a new policy: students were to make regular visits to a “counselor” who would quiz them on their beliefs, their home life, and their family’s politics. Ferki described how his parents meticulously prepared him for these meetings. One slip-up could mean arrest or worse for him and his loved ones. My students expressed astonishment at such a policy, the horrific consequence of a government criminalizing thought and expression.
Personal stories humanize the topic of immigration and open up discourse concerning immigration history, law, and concepts such as economic migration, legal and illegal immigration, and refugee rights. My class talked mainly about the refugee experience.
Though Ferki came to America under the specter of war, he managed to infuse his story with humor. Asked by an American aid worker in the refugee camp where they wanted be relocated, Ferki’s family said they would like to live near New York, a city they had seen in the movies. Several months later, Ferki found himself in Erie, only minutes from the border of New York state. “I didn’t know there was a New York state!” he explained. Such intimate moments—funny or poignant—drew the kids into the discussion in an engaging way. In the future, I plan to use other personal stories for other types of immigrant experiences.
Personal Narrative As a Springboard for Conversation
Depending on the testimonial or speaker, teachers may focus the classroom conversation on any number of difficult topics. If educators couple firsthand accounts of migration with concerns about border security and undocumented immigration, for instance, students may begin to recognize the challenges lawmakers face in trying to address people’s desire for a better life with the mission to uphold existing law.
How should lawmakers balance the safety and well-being of American citizens with our country’s ideals and historic role as a place of sanctuary and opportunity for newcomers? How do we decide who gets to come here and how? How should our nation humanely enforce the law on its southern border, while not incentivizing a journey in which many are killed or exploited? What, ultimately, is America’s responsibility to its own people, and to the people of the world?
These are tough questions that draw as much upon ethics as political theory.
Though our classes likely will not arrive at answers, hearing from people whose lives have been affected by immigration policy may illustrate how seemingly intractable and morally fraught these questions remain. It helps our students to empathize with the immigrant, as well as the politician who must think with both the head and heart.
Ferki eventually earned his EdD and now serves as president of a community think tank in Erie. His observations about the meaning of citizenship in a democracy resonated with my class, motivating us to discuss many important issues: What makes America different from many other places in the world, and why do millions of people want to live here? What issues in our local community demand attention? And, lastly, how can we get involved, even in small ways, with safeguarding what we most love in our neighborhoods and cities?
While Ferki is only one individual and his experience does not represent the entire complexity of the immigration system, he offered a concrete example of an immigrant who achieved the American dream. His talk made the promise of America come alive for my students.
Anyone who’s been following all the drama and intrigue of office suite software development news for the past several years will know that LibreOffice has basically risen from the ashes of OpenOffice, as developers from the latter decided to go off to start their own project (while using the open-source code from the work they’d done on OpenOffice up to that point).
For a while it looked like OpenOffice was doomed, with Apache announcing that their development team was dwindling and unable to keep up with updates addressing everything from UI improvements to security vulnerabilities.
But after record-low download numbers in 2023, OpenOffice seems to have bounced back a bit, with a big update triggering people to take an interest again. In this article we compare the two Office suites to figure out which one wins.Community/Support
Open-source software like LibreOffice is defined by its community. LibreOffice has an active subreddit page, as well as a constantly monitored Ask page. There’s a whole Wiki site dedicated to the latest updates and changes to the software, and comprehensive guides for every single major update released for LibreOffice.
Despite being largely discontinued, you can still find support for OpenOffice if you look in the right places. The OpenOffice subreddit is pretty barren, but you’re likely to find answers to your questions on the official OpenOffice forum, which remains active. Beyond that, many of the other support sources – like 8daysaweek and the unofficial OpenOffice forum have closed down due to inactivity.
So perhaps there’s no surprises here, but with LibreOffice you’re much more likely to find the help you need.Compatibility
One of the first things you probably want to know about LibreOffice and OpenOffice is which one will most readily handly your existing files, which may be in all kinds of formats ranging from Microsoft’s proprietary formats to more obscure ones like WordPerfect’s “.wp” extensions.
Both OpenOffice and LibreOffice are capable of opening a huge range of file formats, though OpenOffice is in fact capable of opening documents in a wider range of formats than LibreOffice (103 to LibreOffice’s 73).
But there is a catch. Just because these suites can open a certain file format doesn’t mean they can save in that file format. When it comes to what file formats you can save in, LibreOffice is decidedly more modern, most notably being capable saving files in Microsoft’s latest range of proprietary formats (.docx, .xlsx and so on).
So OpenOffice may win in pure quantity of compatible formats, but LibreOffice arguably outdoes it by letting you save in the biggest formats out there.Features
OpenOffice launches with a sidebar for various font and paragraph options, which is theoretically useful, except that many of the options are just repeats of what’s already in the toolbar across the top of the window. You can enable this sidebar in LibreOffice as well, but I think it’s a little superfluous.
Font embedding is a nice addition in LibreOffice, too, which ensures that whatever fonts you use in your document get displayed correctly in other word processing software that opens the document. On a related note, LibreOffice allows you to save in the .docx format, while OpenOffice doesn’t. (Both let you save in the OpenDocument format and most of Microsoft’s proprietary formats.)
Both LibreOffice and OpenOffice use open-source document formats and have exactly the same programs with exactly the same names contained therein. Namely:
Writer – word processing software
Impress – Presentation software (Microsoft Powerpoint)
Draw – A vector program (decent alternative to Microsoft Visio)
Math – Mathematical formula software
Base – Database management software (Microsoft Access equivalent)
In short, they look very similar, but LibreOffice has more quality-of-life features resulting from more consistent development of the software.
Tip: Use these OpenOffice tips and tricks to improve your productivity.Security and Stability
LibreOffice gets updated much more than OpenOffice, thanks to a bigger team and more resources. A factor in this could also be that there’s a license in place, and that means the LibreOffice lot can help themselves to the code from OpenOffice but not the other way round.
The rarity of updates with OpenOffice also means they’re not quite as on the ball in terms of security, and the team often take a long time to address the latest security vulnerabilities and bugs. A major bug in the macOS version that causes crashes when making diagrams in Calc is yet to be fixed, while Apache seems to be constantly scrambling to iron out security issues.
OpenOffice is hanging in there, but you get the sense that it’s struggling to keep its head above the water.Conclusion
This post was first published in Feb 2023 and was updated in September 2023.
Content Manager at Make Tech Easier. Enjoys Android, Windows, and tinkering with retro console emulation to breaking point.
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