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Top Holiday Tech Gifts for 2018

Do you struggle for gifts for that tech-savvy friend or family member every year?  Even millennials enjoy a lot of the newer tech gadgets on the market today. Here are a few of our picks from the Ease Tech Team this season.

The Apple Watch Series 4

The Apple Watch Series 2 brings advanced fitness-tracking capabilities as one of its more attractive features. The GPS, bright screen and waterproof features make it extremely compelling for anyone that has considered a smartwatch. This latest hardware and software is designed to work with the iPhone, offering the convenience of using a variety of apps like calendar, texts, weather, notes and reminders without needing to pull out a phone. Ideal for the health-conscious geek in the family. Cellular options available but the base price starts at $399 at the Apple Store.

NytStand

First came the iPhone, then the iPad and Apple Watch ─ and now Apple TV with a remote that charges just like an iPhone.  At the end of the day, your devices become a cluttered mess next to your bed. NytStnd is a charging station for all of your devices and organizes them in a presentable fashion for ease of use and decoration. NytStnd takes the clutter and frustration of nightly charging and cleans it up with an attractive all-in-one charging station. 

Google Home Hub

The Home Hub is Google’s first own-brand smart display, combing Google Assistant, advanced smart-home control and a digital photo frame into a neat and tidy package. You access your home assistant through your voice commands and are able to hear responses back or see them on the display.  Going for about $150 from Google during the holidays.

Audible

Do you have someone that is always in the car and never has time to read? Audible is a provider and producer of spoken audio entertainment, information, and educational programming on the Internet. Audible sells digital audiobooks, radio and TV programs, and audio versions of magazines and newspapers.  

Tile Pro

Do you know someone who’s always losing their keys, wallet or purse at home? Tile is a simple way of keeping track of your things while at home or traveling. It’s a little device that is attached to the thing you want to manage and then paired with your iPhone. Tiles work with keys, wallets, bags or bikes. They’re best when monitoring things in close range and urban areas. Tiles are relatively inexpensive, very easy to set up and even have replaceable battery options. There are several versions for bags and keys and one that has a flattering style for a wallet.

Zero Grid Electronics Travel Organizer – Cord, Cable, and Accessories Case

No more messy wires and fumbling for cords. Fully customizable for electronics and accessory organization. Neatly manage tech, cords, and gadgets in one secure place with this travel cable organizer.  Carry your total tech arsenal ─ perfect for chargers, converters, camera and iPhone accessories. Zippered pouch holds smaller memory cards, USB flash drives and more. Of course, Amazon for $15.

Battery recharging pack

All this mobile tech gear requires additional power while on the road. There are a wide variety of small powerful recharging battery packs that can keep those smartphones, iPads and digital cameras functioning and extend their battery life by many hours. Great for road warriors and families that are always taking trips. The RAVPower 16750mAh Portable Charger found Amazon is one of the best for about $35.

Portable speaker

The iPhone is one of the most advanced pieces of portable computing devices ever created. One way to turn that smartphone into a quality music player is by pairing it with a mobile Bluetooth speaker. The best speakers are portable, rechargeable, small and waterproof, but with good-quality sound. These can be taken on vacations, to the beach and to parties. The UE Roll Wireless Mobile Bluetooth Speaker meets all of these needs for about $90, and there are plenty of choices if you want to spend less too.

Stocking Stuffer Ideas

You can never have enough power adapters and charging cables. I always purchase extra USB car chargers, iPhone USB cables, and wall outlet adapters, as they are pretty inexpensive and always needed. A plentiful supply is great for travel, keeping in the car or office, or for use when a guest shows up. Again, found at Amazon for $5-$20.

Holiday Beer

A favorite amongst the Ease Tech Support Team is Mad Elf. Tröeg’s kicks off our inner Mad Elf momentarily taking over the support team. So blame “him” for this cheerful ruby red creation reminiscent of ripened cherries, raw honey and cocoa with notes of cinnamon, clove and allspice.

We taste: chocolate malt, cherries, honey, peppercorn

 

The Facts About Web Filtering at Schools

Technology has transformed education. Students have access to an endless supply of information, and teachers can leverage online tools to enhance lessons in every subject. However, there are drawbacks to allowing students unlimited use of the web through school-supplied desktops, laptops, and mobile devices.

Here are some facts that you need to keep in mind in order to make smart decisions about web filtering at school.

Web filtering at schools… and the law

When internet access started to become mainstream, schools were excited to have new research options to offer their students. Unfortunately, parents and teachers soon noticed a significant problem:

Unrestricted web-based technology made it possible for children to be exposed to obscene and dangerous content. Many cybercriminals took to opportunity to start collecting confidential data on school-based internet users. In addition, some of the more technologically-savvy students leveraged their school-based web access to partake in illegal hacking.

Congress developed a comprehensive response to these concerns by passing the Children’s Internet Protection Act (CIPA) in 2000. This law created requirements for web filtering at schools in exchange for participation in the E-rate program. The E-rate program gives educational institutions discounts on web-based technology.

CIPA requirements

If you choose to move forward with web filtering at schools, there are minimum standards you must meet to comply with CIPA. The most critical are as follows:

  • You must provide notice and hold at least one public hearing to discuss implementation of web filtering at schools.
  • You must also create an internet safety policy that covers monitoring the online activity of minors, access to inappropriate websites, safe use of email and other forms of electronic communication, illegal activity, and unauthorized collection and use of students’ personal information.
  • Additionally, you must offer education for students regarding appropriate online behavior and online safety.
  • You must choose software that can block access to obscene images, child pornography, and anything else considered harmful to minors.

It’s important to note that adult staff members are permitted to override web filtering at schools. Sometimes, they’ll need to so that they can conduct legitimate research or complete other appropriate activities.

Choosing software for web filtering at schools

A variety of technology vendors design and implement software for web filtering at schools. As a result, the specific results of a filter can vary. The biggest drawback? Web filters can sometimes block legitimate sources of information, causing problems down the line. For example, students may wish to research breast cancer, but they are unable to access the resources they need because the filter blocks all mentions of the word “breast”.

When choosing a provider and specific software for web filtering at schools, convenience and reliability are paramount. Administrators must install, configure, and maintain the software with ease. Additionally, they should have the ability to easily adjust the configurations as needed.

Most web filtering at schools functions through a combination of category and keyword filters. Ideally, you will be able to fine-tune these as necessary. Naturally, you’ll base this on your audience and the needs of your student population. Consider software that offers multiple access levels, so that teachers can conduct appropriate research without going through a lot of digital red tape.

Finding a school security partner

We’re experienced in scholastic IT solutions that take the burden of selecting, installing, and maintaining web filters out of your hands. Our experts specialize in full-service IT support, so that you can focus on your primary role as an educator.

Want to learn more? Reach out to us – we’re happy to answer your questions.

4 Must-Have Modern Technologies for Schools

Advances in digital technology aren’t just affecting the way that we work and live—they’re also improving how students learn in the classroom. 82% of teachers agree that students who use technology for education are better prepared for their future careers.

The good news is that adoption of these new-fangled technologies seems to be on the rise. In a 2016 survey, 60% of teachers said that they planned to increase their use of technology during the upcoming school year, and three in four said that they use technology every day with their students.

This article will go over four of the most transformative digital tools that are helping students of all ages learn more and perform better in the classroom.

  1. Interactive Whiteboards

Often called SMART boards after their largest manufacturer, interactive whiteboards are large displays that imitate the function of a whiteboard — without the need for messy chalk or smelly dry erase markers.

For one, interactive whiteboards are more “fun” to use than chalkboards, boosting students’ interest and engagement. Interactive whiteboards allow teachers to easily incorporate multimedia into their presentations, from text and audio files to videos and images. Teachers can even record lessons and save them for future playback.

  1. Laptops and Tablets

Laptops and tablets are a vital part of students’ digital lives. It’s only natural that they’re taking a more prominent place in the classroom.

In 2017, sales of Apple’s iPad to schools rose by 32% when compared to the previous year. Chromebooks, which are Google-issued basic laptops that run the Chrome operating system, made up just under half of all device sales in the education sector. More than 30 million children in the U.S. use Google apps for education such as Google Docs and Gmail.

There are a variety of benefits and use cases for laptops and tablets in the classroom. These include taking notes, watching lectures, finding useful information during lessons, collaborating with other students via Internet forums, allowing students to download and submit assignments online, and more.

Related: How to Build an Efficient IT Budget

  1. Class Websites

Students need access to a class website as their one-stop shop for learning. Class portals can host everything from lecture videos and homework assignments to blogs and discussion forums. These can allow students to help each other and share their ideas about what they’ve learned.

Depending on the institution and the tech-savviness of the teacher, this website may be custom-built. It could even be hosted on a third-party content management system such as Google Sites or WordPress.

  1. Augmented and Virtual Reality

The latest release of Apple’s iOS mobile operating system, iOS 12, includes support for augmented reality for the first time. While still not widely used, augmented and virtual reality (AR/VR) offer tremendous learning opportunities for students of all ages.

Related: 7 Ways to Improve Technology at Your School

By overlaying additional information onto real-world inputs, AR devices make it easier for students to learn through experience. For example, students looking at the night sky through AR glasses could see the names of the different constellations. It would be a great way to view more information about the stars in our galaxy.

Final Thoughts on Technologies for Schools

Regardless of the specific technologies for schools, all schools should seriously consider investing more in their IT infrastructure in order to improve educational outcomes for their students. By partnering with a managed education services provider, you can improve the predictability, efficiency, and security of your school’s IT resources.

 

Outgrown Your Staff? Technology Can Help

Managing your school’s budget can be a difficult task. Every dollar helps you improve the education being offered and helps you compete in the marketplace. But when you grow as a school, sometimes you face constraints in staffing and tools that can cause bottlenecks in your processes. The key to having successful education IT that helps you reach your goals may lie in the cloud. Here are a few ways technology can help you when you’ve outgrown your staff.

Unity with Tools

One of the simplest mechanisms for handling growth is by unifying tools across the board. Whether you choose Google for Education or something similar, you can ensure a technological knowledge that is shared among your entire staff. This means that when classrooms expand, your staff has the knowhow to make adjustments quickly and easily.

Make Collaboration Easier

One of the essential steps for growth in any school (or business, for that matter) is planning for maximized collaboration. By analyzing how your staff interacts with each other, you can eliminate bottlenecks in your workflow. Among administrative positions, this becomes extremely important, as hiccups in communication can lead to unnecessary time loss and missed opportunities to serve students.

Retarget Your Budget

Growing means getting a grip on your budget. Choosing the right technology program for your school can help you save in the long run. With cloud-based technology you move from capital expenses – that can take a huge hit when trying to staff for growth – to operating expenses, giving you more predictability in your budgeting. Likewise, moving to managed education IT services can shift the burden to the provider, giving your staff the ideal situation where they can focus on what’s most important: the students.

Growth, Without the Growing Pains

The goal of any school is to achieve growth that helps enrich the student experience. But that growth must be carefully considered. Adding new students should be an exciting, affirming statement to your institution. With the right technology in place, you can do so without the need for more manual processes and the addition of supportive staff that could greatly impact your bottom line.

Let Education Drive Your Technology with Managed Education Services

The EaseTech Education IT Solution

The challenge is clear: to have technology and instruction function together in a way which positively complements the learning experience.

With managed education IT services, you get custom policies and procedures, technical planning and assessment, curriculum alignment and established education IT standards.

For two decades, we have been helping private and public education systems in the region integrate, deploy, manage and effectively incorporate technology into their curriculum goals. With a deep understanding of both technology and contemporary instructional environments,  we help bridge the divide that can result from proper management and involvement of IT into the education system.

Regardless of where you are in the process of incorporating technology into your institution, be it planning, execution or IT management, EaseTech works with you to understand your challenges and achieve your objectives. Call us today for a consultation.

7 Ways to Improve Technology at Your School

It’s a new day for educators. Never has great technology offered better educational opportunities that are affordable and accessible. However, when it comes to implementing your school’s technology agenda, it’s easy to go off the rails.

At EaseTech, we’re big proponents of the managed education service model, because it puts the technology’s burden of proof onto the professionals, leaving your staff and teachers in a position to focus on what they do best: teaching our children.

Here are 7 ways we think managed education services can help improve technology at your school.

Security

Cybersecurity breaches are an inevitable part of data collection. This isn’t just students cracking into the network to turn F’s into A’s. Major universities are targeted, not only for their wealth of private student data, including social security and credit card numbers but also for the government-funded research often found on these campuses. Recently, infamous Russian hacker Rasputin hacked into dozens of major universities around the world to sell data on the dark web.

The key is to set up your network so that your system’s defenses are strong, and then have an actionable plan for recovery when data loss occurs. Strong firewalls and antivirus software that is well thought out and implemented campus-wide can do wonders for layering your network. Likewise, frequent testing of backups can help ensure recovery from data loss.

Tablets

Tablets are a great addition to students’ education. In fact, in 2017, iPads were up 32% in the education sector. They’re convenient, fun and give easy access to some of the internet’s best educational resources.

When planning out 1:1 tablet programs for students, device management can be a daunting task. But a good managed services provider is experienced in the deployment of tablets across hundreds of students. You need to be able to scale as necessary without having a device surplus. Strategic planning on your MSP’s part can help.

The Cloud

Cloud technology is an amazing way to store and manage homework, pass out assignments, give commentary on work and more. With platforms like Google for Education, your students can learn the fundamentals of cloud technology through practice.

With apps and programs offered as a service, you not only help flatline your IT budget, but you also get enterprise-level software, no matter what size your school is.

Wi-Fi

One of the trickiest technologies to get right is Wi-Fi. Between modems, routers and wireless access points, a Wi-Fi strategy requires a deft hand at mapping. You want students to have mobility on campus without losing productivity. By offloading your Wi-Fi mapping, you can get the best results for your students to ensure there are no dead spots and there’s easy access when they need it.

ID Management

Whether you’ve got dozens of students or thousands, the security of their private data is dependent on proper ID management protocols. Setting standards for complicated passwords and even two-factor authentication can greatly improve security. Guidance from experts on best practices can help you combat rampant identity theft that’s common today.

Check out our blog: “Identity Theft in the Modern Era”

Budgets

IT budgets are always a concern. With managed education services, you flatline your budget by offloading your IT to a third party. You plan out months, even years, in advance so there are no surprises. You then start to make your IT dollars work for you. This is how you get in a position so your education starts driving your technology, not the other way around.

IT Staffing

Hiring the right IT staff is incredibly difficult. Luckily, with managed education services you never have to worry about that. Your IT provider covers all tech support, planning, cable management, cybersecurity, strategic planning and much more. You never have to rely on one or two IT people who are stretched so thin on IT support issues that planning and goals are never achieved.

Learn More: Let Education Drive Your Technology with Managed Education Services

EaseTech Managed Education

EaseTech’s managed education service gives you more than 25 years of experience in transforming how educational institutions lead with technology.

Contact us today to discuss your school’s technology needs.