July 28, 2016

Get ready, higher education! Here we come!

Squirrels Campus Tech 2016

Next week, two members of the Squirrels team will travel to Boston, Mass., to attend the 23rd Annual Educational Technology Conference (Campus Technology 2016). Thought leaders and industry experts will explore innovative EdTech solutions and develop strategies fit for a campus setting.

Our Reflector, AirParrot and Ditto screen-sharing solutions are a hit in K-12 schools all across the world. It’s time to bring those collaboration tools to colleges and universities.

Exhibiting at this higher education conference will allow Squirrels to explore a side of the education industry that we have not had much exposure to. Connecting with 300+ colleges and universities represented at this must-attend event will show us how the needs of educators change from K-12 to higher education. Plus, we will be demoing our most recent screen-sharing solution, Ditto!

Ditto is a smart screen-sharing service that allows anyone in a room to immediately share their computer screen to an Apple TV, Chromecast or Reflector-enabled display by visiting connect.goditto.com and entering the room’s unique code.

If you made plans to attend Campus Technology 2016, you must stop by the Squirrels booth (booth #400) to see how we make sharing content in the classroom easy.

Here is a peek at the Campus Technology 2016 speakers and exhibitors:

Speakers

  • Sadik Al-Abdulla – Director of Security Solutions, CDW
  • Sarah Horn – Vice President of Retention Services, Helix Education
  • Jill Albin-Hill – Vice President for Information Technology and CIO, Dominican University
  • Matthew Karlyn – Partner and Co-Chair of Technology Industry Team, Foley & Lardner LLP

Exhibitors

  • Schoology
  • Freshdesk, Inc.
  • HoverCam
  • Panasonic
  • Sony Electronics

So, stop by booth 400, say “hi” and let us open you up to the world of possibilities that our screen-mirroring solutions create!

July 27, 2016

Ditto Screen-Sharing Service Receives Update

A new Ditto update is now live. The update includes:

Simple Room Codes – Ditto now includes the ability to use Simple Room Codes. When enabled, this will allow users to assign alphanumeric codes to new rooms instead of using groupings of common words.

Once enabled in the “Organization” section of the Ditto portal, all new rooms will be generated with the Simple Room Codes. If a user has an existing Ditto room they’d like to convert to a Simple Room Code, they just need to refresh the room code in “Rooms” with the refresh button after enabling it in “Organization.”

Monthly Upgrade – Users can now upgrade from a monthly Ditto subscription plan to a yearly Ditto subscription plan.

Screen Sharing For Every Huddle Space

Huddle Space Screen Sharing
The Ditto screen-sharing service promotes easy collaboration and connectivity among peers in company huddle spaces.

Huddle room meetings are meant to be personal, quick and effective. The technology in a huddle room must match those attributes. As companies continue to replace traditional conference rooms with a larger number of smaller, more intimate huddle rooms, they must manage the costs of outfitting these rooms with the needed resources.

Ditto adds a required feature of any modern-day meeting space at an unbeatable price.

For $149.99/year, Ditto brings easy-to-use and completely unlimited screen sharing to any huddle space. No wires. No additional hardware. No connection confusion for employees.

What is Ditto?
Ditto is a cloud-based screen-sharing service. It allows any employee, guest or presenter with a Mac or PC to immediately (and wirelessly) share their screen to a huddle room display.

Ditto can be used in any huddle room that has an Apple TV, Chromecast or Reflector-connected display.

How does Ditto work?

When your company signs up for Ditto, each registered huddle space receives a unique Ditto code that is linked to the Apple TV, Chromecast or Reflector-connected device.

During a meeting, any attendee can instantly share their computer screen to the huddle room TV or display simply by visiting connect.goditto.com and entering the room’s Ditto code. Ditto immediately knows which receiver to connect a user’s screen to based on the code that is entered.

Cross-platform connections

Mac users can wirelessly connect to Chromecasts, and PC users can wirelessly connect to Apple TVs. And vice versa.

Full screen or app-specific screen-sharing

Ditto gives you the option to share your entire computer display or a single window or application. This helps remove distractions and ensures that peers in the huddle room are focused only on the most important content.

Why Ditto?

Ditto saves…big time
An annual Ditto subscription saves hundreds to thousands of dollars compared to alternative hardware- and software-based screen-sharing solutions.

Ditto is unlimited

Anyone who walks through the door of your business can join a meeting and share their computer screen to the correct display instantly without worrying about hardware incompatibilities or required software.

Ditto is ideal for huddle spaces

Huddle room meetings are meant to be streamlined and effective. Shouldn’t your company’s screen-sharing technology be the same?

To bring the Ditto screen-sharing service to your common room or shared meeting space, visit www.goditto.com. Feel free to leave any feedback or questions in the comment section below!

July 25, 2016

How To Use Ditto Screen-Sharing Technology in 1:1 Surface Pro Classrooms

We recently asked our Reflector Twitter followers which mobile device is most often used in their classrooms. The choices included iPads, Chromebooks and Surface Pros.

Not surprisingly, iPads and Chromebooks outpaced Surface Pros. Here’s how the results broke down:

ReflectorPoll

Microsoft Surface Pros might not dominate classrooms like iPads and Chromebooks, but they are an incredibly valuable tool for students and teachers who use them daily. That’s why we made sure our latest screen-sharing service, Ditto, is compatible with Surface Pros.

How can a student or teacher present what’s happening on their Surface Pro screen to the entire class? Traditionally, the class would have to huddle around a desk to get a glimpse of the screen. If you wanted to wirelessly share that Surface Pro screen to a TV or external display, you were out of luck.

Introducing the Ditto screen-sharing service for 1:1 Surface Pro classrooms
Ditto brings wireless screen-sharing capabilities to each and every Surface Pro in classrooms that contain one of the following three AirPlay or Cast receivers:

How does Ditto work?

It’s simple. In order to wirelessly share a Surface Pro screen to one of the three receivers listed above, a user must simply go to connect.goditto.com and enter the classroom’s unique Ditto code.

How does my classroom get a Ditto code?

To get a Ditto code for your classroom, you must first sign up for Ditto and register the Apple TV, Chromecast or Reflector-enabled device in your classroom! Registering a classroom is simple with our Ditto Configuration Tool. You (or your school’s tech integrationist) can do that at www.goditto.com. The entire sign up and configuration process takes about 15 minutes.

After registering the AirPlay/Cast receiver (Apple TV, Chromecast or Reflector 2), your classroom will be assigned a unique code.

Once a room has a Ditto subscription, an unlimited number of teachers, students and faculty can use that subscription because Ditto is priced per room rather than per individual. So you don’t have to worry about managing, updating and, most importantly, paying for individual student licenses for every Surface Pro.

How does Ditto know which receiver to send to?

Does your school have multiple Apple TVs, Chromecasts or Reflector-enabled devices? We’re assuming it does, and that’s not a problem. Ditto knows which Apple TV or Chromecast to connect the Surface Pro to the moment a teacher or student enters the room’s Ditto code at connect.goditto.com. So you don’t have to scroll through an endless list of AirPlay/Cast receivers and determine which one to select. Ditto does it for you.

Do I have to share my entire Surface Pro screen?

Upon connection, Ditto asks whether you want to share your entire Surface Pro display or a single window/app. This helps remove distractions and ensures that others in the class don’t see anything they shouldn’t.

Child School

Go Ditto

Ditto is the newest, most practical way to bring collaboration and sharing to Surface Pro classrooms. Visit www.goditto.com to register today! As always, feel free to leave us a comment below.

July 21, 2016

How the Squirrels Team Built a Giant Tree in the Middle of ISTE 2016

If you were at ISTE 2013 in San Antonio, you may have noticed the Squirrels team tucked away in a corner at a small 10’ by 10’ booth. That was our first year at ISTE, and we quickly realized it was THE place to be. ISTE is a mix of educators from around the world learning about new technology and sharing their experiences with others in the field. The people at ISTE are passionate about what they do, and they’re excited and eager to learn more. That passion drives us back to ISTE every year.

Fast forward three years… past Atlanta in 2014 and Philadelphia in 2015. Our trip to Denver this year was our fourth and largest, most ambitious ISTE yet. After attending ISTE 2015, we committed to making our ISTE 2016 presence bigger and bolder, and we did just that:

Squirrels Booth Iste 2016 Tree

Yes, you’re seeing that right. We built a giant tree in the middle of a conference hall.

HOW?!

Planning for ISTE starts months ahead of the actual show, and a lot of people don’t realize the show isn’t the deadline. Weeks before the show, everything needs to ship across the country.

Shipping steel, wood and a plastic tree is a challenge we’ll leave out of this post, but feel free to ponder…

Squirrels ISTE 2016 Shipping

In January (yes, that’s six months before the show), the creative team along with minds on the marketing and administrative teams sat down for a brainstorm. A few hours later, the walls were plastered with tradeshow booth best practices and examples from around the world. The white boards were full, and there was scratch paper everywhere. Everyone was tired, but what came out of that meeting was the start of what would become ISTE 2016 booth number 2945.

We tasked the creative team with designing five concepts that we could build on. One of those concepts was a giant tree, and obviously that’s the concept that made it through to the end.

ISTE Tree Booth Concept

In its original form, it was an actual tree. We priced out stage props, building our own and, among other ideas, bringing a real live tree. When we originally began talking about the tree idea, some of the team had the idea to create an abstract tree. After realizing a “real” tree wasn’t nearly as creative as we thought, we ran with the abstract idea.

Squirrels Booth ISTE 2016

Squirrels ISTE 2016 Tree Concept

After the initial concept was accepted by the group, we needed to figure out how to actually build an abstract tree. Eventually, we realized we had the skills, tools and materials to do the job ourselves.

By this time, it was nearly May. The shipping deadline was mid June. We had roughly six weeks to fabricate and assemble a tree from scratch. Once we made the decision to build and assemble everything in-house, we had one more obstacle: Space.

We’ve got a roomy office, but it’s not roomy enough to build an 18-foot tree, walls and a presentation area. A local commercial real estate company graciously leased us a short-term building space. Whew, crisis averted.

We started with the tree. We knew what it should look like, but we didn’t know exactly how to build it. The initial concept was far from perfect, but it helped us morph to the final stages rather quickly.

Squirrels ISTE 2016 Prototype

After realizing fiberglass poles were indeed the best way to create the outline of the tree canopy, we needed to figure out how to easily connect them while keeping everything structurally sound.

The initial connection pieces were printed with one of our office 3D printers. After some analysis and realization that the pieces may not be strong enough, we progressed to injection-molded plastic connectors.

ISTE 2016 Connectors

We didn’t have a plan for the canopy covering when we started. We progressed through multiple ideas including stretched fabric and polystyrene. We landed on green, semi-transparent acrylic sheets. Aka: PlexiGlass.

We purchased the acrylic material in 8 foot by 4 foot sheets. We have a lot of devices and machines that we like to experiment with here at Squirrels. It just so happens we have a laser cutter that’s perfect for cutting the acrylic material. So the triangle panels were laser cut to size in our office basement.

Squirrels ISTE 2016 Laser Cut Panels

 

Squirrels ISTE 2016 Cut Panels Numbered

To attach those panels to the fiberglass frame, we 3D printed small connecting rods that held tight to the pole-based frame and then screwed into the acrylic with tiny thumb screws.

Squirrels ISTE 2016 Panels on Frame

A real tree trunk needs to be structurally sound and able to hold the weight of everything above it. This is also true for our fake tree.

On the inside, a steel truss with custom-welded connection points holds the tree canopy in place safely.

Squirrels ISTE 2016 Welded Frame

The “bark” of our tree was attached to a custom-welded steel frame as well. This frame, however, didn’t need to hold as much weight, as it was only covering the internal trussing system.

Squirrels ISTE 2016 Tree Frame

Tree roots are arguably the most important part of any tree. Without roots, trees can’t withstand wind, gravity and other forces.

We couldn’t just bolt the truss system to the floor. The Colorado Convention Center would probably look down on that type of action. So, our root system is built into the booth around the tree. The base of the trunk is bolted into the stage and held in place by the booth walls.

Squirrels ISTE 2016 Tree Roots

The walls we’re talking about look like one solid piece. However, four separate pieces comprise the middle dividing wall. Trust us, one piece is heavy enough. We didn’t want to move anything heavier.

Squirrels ISTE 2016 Unfinished Walls

Now is a good time to mention how talented and creative our employees are. A few of them run a custom wood-working business in their free time. They made a little extra time to custom build our ISTE booth walls! The walls are built from cedar we removed during a renovation of our current offices.

The grass we used for the presentation side is actual outdoor grass carpeting used by professionals in backyards around the United States. It was nifty, easy-to-use and perfect for our tree-themed Squirrels booth.

Squirrels ISTE 2016 Grass

 

Once everything was built at our warehouse, we shipped it across the United States. Reassembly in Colorado took about 8 hours, but the result was exactly what we wanted!

That’s how we built the “tree booth!” If you want to know more, feel free to ask us any questions in the comments below. We’re happy to explain everything!