July 11, 2017

That’s a Wrap! Our ISTE 2017 and EdTech Karaoke Roundup

We spend plenty of time planning and prepping for the International Society for Technology in Education (ISTE) Conference and Expo, and for good reason! ISTE is the largest education technology conference in the United States, providing 21,000 attendees with access to workshops, sessions, keynotes and nearly 500 exhibitors. It’s hard to believe this was our fifth time exhibiting.

Our fifth experience as an exhibitor was unforgettable. We wanted to thank you all for the memories and share our key takeaways. 

Here are six points to note about ISTE 2017:

  1. ISTE continues to grow every year! The number of educators from ISTE 2016 to ISTE 2017 grew from 16,000 educators to 21,000 educators – and it showed! The expo hall was packed with educators ready to learn, connect and discover everything and everyone in the EdTech world. This enthusiasm is what makes ISTE a can’t-miss event for exhibitors like Squirrels.
  2. The expo hall had a variety of products – there wasn’t just one that ruled the floor. ISTE had it all - from device-management solutions and interactive whiteboards, to cases for student devices and flexible seating.
  3. EdTech Karaoke is VERY important to us. So much so that we were one of the main sponsors this year. More on that in a minute.

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  1. Putting together and taking down our tree booth will always be taxing, but it’s a great team-building exercise….literally! How could moving 800 pounds of wooden walls for 10 hours not bring our team closer together?

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  1. Our Alpha Squirrel EdTech experts ROCK! We were lucky enough to connect and meet with more than 30 Alpha Squirrel educators who use and love our classroom products. If any of you stopped by our booth, you may have seen one or two of them presenting with our COO, Andrew Gould, or our Director of Professional Development, Becky Shiring.

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  1. The Squirrels team loves Mexican food, and Texas has some of the best. We hosted our second annual Alpha Squirrel Social at the Iron Cactus, located along the San Antonio River Walk. The margaritas were cold, the queso was hot and the company was delightful.

EdTech Karaoke 2017

Remember when we said that we were a sponsor for EdTech Karaoke? It was certainly a night to remember as our team serenaded the theater with “Sweet Caroline,” did an EdTech Karaoke Twitter takeover and threw stress-ball microphones into the crowd. Our singing may be out of tune and our aim might be off, but that didn’t stop us from having a good time!

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EdTech Karaoke Winner Interview

EdTech Karaoke isn’t just for fun. A champion is crowned. We were lucky enough to speak with the winner from the night, Susan Grigsby. Grigsby is the District Media Specialist from Forsyth County Schools in Atlanta.

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We actually knew her before she was karaoke-famous because earlier that day, she stopped by to check out an in-booth presentation on our awesome new device-management solution. Talk about a brush with greatness.

Grigsby started out the competition with her rendition of “Livin’ On A Prayer” by Bon Jovi and won with the crowd favorite, “Proud Mary,” by Creedence Clearwater Revival. Good move, Susan. Good move.

Turns out this wasn’t her first time at ISTE, and it wasn’t her first time singing at EdTech Karaoke either.

“I’ve been coming to ISTE since 2014,” Grigsby said.

When asked if she has been singing at EdTech Karaoke since 2014, Grigsby responded modestly and with a smile, “I sang in 2014, yes.”

But, she didn’t just sing in 2014, she also won that year. Clearly Susan is no rookie when it comes to EdTech Karaoke. So how does this new accomplishment make her feel?

“It feels amazing! I’m going to Disney World,” Grigsby said.

Grigsby may be going to Disney World, but her EdTech Karaoke title also won her a trip to ISTE 2018 in Chicago. All the best, Susan, and we’ll see you there!

Stay tuned for our next big conference (or EdTech Karaoke) adventure. Until then, enjoy all the songs performed at EdTech Karaoke – ISTE 2017 edition -- with this Spotify playlist.

July 10, 2017

Cord Cutter’s Guide: How to Stream and Mirror the 25th Annual ESPY Awards

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When’s the only time Kevin Durant, Tom Brady, Simone Biles and Serena Williams will all be in the same room together? That’s right…at the Excellence in Sports Performance Yearly Awards. We’re convinced our invite got lost in the mail. 

This year, two-time Super Bowl champion Peyton Manning will take the stage to help hand out awards that recognize individual and team athletic achievement. Comedians and Hollywood stars usually take on the responsibility of hosting such an event. However, Manning will be the first athlete in ten years to host the ESPYs after LeBron James co-hosted with Jimmy Kimmel in 2007.

If this hosting gig is anything like Manning’s SNL hosting appearance in 2007, he’s sure to have the Microsoft Theater (and nation) laughing. We can only hope that Herb Alpert’s “Casino Royale” will be playing as Manning walks off the stage (Locker Room sketch, anyone?). 

Grab your popcorn, grab your tissues (for the acceptance speech feels, of course) and grab your computer, because we are bringing you four ways (plus a bonus tip) to stream the event without cable!

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Sling TV is one of the top ways cord cutters can stream live TV without a cable subscription. Subscribers who choose the Sling Orange package ($20/mo.) have access to the Broadcast Extra bundle ($5/mo.) to watch live local broadcast channels, including ABC. Only want to use this service to watch the ESPYs? You can try it free for 7 days!

Note: You can only stream ABC Live through Sling TV in select markets around the country. These areas include Chicago, Fresno, Houston, Los Angeles, New York, Philadelphia, Raleigh-Durham and San Francisco. If you live in one of these areas, the ABC live stream will be accessible.

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One of the newest solutions for cord cutters is DirecTV NOW by AT&T. This online streaming service offers you more than 60 TV channels, including ABC, for $35/mo. without a contract (or you can try it free for seven days). You can use this service on most streaming devices, including computers and mobile devices.

 

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PlayStation Vue brings another streaming option to cord cutters trying to watch their favorite shows without cable. You can watch the ESPYs with this solution if you live in a market where Sony has the right to carry live feeds of some of the major networks including ABC at just $40/mo. However, if you do not live in one of those areas, you’ll need to catch the event over-the-air. You can determine your local channel availability by entering your zip code here.

 

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Over-the-Air Broadcast

Don’t forget the old-fashioned way! Since ABC broadcasts over-the-air (OTA), it’s free to watch with a digital antenna if you live in range of an affiliate. Here’s how to choose the best antenna for you.

 

Pro tip:

Finding ways to stream live TV is only half the battle for cord cutters. After all, nobody wants to watch Peyton Manning hand out an award on a tiny computer screen. Download AirParrot 2 on your Mac or PC to wirelessly mirror that live broadcast from your computer directly to an Apple TV or Chromecast.

Use Sling TV app or DirecTV Now in the Chrome, Safari and Firefox browser to stream the event. Then open AirParrot and select your browser as the “From” option. Select your Apple TV or Chromecast as the “To” option. This will allow you to experience all the action on the big screen.

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Watch the 25th Annual ESPY Awards Online:

Wednesday, July 12
8 p.m. EST
Host: Peyton Manning
ABC

June 20, 2017

ISTE 2017: Squirrels in San Antonio

The Squirrels team is traveling to San Antonio next week for the 2017 International Society for Technology in Education (ISTE) Conference & Expo. This year marks our fifth consecutive year at the show, and it’s already looking like it will be the best one yet. 

Things you need to know about Squirrels at ISTE

    1. We are sponsoring EdTech Karaoke on Tuesday, June 27th. If you’ve never heard of EdTech Karaoke, you might be thinking that we’ve been duped into helping a nightclub that didn’t save any of its budget for a DJ. EdTech Karaoke has become a legendary event at education conferences around the country, and there’s no bigger education conference than ISTE.

      If our years at ISTE have taught us anything, it’s that EdTech Karaoke is one of the great highlights of the week. Be sure to get your tickets to the event at Aztec Theater soon, as EdTech Karaoke sells out quickly. We will also have additional EdTech Karaoke tickets to give away at the Squirrels booth (#626) in the ISTE expo hall. We’ll take entries all day Monday and randomly draw the EdTech Karaoke ticket winners on Monday night.

    2. The Great Redwood of ISTE is back for year two. The 18-foot tree that was built by Squirrels attracted the gaze of ISTE attendees from all over the expo hall like a field of moths gliding toward a distant garage light at night. Come see it. Take your picture with it. Tell your grandkids about it. Just know that nobody has actually ever called it the Great Redwood of ISTE.3k1a3659.jpg
    3. Our brilliant team is hosting ClassHub demos every hour on the hour. Our new classroom device management and monitoring technology will be on display and at work for you. This is a great opportunity to see it in person. We created ClassHub to address a number of needs expressed to us by educators and improve the ability for students to collaborate, share and learn with the devices they use every day. We think ClassHub is a home run, and we can’t wait to show you.Schedule Print.png

    4. Our classic education technology Reflector 2, the Reflector suite of companion apps and AirParrot will be on display as well. Our team can also tell you all about using Ditto, our smart and unlimited screen-mirroring technology, in K-12 education.

    5. We have a number of Alpha Squirrel EdTech Experts presenting at ISTE. These presenters are some of the best and most knowledgeable individuals in their profession. We can’t wait to hear what they say and have them join us at the Squirrels booth.

      Get the full list of Alpha Squirrel session times and topics at ISTE.

Another year of ISTE is upon us, friends. Embrace it and make the most of your time there. ISTE is an opportunity for all of us – educators, administrators, IT professionals, tech integration specialists, entrepreneurs and EdTech companies – to grow professionally and improve our knowledge of our craft.

As always, stop by the Squirrels booth (#626) to see what we’ve been working on for you and to put a few faces to our unique company name. 

June 15, 2017

5 Tips to Get the Best Streaming Experience

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This is a guest post from Chris Brantner of CutCableToday.com

Streaming services have rapidly gained in popularity the last few years. They offer seemingly never-ending content for subscribers, including TV shows, movies and even streaming tons of live sports.

Unfortunately, all that content goes to waste if you have a bad streaming setup. You might think the only things you need to do are set up your Wi-Fi, subscribe to a service and begin streaming, but there’s much more you’ll want to do.

Make sure you take the right steps to ensure your setup is fine tuned for optimal streaming quality. That way you can avoid the disastrous scenario of waiting for the stream to buffer right as a huge play is breaking out while you’re streaming an NFL game. Here are five tips to help you get the best streaming experience: 

1. Determine what internet package you need

One thing that most people don’t realize is that you don’t need shockingly fast internet speeds for an ideal streaming experience. If you have one device streaming in high definition, you’ll need just 5Mbps (megabits per second) of download speed. With multiple devices, this can go up to 25Mbps.

In one case, this information can improve your streaming experience if you realize you don’t currently have fast enough internet speeds for your streaming needs. But, another benefit is you hopefully recognize there’s no need to overpay for that blazingly fast download speed, when a fraction of the cost will work just fine. This can save you some serious dough, which you can use to put toward better ways to improve the rest of your setup.

2. Pick the right internet provider 

There is no one answer to who the best internet service provider (ISP) is for everyone. The best option varies for each person and can easily change based on your location or the internet speed you decide you need. After figuring out your desired internet speed, you should shop around and compare ISPs.

Sometimes you’ll find a great offer from a competitor of your existing ISP, or you can even find a great offer that exactly meets your streaming needs. For example, some ISPs don’t offer packages with download speeds as low as 5Mbps. You might find another provider that has the lower package, which can once again save you money that you can spend elsewhere.

3. Get a good router and upgrade it regularly

Wifi in general is usually the key problem in most people’s streaming setups. A router is the key tool that will make or break your experience. This isn’t the place to skimp because even though your internet speed meets your needs, your router might not be delivering that to your devices.

You should get a solid router and make sure to upgrade it regularly. An upgrade is recommended about every two years. This could either mean you buy your own router and replace it every couple of years or just trade in the router you rent from your ISP for the latest version.

4. Set up your router correctly

Now that you have your router, you need to make sure you set it up properly. You should place the router in the center of your home. This increases the chance your Wifi will reach all of your rooms and minimize the chance of dead zones. Additionally, you should keep your router out in the open and off the floor to reduce any interference.

5. Improve your Wifi with a whole-home Wifi system

A whole-home Wifi system promises the improved Wifi experience the 21st century demands. Instead of having one access point, your purchase gets you multiple devices. You then set up each device throughout the house, which work to extend and amplify your Wifi service. This reduces any chance of dead zones. The market is new, but there are already a bunch of great options.

Whole-home systems work especially great if you have a room where you can never seem to get strong service. It can let you seamlessly stream ESPN in the basement, while someone else is binge-watching a show in the living room. Some of the most popular whole-home Wifi systems are Eero or Google Wifi.

Bonus Tip: Easily mirror your streams to your TV

AirParrot is an incredibly helpful software tool for anyone who likes to stream. This won’t impact the speed you’ll be able to download your streams, and it’ll add a ton of flexibility to your streaming experience. You just need to download AirParrot 2 on your laptop (PC or Mac). Then, you can wirelessly send whatever you’re streaming on your computer to your big screen. Stream all of your services in the Firefox or Chrome browser and you can then connect to your Apple TV or Chromecast.

Now you have all the information needed to improve your streaming setup. You’re ready for a top-notch streaming experience that’ll make all your friends jealous as they sit and watch the buffering icon.

June 12, 2017

Finally! Teachers Can Now Monitor Every Student Device During Class

Educators no longer need to peer over a student’s shoulder to monitor progress or gauge how the student is progressing through a task. In fact, they don’t even have to leave their desks.

While students are busy using their devices to work on an assignment, complete group work or take a test, teachers can use device management software called ClassHub to see what is happening on every student device in real time.

The ClassHub Screen Peek feature allows teachers to see student devices from their computer to ensure students are on task and using devices in the classroom as directed. 

How it works
Once a teacher starts a class in the ClassHub Classroom Manager, each student in the classroom is listed along with a student avatar. Selecting the Screen Peek View option in the Classroom Manager presents a live view of every student device in the classroom. The teacher can see what each student is working on (or not working on) and how each student is performing in a matter of seconds.  

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To access a larger view of a specific student’s device, teachers simply click on the device in the Classroom Manager. The enlarged view also presents several device management actions, including the ability to:

  • Send a message to the student’s device
  • Open a webpage on the device
  • Lock the device into a specific application
  • Lock the device entirely
  • Begin mirroring the device to an AirPlay or Cast receiver
  • Manage applications

Does ClassHub sound like something you’ve been wishing for since the day devices appeared in the classroom? We’re happy to help bring it to your school or district.

Contact us today to chat about ClassHub or schedule a demo.

About Us

Squirrels is a software development company based in North Canton, Ohio. We create high-quality, budget-friendly screen mirroring and device management software that’s compatible with today’s most popular devices. To date, our software can be found in hundreds of thousands of classrooms, businesses and homes. Follow our blog for all the latest product updates, Squirrels news and technology insight!