Drew Buddie had been trying to get a grip of his iPad. He finally achieved it with the Octa Monkey Tail
Octa Monkey TailiPads have become almost omnipresent in school classrooms. From running apps to recording video and audio, they are used by teachers in a plethora of ways in order to aid teaching and learning.

However, I have often felt that there is an largely underused feature of an iPad that could make it even more indispensable to teachers: the built-in camera means that under the proper circumstances it could easily be used as a visualiser. But that needs a good grip or stand.

It was therefore a great relief for me to discover the OCTA Monkey Tail (right). My search for a suitable method of holding an iPad above a document steady enough for the document to be clearly legible, had previously been a fruitless one – it always resulted in a fraught balancing act, or me having to use both hands to clutch it.

Portable when not in use – just curl it

This sturdy gadget is robust enough to give you faith that it will fulfil its role well. The name of the device is a giveaway with regards to its structure – it clearly resembles a prehensile tail – and when uncoiled the metal silicon-clad, flexible structure looks like a bendy three-foot long sink plunger. Despite its length, when not connected to an iPad it can be curled into a loop which this makes it exceptionally portable.

The device is connected to the underside of in iPad (or any other tablet) by means of very clever, and easy-to-use vacuum suction. As long as the underside of the iPad is clean and has no stickers on it, I found that the vacuum seal was very tight and I was completely confident that the iPad would not slip off.

The only downside I found with this device is that it would only really work with a 'naked' iPad, ie one that is not in a loose-fitting case. I really liked the fact that even once the vacuum dock was attached to the iPad, it can be locked in position or when unlocked, allowing the ipad to be swivelled by 360°. It is clear that the OCTA Monkey Tail is a device that is durable -– it is not going to snap easily and would withstand a lot of use.

In my trial a group of five teachers used the OCTA Monkey Tail and they unanimously agreed that it was so useful to them that they would like to have one of their own that they could use on an ad hoc basis as opposed to having a permanent visualiser in the classroom.

I virtually had to prise the OCTA Monkey Tail from their grasp in order to try it out for myself to see if what they said was true. I too discovered that the OCTA Monkey Tail is a versatile addition to my classroom toolkit and although I would not necessarily use it all the time, its portability, reliability and ease of use make it a boon to my classroom and that of any other iPad-using teacher.

The good news – more tails are on the way

Octa Spider MonkeyThe good news is that development of this product has been continuing apace and more innovation is on the way. Hopefully, the new arrivals Octa is working on will be just as useful to educators. You can find out for yourself because the company has just launched a Kickstarter campaign (see video below) to fund its second generation of products, and  says that the original design of the Monkey Tail has been improved so that tablet users will soon be able to position their devices in practically any environment imaginable.

The naming convention comes from the natural world once again, so get ready for the Lynx, Spider Monkey and Scorpion designs, alongside a new and improved Monkey Tail and Whale Tail. You can find out more about it on Octa's Kickstarter page

Octa says that all the planned products will be compatible with the ones already on the market. Octa co-founder Prometheus Trotsky said: “We want to make technology accessible and adaptable, That starts with being able to physically place your device where you need it. With a strong positioning system, you can use your tablet in ways that were never before possible.”

Octa Monkey Tail is available from Selfridges (£49.99) and Amazon (£69.99). The education distributor is Douglas Stewart EDU.

 

Drew BuddieDrew Buddie is head of computing at the Royal Masonic School for Girls and is junior vice-chair of Naace 


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