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What kinds of kit should I have for my classroom?
This is a tricky question because it does depend on the kinds of things that you are going to do or want to do. I would recommend however that you consider the following for your classroom / school as these can be used in a variety of ways, are reasonably priced and can be used across the curriculum in creative and effective LEARNING tools.

Netbook or notebok computers are reasonable priced and can be "anytime / anywhere" devices which can be used and then put down - they are small enough and powerful enough for most classroom uses and will run open source software - which can make the operation very cheap. Look for netbooks which have:

  • Are about a 7" screen and weigh less than 1Kg - smaller and lighter than many textbooks!
  • A solid-state hard drive provides fast boot-up / shut-down and preserves pupils' files
  • Have an integrated webcam, microphone and speakers for easy web video-conferencing.
  • Have integrated 802.11g/n wireless and optional 3G module provide great connectivity.
  • Have integrated card-reader (usually SD cards) and at least two USB 2.0 ports which provide a simple way to add additional storage and easy connection for peripherals.
  • Full-size VGA-out for connection to projectors or monitors.

Prices on netbook computes can range from about £250 to about £500

The next generation of ultra-portable computers are the slate. These offer very similar functionality to the laptop or the netbook but often have no physical keyboard and input is done on a touch screen. The first of the modern generation of these was the iPad but there are now others running Android and Windows. They generally:

  • Have a touch screen between 7" (17cm) and 9" (23cm)
  • Have wireless, bluetooth and G3/G4 connectively to the web
  • Will run 'Apps' - small pieces of software that can be bough via the web
  • May or may not have SD card / USB support

Slates are still expensive ranging from about £350 to about £800

Think about how you could utilise the devices that the pupils have in their pockets - esp the portable mobile computing devices - sometimes known as 'phones! Modern phones can do an incredible number of things (some of them do not even phone - like the iPod touch) have a look at your own:

  • It probably has / can: Alarm Clock, Sends SMS messages, Sends picture messages, Sends video messages, A Calculator, A Currency Exchange, A Diary, An Address Book, A Phone Book, A Camera, A Video Camera, A Music player, Play games
  • It possibly has / can: Allows video conferencing, Surfs the internet (3G/4G), Surfs the internet (wi-fi), Receives and send e-mail, Portable storage device, Sends files via bluetooth, Video player, Edits music, Edits video, World Time, Radio, Dictaphone, Voice recognition, Skype, Instant Messaging, Watch TV, GPS

Prices range from about £100 to about £300

Recording children has some pitfalls and you need to ensure you have clear policies in place but there are huge pedagogic advantages in recording children to capture achievement and develop literacy and oracy skills. This can be done with voice recorders and with sound recorders. The easiest to use have a USB connector which can be plugged directly into the computer, the files can then be edited with one of the open source sound editors.

Prices range from £40.00 to about £150

Handheld digital still / video cameras are a huge asset in the classroom. "Children are natural filmmakers" (David Putnam) and the opportunities for children to be involved in making podcasts, films, narrative, video, documentary etc.. [See MMI web for details of a children as filmmakers course]. There are a range of cameras available which can be used with children from 4 to 18. Do look for:

  • Storage capacity [in terms of time of video]
  • How you transfer the data from the device to your computer / TV
  • How much zoom you get
  • The quality of the sound [generally the weakest function of these devices]
  • Storage is also an important factor and many devices will use SD or compact flash cards or record onto solid state drives on the device.
  • Check if the device has an internal rechargeable battery or if batteries are needed

Prices range from £40.00 to about £150

An external webcam can transform a maptop into a video-conferencing device, or can be added to the top of a whiteboard to make a whole class peer-peer conference. It could also be used as a device for an individual pupil to record their ideas, thoughts, feelings. It can also be used as a visualiser for objects on the teacher' desk or a roaming visualiser to share pupils' achievement.

They tend to come as USB devices or wireless devices and are reasonably simple to install.Check the:

  • Quality of the image it produces
  • If it has a microphone built in
  • If there is a linked light source

The prices range from £10 to about £40 (wired) and from £40 to £100 (wireless)