This wasn’t the blog post I had planned to write, but three emails in a few days have got me thinking. What would you buy for your primary school if you were looking to improve ICT? This is a question I will be asking myself in the coming weeks as I move to a new school. I thought I would break it down into software and hardware. Will it be useful? Who knows. Does it ask more questions than it answers? Definitely. I’m not covering assessment or admin/management software as I have very little experience of that. Maybe you know more? Add a comment below and let me know!

The main hardware concerns are obviously the computers and laptops that the children will use. My school currently has a class set of computers and a few small banks of PCs around the school. Over the next month or so, there will be a new server, a new network and a new managed wireless system. Managed wireless is essential for the number of netbooks we are looking to buy. So many schools I go to have been given a shoddy wireless solution and are left frustrated when children need to login one-by-one and wait ten minutes before getting to the desktop, this just isn’t acceptable so a managed wireless is the way forward. I had always thought of netbooks as a ‘poor man’s option’ and that they weren’t up to scratch, but a few discussions with people have changed my mind. The ones we are looking at seem capable of video-editing and animation and anything else we will be throwing at it. All for under £250 🙂 So that’s the main hardware sorted and that’s all fine, but what about the little bits and the peripherals? Bear in mind we have 11 classes.

Cameras are a given. Every school needs to have some and I think cheap and cheerful is good. When it comes to using photos online, there’s no point in having a digital SLR or a 10MP camera as you’ll forever be resizing them. Asda do a £25 5MP camera, so that could be an option. One per class? Or a set of 11?

Video cameras are also going to be useful. Flip probably wins out due to simplicity, but again, how many do you buy? How do you host your video online? Vimeo has recently been blocked, so we’re stuck with 100mb limit on TeacherTube. Maybe that’ll be enough?

I’ve heard a lot about visualisers, they sound great. You can show children’s work on the screen! But surely it’s a webcam on a stick? Maybe I should get some webcams? Do I get 1 visualiser to test it or do I get 1 per class? Will KS1 use them as much as KS2? Maybe KS1 will use it to put minibeasts or leaves under it so they WILL use it more?

Easi-Speak microphones are a certainty. They’re so easy to use, just record and plug it in. No faffing with Audacity and converting to MP3, it just does it for you. Quantity again is the issue. Will KS2 use them as much?

How about these? I love the sound of them. Small recordable devices that can be stuck to the wall. They could make displays come to life. Imagine walking around a school and being able to press a button and hear a child explain their work. They only record for 30seconds, but that’s fine. Would they get pressed constantly and annoy people? I like the ideaof them though.

What about data loggers and control? We’ve gotta do it haven’t we? So what to buy? We used to have some of the FlowGo boxes in my old school along with all of the sensors and bulbs and wires, but we spent about £1,000 and used them once. I would bet they’re still sitting in a cupboard gathering dust. Maybe we should buy it as part of a cluster and share it around? That could go well or badly, who knows! Any suggestions?

With a lot of this stuff, how do you manage it? Would you have a box with it all in? Or one camera/microphone/Flip per class? In my old school we issued it all out to classes but it also went with battery chargers, batteries and a card reader. What do you think?

I’ve bought some of these things before and had a bit of a say in it. This time around I am looking to do it with more thought and planning. I would be interested to hear any opinions you may have.