Following on from the hardware blog post earlier this week, I have been thinking about software. We’re getting a new network which involves clearing off the old one. This is the perfect time to lose some of those bits of software that are installed yet never touched. We can hopefully get some new programmes installed, but the choices seem endless. I’m not saying we will be getting everything on this list, I’m just trying to share my thinking as I look for ways to improve ICT in the school.

So…what software do we NEED in school?

I think the obvious first step is something like Microsoft Office. Yes, there are Open-Source versions out there, and yes we are looking towards the cloud more and more (we’re a cloud pilot after all), but I still think Office is essential. The children have it at home, it just makes life easier for everyone so that’s a non-negiotable.

We will be having a lot of free software installed, such as Scratch for control and game-making, art software/paint.net for some aspects of art and VLC/Audacity/media software for playing videos and podcasting, but what else?

Animation is an area that I have always found exciting, but we just used the free software that came with old webcams before. What is there that could improve on this? I have seen I Can Animate and Anithings, but could I get one piece of software for the whole of primary? Or shall I get one that’s aimed at KS1 and one aimed at KS2?

Music software is always handy, especially if like me, you’re music-phobic. To be honest, I wouldn’t know where to start on this. My old school had Dance Ejay and the music teacher seemed content with this, but I want something that provides a range of musical skills that can be used throughout the key stages. Maybe 2Compose?

We will be getting Purple Mash, that is a given. Although it has only been available for a month or two, it has proved to be valuable for schools so far. Added to the deal of free software for signing up and it’s a no-brainer. 2DIY and 2Create a Super Story will be coming along too. This will give us the power of making games and resources as well as producing stories and information texts throughout the school.

You will probably want to look at databases and this was an area we always struggled with. How do you make them fun? I know 2Investigate is a possible and it seems fairly intuitive for younger children, then when you get to older children, I’d use a real database such as RightMove as Phil suggests in his planning.

My old school relied heavily on Education City and Espresso. Both have huge benefits if used well, both are expensive and pointless if only used sporadically. I love Espresso as it provides a wealth of video content for teachers without the worry of the video being blocked. But from the Autumn, we are due to get flexible filtering, meaning the whole internet opens up. Although videos on YouTube etc may not be as high quality, there will be more, and free. Education City provides great quizzes and activities that are suitable for primary, but again if not used well, it becomes a simple yes/no quiz and I’m sure there are alternatives out there.

So which software, or types of software, do you NEED in a school? I know that it will depend on what we are trying to achieve e.g. Speaking and Listening or Boys’ writing, but what are the bits of software you need no matter what? Can you do it all/mostly for free? What software would you be unable to live without in your school? Is there an area I’ve missed? Any advice is welcome.

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