Category Archives: Hardware

Stuff about useful hardware.

What type of device would you choose?

Ok so I have a list of all the obvious types of hand held devices that would be suitable for the classroom. I have some thoughts about which would be best, but in the interest of exploring as many options as possible I would like to get some other informed opinions.

Please can you vote in the poll below and indicate which type of device you would choose for use in a secondary classroom? I’m interested in a wide range of opinions, so please vote even if you don’t work in a secondary school.

I would also appreciate any comments about why you would choose the device or experience you have with them. It would be great to get as many opinions as possible, so please retweet etc.

Thank you!

Which device would you choose for student use in the classroom?

  • iPod Touch (34%, 11 Votes)
  • iPad (31%, 10 Votes)
  • Netbook (19%, 6 Votes)
  • Android based tablet (13%, 4 Votes)
  • Other (please state in comments) (3%, 1 Votes)
  • Sony PSP (0%, 0 Votes)
  • Nintendo DS (0%, 0 Votes)
  • Kindle / other eBook reader (0%, 0 Votes)

Total Voters: 32

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Starting to investigate handheld devices


One of my focuses at school this year is to investigate the possibility of introducing some form of handheld devices into our department for students to use in lessons. Having thrown some initial thoughts around in my head last year (I often have all sorts of ideas floating around, most of which don’t get further than a quick note in Evernote), I suggested that we should look into handheld devices and it has been included in our development plan for the year.

So I am starting to investigate what type of device would be best and ways that they could improve the learning of our students. We already have a class set of laptops in our department and some access to fixed IT suites. If we introduce handheld devices they will need to offer something different than the resources we already have.

I have personally owned and used several handhelds, Palm and Windows Mobile PDAs, Windows smartphones and the Android phone I am using to write this post, but I haven’t used any with students. I am trying to keep an open mind as to which devices might be best, if any will be worth getting at all. I am planning to look at various things including gaming machines like the Nintendo DS as well as the iPod Touch and more focused devices such as Response systems.

I am interested in hearing the thoughts of people who have used similar devices in the classroom and maybe visit some schools where they are in use.

I will relay my ongoing thoughts and progress on this blog and I have set up a public list on Diigo to keep track of things I read and useful stuff I find. I know there is a lot of stuff out there about this and I want to gather as much info as possible before we spend any serious money.

If you have any experience using handhelds in education, know anyone who has or can point me in the direction of anything worth knowing on the subject, please let me know your thoughts in the comments, throught the contact page or via Twitter (@timdolan)

Webcams for showcasing work

Many people have seen or used Webcams for video calling over the internet. Applications such as Skype have made seeing people the other side of the world and talking to them very accessible.

The Webcams that make this possible are simply digital cameras that are capable of recording video and taking still pictures and at a fraction of the cost of other digital cameras.

In the classroom there could be many uses of a webcam. One possible use would be to showcase a pupils work. Instead of trying to hold a piece of work up or describe what it looks like to the class, a webcam can be used to show a live picture of the work that can be projected so that even those at the back can clearly see what you are talking about.

Almost all webcams will come with some software that will allow you to show the image live (often called the preview) on the computer. If you want to you can also capture the picture as a snapshot or as a video that could be saved and shown to the class again later.

If you are buying a webcam try to get a High resolution model of at least 1.3 megapixels. The lower resolution cameras won’t be clear enough to show a good picture when projected on a large screen. I have a basic model and it does the job ok. One of the new 5 MP cameras especially with autofocus would be even better.

You can buy many webcams from Amazon.co.uk as well as computer shops and even larger supermarkets.

Wireless keyboards

Using a computer with a projector in the classroom opens lots of possibilities of different things you can do with a class. Making the lesson interactive can be a bit more difficult. If you have an interactive whiteboard then that is made easier as students can come to the front and interact with the computer in a way that is visible to the whole class. Another way that students can interact with what they are seeing is with a wireless keyboard that can be passed around the room.

By using a wireless keyboard the students can type into whatever program you are using (not so easy to do on a whiteboard) and so they can answer questions or input information. A pupil could be making notes of what is being said in a class discussion, or they could be typing into a mind map while ideas are coming from the rest of the class. Having a pupil do this gets them involved and allows the teacher to be concentrating on the class rather than typing.

As well as being useful for passing around for pupils to use, small wireless keyboards can be easily held and used by the teacher while standing in front of the class or walking around. This saves you from being tied to the desk peering over your laptop.

Unfortunately the sort of wireless keyboards that many people have for use with their desktop computers usually only have a range of about 1 metre and so aren’t much use in the classroom. Instead look for one of the models that use a better wireless connection and can work up to 10 metres from the computer. Many of these models come with some sort of mouse control integrated with the laptop. This could be a track pad like those found on most laptops, a trackball or a joystick of some kind. The keyboards come with a small receiver that plugs into and is powered by a USB port on the computer and the keyboards require batteries.

The keyboard that I use is made by Keysonic and includes a track pad with two mouse buttons and a strip for scrolling in webpages. It is small enough to hold in one hand and type with the other (for short periods) and has a full set of keys, although some of them especially the enter key are a bit small. It doesn’t have a separate keypad, but like many laptops has one that shares keys with other functions and can be toggled on and off.

This keyboard currently costs just under £30 from Amazon with free delivery.