If you thought that work with digital video needed fantastic equipment or that it was for some other subject, Reading Boys secondary school sets the record straight. Teacher Mary-Clare Maunder has been trying an unusual teaching strategy – editing video to raise issues in science. Given an assortment of video interviews about homeopathy, the year nine class assembles a short film. They sift through pre-filmed interviews and add a commentary. Could homeopathy cure people? Was there any science to it? And, if it worked anyway, did that matter? The boys have a question per group to answer: they have to assemble the evidence to support a case one way or the other.Keeping costs in check, they use Pinnacle’s Studio software in a regular network room. “It was an alternative way to teach ‘ideas and evidence’ – challenging, more interesting and very adaptable to any topic,” says Maunder.Designed by Tony Sherborne at Sheffield’s Centre for Science Education, video lessons offer a fresh approach. “We’ve aimed to make this manageable, time efficient and we now have a version using film clips on PowerPoint,” says Sherborne. “It’s superb to see students so engrossed.” As the computers you find in school gain power, you see more schools using them to communicate via video. It signals not the end of email, handwriting or PowerPoint but the start of new, and generally less explored, ways to learn.
Take Coed-y-lan primary school in Wales, whose short film about minibeasts won a Becta digital video award.Somebody simply suggested making a film about their current topic. Deputy head Robert James had some very affordable technology: an Apple iMac, a digital microscope and a Sony camcorder. The class had followed a David Attenborough TV series, and they were ready to parallel his example. What followed was a journey through a variety of skills, techniques and pupil research. “They’d have highly creative ideas and launch into much discussion on the best ways to shoot things,” says James. “There was collaborative learning all through as they assembled the clips, or used animation in one sequence. It worked in different ways for different children and showed us all a new way of working.”You can view this short film at www.becta.org.uk although only a little of what you see conveys the attention to detail, the enjoyment of science inquiry or the thorough application of the group that produced it.
Reading boys School – resources
Staff: science department;
Non-timetabled hours: one plus two to three in class;
Kit:Pinnacle Studio – video-editing software and school network;
Cost: variable depending on video-editing software of choice;
Support (external): lesson designed by Tony Sherborne.
Adding computers to labs doesn’t prove easy – you need space for experiments, sensors and data loggers. Add a dozen computers, and two dozen loudspeakers, and it can get messy. As every teacher has a view on labs and great tips to pass on, it’s timely that the ASE and Royal Society are collecting some definitive advice on lab design. They’ve commissioned education specialist 3T for the job, producing case studies and a CD-rom design tool. Hampton school in London would make an exceptional case study – the technology services its needs but doesn’t take over. Off the bench, thin-screen monitors keep the worktop clear; under-bench computers keep the floor clear too. Cables for sensors emerge from hidden dataloggers, while cordless mice and keyboards keep the look clean. Clever touches include a separate switched power circuit to cut the PC monitors and gain pupils’ attention! While new labs cost serious money it may come as a surprise that in this design we see no extravagance. In the words of head science technician David Hughes: “It costs the same to do a lab right as it does to do it wrong.”
From “The Guardian”
You’ve read about nanotechnology or seen the space shuttle crash. Set beside the news, school science seems centuries old. But at Garth Hill school in Bracknell, science teaching gained a contemporary edge with the help of “Upd8” from the Association for Science Education (ASE). The Upd8 team produces topical lessons based on current news and then beams out weekly emails and text messages to teachers.
Garth Hill is one of several schools trialling this nifty Planet Science and IBM-funded “alerting” service. Head of science Diane Allum Wilson was one of the first to sign up. “At the peak of the Sars epidemic, they sent an idea on how to simulate the spread of the disease across the school. We gave pupils a leaflet meaning that they ‘caught’ the virus. In turn they passed it on. The whole school took part through lessons, breaks and lunchtimes. The kids really did understand how infection travels.” And when Michael Jackson famously dangled his baby from a window, Wilson’s pupils started asking why the baby had white skin. In timely fashion, the Upd8 team produced a ready-to-roll lesson on genetics. Allum Wilson finds colleagues run easily with these ideas. “The ‘here’s a lesson you can do’ approach worked well. Best of all, the work generated interest and excitement.”
We come to expect computers to change often and get us to upgrade but with data loggers I wonder. The need to take readings from experiments is pretty much the same today as it was fifteen years ago. In other words the kit you had then really ought to work now. I am still looking for a good reason any firm should change the design of a temperature sensor. The reason for change that I can see is to seek something more reliable.
My day job – providing courses on data logging and the use of ICT in science – has been much enhanced by the amount of Philip Harris equipment in schools. The equipment, consisting of ‘Blue Box’ sensors, DL Plus interfaces, First Sense, CL100 card loggers was bought by the lorry load during the 1990’s. The system was changed many times and at great cost to science dept budgets. ().
These kits have been very troublesome too – most often the problem is an iffy link between the box and the sensors – leads, battery power and serial ports each playing their part in an unreliable setup.
“Surely the technology has moved on and got better” said the last school I visited so I took along samples from various manufacturers to see if it had. Most impressive were the USA made systems from Vernier and PASCO. Each worked via the USB port – the software responding immediately to plugging and unplugging sensors. LogIT and Data Harvest systems were fairly good though you needed to get the software at the right place before it would recognise the sensor had changed. Of the two LogIT was most responsive – what spoiled it for the Data Harvest box was to complain about a lack of a driver – even though I’m sure I’d installed this beforehand.
If you’re having problems with whatever you bought it is possible to continue using the existing kit reliably:
1) Get each part of the kit working before connecting up to the PC.
2) Be prepared to discard (or mark as suspect) some items.
3) If the effort required is discouraging, rest assured there is good equipment to be had.
4) Whoever you buy from, look at their track record and wonder why they’ve changed their system so many times.
Have you tried this? Wrap a piece of sellotape around a microscope slide, sticky side up. Use pieces of copper wire to construct the branches of a simple tree on the sellotape. Add a few drops of about 0.1M silver nitrate. Use a microscope and computer to display the crystal growth. Call it the ‘fastest growing bonsai tree in the world’. (Could someone try it and send us a picture please. R)
If you’ve yet to use them in earnest, Microsoft Word styles are fabulously helpful. They not only make documents consistent, they speed up the business of changing the look of a document when it’s done.
To make them even more useful, add some style ‘buttons’ to your Word toolbar. Right click a toolbar and choose ‘styles’. You ought to see this:
Just drag the style names ‘Heading 1’ and so on to a toolbar. To tidy it up, you can edit the buttons using a right click as we’ve done here:
As you type your document, click a style button to make the text Heading 1, 2 or whatever.
You’ve read about nanotechnology or seen the space shuttle crash. Set beside the news, school science seems centuries old. But at Garth Hill school in Bracknell, science teaching gained a contemporary edge with the help of “Upd8” from the Association for Science Education (ASE). The Upd8 team produces topical lessons based on current news and then beams out weekly emails and text messages to teachers. Garth Hill is one of several schools trialling this nifty Planet Science and IBM-funded “alerting” service. Head of science Diane Allum Wilson was one of the first to sign up. “At the peak of the Sars epidemic, they sent an idea on how to simulate the spread of the disease across the school. We gave pupils a leaflet meaning that they ‘caught’ the virus. In turn they passed it on. The whole school took part through lessons, breaks and lunchtimes. The kids really did understand how infection travels.” And when Michael Jackson famously dangled his baby from a window, Wilson’s pupils started asking why the baby had white skin. In timely fashion, the Upd8 team produced a ready-to-roll lesson on genetics. Allum Wilson finds colleagues run easily with these ideas. “The ‘here’s a lesson you can do’ approach worked well. Best of all, the work generated interest and excitement.”
Just out is a product which, though off our beaten data logging track, offers to help create electric circuits. Called ‘Magleads’, the leads have 3mm tips made of neodymium magnets that click together. Cool and canny, ‘Magleads’ come from Commotion
FSBM, a leading Malaysian courseware developer has dropped software maker New Media as its subcontractor. The UK firm was hired to develop sixth form software as part of a major government project but were dumped when New Media refused to make the courseware fit the local curriculum without further payment. The rejected software is now being sold in the UK by Plato Learning as ‘MSS 16-18 edition’ for A level.
The contract, reported to be worth £1.2 million per year was terminated as the company failed to meet targets.
This is not the first time New Media has failed to deliver. As the software supplier to the Science Consortium ‘NOF’ training business, it received a chorus of complaints when it was found that its MSS science software failed to run on school networks. Many schools found it necessary to postpone their ‘NOF training’ as a result. The company received further complaints about the functioning of the Science Consortium website, made promises to fix them and as reported previously, never did so.
Renowned for wheeling and dealing, this is also not the first time that company founder Dick Fletcher has got other people to fund his software development. New Media’s MSS 16-18 A level software was largely funded by Malaysian money. The Multimedia Science School 11-16 software was started with Nuffield Foundation money, and with an odd piece of gifting to the private sector. The product was further developed with funds meant for NOF training. Similarly New Media’s Chemistry Set was developed with a government graft money at the University of Nottingham.
Those who have brushed with Dick Fletcher’s style of business will not be too surprised. Though when business people lie to you, dishonest is a better description of that style. Readers will recall how the ‘Science Consortium’ was based on a gentleman’s agreement and heavily drained of funds by New Media.
Was the software for Malaysia that bad?
Not really. New Media produced hours of student-focussed on-screen tutorials but the problem was that the lessons would be delivered by the teacher. Needed instead was an interactive lecture than a tutorial.
What we learn is that developing software requires exceptional sensitivity to the needs of the classroom. And that means having multimedia focussed teachers involved at many stages of development. There is little value in producing a teaching tool that uses an hour of lesson time when the curriculum only expects you to mention the idea in five minutes. Basically: if software doesn’t solve a problem, don’t make it. Or not unless someone else is paying for it.
Laptops & wireless
The world seems to be divided into those who have discovered ‘wireless’ and those who have not. Many’s the time you pop into a science department and staring you in the face is that the use of wireless networked laptops is the route to easier computing. These laptops can do three key things: print to a shared printer, pick up files from a shared area and, most amazingly when it’s wireless, access the Internet. Set up, hopefully by a people-loving sort of person, ‘wireless’ can solve the main problem in portable computing: getting files to the right places. This story better gives the flavour
Case study: Science department using laptops and wireless Internet connections.
Here’s a interesting set of results from Data Harvest’s Steve Whitely and Barbara Higginbotham. They endured, noise, rain and a good measure of telling off by Easyjet staff to bring you this picture. What’s more, I hope it starts a trend as an excellent way to report what happens in an experiment.
Steve writes (sufferingly I think!) “So we stood in the rain and took pictures of the EasyJet plane. Then we stood in the car park (in the rain again!) and took pictures of the tablet. It’s hard to photograph an LCD screen outside so I then took the picture of the tablet screen, cut it out and dropped a screen capture into it – the data is of an airplane engine being throttled up and down. Finally I sized the tablet picture and laid it over the picture of the Jet. The hands are Barbara’s.
The picture shows an RM Teacher edition Tablet PC with a Data Harvest ‘Flash Logger’ and sound sensor. It’s an unusually tidy setup with very few wires by virtue of the logger connecting to the RM Tablet’s Compact Flash socket. The kit is however tied to Data Harvest’s Sensing Science Laboratory, an adequate if muddled piece of software. In a departure from a good tradition of supporting standards, we learn today that Data Harvest will not allow Logotron’s ‘Data logging Insight’ to work with the Flash Logger.
Data logging Xtreme – have you logged data in an unusual setting? We really ought to do a prize for the most interesting set of data logged whilst waiting for a delayed Easyjet flight.
Did you read the story about Easyjet using celebrities in its advertisements without their say so? If so you might find it intriguing that Easyjet told Data Harvest that they couldn’t use this picture in their publicity.
Many PC’s of the day feature a USB socket for add-ons like scanners, ‘play’ microscopes and even data loggers. Notable for a plug that has no obvious ‘up’, it’s a socket offering power and plug and play installation.
PASCO for example has a USB sensor range that works with the success you rarely see with data logging. The stuff costs more of course, but you have to see the good side: the pH, acceleration or distance sensor work really nicely as stand alone tools. Some of the UK data logging kits work with a USB cable – although usually it’s just an adaptor to bridge between the serial socket on the logger and the USB socket. Though things will change over the next year or so, at this moment it doesn’t use the power like true USB.
But lots of folk meet hurdles with USB. The golden rule is to install all the software before you even think of plugging the device in. Sometimes you’ll be asked to restart the machine – but do this anyway if you’re unsure. Next, when you’ve restarted and when the machine has truly settled down , you plug the device in, wait patiently and follow the instructions. When the installation is again truly complete, you can start your software. All this is a bit harder on a network system because every machine you use needs to go through this procedure. Some networks delete installations after a restart or when the server is upgraded, so you may hit snags with networks. If this doesn’t solve any problem, bear in mind that not all USB ports are alike. It seems to me that this imposes a limit on how many devices you may use. If you use a hub (essentially a splitter) and meet a snag, plug the device in directly without the hub. If you haven’t followed all this procedure and have a problem, either look for a software update on the web or uninstall the software, re-boot and start from fresh.
If like many science departments you’re aware that having a data projector is cornerstone to progress, you’re also acutely aware that money are its foundations. In the interim, as you wait for a lottery win, a £40 gizmo from Maplin the UK’s best gadget shop, lets you plug a PC into a TV. It’s USB* powered which should ease setting it up and it has S-video (black mini DIN) and Composite (yellow phono) outlets. You can expect average quality – though watching a DVD was fine when I tried something similar. The price includes VAT so bought for school, there’s no complaining about this useful stop gap. Info is correct at April 03: Code A30AU PC to TV Convertor £39.99 (www.maplin.co.uk)
Science technician rates of pay and conditions of work vary widely even within the same Local Education Authority. We would like to emphasise to the Government and the Department for Education and Skills, the strength of feeling over the need for urgent review. The last such review was in 1940. Would you be kind enough to ‘sign’ our petition?
Many thanks in advance,
The Royal Society
The Select Committee on Science and Technology’s Third report
“Pay is low; salaries average £9,000…there are few training opportunities for technicians…there is little motivation to undertake training when it will not be linked to career progression…it is difficult to promote the idea of being a technician as a professional occupation; it is more of a stopgap job” “The pay and conditions under which technicians are employed strike us as downright exploitation”
We should glow with today’s news that our allegedly worst school in the UK now finds itself top of the league table of most improved schools. It’s great to hear how Sir John Cass & Redcoat Foundation school has earned this good press and it’s great to note that there are different measures of a good school. ‘Cass’ is one of my local schools. Just keeping afloat here is a major achievement, but getting ahead is fantastic news and hope that maybe the destiny of any school isn’t just a measure of its pupil intake but something to do with the staff.
The fact that I cut my teeth here as head of chemistry and ICT makes me incredibly smug – though the fact that it’s massively improved since I left has entered my head. Still this was news to enjoy. The language of success
A new version arrives this month. Here’s the release from the publisher.
“Junior Datalogging Insight put data collection, analysis and interaction at the heart of their practical investigation lessons. This new release takes Primary Science to a new level. Junior Datalogging Insight is designed to motivate pupils and prompt learning as children work through the ‘planning’, ‘obtaining’, ‘presenting’, ‘considering’ and ‘evaluating of evidence’ elements of the Science
“Literally hundreds of experiments can be quickly conducted by using sensors, loggers and the Junior Datalogging Insight software. It allows pupils to quickly set up experiments and start collecting data, helping to maintain and stimulate interest” explained ex scientist Dr Robert Bowles, Logotron’s Education Sales Co-ordinator.
The ‘Melting Ice Cube’ and ‘Bus Ride to School’ scenarios included with Junior Datalogging Insight can be used to generate classroom discussion and bring meaning to graphs. Features like these inspire children to use sensors with imagination, to contemplate the meaning of graphs, shapes, charts and trends and to use measurement to investigate phenomena. Importantly, Junior Datalogging Insight will prompt learning about how graphs work, how a graph tells a story and how graphs store information from experiments.
Additional features of Junior Datalogging Insight include its simple format control panel, and the easy-to-use graphs with a unique ‘stretch and squeeze’ control. A choice of seven display windows for simultaneous or single display and tables that grow as data is keyed in are other key features that makes Junior Datalogging Insight particularly special.
But it’s the Movie Windows that really set it apart from other datalogging packages. By controlling an animated cartoon with a sensor or graph reading, the Movie Windows are a great way of prompting thinking and teaching about how graphs work. Movie Windows include: boiling a kettle, making a cup of tea, fizzy drinks, a bicycle ride, and ice cream melting.
Scaling and selecting data is so easy, students will never lose sight of data. Junior Datalogging Insight is compatible with most major dataloggers, and will connect effortlessly to them.
Junior Datalogging Insight costs £52 for a single user pack with substantial reductions offered for additional licences. Existing Junior Insight customers can also benefit from a 30% discount on software and licensing. Logotron has once again proven themselves to be a ‘One-stop Shop’ for quality educational software at an affordable price. Logotron is a Registered Retailer of Curriculum Online meaning all Logotron products can be purchased using e-Learning Credits. For further information please contact the Logotron School Sales Team on: 01223 425558 extension 795″.
While the simple word processor offers a way to help organise thoughts, there’s been a growing interest in the ways that other ICT tools – like Insiration, Branching Databases, Whiteboards and the like can also help. Though just starting with this myself, Mr Joop van Schie from the Netherlands tells me he’s collecting information and classroom stories. My first impression of Observetory suggests there’s more to this than a passing phase and someone here might be interested in his research. As Joop says in his appeal “I am looking for research on classroom experiences with the use of visualisation tools, e.g. branching databases. I am also looking for lists of applications that visualise cognitive knowledge – or put it another way, ICT tools that help explain concepts, ideas, meanings and basically what’s in your mind. A blackboard with chalk does that as do software products like inspiration”. Joop is at j.vanschie ‘AT’ albeda.nl
The Royal Society of Chemistry have some neat resources, including two new CD’s for schools. Better you go see them for yourself using these links. Most of these pages have a link to a demo – click on the main graphic. If one day these links break, thank the RSC for feeling tidy so unnecessarily.
If you’d toured the land last year, you would have wondered if there was more to computers in science than using Microsoft PowerPoint & Excel. Make no mistake: there’s little wrong with that, but there is a burgeoning stock pile of excellent software. Some of it is hard to find, all of it costs serious money and much of it appears at the BETT show in January 2003. It’s the place to recommend for ‘Windows’ shopping, though this first item also works on a Mac. The most promising bundle of the year, ‘Multimedia Library for Science’ is great software for chemistry. And it is not just titles like ‘Diffusion’ and Atoms & Ions (from Sunflower Learning £50 each) that smack of relevance, for here is a set of activity-based learning tools with substance.
Why the plaudits? Well up to now we’ve seen experiment simulations and more, but in ‘Dissolving’ we can offer pupils a model where they can play with temperature, concentration and evaporation. It is no 5-minute wonder; it is an opportunity to go deeper into ideas like ‘it’s hotter so more dissolves’. If the work is challenging, it feels like it is for the good.
‘Bonding’ is another favourite where you can take atoms of sodium and chlorine, complete with electron shells and join them by dragging an electron from one to the other. Another, ‘Periodic Table’ lets you graph properties of the elements as a 3-D histogram making for very interesting patterns in density, conductivity and melting point. The MLS software runs easily in your Internet browser and can be previewed online so you can check if it works for you. It’s new and by the time you see it, ready to run with online worksheets.
For physics models, see Fable Multimedia, who as last years BETT Award winner have spawned a series of affordable teaching tools. Motion Time Graphs, Transverse & Longitudinal Waves and Terminal Velocity (each £65) provide a measured learning activity in deservingly difficult areas. For more of this and stretching across the subject, see Physics Online (www.physics-online.com – £295) where models meet movies and online programs (applets). You can sign up for a trial and find not just great resources but a clever and easy way to store teaching material beside them. Do also see Science Online (from £225, Actis) with loads of original resources, stretching from Key Stage 3 to advanced level and something of a tour de force.
Only now and then comes an amazingly useful utility as Graph paper printer. This inexpensive software lets you produce graph paper on your printer. Every kind of specialist paper I’ve ever heard of is here – log scales, perspective papers, patterns and more. Favourites include a weekly and monthly calendar that can be customised to make booking timetables for example. Demo version is downloadable. Price is so fair I couldn’t care to quote it.
While you’re there look for some freebies from Mr Marquis (a hospital biologist – not sure what that equates to) that’ll suit teachers and science technicians too. For advanced level school chemistry see one of the free titles here called ‘Générateur de chromatogrammes’ – a program (written in French – but still usable) to generate and print fake chromatograms. Ideal for education or presentations. Go to Marquis Soft
Graph paper sample
Here you can download a neat, well polished video setting out ideas about data logging. It’s excellently produced by data logging manufacturer Fourier and by Horizon Singapore (contact details at the end of the movie). We think the production quality here is exceptional. We wish we had the money (£1000+ a minute) for it too, not least because most teaching scenarios we’d like to film, unlike this vid, have more than one student in a class. As you start watching, hold in mind the look of our website and do just be a little surprised in the opening and closing clips. We were!
Anyway if your machine’s happy with Windows Media (wmv – most are) click on the link to open, not save, the video. It should play as it downloads. To make this possible, we’ve had to shrink the file from 100 Mb to 2 Mb, so expect it to look better at postage stamp size.
Modem – Fourier – Horizon Singapore video.wmv
Broadband – Fourier – Horizon Singapore video.wmv
…is the name of our consumer (ie not education) web log about food, surfing and shopping for technology. After reading it, please rest assured that we are quite sane and healthy or at least that’s what nurse said. Click the title to read Today I’ve been mostly eating
Q. We are kitting out a “dry lab” at school. We have installed an Interactive White board and are about to put in 15 PC’s. They will run from a “Citrix”(?) server, and so will have limited use as stand-alone machines. We would like to get a class set of Data Loggers, but feel that with this number of PC’s, we would like to purchase software based Data Loggers. Are such things available? We feel that if we have this amount of hardware already in a lab, then we could do without buying more hardware (the data loggers themselves). We would like to plug probes straight into the PC’s. Is this possible, or do we have to “bite the bullet” and buy loggers and probes on top of the PC’s? Any advice would be gratefully received. Ben
A. No good news for you here: the Citrix setup will be a pain. If it works, it will not do data logging in the way suggested. Pasco.com do sensors that plug in and go but nothing I know works on Citrix. Roger
Thanks for your reply. Ben
A kit for the Jeulin Data-logger system aimed towards PE departments for use in sports science. It will include sensors for human respiration, ventilation and heart rate.
As part of the Video camera range Economatics are launching the Pupil Cam, a dedicated digital microscope camera for displaying microscopic images to a PC (or via a PC to an interactive whiteboard). The Pupil Cam will compliment the Video Flex, high quality magnifying video camera and the Vision Viewer camera already in the range.
Also available is Vision Explorer software (supplied free with the Video Flex) which enables images to be recorded (including live video), edited/enhanced and broadcast across a network.
Tim writes (hit the email button to reply): I’ve just bought Insight (and presume, as it arrived today, that it is v 4). What surprises me is that nowhere (either in the printed documentation or on the Logotron website – so far as I can see -) does it appear to tell me what dataloggers it will work with! Maybe when I put the CD in the machine all will be clear – but I am used to getting a tech manual for kit and it looked decidedly thin ! I’d be grateful for any clues ! As we are predominatly Economatics Smart users I don’t believe we will have a problem – but it would be nice to find out if there is a driver that could accept RS232 so that the Precisa balance that still has to talk to the vintage BBC micro can talk to something a bit more swish !
RF: A few times in the past I too have looked to find a list of loggers supported by Insight – and I’ve learned to assume things won’t work. Balances remain an issue – I’m not sure who to talk to sort this out and get some decent balance software. Evidently it’s not Logotron.
But first a ramble: I once thought that art and science were different subjects that we really ought to know about. After seeing this interactive resource on teaching mixing colour I’m not so sure: in my world red and green make yellow and in the artist’s it makes something else. The world of TV screens PC screens and Cinema, mixing coloured light to get other colours is a zillion times more commonplace than mixing paint. But I bet if you ask a non science person what you get when you mix colours they’ll think of paint.
Still to appreciate is that the AccessArt resource is aimed at teaching mixing paint to young children with learning difficulties. On a PC screen, mixing red light with yellow light to make orange well confused me about stuff I thought I knew. (In other words, the last place to go teach about mixing paint is the computer screen). I hope someone finds the link useful. Here’s the press release:
AccessArt: Red, Yellow, Blue AccessArt specializes in creating innovative resources which center around the way artists teach visual arts to all ages. Designed to be used by children, the resource is navigated by colour, sound and object based animations. Each child can create his or her learning pathway – there is no right or wrong route. During testing one five year old girl spent over 50 minutes in front of the resource.
The interactive animated resource is also accompanied by a text-based printout which introduces teachers and parents to some practical methods of exploring colour in the home/school or community.”
Pocket computers are just the thing in some science situations: they take up little space; are easy to carry from room to room; have good battery life. They change and go out of fashion quickly so the trick is to buy a job-lot of them around Summer time (it seems) when there are discounts. The latest machines hit the shops before Xmas but at new prices they don’t seem too great: they’re not as functional as you think they are going to be. Windows CE looks like Windows but just the gloss. Printing and file transfer needs thinking through.
A few well chosen wireless LAN cards (try Cisco) could be the way to fly with these. Jungle were selling the HP Jornada 710 for £210 when it’s normal price was about £500.
It’s good to know about ‘databases’ if you’re a scientist – not least cos having a means to handle lots of data is a likely task in the job. Not that we’re required to do that in the science curriculum not that there’s much time for it and besides Excel would do a lot of the key tasks in many schools. Those who teach IT in primary and secondary schools might like to know that Flexible Software’s Flexdata just notched up another version. When we first saw it a few years back it was an accomplished piece of work – it could handle and graph everything we wanted and it was not too business orientated to lose the plot about what teaching ‘databases’ was all about. If that’s your line of work, I hope the link is useful Flexible Software