We’ve been in the digital age for some time now. The age of brick phones is behind us (even if flip phones have somehow made a comeback), and most people no longer rely on dial-ups, let alone an ethernet cable, to connect to the internet. Everything is wireless. We are in the 21st Century.
Yet technology is, still, constantly changing. Had I written this in 2006, my answers to essential teacher tech would’ve differed wildly. Likewise, if you’re in the year 2034 and reading this, you’ll probably scoff at my list, thinking, ‘did teachers really use these?’
Yes, we really did. This is a list of all the essential technologies that I used – and think you could do with – in your training year and beyond. Every technology comes with a caveat: if you can’t afford it, don’t buy it. Would an iPad Pro be nice? Sure. Could you make do with just a cheap laptop? Absolutely.
Don’t spend a fortune in your training year. But if you can stretch your budget, here’s what I’d recommend.
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Laptop > desktop
As a freelance writer, working from home is essential, which is why I prefer an office space for concentrated writing efforts. This does wonders for separating work from play, and having a dedicated desktop probably would’ve made me even more productive during the height of lockdown.
However, using a desktop as a teacher isn’t practical. You should expect to carry your device to placement everyday, and being able to work from home if necessary, especially after this year’s events, makes having a portable device even more essential.
Here’s a caveat: if you don’t already own a laptop, wait until you get to placement. I was given one to use on my first placement, but wasn’t as lucky on my second, meaning my own device was only useful for half of my training year. As a result, your own device needs may vary.
I’ve been with the same laptop since starting University in 2015 and, though it’s starting to show its age, it’s still a very reliable word processor, which is what you’ll be using yours for. I’ve linked the updated version of mine (though it is a beefier, more expensive, model than the £300 one that I purchased) below but, whichever you go for, just ensure it’s slim enough to be portable, or you’ll throw your shoulders out on day one.
A second screen?
On my desk is a 10-year-old HD TV for all of my gaming needs. However, whenever I wrote essays or completed remote learning for my course, I connected it to my laptop using an HDMI cable, giving myself a second screen.
This was invaluable, since I quickly grew tired of switching between tabs to flick from work to research. It’s a waste of time that could be spent far more productively, and a second screen is a relatively cheap solution to tab-switching.
Unless you plan on using the second screen for anything other than University/placement work, don’t spend a lot of money. This monitor below is affordable, a good make, and should meet all of your needs:
Equally, you might want to introduce an iPad into your desk setup – either as a second screen, or even as a third – to really ramp up your productivity.
A working stylus
While on placement, I lugged around my laptop, textbooks and lunch, as well as a huge notepad to do lesson planning. Then at the end of each week, I’d try (but usually fail) to make a concentrated effort to file away the notes I needed and the notes I didn’t. It was, quite frankly, a waste of time.
During lockdown, I started to take all of my notes on OneNote, using a MEKO stylus. This was a game changer. The stylus’ tip was thin enough to act like a regular pen and using OneNote meant that I no longer had any random scraps of paper cluttering my minimalist space. It also meant that I could use touch-capacitive technologies when at work to take notes in staff meetings, without having to carry even more bits and pieces with me.
Here’s a link to the stylus, so that you can buy your own:
A decent mouse
For most of my training year, I’ve had to make do with a poxy little hand-me-down Microsoft mouse, which is fine, but I have big hands. Big hands require big mice. If you can afford the investment, go for this one:
Its five buttons make it perfectly suited for gaming, and my housemates can both attest to its effectiveness.
However, teachers aren’t exactly millionaires (nor do we have time to play many games). Try a more budget-friendly version, like this one from HP:
Whichever you opt for, ensuring that it’s big enough for your hands to sit comfortably on all day is essential.
Trust me: you don’t want to rely on a laptop track pad all day. And maybe avoid wires, too. Wires are so last century.