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Buying A Pc For The Foundation Stage


Guest Tredworth
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Guest Tredworth

Hello, I've just started working as a part-time teacher in an LEA Early Years Centre. We have a range of ICT equipment but no computer. I have the job of researching and recommending the most appropriate hardware and peripherals. I know this market is changing fast and it's hard to keep up to date but does anyone have any recommendations or tips for buying. The computer will be primarily for use by the children (word processing, data handling, CD Roms, internet access) but will also be used by staff for record keeping, creating resources, etc. My research so far suggests I need a lower case keyboard, infant mouse, flat screen monitor (space is limited) plus colour printer, speakers, headphones, microphone and internet access. If anyone can give me any advice on what to buy or where to go to get an informed and unbiased opinion I'd be really grateful!

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Hi Tredworth -

Welcome to the forum and thanks for your post! :D

 

I'm reasonably experienced in these things although no professional. I've bought from discount and brand name mail order manufacturers in the past and had good and bad experiences. Up till fairly recently PC World and other high street presences were a bit of a joke, but the last two pc's I have bought have both come from PC World and I think I've had pretty good buys from them - plus you can see and kick the machines before you buy them, and usually walk out of the shop with them as well!

 

A few things to look out for:

 

* you don't need to buy the fastest most recent processor on the market. This usually adds a hundred pounds or so to the price and will be way in excess of what you need. If you go for a 2GHz to 2.8 GHz machine that will be more than adequate.

* RAM is good! If you can find a machine with 512 MB that's ideal - 256 minimum is what retailers should be supplying these days.

* Make sure the PC has a Firewire (1394) port on it. You might never need it but an increasing number of peripherals these days make use of this sort of an attachment - yet I only just spotted that one of the PC World machines I was considering a couple of weeks ago didn't have it.

* A TFT is an excellent idea. They're compact and brilliant generally. The only thing with children is that you have to persuade them not to prod it - they're quite sensitive!

 

You should get Windows XP with all of your options these days - if you can get MS Works Suite (2002/3) with the pc, this will provide you with pretty good spreadsheet, database and other facilities for your admin work - plus MS Word which is more or less the standard Word Processor these days. Don't worry too much about dozens of other software packages, as the novelty of these will pall quickly and their usefulness is suspect.

 

Be aware that most of the peripherals you'll be offered as part of a package will be absolutely basic - printer, scanner, camera etc. Doesn't mean you shouldn't go for a package if you need all those things, but don't expect too much of them, and try not to have your head turned by a lower than average specification (see above) in return for them.

 

Often the brand names PC World offer will be much more expensive than the non brands. As a matter of reference the two pcs I bought were Medion and Advent (PC Worlds own brand) and I've been very happy with both. Highly specified with less frippery than Compaq, Hewlett Packard etc.

 

Internet Access: well - that depends on the infrastructure you have in your Early Years centre. Are you relying on an ordinary phone line or do you have some technology or network established in the building already? The supplier will obviously not give you a physical internet connection, but will include a modem for an analogue connection in the pc, and also a LAN card which will only be useful if you already have a network you can attach yourself to. From then on you can either take their recommendation for a service provider (the organisation you dial into to get your internet connection) or arrange one of your own. If you arrange one of your own you need to decide whether you want to pay a flat monthly fee for 24 hour access, or a per minute rate for probably an occasional need for access. Sorry to sound vague but there are loads of different options depending on what your set up is.

 

The only drawback to PC World is that frequently (though not always) you won't find the advice very professional. Their sales staff seem to like to talk about the colour rather than the machine's capability...

 

Let me know if I'm just speaking gibberish - and specifically let me know which bits are most gibberish! :o

 

Oh - I wouldn't worry too much about the infant mouse unless you have a particular reason to - our children manage very well with a normal one.

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We have just acquired a PC for pre-school-my husband set it up for us last Thursday.

We too are looking at using it for both the children and staff to use-once I've got my staff confidant enough to go on it that is!! :oxD They all seem worried that they are going to "make a mess of it"-quote!!!

Anyway, I am looking for some software to use with the children. I have seen a program called Dizzy's or Izzy's island and toybox-they looked quite nice with positional language games etc. And when I was on a course today somebody recommended Infant Tool Kit 2 Publish. I can find the formers but not the latter. Does anybody know where I can buy it? Has anybody else got a favourite program that would be suitable for 3 and 4 year olds? I would like something where they can draw pictures and print them off and maths and language and literacy programs to start off with.

Thanks

Linda

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I think the software you are looking for is the 2Simple "Infant Video Toolkit Version 2". I have used this extensively with children in the Foundation Stage and can't praise it enough. This is the link to their site, http://www.2simple.com Another excellent site for the foundation stage is http://www.themouseclub.co.uk/ Their "Mouse in the House" CD is fantastic value. Good luck. Janet

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Hi Janet -

Welcome in to the forum - and thanks for such a useful first post! We're always looking out for good software recommendations from the members - it's such a difficult decision to make simply based on the propaganda (sorry advertising) from the suppliers!

 

Welcome again - any further recommendations would be very welcome. Hope you find the site useful, educational and fun!

 

Regards, Steve.

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I like the online resources too. Sparkisland.co.uk and learnpremium.co.uk all have really good lessons and activities for Early Years upwards. You can use e-credits to purchase the subscription too.

Good luck.

Ali

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Thanks for those Ali-I have ordered two of the programs from sparksisland. Unfortunately we don't have internet access at pre-school but there are some lovely ideas on there so I have signed up for the 14 day free trial.

Thanks again

Linda

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Guest Tredworth

Dear Steve

 

Thank you for your post. It is really useful and reassuring to have your thoughts on what hardware will be adequate for our use. Just one question, what is a TFT?

 

Thank you also to everyone who has added posts on software. That would have course have been my next question!

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Hi Tredworth -

TFT - Hmm. Now you come to ask, I can't remember what the T's stand for. The important letter, however is F for Flat! :D

 

They're the LCD style monitors that look more like a picture frame than a TV. They're fantastic these days, really bright colours, and dropping in price. And they're great space savers. If you can afford one I'd highly recommend them. The main problem with where to put a pc is the depth of the desk available. If you use one of the traditional CRT monitors a lot of the time you end up with the monitor too close to the user because there's not enough space behind the monitor to set it back.

 

Good luck with the purchase - let us know what you went for!

 

Regards, Steve.

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  • 3 weeks later...

Hi there!

I currently work with the foundation stage, I use 2 simple infant video toolkit and it is fabulous, in fact the new updated version has just come out, we also use 2 simple modelling and alphabet soup :D - all from the same company. Another good buy has been 'learning ladders' Have fun sampling - software products can be trialled with no obligation to buy. Let the children help decide :o

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I have just bought the 2 simple tool kit and I agree with you it is lovely. We haven't started using it with the children yet as we have only had our computer for about six weeks and I need to get staff confident with it first. But I can't wait to get the children on there.

I also got Tizzy's toybox and Izzy's island which are very nice too. Again not used them yet but they look quite appealing to me.

Linda

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  • 2 months later...

just been out to buy a PC for my home use its a mine field out there.... incidently we did find the computor shop alot cheaper than PC world

 

any way my setting doesnt have a computer to use and there is no storage facilities we questioned getting a lap top but wondered whether they would be practical with small children?

 

any one got any experience of laptops and children?

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Hi Alison -

My first reaction would be that a laptop would be difficult to control - if it's portable children will realise it and, well, port it... :o

 

And the screen being in such close proximity to the keyboard is not ideal either - tft screens are more fragile than the standard CRT screen. The screen in our nursery needs regular cleaning as it accumulates unidentified smears and stains. I'm not sure how a laptop screen would stand up to the sort of prodding it's likely to get.

 

On the other hand, of course, it does provide the opportunity to take it to where the action is - outside for example - and use it in innovative ways.

 

Hope this helps

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My setting has a laptop which was bought just before I started. It really is not very good for the children and is only used under adult supervision which is basically 1:1 (or at best 1:2) which is not always possible. We would much prefer to have a computer which is set up permanently but we are in a hall and therefore have to pack everything away each day and storage space is limited. I would not recommend a laptop for children's use. :)

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Thank you for that Libby - we have just gone through the process of fundraising for a computer for our pre school.

as usual myself and my staff think a computer would benifit the children a lot more than a laptop ( which the committee want us to purchase).

we have to clear away each day too as we are in a hall but have managed after much persuading the hall owners to leave it in a side room in a locked cuboard.

thank you again for your reply i will be printing it off to show our committee.

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thanks for the reply steve and libby

 

you have confirmed our concerns about the screen and portability and with laptops being so cheap! :o (sarcasm!!)

 

I think a "proper" computor would be the better option all round

 

thanks

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Hi all,

 

Re: computers in non-ideal premises.

 

The pre-school I work at is in a village hall and (like others in similar premises) absolutely everything has to be put away at the end of each session. We solved the computer problem by getting one of the dads to build us an open-fronted wooden cabinet on castors. The monitor (not a flat one unfortunately) and the speakers sit on top of the cabinet, and all the other hardware is housed underneath. The keyboard and mouse are on a pull-out flap. When we are not using the computer, the underneath part of the cabinet has a hinged cover which padlocks on. We have a fabric cover which goes over the entire cabinet, so hiding the monitor and speakers when not in use. We wheel the cabinet in and out of our storage cupboard on a daily basis. It does take up a fair bit of space, but we moved some other stuff into our shed to compensate. Other hall users have access to the cupboard, because it also houses the hall's trestle tables etc (the cupboard is locked, but anyone using or hiring the hall is given a key). This arrangement is acceptable to our insurers (PLA). However, to date, we have never had a problem with other hall users interfering with the computer (or any of our other equipment - loads of it) that is stored in the cupboard.

 

Not ideal, but it does give us the chance to use a computer with the children, and we can put it where ever we want in the hall. Also, it means that it can go into the kitchen to be used solely for admin tasks (we have an all-in-one printer, so this is also our photocopier, and it isn't always appropriate or practical to have the children on hand).

 

Regarding our hardware - we really should have had a cd-rewriter (our stuff is nearly 3 years old and such things weren't standard that long ago). This is a disadvantage when it comes to using the digital camera, etc. Also, we don't have internet access beacuse there is no telephone line in the hall.

 

I have used my laptop in the setting, but only with close adult supervision. We have had some tremendous fun with the speech tools (e.g. putting in the children's own words and getting the computer to speak it back to us). Mostly though, I have found it better to avoid use of the keyboard by the children, and let them mouse.

 

On the subject of mousing, I know opinion differs on this, but I prefer a small sized mouse. I find it easier to use, and some of our children (we take them from 2 and a quarter) do not have big enough hands to move a standard size mouse and click without repositioning their hand in between.

 

I also love the 2simple Infant Video Toolbox (I got it for free on a training course) and mostly use 2paint and 2count, both of which the children do tremendous things with! These just rely on the children mousing.

 

Oh heavens, I've rambled again!

 

Diane.

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Steve, could you give you advice on page one in a way I can print it? Then I can recommend it to ny Head and also take it when I go to research in the German equivalent of PC world (am now using one from them and as you say, they are pretty good these days. It makes it easier for me as I can pop in if I have any problems.) Can I ask for advice on keyboards too. :) Chris

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