Best, Cheap Technology for a Science Classroom
July 30, 2014 10:26 AM   Subscribe

Hey MeFites, I'm really trying to expand the use of digital technology in my classroom. Unfortunately, the resources at my school are fairly limited. However, I do have access to $1200 in grant money, assuming I can write a compelling enough proposal. Help me find some affordable tech for my classroom! Needs of class inside.

Here's what I want my students to be able to do:

- record short digital videos with voiceover. The ability to edit these is a bonus, but I'm fine with Vine style "turn-on/turn-off" editing
- take pictures and share them online somehow
- access the web
- occasionally it would be cool if I could have them type with a Bluetooth keyboard
- access to Google Docs
- GPS compatibility/geotagging for field projects

Would Be Nice if I Can Afford It
- access to some sort of Arduino app that can upload code via USB to Arduino devices
- Flash and Java compatibility is nice if it's possible
- some kind of Vernier-compatible app

I obviously can't get a classroom set for 32 students with $1200, but I think I should be able to buy 8 devices for that money, which means I could have students work in groups of 4 and share a tablet. Any ideas for what kind of devices would meet my criteria, and ideas for getting those affordably, are greatly appreciated!

(Also, go ahead and throw ideas for other ways to use the tech you preach while you're at it!)
posted by thelastpolarbear to Technology (5 answers total) 3 users marked this as a favorite
I remembered the One Laptop per Child stunt from last year, which led me to the XO, a 7" Android tablet aimed at children for about 130 bucks per piece.

It should cover most of the bases besides GPS and the Vernier-thingie (unless there is something for it on the Google Play Store).
posted by KMB at 11:09 AM on July 30, 2014

I asked my resident ed tech specialist, and given the budget constraints, if you're comfortable with Raspberry Pis, you could make kind of mini mobile devices using a set up like this + this + this. He is not a fan of the quality/longevity of most of the cheaper Android tablets in that price range, but I didn't ask about the XO specifically.

One awesome thing is that the Linux beta for Logger Pro is currently free, if you end up with or are using any hardware running Ubuntu. Unfortunately, it looks like Chromebooks start at around 250 each (but it sounds like you're looking for tablets anyway?)
posted by jetlagaddict at 12:01 PM on July 30, 2014

If the XO does look like something you may want, it's at Amazon for just over 75 bucks right now...
posted by papayaninja at 12:01 PM on July 30, 2014

Pretty much all of your necessary qualifications can happen through Google apps - you can share pictures, videos, docs, presentations, etc. through Drive. You can also video edit using a Chrome extension called Pixorial that runs through Drive. There's also WeVideo that is free and works on any device.

But honestly, if enough of your kids have smartphones, their video making capabilities will be dramatically increased by using their own devices. My students use iPhones (sometimes even my personal one and my old iPhone 4) to record and then edit in Splice (also free). Those videos are of much higher quality than those made using the cheap windows/nexus/android tablets.

Last year, I had a heavy focus on digital media production in my flipped Project-Based Learning 9th grade English class. The only tech we had is what students brought (maybe 60% had smartphones, and another 10% had tablets), my own iPad 3, my two iPhones, my two MacBooks (a 2008 dinosaur and 2012 gen) and an iPad mini I got through Donors Choose. That was enough for groups to create elaborate videos in a reasonable amount of time.

Gmail me (same name as here) if you want more details on how I did that.
posted by guster4lovers at 4:42 PM on July 30, 2014

Response by poster: Hmm... the XO seems to have a lot of complaints about the battery quickly fritzing, which is definitely crucial for my work.

Unfortunately, smartphones are not an option. I am at a charter school, and there is a network-wide policy banning phones from being turned on within a block of campus, and even my principal could not grant an exemption. If a network auditor came into our school (which occurs weekly) and saw phones being used, I would be in enormous trouble and possibly let go.

I saw that there are some ways to get the Samsung Galaxy cheaply. Either the Galaxy or the Nexus seems like the best option for me. Now I just need to figure out how to get it!
posted by thelastpolarbear at 5:22 AM on August 7, 2014

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