Educational technology: value for money (Part 2)

In this three part blog series, Advance Queensland Community Digital Champion, Emily de la Pena answers her question, ‘If I had $2000 to spend on educational technology, what would I buy to get the most out of it?’

Emily has been visiting regional libraries around Queensland delivering coding and robotics training to library staff.  She’s an advocate for the important role robotics plays in education, and put together this series of three blog posts to share her thoughts on how to choose educational technology 

By Emily de la Pena–Advance Queensland Community Champion

School children play with Ozobots and iPads

Part 2: Value for money

Let’s say you receive $2000 for tech equipment to support the engagement of your community in digital literacy education. How can you make the best use of this funding? Here are our recommendations for value-for-money tech equipment that cover various age groups and abilities:

Primary school students (Prep-year 6)

Our recommendation for primary school students would be to purchase one of the robots recommended, and mix it up with either Makey Makey or InnoBits:

Robots:

  • Ozobots (~$100)
  • Edison Robots (starting from ~$60)

Electronics:

  • Makey Makey (starting from ~$60)
  • InnoBits (starting from ~$160 for 10 bits and ~$320 for 24 bits)

Ozobots:

Ozobots can be programmable via mobile device or desktop/laptop; each robot will require its own device, e.g. a tablet (starting from ~$50). To use these robots as part of a group activity, it’s best to have a maximum of two students per robot-tablet set. Three students per set will leave one child simply observing and not actively participating.

Cost:

  • 5 Ozobots and tablets = starting from ~$750

Edison Robots:

Edison Robots can be programmed using either a laptop or desktop. As the programming starts to get a bit more complex and challenging, it’s best to have one student to one robot. Each child needs to spend a bit of time in front of their code to puzzle out the problems.

Cost:

  • 10 Edison Robots to use with existing laptops or desktops = ~$600

School children interact with Makey Makey

Makey Makey

Makey Makey is an input device that allows the maker to build circuits and gadgets using everyday objects — Things like lollies, fruit, cutlery, or even aluminium foil. This hardware can be integrated with Scratch, and it allows students to design both the software and hardware involved in inventing a gadget, a game controller, or a musical instrument, among other things.

Cost:

  • 5 Makey Makey kits to use with existing laptops or desktops (arts and craft supplies not included) = ~$300

Verdict

With $2000 to build a flexible program for primary school students, I would suggest purchasing:

  • 10 Makey Makey kits + arts and craft materials = ~$600 + ~$50
  • 9 Ozobots and tablets =~$1350
  • Total cost: ~$2000.

If you have extra cash, consider purchasing 5 sets of InnoBits for ~$1650. Alternatively, you may choose to buy InnoBits instead of the Ozobots.

Assuming you have an existing set of desktops or laptops, you can deliver the following classes for this age group:

  • Scratch and Makey Makey workshops (coding and circuits)
  • Ozobot workshops (robotics)

High school students (7-12)

At a high school level, we don’t need additional robots; feel free to make use of the ‘primary school’ robots. That being said, there is an alternative for the high school students: you could have them build their own robot — with say, an Arduino.

The equipment to buy for high school students really depends on their abilities and past experiences of using development boards and coding. Here are our recommended hardware for high school students, organised in terms of their level:

  1. Micro:bit kits: beginner level, can be programmed with Python (~$70)
  2. Arduino kits: intermediate level, can be programmed with C (~$150)
  3. Raspberry Pi kit: advanced level, can be programmed with Bash, Python, C/C++, Java, Ruby, and so much more! (~$100)

Micro:bit kits

Micro:bits are tiny, programmable computers. They are a great starting point for introducing hardware to a beginner-level community. It is accessible, cost-effective and flexible, allowing you to deliver workshops and build projects for both beginner-level and advanced-level students. Micro:bits are programmed in Python, which is a great programming language to start off with if you’re a beginner:  it is simple, readable and a great general purpose language.

Cost:

  • 15 Micro:bits kits = ~$1000

Arduino kits:

Arduinos are programmable circuit boards that provide your students with a greater degree of complexity. They can be programmed in C, which is slightly more challenging than Python.

Cost:

  • 10 Arduino kits = ~$1500

Raspberry Pi kits:

Raspberry Pis are a small computer designed to be an education tool. Although you need to connect it to a monitor, keyboard and mouse in order to be used, it’s a great tool if you have students with a strong foundation in programming and computer hardware.

It requires to be connected to a monitor, keyboard and mouse in order to be used. This is a great tool to use if you have students who have a strong foundation in programming and computer hardware. This suits communities who already have a very mature technologies program and are required to provide challenging projects for their advanced students.

Say, 8 = ~$250 * 8 (Each set contains: Raspberry Pi, cables, monitor, keyboards, mouse) = ~$2000

About the author

Emily de la Pena

By Emily de la Pena, Founder of Coding Kids

Emily de la Pena, Founder of Coding Kids.

Coding Kids is developing the next generation of coders, creators, innovators and change makers. We are striving for: All Australian children coding by 2020! We run school holiday code camps, after-school coding clubs and professional development workshops for educators. Children build their own computer games, animation movies and digital solutions. Through fun and play children discover computational thinking, design thinking and entrepreneurship.