Mark believes there are three important components to using a laptop in school - the laptop, good software and a display system. Although laptops can be used with data projectors and interactive whiteboards, this is an expensive option. Mark is a big fan of scan converters, which allow a PC to be connected to a TV for display purposes. "A scan converter only costs about pound;60, so it's a great low-cost display system for class presentations," he says.
He advises against using the internet live for class presentations, because connections are still unreliable. "It's better to do the web surfing at home on your laptop and download the web pages you want and then present them to your class from your computer."
Mark is a big fan of Microsoft Office, which includes Word (a word processor package), Excel (a spreadsheet) and PowerPoint (presentation software). He has created many PowerPoint resources for his classes and says: "I always start and end my lessons with a PowerPoint presentation. I prepare the presentations beforehand and having a laptop is great for doing this."
Mark also uses Trackmaster target setting and attainment monitoring software which he created himself and markets under his own company, Jules Concepts.
As well as using his laptop for registration, Mark uses a Sony Mavica digital camera with his laptop during lessons: "You can shoot video clips of students doing an experiment and then let them see instantly on the laptop how they performed."
Mark's out-of-school activities - which include consultation work - have raised enough money for his school to invest in more laptops and there are now two machines in the science labs, two in the RE rooms and one each in the music and language rooms. "One of the great things about having your own laptop," he says, "is that the machine is yours - you're not stuck to the school network. It really changes the way you work and makes teaching even more effective."
Mark Hitch recommends:
Mark Hitch's article on using scan converters in the classroom with a laptop is on the FERL (Further Education Resources for Learning) site: http:ferl.becta.org.ukdisplay.cfm?page=13amp;resID=2025
For more information on scan converters visit AVER's website: www.averm.co.uk
Some of Mark Hitch's science PowerPoint presentations along with an article he has written on using PowerPoint in the classroom can be found at the Science Online site: http:www.scienceonline.co.ukfree_ppt-files.html
More information on Sony digital cameras: www.sony.co.uk
More information on Trackmaster: www.julesconcepts.co.uk
Mark Hitch says that Bluechip Personal Computers is a good source of end-of-line new computers: www.bluechip-pc.co.uk