Tag Archives: laptop

How I turned a laptop into a desktop computer 

How I turned an older laptop into a desktop computer.

I decided to get a monitor that I could plug into my laptop to make it easier to read and write for the dissertation that I have started. My idea was to buy a monitor and use it with my Macbook Air. I chose a 24 inch monitor as I wanted to be able to view two pages at the same time. The laptop connects using a standard HDMI cable and a HDMI to ‘lightening’ adapter or an HDMI to ‘lightening’ cable. I also tried the monitor with a 5 year old Dell Inspiron laptop and it worked pretty well, which got me thinking…

I added a wireless keyboard and mouse (which uses a USB dongle and Bluetooth) which saves having to use the laptop in front of the monitor and not being able to see the bottom of the screen.

Computer screen and keyboard
Computer screen and keyboard

So now I have my Dell laptop running Windows 10 and Office 365 with plenty of options for viewing.

I can still use the Macbook if I want but for now I am happy to leave the old Dell where it is!

I feel that I have got a useful and space saving desktop computer for the price of a monitor, keyboard and mouse. And if the older laptop dies I can either use another laptop or buy a basic desktop unit.

What do you think? Have you tried something similar?


Monitor: LG 24MP68VQ-P Slim bezel 24inch IPS LED around US$160

Keyboard and Mouse: Logitech wireless keyboard and mouse around US$30

Dell Inspiron N4110 with i5 processor and 8gb of RAM. This model had an HDMI slot

Should children learn to touch type?

Should children learn to touch type?

This question has been around for a long time, certainly since the typewriters in the business studies rooms were replaced with word processors!

Students are now surrounded by digital technology and use a range of devices for their work. It is common for children to use tablets, such as iPads from a young age, and many secondary and high school students are using laptops. These are trends that will continue.

Is it important to be able to touch type?  I mean being able to accurately use a keyboard, while looking at the screen or elsewhere, and using all fingers on the correct keys. There are commonly heard arguments for and against learning to touch type

Arguments against learning to touch type

  • it takes a lot of time, time that is better spent on other learning
  • technology such as predictive text and touchscreen devices mean children will not need to type in the future
  • speech recognition and dictation software is replacing typing
  • one or two finger typing is just as fast on hand held devices

Arguments for learning to touch type

  • using a keyboard is the most effective way of inputting text, if you can type efficiently
  • laptops and computers, with keyboards, are going to be around for a while
  • it is a lifeskill, like riding a bike, once you learn you will not forget
  • good habits are best learned at an early age, as bad ones are hard to shift
  • once you can touch type accurately, your speed should increase

In conclusion, why I think that touch typing needs to be taught in school

Students in high school and above are going to be expected to use computers to produce longer and longer texts, for this reason efficient and correct touch typing is essential. Schools need to put aside time to teach this invaluable lifeskill, we cannot rely on parents and self motivated children to learn only at home. Maybe a compromise is to have ‘typing club’ at times during the school day. If we have 12 and 13 year old children typing with two fingers we are doing them a disservice.

Recommended Free Typing Tutor

There are free typing tutors available. I have seen children succeed with the free typing tutor available on line from typing.com. Teachers can even set up classes and monitor progress. The free version does have advertisements but they are not too noticeable. A small fee will remove the ads completely.  Another reliable one is typingclub.com There are many other typing tutors available, some of which are very good, but beware of ones with too many distractions and games!

What do you think?


Teacher’s Tech Toolkit

What does a teacher need in their Tech Toolkit?

I recently read this article: Which should I buy a PC or a Mac? I know it is a perennial topic but it made me think – what does a teacher need in their ‘Tech Toolkit?’ For this post I am thinking about hardware rather than software, which is another story. Of course many people will have their own ideas but what should be the minimum?

What should be in a teacher’sTech Toolkit?

I think the following should be the minimum for a teacher’s tech toolkit:

  • a laptop
  • an external hard drive
  • a smartphone

Now I will explain why I think this!

Why have a portable hard drive?

External Hard Drive
External Hard Drive

Let’s start with possibly the least obvious. External, portable hard drives are cheap and can be used to keep a back up of your data. They typically use a small size hard disc (that keeps the overall package small) and do not need a power supply. They are powered when plugged in to the USB slot on your computer. They come in a number of sizes (e.g. 500gb, 1tb, 2tb, 3tb). There is not a lot of point in buying a very large capacity unless you have a lot of video to store. As a rule of thumb get one with the same capacity as your computer. If this gets full over time buy another – the price will have fallen by then!

Once you have your external hard drive remember to use it from time to time! If you are using one on a day to day basis you should have another one stored somewhere safe. I know of people who have had break ins and lost the photos stored on their computer and the back up hard disc, which has been stored nearby. Why not leave one in a safe place at work? Or at your mum’s?

Why have a smartphone?

If you already have one you will probably know why. If not consider this: smart phones have a camera, and a video or sound recorder. You can use your smart phone to record activities instantly and you can access google or Pinterest there and then. You can even make phone calls. Just make sure that it is on silent mode, and it is rude to look at it while ‘listening’ to people.

Why have a laptop?

MacBook Air
Apple MacBook Air

Any recent laptop has the capability to connect to the internet and it allows you to type documents, arrange photographs and look at or edit video. A laptop is obviously portable. How portable you want to make it depends on your needs. If you are always on the move the lighter the better – and that means more expensive.

What are the alternatives?

At the minimum a teacher should have a laptop, smartphone and external hard drive but there are some other things that may also fit your needs.

A desktop computer

If you are working in one place and use the computer for hours on end you should consider getting a desktop computer if only because it is better for you. The ergonomics of a separate keyboard and adjustable screen are better for your back, neck and eyes. You also get more bang for you buck with a desktop (compared to a laptop) and they are much  more expandable.

A tablet

A tablet can do many of the things that a smartphone does and will offer a larger screen. This could be an alternative to a smartphone – but do you really need both?

So what do I actually use?

  • For everyday use: An Apple Macbook Air (mid 2013) with 8 Gb of RAM and 256 Gb solid state hard drive running OSX (work supplied)
  • For back up: 500 Gb portable hard drive (USB)
  • Home computer: Dell Inspiron (2011) 4 Gb RAM and 500 Gb hard drive. (I can plug this into my TV using HDMI cable) running Windows 10
  • Smartphone: Sony Xperia Z3 Compact with 64 Gb SD card running Android 5
  • Tablet: iPad (2003) 16 Gb running IOS 7 (work supplied)

From this list you may conclude that I am fairly neutral in the ‘should I buy a PC or mac?’ debate. I like using both, but look where I spend my own money!

What do you think?

Is there something else that should definitely be in a Teacher’s Tech Toolkit? Please share you thoughts in the comments below or on the social media links.

MacBook Air

It’s a while since I have used a Mac, but now that the school is going to use both Mac and Windows I will be using a MacBook air. I know that there has been a lot of discussion over the years about Mac vs Windows, with much of it around personal preferences but I will try to give my impressions about using the laptop in school and at home.

First things first:

It’s a MacBook Air

Tech Spec: Processor 1.3 gHz Intel Core i5  / RAM 8gb 1600mHz DDR3 / Intel HD Graphics 5000 1024 MB / HD Solid State 250 gb / OSX 10.9 /

The hard disk has a Windows partition, which means that it is possible to install a windows operating system on the computer. I will not do this unless I need to…

Software: I have Office for Mac installed which gives me access to Word, Excel and PowerPoint. Outlook gives access to our school mail server. I will also be using Google Drive, so I have installed the Google Chrome browser alongside Safari.

First Impressions

It’s solid and well made, a bit heavier than I thought it would be. Typing is easy with a solid place to rest my wrists and scrabble style keys that are backlit in low-light conditions. The case is slim and the lack of a conventional hard drive means that it is quiet and runs cool without the need for fans blowing away the heat. The first part of my learning curve will be to forget my windows keyboard shortcuts and begin to learn some for the mac, oh and not having a right click but using a two fingered gesture instead!

Familiar Apps, Unfamiliar Menus

The Microsoft Office apps (Word, Excel, PowerPoint and Outlook) are all familiar, but different enough to leave me scratching my head looking for features that are available on the windows platform.

Now I am going to get on with using the MacBook Air for the next few weeks, including a trip out of the country for a conference, then I’ll post some impressions… watch this space!

Why I am using Dropbox

Dropbox is a cloud storage solution that you can connect to from a range of devices.

Dropbox Icon
Dropbox Icon

I am using Dropbox because:

It works on different devices.

It allows me to store 2gb  or more and I can access it from multiple devices. I am using dropbox on windows laptops at school and at home, an iPad and my android phone.

It is great as a ‘staging post’ for my photos.

Once Dropbox is installed on a device you can set it to automatically upload new photos to Dropbox. This works well when I take a snapshot using my Android phone, or the iPad. The photo is uploaded to Dropbox over wifi and the next time I open Dropbox  on my laptop the photo is available there. I can then sort my photos for publishing, inserting into other documents, back up to an external hard disk or sharing on Facebook etc.

I can upgrade my cloud storage.

If you recommend to a friend (who then installs dropbox) or attach new devices additional storage will be added for free. You can also pay for additional storage. I think it is expensive when you consider free alternatives such as Google Drive or Flickr, but sometimes you get what you pay for.

It will upload from different media.

Once installed on a computer Dropbox will prompt you to upload files when you plug in storage such as flash drives and memory cards, or a camera. You can make this upload automatic, or opt-out.

It will upload different file formats.

Dropbox is not only for photos, you can also upload other documents which you can then share with other users. This includes office documents such as word documents.

You can share files on Dropbox.

Once you have files in Dropbox it is easy to share them with others who have Dropbox or through a link.

Why I am using Google Drive.

Google Drive is a storage and productivity solution from Google that allows creation, storage and collaboration across a range of platforms.

Google Drive Icon
Google Drive Icon

I am using Google Drive because:

It’s cross platform.

I am using google drive because it works across different devices and operating systems. Right now I am using my own windows laptop at home and another one in the office and at school. I am also using an iPad at school and my phone is running android. Oh, and the children in school are using iPads, class laptops and occasionally desktops, both running windows… Using google drive we can all access our work on any device and we can choose to share work too.

It has office docs.

In drive we are able create and edit documents using a word processor (called Document), a spreadsheet, and a presentation. Folders can be created and files created outside of drive can be up loaded and stored. Folders can be shared or individual files can be shared.
The docs that you create in drive do not have all the formatting options or the bells and whistles of a full office suite, but that can be an advantage in school.

It has cloud storage.

Five gigs (5gb) for free. That’s a lot of word processing and spreadsheets. And I can edit a doc from my phone.

It’s great for sharing and collaboration

I know that I mentioned this before, but you can share whole folders and individual files with individuals and groups of people. That’s great for collaboration or just keeping an eye on a child’s work.

It’s not perfect

It is not the best place for storing photos and there are limits to what you can do with images within docs. And of course Google will know even more about you than it does already.