Top tools for classroom tech

3 Feb 2011

Having the hardware is only the first step in creating smart schools. LAURA O’BRIEN looks at some online resources and software tools to help ensure that every lesson and project is the best it can be.



The Educational Company of Ireland website provides an online resource for purchasing educational publications. It’s split into three sections – students/parents, teachers and booksellers – to cater for each individual’s needs.

The site also offers the ability to search for material by class, school, subject and level.

Students and parents can purchase textbooks through the site.

It provides thorough information on each of their textbooks and the site also has an online student testing facility to enhance the revision of material from the book. Teachers can find resources to go with textbooks and can find out information on upcoming events and digital products. They can also order samples of a particular textbook to see if it’s right for their classes.



The Department of Education’s official portal for Irish education, Scoilnet, has a database of more than 11,800 digital resources, including reviewed websites, quizzes, lesson plans and other multimedia. It supports teachers, students and parents at primary and post-primary level. The site’s resources are reviewed, developed and updated constantly by more than 30 curriculum experts, meaning the information will always be relevant.

The site also provides web hosting and blogging services for all schools to allow them to develop and host a website or blog for free. These can be used to deliver news on the school and to provide educational resources for students.

Encyclopedia Britannica


The Encyclopaedia Britannica has been a trusted source of information since 1768 and has brought this knowledge online.

The Encyclopaedia Britannica website is a huge online resource on a massive variety of subjects, such as history, science, art and geography. What makes it different from Wikipedia – and indeed, more reputable – is that when changes are made to posts, they’re reviewed and edited by staff of the site, ensuring that content is of a high quality.

The site also includes video clips, historical timelines and statistics to help develop a student’s project work.



Britannica has also launched Image Quest, which has more than 2m images for educational use. While it is a subscription service, the images are rights-cleared, meaning using the issue won’t land educators in legal trouble. Sources for the images include Getty Images, Dorling Kindersley Images, the National Portrait Gallery of London and Oxford Scientific, providing a huge collection.

Teachers can use the images for lesson plans and students can access the site for homework assignments. Each image comes with metadata, providing the source, caption and keywords to ensure the image is accurate.

Images can also be downloaded and printed for educational use.

Promethean Planet


Created by teachers for teachers, Promethean’s interactive whiteboard community provides a wealth of content. It sorts content by subject, theme and age range, providing the most suitable course work for each class.

Content can be personalised so as to be made relevant for the Irish curriculum, and teachers can create a profile page for resources most relevant to them.

The site also offers a wide community, allowing teachers to communicate with each other to gain extra support for the classroom.

They can send and receive personal messages, use forums for larger discussions and the site has a large blog network for extra information, as well.

Promethean Planet also offers professional development for teachers to help improve their ICT skills.



The Apple iPad is also being used for education. HMH has developed an app for the iconic tablet device. The HMH Fuse: Algebra 1 app is based on the Holt McDougal Algebra 1 textbook, which provides huge support for algebra. Features include quizzes to assess a student’s understanding before they begin a new concept and at strategic points through the chapters. It has immediate assessment results sent to teachers.

It also provides instructional videos for every example in order to help communicate complex concepts easier. Students can take notes directly on the app on the iPad device.

Smart icon


SMART Bridgit conferencing software provides distance learning solutions for students in remote areas. It allows teachers and students to share voice, video and data over the internet.

Students can share notes and review and edit documents collaboratively with others connected through laptops or an interactive whiteboard. Teachers can see what students are doing, from working on documents to viewing websites, and they can remotely control a student’s laptop to help with a subject or project. The software is protected, using the same encryption as online banking systems, to provide a safe environment. It also has webcam support and instant-messaging services for a greater level of communication between participants.