Tuesday, 12 July 2016

Newbies to Home Ed & Technology on a budget.

Almost all home educators benefit hugely from a broadband connection and a basic PC/lap top + printer. However most are also on a tight budget. This post is aimed at helping you avoid the lure of the shiny, shiny salesmen & equip yourself without needing to take out a second mortgage.
Core kit - a computer. If you are on a very low income this Government scheme can help you get started . (you'll have to be in receipt of certain benefits to qualify). They also have some good broadband deals.
The refurbished Dell Optiplex range on amazon is also a great low cost option. For under £100 you can have a set up that will suit the needs of most home educators. It includes an antivirus and Libre Office. Do check that the supplier you choose offers a full one year guarantee, as a few are only 3 months. These machines were designed for business use so are a little more durable than those manufactured for the domestic market. A solid workhorse that is suitable for all but ardent graphics heavy gaming fanatics (COD etc) Minecraft, film streaming etc all run OK.

This spec is about £80 -90 currently -

Dell OptiPlex Computer Tower with 19inch LCD Black / Silver Monitor - Intel Core 2 Duo CPU - 250GB Hard Drive - 4GB RAM - DVD - Wireless Internet Ready - Keyboard and Mouse - Genuine Windows 7. 1 year warranty. 

Do you need help in making your new computer easier to use? Let's look at the many ways you can make your keyboard and mouse, Windows, the internet and your favourite applications suit you and your needs via this wonderful tool from Abilitynet ........


For those who need something a little more powerful right from the off,  why not take a look at the "gaming" Optiplex machines (approx £150)and then get your child to upgrade the graphics card etc themselves as a HE project?

Please take into account the ergonomic needs of your growing child before automatically choosing a laptop over a desktop. It's much easier to ensure good posture & avoid RSI with a traditional desktop set up. They are also much cheaper to fix in the event someone spills a glass of water etc. Upgrading memory etc is cheaper too. Small corner desks etc are available for those concerned with the space issue in their home. 
Printing - I've just swapped over to the HP Envy. Entry prices for this range come in at under £50 but what attracted me was the monthly instant ink scheme. This makes budgeting for printing costs just that little bit easier. So far I'm very happy with the printing quality. I think it's fine for all but the keenest photography students. (Has certainly handled annual statement review scanning/printing prep just fine). This is probably the most economical option for those who will use up to 300 pages of printing per month. Do shop around as it's often possible to get a few free months free instant ink subscription at one shop or another with your initial purchase. 
For those with more cash to splash on the initial investment, or a large family the Epson Eco-tank range allows you to refill your in tanks and has become popular with home educators for the lower ongoing cost of printing. Cost of entry for this range is approx £200. Currently amazon is running a £40 cashback offer on a model costing £179 with 2 years ink supply. This makes this a very cost effective option currently. £140 for up to 2 years printing is a good deal. (Please note the 2 years is an estimate only, you may well go thru the supplied ink cartridges more quickly). 

If you have a very large family, and know you are going to be very heavy users of your printer, then you'll need to be especially canny. It's often cheapest in the long run to have a small black and white laser printer for those everyday workbooks and essays, and then an HP envy used only when colour printing is absolutely essential. This final option is used mostly by those with 5+ kids educated at home where one parent also works from home. Very, very few home educators find they need this final option. 

Tablets - The Kindle is great, the Tesco Huddle is also very reasonably priced. Regular sales at certain times of year make these worth popping on the Xmas wish list. Again please don't feel you have to buy the most expensive to derive fab education opportunities for your child. In general most people find a basic PC more useful as a first purchase, perhaps adding a tablet later on for travel or mobile learning.
Subscriptions to online learning packages. - please ask in our FB group before purchase! It'll save you a fortune. All members do our best to let this group know whenever good HE rates are on offer for specialist SEN packages.
Office software - Unless your child is doing the ECDL or you need it for specialist compatibility purposes, most people get by just fine without needing an expensive purchase of Microsoft Office. Libre Office has overtaken Open Office in recent years as my opensource alternative of choice, simply because I'm finding it more compatible with a variety of other applications and it's very easy to use. http://www.libreoffice.org/
If you do need MS Office right away then this seems to be the lowest cost way to obtain a copy of Office 2016 at the moment
alt supplier link 
For popular software packages this supplier often has better rates for eligible families than most places. Well worth checking here against your High Street supplier before making a purchase. (MAC and PC both). 
You will need an antivirus! Avira is free and doesn't have the annoying popup ads that bug the hell outta me with some of it's competitors. Do check you are selecting the free download as they also offer more souped up subscription security packages.

 I'm aware I haven't covered Apple products here - simply because they are out of most people's price range. Family Fund is the traditional source of grant funding to help Home Ed families with the cost of Apple Hardware but have recently had to restrict their eligibility criteria quite a bit. For most people on a tight budget, it's worth looking at PC/android solutions first. https://www.familyfund.org.uk/wales

We often discuss technology solutions in the Face Book group, as so many of our kids need adaptive technology to aid learning in areas as diverse as speech and language development, thru VI and voice to text solutions.If you are unsure do join and ask other parents how they've found solutions for their children's needs.

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