When the technology director of a small school in Memphis, Tenn., asked participants of the eSchool News Curriculum Integration and Technology Forum what stuff they couldn’t live without, it turned out to be a lot.

Being new to technology—and having been charged with developing a computer lab for her school—she was looking for advice. So far, she said, the school has 11 PCs in the computer lab and one in each classroom. All the computers have internet access and a color printer, and the lab also has a scanner.

The most popular software that forum contributors said they couldn’t live without is an office suite that features word processing, spreadsheet, and presentation software.

“I would recommend that you have the basic Microsoft or Corel platform to [give] your students access to learning spreadsheets, databases, word processing, and some desktop publishing,” said a network systems administrator at Ohio’s Kent State University. “Also, you may want to consider purchasing some web authoring software.”

James E. Ross, technology coordinator for the St. Elmo Community Unit School District in Illinois, suggested getting an academic site license for Microsoft Office 2000 Professional, because it comes bundled with Word, PowerPoint, Excel, Access, and Publisher.

“Your students will very likely see these products again in the work place,” he said. “You can cover everything from word processing to database design and desktop publishing. The academic license will also permit your staff to load one copy on a home computer so they can make and check lessons at home.”

In addition to an office suite, Karen Littlefield, instructional technology coordinator for MID-DEL Public Schools in Oklahoma, said her schools use PrintShop, Word Attack, Skills Bank, and the keyboarding programs All the Right Type and PageMill.

“Because we are moving toward the iMac, we are getting the loaded software … to include Appleworks, iMovies, World Book, and Quicken Delux 2000,” Littlefield added.

An educator from New York praised Inspiration, a visual learning program that helps organize thoughts and ideas.

He said he uses Inspiration with a presentation monitor for full-class brainstorming, concept maps, storyboards for multimedia projects, and more. His school even uses it for students as young as first grade.

As for technology devices, digital cameras and multimedia projectors were at the top of the must-have list.

“I would get at least one digital camera and camcorder and a data projector. I cannot exist without the data projector,” said Shirley Owens, multimedia specialist at Mission Consolidated Independent School District in Texas. “Digital cameras that use the 3.5-inch disk are easy for teachers and students to share, and the resolution is good enough for most student use.”

In addition to acquiring a digital camera, another contributor said “the other thing that has been a great buy has been a CD burner to make back-up copies of software and to archive important school files from our server.”

Dianna Wilkerson, who is the forum moderator and also instructional technology designer and trainer for consulting firm BTG Inc., said she hoped the original poster would include teacher training in her plans to improve the school’s technology, explaining that many teachers who have taught themselves how to use the internet are missing very basic skills.

“Most cannot name or know the difference between types of search engines, such as meta-engines, regional search engines, news search engines, and kids’ search engines,” Wilkerson said. She also said Tom Synder’s The One Computer Classroom would be a good book to offer these teachers, because they, too, have only one computer in each room.

eSchool News hosts two additional online discussion groups, Safety and Security and Technology Funding. All three forums are accessible at no cost on the eSchool News web site.

Technology Forums for School Professionals


St. Elmo Community Unit School District


MID-DEL Public Schools


Mission Consolidated Independent School District