Gerald Haigh on schools that are soft targets for the unscrupulous
Photocopier cartoonFor many years, schools – along with charities and small businesses – have been happy hunting grounds for the cheerful pirates of the photocopier world. Headteachers and administrators, accustomed to dealing day by day with honest colleagues and public servants are too easily bamboozled by smiling sharks with gelled hair and shiny suits.

Now, photocopying is often just one of the jobs done by a multi-function device (MFD) that’s part of the school’s ICT network. Even so, the machine’s often procured and financed in the same way as a straight photocopier, and schools are still signing up to bad and sometimes illegal deals. (Schools aren’t allowed to sign up to finance leases, for example, but they sometimes do so unknowingly.)

Chris Drage sits in on the RM Learning Platform User Forum
With the end of funding and the change in government the issue of schools adopting a learning platform has gone quiet. Are any schools still engaged with, or even using their learning platforms now the heat is off? Has the learning platform just become an expensive VLE ? Three years on, what constitutes good practice in the use of a learning platform?

To find out, I attended to RM’s recent Learning Platform User Forum Day to see how far some schools have gone down this road and I came away very impressed.

RM combines sleek design with full PC functions for its impressive new learning pad

The RM SlateThe RM Slate: sleek, robust and a fully functioning Windows 7 computerMost ICT-in-learning observers have been expecting Android tablets to rise to Apple's iPad challenge, but RM will this week introduce the most convincing, open alternative so far for schools. It's cheaper too, at £399.

The RM Slate PC is a Windows 7 learning pad with 11.6-inch multi-touch screen, front-facing 1.3 megapixel webcam, Bluetooth, wifi, Intel processor, 2Gb of memory and flash-memory hard drive, OMTP audio connector, 2 USB ports and one mini-HDMI, plus slots for SD and SIM cards. It's a 'proper' computer that gives users access to everything they would normally use including Flash.

Video-conferencing is beyond most of us, but the TouchCam N1 takes simple internet video up a notch, says Hugh John

The faceVsion TouchCam N1The faceVsion TouchCam N1It’s questionable whether webcam technology has kept up with broadband speeds. This has kept video-conferencing an expensive, techie option, but faceVsion’s Touchcam N1 has brought it closer.

It's a brave move, because this small high-definition webcam, which comes to market when virtually every new laptop already has a basic webcam, is near the top of the price range (around £90). And now we are in a recession. Bad timing, or supreme confidence?

Chris Drage turns back the years for 'a magical learning experience'

Land of me screenshot'The Land of Me': a magical learning experienceI’ve just returned from The Land of Me and I’m star struck. It’s a magical learning experience for adventurers aged 2 to 63 (all right... I know!). In just a few clicks I downloaded and discovered an enchanting world of creativity using my computer, scissors, crayons, glue and, most important of all, my imagination.

I'm now back in the comparatively boring world of adulthood, but I found The Land of Me such a refreshing breath of discovery and creativity that it took me back to those heady days of the 1980s. Those days when such open-ended educational software was more the norm, with Sherston Software and Cambridgeshire Software House leading the way, based on sound pedagogy.