What happens when you want voting keypads for your students, but can’t afford the cost? Do you shop around to find suitable cheap voting keypads, or do you wait until you’ve saved enough money. Or do you look for alternative ways of achieving the same outcome?

The reason that I ask those questions, is that they are the kind of questions that I think are going to come up again and again over the next few years – as we face tougher budget decisions than ever. And we’re probably not going to be able to afford to do things in school ICT in the same way that we have up until now.

So, electronic classroom voting pads are a good example to look at. When the budget has been there, there’s been the option of buying dedicated classroom voting pads, and adding more interactivity and feedback to lessons – at the same time as matching the need for more formative and summative assessments. But now the ICT budget is under pressure, what are the options for achieving similar outcomes at lower cost?

  • A non-ICT answer
    Mini quiz whiteboards and marker pens for every student, so that you can ask questions and every student holds up their answer. This costs about £40 for a class
    An idea that has been around for a while, and might see a revival after “The Classroom Experiment” is broadcast on BBC2 as part of their school season (Some preview details are in this TES article)

      • A lower-cost ICT answer
        Using Mouse Mischief (a free software add-in for PowerPoint) to add interactive quizzes into lessons, using everyday mice instead of dedicated voting pads. This costs about £50 for hubs, if you’ve already got the mice around.
        This works by using multiple mice with one teacher laptop – either using up those spare mice you’ve got laying around the ICT room, or buying some cheap ones, with some cheap USB hubs. This low-cost approach would mean having temporary cables around the
          desks.
          • A medium-cost ICT answer
            Use Mouse Mischief with wireless mice. This costs about £700 for a full classroom set - as you’ll need to buy 30 wireless mice, at around £23 each.
            A little more expensive, but it means no trailing wires, and more portability

              • A higher-cost ICT answer
                Buy another set of voting pads – costing up to £2,000. There’s a good summary of the options, and case studies, on the Hertfordshire website
                Even more portable and the software tends to allow much more sophisticated assessments.

                  imageIf you’re interesting in finding out more about Mouse Mischief then skip over to the Mouse Mischief website (the software is free, so you just need to find the mice).
                  The easiest way to see what it can do is to watch one of the videos – like this one