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Improve your home working environment and online classes with this guide

Technology in the Classroom and Teacher Resources Blog

Technology in the Classroom and Teacher Resources Blog

Ten Essential Distance Learning and Web Conference Tools for Teachers

All these items are on my desk at home right now, or are recommended as I have something very similar. In no particular order…

1. Document Camera

Why do you need this?
• Drawing maths equations digitally and quickly is a challenge. Keep it analogue by pointing a camera at your notebook
• No need to scan every resource you have at home for sharing over Teams or Zoom. Simply place the book / object under the camera
• The LEDs ensure the page is well lit and is easy to see when shared

Document Camera
INSWAN USB Document Camera
• Auto-Focus
• LED Supplemental Light
• Captures live images up to 3264 x 2448 pixels at 30 fps (High resolution)

2. 4K Widescreen monitor

Why do you need this?
• Hunching over your laptop is bad for you
• The difference between your current screen and a 4K screen is that small text is pin sharp. Remember your first smart phone screen versus the one you have now? Yes, that much of a difference.
• A widescreen monitor allows two A4 pages to be open at the same time. Very efficient for working
• A high refresh rate minimizes eye strain during long working hours and this Samsung comes with Flicker free and eye saver mode reducing blue light emissions
• Connect to your laptop via a single HDMI cable

4K Widescreen monitor
Samsung 32 inch UJ59 4k monitor
• Samsung 32 inch
• 3840 x 2160p
• 60hz

3. Vertical Laptop Stand

If you have an external monitor, such as the Samsung above, do you need to have your laptop open?

Two choices:
• Yes - I have my schedule, messenger, and music on my laptop screen, with the monitor for work.
• It makes me feel really busy with two screens.
• No - Close the laptop (it will still work as the laptop knows it is connected to an external monitor), and house tidily out of the way in a vertical laptop stand
• Creates space on your desk / dining table
OMOTON Aluminium Vertical Desktop Stand

4. Zippi Fan

Zippi Fan Blue
Zippi Fan Olive
Zippi Fan Pink
Zippi Fan White
Zippi Fan Green
Why do you need this?
• Your screen and all the other electronics on your desk give off heat
• Running your AC all day (if you have it) will get pricey
• Desktop fans are traditionally very noisy
• According to my hours of research, desktop fans are noisy mostly due to the sound created by wind being blown at speed through the protective grill
• This fan has no grill!
• Don't worry, the blades are made of fabric. I stuck my finger in there to test it for you. I still have all my fingers
• It has two speeds. I found the slower of the two to be perfectly adequate. It is located just to one side of my monitor

Zippi Fan
• Quiet - soft nylon blades
• Great selection of colors
• Looks great
• Easy to adjust
Zippi Fan

5. Coffee Machine

Why do you need this?
• duh
• You a need a coffee quickly
• You need a regulated amount / dose
• You don’t want to have to clean it
• The black and white model looks like a penguin. I have this
• It has LEDs. Everything is better with LEDs. In this case it indicates how much hot water / coffee will be put into your cup
• Customizable - determine just how much water you want with your coffee. Great for assignment marking or an early morning kick
• There is hot and cold water settings. Hot is drinkable without waiting for it to cool down

Nescafe dolce gusto
Capsule coffee machine
• There is a clear water container on the back of the device. Take that to the tap and fill with cold water. The dolce gusto will beep at you if there is insufficient water
• I have yet to clean it. The drip tray may have some spilt-by-me coffee in it, but what a joy. Effectively zero maintenance
The Drinks
• Americano
• Cafe au laiti
• Latte Macchiato - Caramel
• Latte Macchiato - Vanilla
• Espresso Intenso
• Grande Intenso
• Cappuccino
• Mocha
• Medium Roast
• Starbucks
All the drinks available
The only negative I have is that it can seem a little noisy at 3am, but the coffee tastes great.

The product photo shows a tall glass coffee cup. A coffee mug for us regular folk fits in there just fine.
Note that via the Amazon Japan Store you may also buy:

• Green Tea latte
• Chococino
• Milk Tea
• Iced cafe Au Laities
• Flat White
and more
For the classroom?
Glass Coffee Mugs
• They looked great in the coffee machine picture

6. Indoor Fitness Spin Bike

Why do you need this?
• It was ok that first week of teaching from home to have the occasional cookie between classes, but now look at us
• The gyms are closed and tend to be full of fit people anyway
• You can sweat to your hearts content at home. I recommend an old towel on the floor for this
• Do an hour a day and eat less crap
Sunny Health & Fitness Pro Indoor Cycling Bike
• If you are used to cycling the wheel has sufficient resistance for you
• Adjustable seat and handle bar height
• You can watch YouTube / a movie / listen to music
• Is significantly cheaper than models with digital features
• No subscription to health videos. Use the free ones on YouTube
• Great brand
• It’s very easy to convince yourself you need a model with more features which can quickly become expensive. This more than adequately does the job

7. Teams & Zoom Camera Lighting

Free standing with tripod
Desk standing
Desk bracket
Why do you need this?
Of course we all look our best in that 8:30 online class!
• Studio portrait photography looks great because of the lighting. A ring light evenly illuminates your face in a flattering light, smoothing out curves and imperfections
• You will need to set this light up so that your web camera sits in the centre of the light. This is straightforward with an external camera, a little challenging with a built in laptop camera. A tripod or flexible bracket will help
• It may take a little while to set up, but you can leave it in place once done

Neewer Ring Light Kit:18"/48cm
• 3-color ring light. Use the white setting, not tungsten, as this looks like sunny day light
• The Neewer model has a mount for an iPhone bracket, and the thread will also work for a DLSR
• It has a remote, but the this not essential
• Adjustable brightness setting can be useful depending on the amount of natural light you have in the room

• Other models may suit your desk better and will be dependent on whether you use your laptop or external camera, have tripod on the floor or desk, or use a bracket
• If you wish to use a flexible light bracket that fixes out of the way on the desk then look at microphone suspension boom arms

• Recommended Brand -
Visit the Neewer Store - Amazon. Great products and information

8. Drawing and Writing Tablet

Why do you need this?
• Anotating, drawing simple images and highlighting text with PowerPoint and Word can be done with a mouse, but for many is much more intuitive using a digital pen
• You’ve always been meaning to try your hand at drawing
• I have used a Wacom Tablet for all the artwork and content in this website
Wacom Intuos Graphics Drawing Tablet with Bonus Software, 7.9" X 6.3",
• Small Tablet and pen
• Classic brand
• USB connection
• $79.95
Wacom Intuos Pro Digital Graphic Drawing Tablet for Mac or PC
• Medium Tablet and pen
• A4 Sized. The larger size more useful and paper-like if you wish to explore and create digital art
The Draw Any Animal Book
• Over 150 Simple Step-by-Step Drawing Sequences for Every Kind of Creature
• I love this book!
• Typically it is just four steps to draw any one of the 150 animls
• My lockdown PD
• I bought a second copy for the school library

9. Speakers

Why do you need this?
• You used to be a clubber / raver
• Your school has provided you with a cheap ass pair of speakers
• You ask “where’s the bass?” when your students play you songs from YouTube
• You only have built in laptop / PC speakers
JBL Charge 3 Waterproof Portable Bluetooth Speaker Blue
JBL Charge 3 Waterproof Portable Bluetooth Speaker Camo
JBL Charge 3 Waterproof Portable Bluetooth Speaker Gray
JBL Charge 3 Waterproof Portable Bluetooth Speaker red
JBL Charge 3 Waterproof Portable Bluetooth Speaker Mint
JBL Charge 3 Waterproof Portable Bluetooth Speaker
• Cool variety of colors
• Sounds great at a low volume on my desk, or when I want to blast it out across the classroom
• Excellent bass
• IPX7 Waterproof so you can drop it into a metre of water. I guess then I can spill my coffee / beer over it
• Connect to your laptop via a mini audio cable or wirelessly.
• Long battery life, charged via USB
• To move up to the next level of speaker you need an Audio Interface. This processes the digital audio signal from your computer and send it to speakers
• An Audio Interface allows you to connect a microphone, upping your Teams and Zoom audio quality significantly.
• If you are a musician, or wish to create podcasts this unit will be immensely useful
Mackie Studio Monitor, Black w/green trim, 3-inch (CR3)
• Kick ass
• Look awesome
• Mackie is an established studio brand
• Powered speaker, so no external amplifie required
Yamaha HS5 Powered Studio Monitor
• I use these for prolonged periods of video editing of school concerts, with no ear fatigue. Sounds clear and crisp
• No grills so be cautious if you own cats
My studio tour
KRK RP8 Rokit 8 G4 Professional Bi-Amp 8" Powered Studio Monitor Pair, Black
• Go for it
• The neighbours will hear these at high volumes
• Incredible build and audio quality
• Profession audio
Check out the Rocket range from KRK. They have entry level speakers too

10. Adobe Spark

Adobe Spark

Why do you need this?

• Fast. Very fast. I can make a poster in 30-seconds, which is frankly ridiculous
• Professional images - superb high quality and high resolution images
• Spark runs in the browser, so it does not matter if you or your students have PC, Mac, Chromebook etc.
• Intelligent Design - this is incredible. It has color and layout awareness, choosing arrangements and color schemes that will compliment and / or contrast with the images you choose or have uploaded. It understands and implements color theory
• Awesome mobile App
• 20% Discount ! (The Magic Crayons may receive a small commission if you purchase this, but it doesn’t cost you anything extra)

Adobe Spark
• Over 25K templates
• Free images and icons
• One-tap personalization - add your school logo in one-click
• Brandify
• Collaboration - Students can collaborate via the browser
• Share - across the web, iOS, Android, social media, website etc.
The Magic Crayons website went live in 2009, initially with our songs, then free games, then flash flash and crafts. All graphics for our resources have been made over the years with Adobe software.
I’ll be honest, my early work with Adobe Illustrator took hours to make, and was at times very frustrating as it requires an in depth knowledge of all the menues to be able to work efficiently.
You may have noticed recently the new range of IB Posters. Each poster took barely minutes to make, something which, if you have tried, would take hours in Photoshop or Illustrator. The secret? Adobe Spark Post.
Adobe Spark Post is without doubt the most impressive piece of graphics software I have ever used. So much so that all staff and students now have access to Spark and I run frequent training session on how to use it.
Examples of artwork on The Magic Crayons Website made with Adobe Spark
Adobe Rush
Why do you need this?
• More accurately, it’s your students that need this
• Cloud based storage = no lost work
• Students record footage on phone, edit on class computers, continue editing at homeless.
Adobe Cloud

• 20 % Discount
(The Magic Crayons may receive a small commission if you purchase this, but it doesn’t cost you anything extra)
• For students and teachers

11. Bonus ! Your recommendation !

Please message me with a recent purchase you consider essential for fellow educators. Click the blue chat icon floating on the lower right of this page. I’ll post the recommendations as they come in over the month (July 2020).

Thank you.

The ability for you to message us directly is new. We have no plans for how to use this, other than to see what happens and what may be most useful for you.
Your idea and name initials will be displayed. Your email will not.
Further reading
How to convert a cupboard into a YouTube studio - and make great distance learning content. A video tour and equipment guide to The Magic Crayons studio.
Teacher Librarian Technology Blog


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Blog Author

I am an IB Teacher Librarian / IT Tech Training and Design Teacher from the UK working in Japan. I create all the artwork and videos for the teaching materials within this website, Teachers Pay Teachers and YouTube. New products and special offers will be announced here first. Everything I post is about products or services that I use in my own classes and schools.
Studio Tour
• For YouTube Creators, Streamers and those new to Teaching via Teams or Zoom we detail the video recording and studio equipment we use. Also view the studio where all The Magic Crayons content is created.
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