Computer studies as an examinable subject in Uganda’s curriculum has come a long way. The first sitting of this subject at ‘O’ Level was in 2004 while, the first for ‘A’ level came 9 years later, in 2013.
The introduction of the subject at ‘O’ Level gave rise to an increase in the number of computer labs in Uganda but it was the introduction of ICT at ‘A’ Level that made the demand for computer labs skyrocket. This not only increased the demand for teachers of ICT but also for qualified staff to work in these labs.
However, as a veteran in the field of computer repair, I have come to notice that the technical gap is still wide. Because experienced technicians are expensive to employ, schools have resorted to computer lab ‘attendants’ who in the exercise of their duties still have a lot to learn. Unfortunately, a school lab has little it can add to your expertise given the setup. Real technicians are made on the streets given the extent of problems they have to solve at their workshops everyday.
In this article, I wish to share with readers the software every school computer lab should have.
- An Operating System
Once in a while, PCs will crush or slow down which will necessitate the re-installation of the operating system. Currently having a Windows XP, Windows 7, Windows 8.1 or Windows 10 CD/DVD will suffice. Having them also stored as images is advantageous since the quality of today’s DVDs is poor. Having images of these operating systems is also helpful since you can use them to create a bootable flash disk which is fast replacing installation from DVDs.For learning purposes, you may also have a Linux and Mac OS DVD for study purposes in class since students will have to compare these operating systems.
Ever wanted to install an Operating System but your DVD drive is faulty? Ever tried to install an Operating System on a mini laptop but have no external DVD drive? Rufus is the answer! Rufus is a tool used to create a bootable flash disk from bootable images. It will come in handy in cases where your DVD drive no longer reads DVDs. You can download the too here.
- Driver Pack
When you install a new operating system, many times you will need to re-install or update the drivers too. The drivers to particularly look out for are sound drivers, graphics drivers and network drivers. Driver pack DVDs come in handy because they pack almost all manufacturer’s driver files in one DVD saving you the burden of having multiple DVDs of different system manufacturers.
- Microsoft Office and Libre Office
The Microsoft Office suite is a must have in any classroom or office environment. Microsoft Office forms the bulk of the UNEB ICT syllabus since it is the most popular office suite on the planet. Although the latest version (Office 2016) would be ideal, it is still OK to conduct classes using Office 2007, Office 2010 and Office 2013.It is also important to note that at least one Ms. Office alternative e.g. Libre Office be installed on your computers. Most teachers think they are supposed to teach Ms. Office. They forget that we are supposed to introduce Word Processors of which Ms. Word is just one example. Having alternatives in your computer lab goes a long way in giving your students a firmer foundation to ICT.
A computer lab environment is good breeding ground for viruses especially where flash disks are used to transfer data to and from the lab. This puts the users at risk of losing data, accounts being hacked, reducing the PCs performance to mention a few. A regularly updated antivirus will safeguard uses from many of the risks thereby giving you peace of mind. There are many antiviruses on the market for example Kaspersky, Avast, AVG but I have found SMADAV, a simple tool, to be effective yet not demanding of the computer’s resources.
- Burning Software
Burning software is a must have as you may have to burn (or backup) various files of various formats. Although windows has integrated the burning feature, third party software like Ashampoo and Nero have more features to give you a richer experience.
- PDF Readers
Sometimes, notes, syllabi and any other related documents may come in form of pdf documents. This automatically calls for the availability of pdf software, Adobe Reader being the most popular.
- Web Browsers
Many labs are fortunate to have an internet connection. For a good experience while using the internet, you will have to install reliable web browsing software depending on your needs. Internet Explorer comes pre-installed on older versions of Windows while Edge comes with Windows 10. However, third party browsers like Chrome and Firefox are widely preferred. It should also be remembered that web design being one of the topics in the subject, you will need a browser to test the pages created by the students.
- Zipping Software
Zipping files comes in handy when you have to keep related files together or make transferring and emailing them faster. I, as a habit, zip software folders to secure them from common viruses and only unzip them when I need them. Popular zipping software is WinZip, WinRAR and 7-zip of late. I personally prefer 7-zip because it can also unpack common image formats like iso.
- Data Recovery Software
Scenarios may arise when files may be lost due to unintentional formatting, accidental deleting, viruses or any other malfunction. Be it from removable storage or the PCs hard drive, recovery software like easeUS comes in handy. Recovering software these days is more of a straight forward process though a lot of time and extra space is needed to complete the task.
- OCR Software
A time comes when you wish to create a soft copy out of a hard copy. Take for example, a friend of yours gives you a past paper from another school. Retyping the entire paper is tedious, photocopying the paper may not give you a clean copy. OCR software comes in handy. I have found ABBYY Fine Reader to be a good choice for most of my work. In my experience, I have also found out that the majority of teachers of ICT don’t know about this option.
- Graphics Software
A computer lab is not only meant for syllabus related use. These labs can act as breeding grounds for future talent. Adding a suite of graphics programmes to tickle students’ curiosity and creativity could also be of help. Adobe Master Suite is a popular choice but can also be complemented with Corel Draw both of which give leverage over the pre-installed Ms. Paint.
EXTRA: School Management Information System
Any computer lab will not only benefit the students but be of extra use to administrators in terms of managing the entire school. If equipped with a robust school management system like the one from Magezi Solutions, the benefits of an automated system can’t be missed. Equipped with Academics, Admissions, Finance and Administrative modules with the ability to run over a network, this system is a must have for any serious school.
software suggested above is just a starting point for one to maintain a serious computer lab. There are hundreds and in some cases better software options which may help you deal with the various challenges in a typical lab environment. In my next article, I will discuss the tools every computer lab must have.
E-zone School of Computing
Tel: 0752 111 223 / 0772 111 223