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Blue Skies Thread, New build ICT - What would you do (if you could!?) in General; Hi All, I know a lot of people reading this may have been / currently be / will be following ...
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    mb2k01's Avatar
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    New build ICT - What would you do (if you could!?)

    Hi All,

    I know a lot of people reading this may have been / currently be / will be following a BSF or PFI build and be quite restricted in terms of ICT etc.... but.... if you didn't have those restrictions, what would you include in your new school build in terms of ICT?

    I'm curious for any replies - in terms of infrastructure, cabling, wireless, type of kit, location of kit, innovation etc.

    Cheers

    mb2k01

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    User3204's Avatar
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    Hmm.. It's a big list.. and largely dependent upon how big the school is, how many computers/students/staff/teachers.

    Starting at the bottom (so to speak). I would want a proper infrastructure to build upon.

    So each new block I would want a secure room, with space for a 42u switch cabinet & a 42u server cabinet (although this depends on the size of the block), with air-con, each room/block linked to eachother and the main ICT area via 8/16 fibre links.
    It would have to be easily accessable, near to the lift(s)/stairs, but away from prying students (and locked from all but ICT staff).

    I'd also want an office in a central location, for staff/students. But I would want a desk built to keep them out of the main office area (as we often would have SIMS etc open).
    Another secure workshop, for access by ICT staff only.
    A secure Server room on-site, with extra links to a block/building offsite for proper storage of backups. This off-site block, would ideally also be accessible by ICT staff for remote access (on a different Burglar/Fire alarm system).

    Storage rooms for toner/ink/projecor bulbs/mice/keyboards - basically anything that needs replacing frequently, but doesn't require lots of technical knowledge - these stores to be around the school, ideally in ICT suites.


    ... this seems like a good start...

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    mb2k01 (13th April 2009)

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    mb2k01's Avatar
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    What about innovation?
    Would you want a traditional feel to the place - desktop PCs, laptops, Interactive Whiteboards in each room etc, or would you want something completely different?

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    Whilst being a little biased now but with the feeling before I figured I could still chirp in.

    I'd imagine the innovation to be centric to variety whilst offering sustainability and peace of mind. I'd suggest that an enterprise carrier class network was installed capable of delivering mind blowing content to the desktop quickly.

    I even prior to my appointment with Cutter had the view that the vast majority of users in the education environment had low intensity requirements but required high availability and more than anything speed.

    I'd be planning a thin client / kiosk style deployment for the vast majority of areas allowing for all users to gain access to a common system from anywhere both internal to the site and from remote locations. Of course it would be short sighted to suggest that thin clients could/would achieve every single need a user has I believe that balance of provision would be both economically viable now but sustainable in the future.

    With this in mind, I'd employ a decent specified server farm with redundancy and speed of access at the heart. Deployment of fat and thin clients throughout the network on a means tested basis as a result of working with the facilitators within each department to assess their needs and best develop a solution to meet this.

    I found in my previous role that we were often throwing solutions at people who didn't have a direct need whilst actually unintentionally ignoring their main gripes with the provision.

    Having worked with a variety of teaching colleagues I am acutely aware of the "IWB or not" argument but feel that along with sustainability, high availability and 'quick' provisions one should also look at consistency from a T&L perspective walking into an area foreign to you is daunting and if a set up is consistent the experience can be better controlled which of course has a knock on of improving relationships as technical support staff aren't needed to "plug it in" as often if the end user is more versed with the provision.

    Finally, as User3204 has touched on the logistical angles of location and access from a technical perspective I would agree entirely on that part.

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    Quote Originally Posted by mb2k01 View Post
    Would you want a traditional feel to the place - desktop PCs, laptops, Interactive Whiteboards in each room etc, or would you want something completely different?
    I'd make sure each room had two wired network points in and a bank of thin clients along one wall, with desks that folded up over the screen when not in use. The teacher's machine would be a small form-factor desktop machine nailed to the wall and permanently connected to the projector or large LCD screen to save messing around with teachers plugging stuff in. Teachers would also each have a tablet PC each which they could VNC into their desktop machine with to control, they would also have a Gyration wireless keyboard and mouse to control the screen with and pass around the class. They could have an IWB if there was money going spare but they wouldn't be allowed to use the propitiatory software that comes with the IWB to create resources. There would be a bank of laptops per classroom (hey, you never said there was a limit on the budget :-)) and a top-end managed wireless system throughout the school. Ideally you'd be able to have network and power to each desk, although exactly how you do this is a little vague. Laptops could be netbook-style machines, and you wouldn't need a full classes worth (remember, you have a dozen or so thin clients ready-and-waiting in each classroom), but you would need a central store of spare machines to cover breakages (think 10% per year) and a second set of batteries as well as multi-way battery chargers in all rooms.

    For an extra 20 per classroom, it's worth putting in a webcam for Skype or similar.

    Bear in mind that you're only aiming for enough computing power per device to run a web browser and the latest in-browser applications, don't bother with having any applications run on local desktops. Mobile phones, mobile games consoles, etc, are nice but have very limited screen size and are horrible to type on.

    --
    David Hicks

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    mb2k01 (13th April 2009)

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    mb2k01's Avatar
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    Thanks Dave!
    I'm not sure I agree with some of the things you've listed - but I'm thankful for the reply as it's exactly what I was wanting (i.e. other people's perspectives, irrespective of whether I agree or not!)
    I'm happy that restrictions (such as budget etc) aren't considered in replies here

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    Definitely agree with Dave's points.

    Maybe include in the spec a decent WAP per classroom (managed centrally) so you can effectively spec out a provision for the future should pupils end up with laptops.

    Printing facilities per classroom or cluster?

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    nephilim's Avatar
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    I would want a fibre connection to each PC, and thats to start with.

    Depending on the applications you intend on running, you could have 1 room thin client, another room fat client, thus getting the best out of the rooms and making them individual rooms with individual software requirements.

    Also a couple of servers which have air conditioning units are a must, possibly a blade server system?

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    What about the classroom environmental aspects? With all that computing going on would the rooms need their own air con perhaps? How about inter-room communications or would that be a given?

    Getting down to the nitty gritty - what do people sit on? Chairs, stools, benches? Oh the possibilities are almost endless. Carpets, tiles, windows (yeah real ones not software). Mm and some real blue sky (oops sorry not supposed to use that term any more are we) future looking - touch sensitive white boards and do away with projectors altogether?


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    Having recently gone through a PFI build a few pointers I've thought of - looking back on how things went........

    • Go through room plans with the heads of dept with a tooth comb
    • Be aware that (in our case) we didn't have unlimited drop points - difficult decisions may need to be made on where they go!
    • Power sockets seem to be at the bare minimum for us, get as many as you can put in!
    • Get a good relationship with the project manager for your LEA, and your ops/premises manager - you'll be talking to them a lot!
    • Nag nag nag those involved, don't assume they've taken your points on board......
    • Even if you don't plan on using wireless everywhere, get points put in above ceilings/high level just in case. The same for wireless outside (if needed)
    • Secure cabinet locations is a good point
    • Mix of fat and thin clients is a route we've gone down
    • Nearly every one of our classrooms has an AV faceplate with cabling and power to the ceiling, even though we don't have projectors in every room yet
    • If it's PFI (don't know about how BSF works being in Wales!) it can be difficult and costly to get things done later, so get as much done during the build as possible, even if you don't need it at the moment!
    • Once the build has started change is difficult and costly!

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    I agree fully with the comments about building up a solid infrastructure but I think that having inovation as an aim without a propper focus is dangerous. Too many get caught up striving for inovation because it is something shiney and marketable but loose sight of the actual goal which is systems that do their job reliably. I would look at what you want from ICT, the core goals and then build out from there.

    Personally I would be after durability, reliability and versitility. If you were going to spec all rooms with computers then I would look at integrated computer desks (standard pc in locaked cubbord with moniter under glass inset and angled inside desk) in all rooms rather than laptops which imediatly saves vast hassle, cost and removes limitations. Laptops are meant to be portable and so this is their best use. Wired network infrastructure should be well implemented augmented by propper managed wireless only for situations where wired access is not practical.

    I would also look for a very fast internet link and very capible firewalls that would allow you to share resources inside and outside of the school.

    Invest in properly moniterable hardware, smart managed switvhes and printers along with workstations that support enhanced managment and monitering (vPro) to allow for pre-emptive fault monitering and to lessen the burden of repairing and diagnosing problems.

    Have some diversity to your systems, use the best fit solution for each task. You still can't do video editing on a thin client or other high framerate applications so be sure to take user expectations into account and spec each room with the best fit technology.

    Think about the building infrastructure required to support these solutions also, heat, security, matinence, ergonomics and damage prevention should all be taken into account. These are just as important as the electronic underpinnings of the system in terms of making it all reliable and useable.

    The final thing that I would suggest is to look at the ideas pragmaticly and ask the question "why do we need this?". You should be able to come up with a good answer for all of the nessisary items and it helps to clarify why each technology or product is or is not actually useful to the end goals of helping to educate.

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    torledo's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by nephilim View Post
    I would want a fibre connection to each PC, and thats to start with.

    Depending on the applications you intend on running, you could have 1 room thin client, another room fat client, thus getting the best out of the rooms and making them individual rooms with individual software requirements.
    look, i know it's wish list, but i didn't realise the question was "how to pi$$ down the toilet a serious amount of money in one fell swoop." fttd to each pc is a complete waste of time, not to mention locking you in to a certian type of end device....unless ofcourse your expecting all-in-one pc vendors, thin client vendors to standardise on integrated fibre ports. If someone's got that kind of IT spend and they can't be more creative than fttd then i'd suggest they need to go away and do some product research.

    also, i thought the idea was to have some sort of flexibility with learning spaces, rather than a somewhat outdated model of rooms fulfilling a certain purpose based on the technology used.
    But that is a matter of opinion, i can see the counterargument.

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    Quote Originally Posted by SYNACK View Post
    If you were going to spec all rooms with computers then I would look at integrated computer desks (standard pc in locaked cubbord with moniter under glass inset and angled inside desk)
    It's going to have to be the quieter sort of desktop PC or you're going to need cooling in every room, I'd stick with thin clients. Just on a practical note, the swing-top desks with monitors on the inside are great but do add temptation for the naughtier sort of child to "accidentally" chop the mouse cord off when closing the desk. The other problem is how, exactly, you get network and power to each desk. Personally, I can't see why it's so difficult to just chisel a few holes in the floor and stick some wires in, but builders always seem to make a big fuss about this kind of thing. If you're getting floor-mounted power sockets, make sure you get the deepest possible ones - someone always wants to plug in one of those wall-wart type power adapters, and you need some decent room for those.

    You still can't do video editing on a thin client
    But there's no real reason why someone couldn't write something to edit together YouTube-style clips, all accessible from a web browser. That might be the answer to the "innovation" question - hire a programmer who can simply write applications as you need them.

    --
    David Hicks

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    GrumbleDook's Avatar
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    Let's define some core goals here.

    1. Reliable and robust network infrastructure to each client over wired or wireless
    2. Client machines suitable for day-to-day delivery of ICT requirements
    3. Reliable and robust server infrastructure with suitable storage and backup
    4. Suitable devices for learning / teaching
    5. Suitable software for learning / teaching
    6. Suitable software / devices for efficient and effective management / administration of the school


    A bit woolly but enough to start expanding on.

    Reliable and robust network infrastructure to each client over wired or wireless

    So, we are talking about a fibre network, preferably as a loop rather than a star to allow for redundancy, or if it is a star topology then 2 sets of fibre to be run to each edge stack via difference routes (no point doing the same route as that defeats the object). The core switch(s) need to be layer 3 or layer 4 devices and be configured for use of VLANs, QoS and CoS. Ideally you need this device to be configured for device recongition to ensure that only authorised devices are on your network (this is called numerous things depending on the hardware supplier but there are other possible solutions such as packetfence to consider too). Ideally it should also integrate with your managed wireless solution.

    The edge stacks / devices also need to be layer 3 compatible to allow for the full use of VLANs, etc but when you get to the WAPs these should also be able to run the various VLANs across them too. This allows for separate teacher / curriculum / admin / student / guest wireless networks as required.

    Edge switches can be PoE or not as required (remembering cost here)

    Cat5e or Cat6 to the desktop and 802.11g/n via wireless, remembering to have no more than 15 devices on each WAP (figures may vary from 5 to 30 depending on what you are connecting to over the network and how frequently data is shifted).

    Are you going to use VoIP within the school? How are you going to connect it to the outside world?

    Your internet connection needs to reflect your requirements too ... 100 meg perhaps? 20 would be minimum for a new school IMHO. Then you have to consider how this os protected? Are you part of an LA /RBC connection? Will you use their filters / firewall alone? If you are going to use your own filters / firewall then ensuring it runs in routed mode will help ensure you can still use majority og your LA / RBC services so no-one loses out.

    Client machines suitable for day-to-day delivery of ICT requirements

    If the machines are used for word-processing and 'net access then they do not have to be CAD/CAM systems. Different departments will have different needs and making sure the kit is flexible enough to do this is important. Editing machines (graphics / audio / video) will need more processing power and even a different arrangement for storage, and if you have machines to go into 'flexible work areas' such as drop-in centres, libraries, etc then these may have to be more powerful machines. The curriculum should determine the requirements for these but don't be scared to make them flexible enough for different use elsewhere a few years down the line. This could be a case of you get new 'powerful' machines for some areas every 2 years and the older machines get recycled into other departments. That way everyone gets a bit of an improvement and no-one is left for 5 years before getting something decent.

    Remember to be sustainable and consider different solutions. Thin client, linux, citrix ... a few ways of getting more out of desktop machines by investing at the server.

    Reliable and robust server infrastructure with suitable storage and backup


    Sort of speaks for itself really. Again, not specifying any particular technology or solution but it ranges from blade setups, the use of virtualisation to by fewer boxes and make more use of what you have got, SAN, NAS ... consider disk to disk to tape for backup and even having the backup storage array in a different part of the school ... or a different school! Volume Shadow Copy for immediate recovery perhaps?

    Remember that the setup of the backend should be done for maximum running efficiency to fit in with the front-end choices (the desktop / laptop setup) rather than the other way around. Don't design a backend and then have the front end have to fit around it and then the school work around that! There are compromises to be had on both sides of course, but the student / teacher requirements come first. This also comes down to how the system is secured and configured. Setting up the backend so that there is no choice or flexibilty at the front end may save *you* more work, but create more for everyone else. If you do it the other way around and it is too much work for you then compromise ... and example would be giving staff local admin access on their laptops so they can try different applications or use the machine at home. If they constantly screw it up then just load a clean build onto it and they have to do the fine tuning again themselves. It'll only happen a few times before they learn!

    Suitable devices for learning / teaching


    This could be a long list.

    Most teachers require a projector ... this is increasing the amount of technology used in teaching, not in learning. It is just a different way for the teacher to deliver resources / materials. A goodly number of teachers only need this and not an IWB. Sad to say, but it is true ... the projector / screen is merely a replacement for the dry wipe board / chalkboard. It has added nothing to learning.

    Interactive systems .... this could range from a simple wireless keyboard / gyromouse to a bluetooth tablet to a tablet pc link to a projector wirelessly through to a full IWB. The key with this is that these are all methods of getting the students involved. A brilliant way I have seen IWBs used is were students have annotated presentations / resources delivered by the teacher and these are then saved at the end of the lesson and uploaded to the VLE. This can be done not just with full IWBs though ... more about software in a bit.

    Scanners are handy but more material is out on the net ... so not too bothered about these unless really required.

    Printers ... if you are going to make use of these (as reading on the screen is *still* not pleasant!) then making sure that they are duplex capable and tied into a print management system is essential. No teacher should be printing large jobs to a printer ... most photocopiers will now run as network print-stations and are far cheaper for it.

    Cameras ... a good supply of decent cameras is a must nowadays. As long as they can connect to any device and be accessed as external storage it is fine. The quality needs to be based around the requirements of the department using them.

    Camcorders ... as above. Media will have different needs to English or History ... and so on. However, be prepared to for the storage requirements these bring and understand how they will be edited, whether using Pro Apps (Adobe Premier / Final Cut Studio) or 'built-in' apps (Movie Maker / iMovie). You will be surprised the range of usage these devices get. If you are unsure of the quality needed then start small (Flip cameras) and go upwards. Also consider how the recorded material may be stored until edited (miniDV tapes, SD Cards, files on external storage devices)

    Display screens / digital signage / electronic noticeboards. This might seem strange but the idea of the student being a producer of content is nothing new. It will get tied up in stuff about being web 2.0 but kids have always done work to go on display. However, by clever use of things like RSS and photo / video streams they can put their work up directly. There is a trust element here and it is open to abuse ... but it is possible to have *their* photos, *their* blogs, etc up on the screens.

    I'm sure others can add a lot more to this list with webcams, high end VidConf kit, etc ...

    Suitable software for learning / teaching


    Again ... says exactly what it means. This can range from MS Office, Open Office, photosynth, iMovie, Audacity, Moodle, Sharepoint, Paint.net, Photoshop .... the main problem is making sure it all works! And when we are talking VLEs then it means such a wide range of tools under one place that it really is for a discussion elsewhere. Not all students / teachers will use all tools and some will tend to use just the tools they know work best for them!

    Suitable software / devices for efficient and effective management / administration of the school


    Ok, this ranges from the printer management solution (incorporating network print stations as photocopiers) thought to door access systems. But here is a brief list that people can add to.
    Document management system that allows for DPA and FoI requests to be catered for (ideally can be tied in with the MIS)
    Access management systems for doors around the school which can be tied into attendance if needed.
    MIS that allows for ... lesson by lesson attendance, lesson by lesson behaviour tracking, the standard information collation and returns (Census / Plasc / Exams / Attendance / etc), summative assessment, formative assessment (ideally imported in for other sources such as VLEs), etc
    MIS that allows for ... the creation of reports and analysis of any of the above
    CCTV systems which are granular in control and can fit within the school DP policy.

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    GrumbleDook's Avatar
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    Feel free to add onto this list ... with a bit of looking at PFI / BSF info you can find the fuller list and rather than replicate it here I just thought I would put a few things in which I can pin examples onto or others can from recent conversations on EG.

    I have avoided a few areas ... things like the number of ethernet points in each room, the type of IWBs or how projectors should be mounted ... as most of these vary with each school.

    Some standard things that need to be taken into account though ... power requirements for all of the above need to be carefully looked at and then plan for the expansion over a 5-10 year period if possible. Cooling requirements are the same. Physical storage for things like consumables / spares will get forgotten about unless you press for it (secure physical storage remembering the cost of some spares and some fo the spares may actually be complete units such as laptops / desktops / projectors / printers)

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