Blue Skies Thread, ICT Plans - Am I Missing Something? in General; Hi all - this seemed like the best place for this question, apologies if not.
A little background: We're a ...
26th October 2011, 10:48 AM #1
ICT Plans - Am I Missing Something?
Hi all - this seemed like the best place for this question, apologies if not.
A little background: We're a computing specialist school and have been for many years, we have around 900 desktops/laptops, 30-odd servers, 3x ESXi hosts, 3x SANs (two basic ones, one nice one), IWB and projector in every room, we run Office 2010, Adobe CS5, Visual Studio 2010, etc. In other words, we're relatively IT proficient here.
For the last 3 years, budget has been almost non-existent so we've just been keeping things ticking over. We're still on XP as we had quite a few machines that wouldn't handle Win7 well enough. Over the summer this year we had a decent amount of funding and replaced nearly 300 machines with high-spec Dells, so things are now much better and once we've got rid of the last old PCs we should be Win7-ready from a desktop hardware point of view.
I try to run things here like a business - everything integrates properly, single-sign-on wherever possible, handle everything in-house and outsource as little as possible, enterprise-grade hardware, etc. My plans were to finish moving to Server 2008, virtualise as much as possible, get Exchange 2010 with Exchange ActiveSync and Outlook Anywhere working properly, put Windows 7 on the desktops, and then we should be up to a decent level.
However, a couple of people very high up in the school like Apple and mobile devices. If they have their way I get the impression we'll be replacing a lot of our desktops with Macs and replacing laptops with iPads and whatever mobile device the kids bring with them. To me this seems... not so much a step backwards but a step in the wrong direction. We put in 16 Macs in Music over summer and they're nice, but they're quite specifically suited to multimedia work rather than most of the ICT-specific work in other places across the school. Running them also now means I'm having to manage two directories (AD and OD), two sets of Group Policies, we cannot repair them when they break like we do with PCs, obviously they're twice the cost, etc.
This is what management are reading when it comes to mobile devices: Maximum cloud coverage - Leader Magazine. I'm not even going to begin explaining my problems with that article. (although I'd start with the fact it claims that ICT "never really fulfilled its promise as [a] highly effective teaching and learning tool" (I disagree) and the fact he's comparing kids bringing a calculator from home to replace a school calculator to kids bringing a mobile phone from home to replace a school PC)
So, my question is this: Am I right for trying to maintain an enterprise-level network where everything is domain-based, can be managed in-house, is widely supported, and we use new technologies (e.g. iPads) to enhance this, or should I be embracing new technologies with no (or few) questions asked and be willing to replace the majority of our network with Apple kit?
Thanks in advance for any feedback.
IDG Tech News
26th October 2011, 10:54 AM #2
excellent quesion, I say go with it, We are all facing these issues
with apples as the latest fad, some say they are just toys, some say they are great learning devices.
An ultimate questions qould be , are they just a fad? i dont want to spend my ICT budget on.
But think about the future, if you have sharepoint / VLE and implement BYOD it may actually save money in the long run.
Microsoft Consumerization of IT Epipheo - YouTube
26th October 2011, 11:01 AM #3
The PC vs MAC question is only one is my eyes; value for money. What will these MACs do that a PC for half the price won't? nothing and that's the truth, not only will the outright cost be raised but the indirect and long term costs are realistically going to be multiplied. Having a mac is not an enhancement of anything.
Originally Posted by Duke
The iPad one is up in the air for me. yes they are more portable than a laptop but then, a notebook is cheaper and does more and in a better fashion. They have their uses but the reality is for the money, it's just not justifiable.
I would say stick to your guns. Change for the sake of change is always wrong. Justifiable managed change is the correct way.
Thanks to deceptivex from:
26th October 2011, 11:14 AM #4
Will this is the thing, I don't want to throw away 10 years of network development in order to put in something that's going to be nice for a year or two then have to go back again.
Originally Posted by andydis
I agree, there's nothing you can do on a Mac that you can't do on a PC. The difference for me is the workflow - on a Mac when you're doing music, photo or video work I think the workflow from beginning to end is smoother across several different applications. This is why I don't mind putting them in certain places (e.g. Music), because it will in theory make life better for the kids and lower the bar for creating high-standards of work.
Originally Posted by deceptivex
I think part of the problem is that the PCs are seen as 'slow'. This problem is three-fold as far as I can see (and we're working on improving it): 1) Some of the PCs genuinely are old and slow, now we have budget again we're replacing them. This is no different to complaining that a 6 year old Mac is slow. 2) Logging on takes a while for some people - we need to replace roaming profiles with mandatory ones and clean up our Group Policies. 3) Over the last couple of years each department has ended up teaching across the school (no idea why) which means your average PC now has English, Maths, ICT, Science, DT, etc. software installed on it. The Macs have maybe 3 or 4 applications compared to 20-30 - no wonder the PCs are slower!
Fixing these problems seems far better than just throwing Macs at the issue. Using iPads to enhance ICT provision rather than replace it is fine in my eyes.
26th October 2011, 11:22 AM #5
tbh the mac vs PC argument has been done to death, Value for Money shouldn't be seen as just a cost exercise. Education isn't about being an exam factory but making sure Students leave with a balance of skills/knowledge/experiences/Results to set them up for there adult life. If you think giving them a restricted view point on the world is the best approach then stick to your guns.
Originally Posted by deceptivex
Thanks to gaz350 from:
synaesthesia (27th October 2011)
26th October 2011, 11:30 AM #6
Woah, hold up, I'm not trying to suggest we restrict their view or anything like that. I want to give kids opportunities (which is why I have no problem with Macs or iPads in the right situation, we run a huge range of software, have given the kids Linux machines, etc.), my concern is about maintaining a supportable network in coming years. Regarding the bit I put in bold - surely if we're meant to be preparing them for their adult life then we should be using Windows as this is what the vast majority of them will spend their life using? Until we got a couple of Macs in school I'd never had any reason to use one in my life - I don't have a problem with them, I'd just never come across them in a way that actually required me to use one.
Originally Posted by gaz350
I really wish it wasn't, I think what we're teaching kids today prepares them incredibly poorly for real life, but that seems to be the ways it's going.
Education isn't about being an exam factory
26th October 2011, 11:43 AM #7
It IS value for money that you need to be looking at. But it's the best value your can get to provide a good education to the pupils. This is measured on exam results which is most often done without making the most out of the technology in the schools. Most teachers I've come accross dont use the technology at their disposal to it's full potential. There are however those that do, and it is only the person in the school who can decide which software/hardware will be adopted by their staff.
Originally Posted by gaz350
The OP has stated that the staff higher up like Macs and mobile devices, if this means they will make more use of this than Windows based devices then it's better value for money. But if the staff who will be using the devices to teach dont have experience, then training costs also need to be included in the decision of what direction to go next.
Rather than look at it from a cost/maintenance point of view, try asking other teachers what they would prefer to use if they had the choice. If no one has any experience of using Macs then it is something your SMT need to consider. Ultimately pupils should be taught transerable skills meaning it doesn't matter what platform they use, they should still be able to perform the same task on other software/hardware provided to them by their future employer.
Last edited by penfold; 26th October 2011 at 11:45 AM.
26th October 2011, 11:58 AM #8
Am I right for trying to maintain an enterprise-level network where everything is domain-based, can be managed in-house, is widely supported, and we use new technologies (e.g. iPads) to enhance this, or should I be embracing new technologies with no (or few) questions asked and be willing to replace the majority of our network with Apple kit?
Allow me to answer this as best as I can.
In one of the places where I was previously, there were no Macs whatsoever and anything I wanted to do with macs (for the art dept) I had to find cheap windows based equivalents.
The place I was last, 40% of the teaching staff had Macs, it was BYOD and a large chunk of the students had Macs, and it was great.
People say what can it run that windows cant, well let me tell you I can get more efficiency from a Mac running photoshop than I could with a Windows machine running photoshop with identical spec machines.
Macs are by their very nature better for art and design, windows by its very nature is better for productivity like office and web aps, linux by its very nature is better for coding.
If you have the possibility to do so, get Macs, and have bootcamp on so you can run Linux or Windows or Mac as and when needed. Problem solved!
Just if you do decide to run Mac and Linux (I know I bought linux up but it is also good for the kids to learn so they are not stuck with the single UI and have better skills at IT), make sure everything is done properly and not slap dash so that it all works properly.
26th October 2011, 12:39 PM #9
I'd say move with the times. A school network shouldn't be restricted to running any particular system.
Originally Posted by Duke
Get your infrastructure sorted so that you can take any apple/android/linux device - it's all possible given the right level of investment. Eventually you can save money and open the school up to a different style of learning. It's not an argument about macs vs pc's. it's an argument about interoperability, sticking with the old school corporate domain based windows systems restricts the possibilities.
this was pretty much my checklist:
1) solid network
2) DMZ for 'public' applications
4) Citrix to allow win apps on ipads/osx/android/linux/bsd etc
5) cloud based document and email system (google docs)
6) decent authenticating proxy (smoothwall)
7) Decent wireless with 'public' vlan
8) get a decent broadband provider with 100% SLA and failover
With this in place you should be able to cope with any type of device SLT throw at you
Last edited by CyberNerd; 26th October 2011 at 12:45 PM.
2 Thanks to CyberNerd:
dave.81 (22nd November 2011), Duke (26th October 2011)
26th October 2011, 12:58 PM #10
I think this is part of my concern. If everything is properly managed and I can support all the devices securely, then I don't really mind what specific hardware and OS we're using. I can get the Macs to log onto the domain, home folders can be mapped, and you can do shared drives, it's just a bit more work than with Windows and doesn't seem to be as reliable. The iPads are more difficult as from what I can see they're designed to be single-user devices, not shared between kids, I can't do domain authentication, there's no simple and secure way to save files onto the network, etc. As a standalone device I have no problem with them, but when people tell me they want to use them to replace laptops yet are planning to save files (nothing sensitive I hope!) on DropBox I struggle to support the idea, you know?
Originally Posted by nephilim
When we did things like Linux, they were virtual machines the kids could use and ran alongside everything else, they didn't replace it.
26th October 2011, 12:59 PM #11
Cheers, sounds like a good plan. What I'm trying to avoid is being that guy who says no to everything. Firstly I don't want to say no and secondly I'm too young to start being that grumpy lol. However what I don't want to do is get steamrollered by management and have them buy a load of devices I can't support properly.
Originally Posted by CyberNerd
26th October 2011, 01:05 PM #12
That's fine. What you need to do is outline to them the way that the school needs to move forward in order to support X device. There's plenty of examples on this forum where SLT have bought a bunch of eg ipads and the techs found they didn't have the infrastructure to cope with them and they just ended up wasting money.
Originally Posted by Duke
A mix of Citrix, VLE or Google docs will solve these problems - everyone has their own personal area, so you can access resources anywhere, on any device.
The iPads are more difficult as from what I can see they're designed to be single-user devices, not shared between kids, I can't do domain authentication, there's no simple and secure way to save files onto the network, etc. As a standalone device I have no problem with them, but when people tell me they want to use them to replace laptops yet are planning to save files (nothing sensitive I hope!) on DropBox I struggle to support the idea, you know?
Thanks to CyberNerd from:
26th October 2011, 08:26 PM #13
The important part of the plan that some SLTs seem to miss with this move away from school-hosted solutions to making use of more mobile devices and the cloud is based around availability of technology. Prof. Heppell does take up the baton on some of that and it is strongly based on the idea of BYOD. The idea of a dropping your existing investment for cloud / mobile based solutions has a number of benefits but a number of pitfalls too.
Clive mentions a few of the key points around ease of use by learners, lots of available online tools, etc ... but to some extent you get what you pay for ... and that is either in cash, in time or in expertise. By all means, move over to cloud hosted tools but some are not reliable, you have no idea how long it is going to be there, it is at the mercy of the provider and we have already seen Google decide to pull things which are actively being promoted by their own Google Certified Teachers! (that is going to make an interesting discussion at BETT).
The data protection bit was just too small ... With even MS talking about how they are at liberty of The Patriot Act for Live@Edu (and you have to do your own analysis about the impact of that ... but that discussion has been done to death now and at least MS are open and talking about it ... unlike Apple or Google) ... so you are looking at Private Cloud services ... which lead back to the good, old-fashioned hosted platforms and services which are in the UK, run by a UK owned company and so on ... and then the cost does not look that different to running things in house (remember that best value includes calculations for time, expertise, reliability, as well as cost, etc) when you take into account staff time.
Change in tech can be about using new tech to make a difference, but it has to be planned as to *how* it will make a difference. You don't invest the time and money without trying to understand what the outcome will be, how it can be measured (and that really does mean not just making it about exam results) and how the next round of change can be planned for.
Personally, I will always prefer to see a mix of OSes and programs ... the learners being shown how to evaluate the best tool and learning how to adapt from one package or system to another is a valued skill ... the idea of the Digital Native has been debunked in many areas as there are still too many gaps to say it applies everywhere so hand-holding is still needed.
If your SLT are seriously interested in going for a change like this then they need to invest time for you and them to talk and visit other schools who have done similar, perhaps a joint trip to BETT ... but definitely a trip to the Learning Without Frontiers conference where they can talk to the people who are setting out where things should be going ... and most folk there will be open and honest about the pain involved as well as the benefits. If they don't talk about the downside then they are not being honest and you really should not listen to them. There are *always* lessons to learn.
Best of luck which ever way it goes.
Last edited by GrumbleDook; 26th October 2011 at 08:26 PM.
Thanks to GrumbleDook from:
27th October 2011, 08:14 PM #14
Just make sure whatever way it goes, you do it for the right reasons. What's been said already just about hits the nail on the head, but don't go buying in Macs just because SLT says so (of course you may have your hands tied with that but then you need to have it in writing your concerns about doing it so it can't come back on you if it goes a bit pear shaped)
You would need to ask the simple question - why? I've seen many teachers come to me with ideas just because they've seen it at the next school down the road, ideas that I know full well will not translate well into the setting of a different school or geographical location for various reasons. If they want to go down the Mac route just because they "look pretty" or they've seen someone else do it, you need to sit them down and explain the best you can about the aforementioned points for and against. They may have very good reasons for it - in which case, you can use that as the opportunity to ask them to fund for some training for you, visit other schools with it in place (plenty here will be happy to help) and everyone benefits as a result. Whatever argument for/against, the benefactors are the students so center any arguments around them primarily.
Try to use the time between now (or whenever SLT give you a decision) to make a few plans yourself - what areas may use that sort of technology to it's best potential, how can you manage it more efficiently, maybe you need to offload something else to "make way" for it by moving something to a hosted solution. It will look very positive on your part if they come to you with a ballpark "We've seen this and it's nice, we want it" notion and you can actually expand on it for them and make those suggestions.
Always keep in mind "Why Apple?" It's just a brand. Be prepared to think outside the box a little - why an iPad instead of a large smartphone or other tablet? Why a Mac when a PC can do the same (I will have to disagree with Neph a little on the performance/reliability side of it with the new Core i3/5 kit these days but the essence is correct - narrower use devices naturally have fewer possible problems). I liked what Grumbledook has already said - the idea that students can come away with a variety of knowledge of different systems will never be a bad thing. For instance, if we had a suite of Macs in the music department, I'd like to see a few normal ICT sessions covered in there to start some variety. If someone asks to see Linux working in the blood, I'll happily sort out a few bootable live CD's and do a couple of sessions. The extra costs in time and finance may well be offset by what the students will learn because of it. That could well be extra brownie points for inspectors and potential intake.
Maybe some re-organisation may be useful. For instance if you have 30 classrooms (very small example) with PC's running a whiteboard and MIS, could those computers be repurposed into an ICT suite as an upgrade or new suite, and replaced with tablets running the MIS (probably via hosted solutions or VLE) and also running projectors wirelessly (something we've had a few queries about recently that we've been looking into via Airplay and the likes).
You could actually save money with some clever thinking
Thanks to synaesthesia from:
nephilim (27th October 2011)
27th October 2011, 08:45 PM #15
My argument was if the machines were like for like spec, mac does outshine windows but as I said, only on like for like specs when using programs like photoshop...OFC windows stands out when you can use it on all and sundry
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