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Blue Skies Thread, What is the future direction of Primary ICT? in General; I am a school governor (no booing please! ;o)) looking at the future of ICT in our small rural primary ...
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    What is the future direction of Primary ICT?

    I am a school governor (no booing please! ;o)) looking at the future of ICT in our small rural primary school.

    We have 13 desktops in a suite and they are all getting on a bit - to say the least. All still functional but running XP and way out of warranty. We have 1 or 2 desktops in each classroom and and fairly old laptops connected to a whiteboard for the teachers in each class. We have 4 classes and 125 pupils.

    We have some money earmarked to replace them but the whole process got me thinking that perhaps the days of 2 pupils to 1 desktop or 3-1 our larger classes in a suite once or twice a week are over.

    I used to work for a university supporting teachers teaching other teachers ICT (back in the day) so I have some experience of ICT in schools (way out of date now).

    What do you think we should be looking at to try and future proof our schools ICT provision? I was looking at a trolly of netbooks or even tablets (android or mac - I don't mind which) so we can get the kids to have unrestricted uce of ICT when they are using it.

    I wonder whether a decent wireless network with flexible devices would make more sense than a hardwired desktop room.

    Do you have advice or experience that might help illuminate the situation? How would you go about evaluating the options?

    It is a lot of money and a big decision, and I'm keen to look at it from as broad a perspective as possible.

    Thanks
    James

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    Hi and welcome

    Wired vs. Wireless

    To be honest I think you would be better off with a wired Environment and just increase the number of PC's in the classroom wired is always going to be quicker and more reliable than Wireless.I think you also have to take into account that this is a small school and managing laptops or tablets can be more labour intensive to manage moving these around setting them up, and more likelyhood of being damaged etc.

    I have been inolved in a number of Wireless systems with various success but feel if you have a choice wired is better, obviously wireless seems good for flexibility moving laptops to rooms etc but this needs to be managed well.

    To put in a decent Wireless system with enough coverage, proper security depending on the size of the school can be expensive.

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    What is said above is good advice. If the school was larger and competition to get into the room is higher then laptop trollys would be good. But my experience of them is a negative one (in a large secondary though). Hard Wired would be the best and is easier to support on maybe a day a week (or whatever the schools has support wise).

    My suggestion would be

    20ish PCs in the suite you can get some decent second hand Core 2 Duo machines for £160 from ICT Direct and I would upgrade to Windows 7 (about £40)
    replace the 3 PC's in each classroom (teacher + 2 student ones).

    32 Monitors at roughly £70 (you can get this cheaper).

    Roughly 8k for the lot with a decent OS!

    Does the school have a server and MIS? what does the Admin team do?

    EDIT: Also I would avoid looking at Macs - at this level they are OTT and a waste of money IMHO

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    I work in a 3 class intake junior school (years 3 to 6) and we have a wired IT suite and a set of netbooks as well. (33 in the suite, 32 netbooks). We have no PCs in classrooms anymore as the netbooks are far more versatile.
    We have a wireless network which is very good, all our machines are Windows 7 and we are about to upgrade the server to 2008R2. The teachers have laptops but I believe that PCs hardwired to the whiteboards would be a better solution and I don't think schools need to supply teacher laptops any more.
    In my opinion you do need enough machines for one per child. The netbooks are mostly used for research purposes - it works very well as the children sit with a netbook on their desk AND a piece of paper and a pen so they can take notes - this avoids the 'cut-and-paste' you get if they just sit in front of a pc with Google and Word open.
    The children use the suite for bigger projects or specific IT things - the school follows an IT curriculum and also does cross-curricular stuff too.
    We think that we have future-proofed as far as is possible with the money available to us.
    Using ICT Direct, as @glennda suggests is a very good one - they won't be top of the range but vastly superior to what you have now.
    It is important to consider the server, too as this is the backbone of any network.
    Make sure that licensing is looked into as well as there are different ways to do this and some may be cheaper than others.
    Oh, and I am a governor too - as are quite a few people on here!

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    Wireless netbooks (£200) give you best bang/buck as long as you don't need individual pupil logons.
    If money permits - keep suite and add netbook/laptop trolley, replace teacher/smartboard connected machines.
    If you hear of a local secondary getting rid of "old" kit (<6 years) - grab it off them and use them to keep suite running.

    With the new boy in wireless networking - Unifi - with their £60 per access point and a setup your grandmother could cope with, your looking at about £300-£400 to blanket cover your school.


    So if you go down keep suite/add netbooks route then you'll have a suite that almost always works as long as you have power

    You can work in pairs in the suite or add netbooks alongside for a session to get whole class (rarely needed or a good idea with primary pupils )

    If you can afford 35 netbooks (and 2 trolleys) then you can have whole class 1:1 (Year 5/6 using word processing/presentation software) or 2 classes using them at same time 1machine:2 pupils.

    Other advantage of netbooks over laptops is battery life - they are effectively available all day (given a quick recharge at lunchtime) whereas no standard laptop is available for more than 1/2 - 2/3 of a day and thats when you babysit them (Which NEVER happens in a real school)

    I work across 6 primaries.

    Simon

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    A variety of good advice above for the OP. However, it's also worth thinking about who is going to look after the kit. Outside contractors will no doubt be very willing - at a cost. In house with a parent volunteer who has some experience and spare time is worth considering or perhaps a local contract to that person. Worth considering what your LA and local Grid for Learning can provide and you probably have a dedicated LA advisor who can offer useful advice. Worth asking CAPITA Children's Services - they came in and did me a cost free state of play survey.

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    GrumbleDook's Avatar
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    You could split the decision into two parts ... first help the staff look at what tools are going to be needed to deliver the curriculum (not just ICT ... which is a little up in the air anyway ... but all of the curriculum) in an ideal world and then work backwards from that. Then also look at what is the best equipment you can support for both wired and wireless with the given pot of money ...

    It might sound like a lot of work to put together a raft of options but then you and the staff at the school can slowly but surely work out what compromises you need to make based on a few key facts.
    1 - Good, fast, cheap ... pick any two out of the three (sometimes you might only get a chose of one!)
    2 - Everyone needs to learn to compromise ... in the forces you have drilled into you 'Improvise, Adapt, Overcome' and that is true in so many sectors ... including IT.
    3 - If you are buying something for a single purpose then you need to get people to work out what else it can be used for. Unless it is seriously specialist kit then it should do multiple jobs or allow others things to work in new ways.
    4 - Some of the cost to be considered will be training, time for staff to rework their curriculum and resources, time for someone to design, deploy, maintain and develop the setup at the school ... this is where we end up with a variety of options ranging from extra staff to provide the tech support, investment in middleware, choice of particular tech and solutions (e.g. deepfreeze, etc) and the quality of the person helping design it all and deploying it.

    For more ideas there are plenty of schools out there (including members here) who are likely to allow you to go in for a look at how they work and what makes a difference, and there are always places like the ICT Register or NAACE as well.

    I know it is not an answer as such, but hopefully it helps with some of the decisions to be made.

  8. Thanks to GrumbleDook from:

    speckytecky (11th April 2012)

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    Thanks for all your advice so far. There is definitely a lot of food for thought. In response to some questions (and to fill out a few gaps in information)...

    We have 1/2 day support every 2 weeks from the county ICT provider for what we have already. The server is a similar age to the desktops (2006) - running windows server 2003 (I think). Our MIS is county standard too which we also subscribe to for extended support. The school layout is 6 rooms basically along a long lateral corridor from one end to the other in a single storey. We have exceptionally poor rural broadband speeds (don't we all!)

    I like the principle of maybe keeping the old desktops and supplementing them with newer portable machines. I worry about spending resources adding more hard wiring into an old concrete 1950s building. All in all it's a real tough call.... You really want to do right not just for the kids at school now but to try and make sure the next intake also have exciting, relevant curriculum experiences too!

    Thanks again for all your thoughts and keep them coming (if you can!)

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    I'm glad that you have asked for help before going ahead...
    I now work for a secondary schools as a Network Manager/Administrator, and before this used to work various primary and secondary and frequently came across inadequate networks as a result of initial poor judgement.

    Here is my advice;

    [1] Replace any existing old desktop computers with newer ones that will last for another five/seven years, making sure that they are future proof to accommodate new future operating systems after windows 7. This does have to cost a fortune.
    especially
    [2] Don't bother with netbooks, as they may not satisfy [1] above for the following reasons; (i) will not be future proof (ii) Cost of ownership will be high as they will get frequently get damaged by kids, e.g. broken power sockets, lost keys, broken power buttons and screens due to accidents. Although, you may have some laptops in trolleys for class use.

    [3] Don't wast you money on Apple Macs; They look great and love them for that, but (i) you'll find that any site using flash player will not work with iPads unless you buy an app for that particular website. (ii) will cause a lot of frustration when trying to access free websites using flash with learning resources for children (iii) will need to purchase applications for wording processing and presentations etc for them to be a bit more useful, (iv) where will work be saved? (v) time consuming when managing ten or more ipads

    [4] Migrate to windows 7 for desktops and at least server 2008/10.

    [5] All desktops for classroomss, ICT suites and offices need to be hardwired for both efficiency and reliability. Using wireless only for the entire school will frustrate users due to connections drops etc. Use wireless for laptops in trolleys, but making sure there is enough capacity to accomodate the number of laptops.

    [6] Ideally, you should have one desktop/laptop for each child in the ICT suite/l apsafe respectively.

    [7] Your current IT support provision is totally inadequate, even for a small school.

    [8] Don’t rush into buying anything yet without consultation resulting a network not entirely not fir for purpose

    There's a lot to consider when planning for your new ICT provision, and getting it right will make your network both efficient and reliable. And it doesn't have to cost you a fortune.

    If you need further help, let me know and will be glad to help with future proof specifications or put you in contact with the right people so that you get a fit for purpose network that will last five/seven or more years.

    Hope this helpful.

    Abe

  11. Thanks to ComputerWhisperer from:

    GrumbleDook (12th April 2012)

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    From experience, primary schools spend a lot of money on IT equipment, and yet spend very little on their IT support provision. It's important to have competent persons, whether parents or contractors, to manage and maintain your computer networks. Having a volunteer do the work is insufficient as this may not be regular and may not have the necessary skills to maintain your network to the required level.

    In the past, I have had the task of rectifying issues for many primary schools, which had employed the services of a parent/friend or other recommended independent technicians who were not qualified to maintain and administer their networks.

    There many small IT companies that would provide professional IT support services to primary schools for about £10,000 per year, Monday to Friday during business hours with a helpdesk logging system, onsite and remote support, instead of reported issues being recorded in a book for when next the school technician comes in (usually once a week or so).

    The main advantages of using IT contracting companies are (i) they have the expertise to manage and maintain computer networks and (ii) have professional indemnity insurance.

    Primary schools take far too much risks with their data in the hands of non-qualified individuals who are without insurance, thus costing them a bit of money to rectify when issues remain unresolved for long periods, and affecting network reliability and user confidence.

    All primary schools should budget for £9/10K per year on proper professional IT support.

  13. Thanks to ComputerWhisperer from:

    GrumbleDook (12th April 2012)

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    Good to see you Abe.

    Quote Originally Posted by ComputerWhisperer View Post
    I'm glad that you have asked for help before going ahead...
    I now work for a secondary schools as a Network Manager/Administrator, and before this used to work various primary and secondary and frequently came across inadequate networks as a result of initial poor judgement.
    I agree with a number of good things you mention below but there are a few things which could be argued the other way.

    Here is my advice;

    [1] Replace any existing old desktop computers with newer ones that will last for another five/seven years, making sure that they are future proof to accommodate new future operating systems after windows 7. This does have to cost a fortune.
    especially
    There are a few options to reuse the old equipment though, as long as you accept the risk that the kit is out of warranty and likely to fail over time.
    These can range from investing in a terminal server instead as many low- to mid-range programs will be happy this way and you can have minimal build on the old desktops (the good old LTSP or equivalent is an option) or you can go down the Linux route instead ... but this also goes back to making sure the technology is suitable for the curriculum.

    [2] Don't bother with netbooks, as they may not satisfy [1] above for the following reasons; (i) will not be future proof (ii) Cost of ownership will be high as they will get frequently get damaged by kids, e.g. broken power sockets, lost keys, broken power buttons and screens due to accidents. Although, you may have some laptops in trolleys for class use.
    Mobile devices can get damaged but sometimes this is down to working with the class teacher and the children to reduce the rate of damage. Also, due to the reduced cost, you can keep some money in reserve for reserves or replacements ... almost making it a consumable. As for future-proof ... depending on what route the school goes down they may opt for more web-based systems and the power of the mobile device is not as important it is if you are relying on it to run local programs.

    [3] Don't wast you money on Apple Macs; They look great and love them for that, but (i) you'll find that any site using flash player will not work with iPads unless you buy an app for that particular website. (ii) will cause a lot of frustration when trying to access free websites using flash with learning resources for children (iii) will need to purchase applications for wording processing and presentations etc for them to be a bit more useful, (iv) where will work be saved? (v) time consuming when managing ten or more ipads
    I'm going to be a little pedantic here ... an Apple Mac is the desktop, server or portable device (laptop) running Mac OS X, and the iPad/iPhone/iPod Touch runs iOS and they are generally just called iOS devices ... but they sit in a different family to Macs.

    You need at least one Apple Mac to manage the iOS devices but yes the management of the devices is going to be problem (if not 1:1 devices and in the control of the families ... but that is a different set of issues). As for Flash ... yes, it is a problem now but there is already a move to cross-platform apps or HTML5 friendly sites and even Adobe are moving away from it on mobile devices. You mentioned future proofing earlier so people could argue that by ignoring Flash you are considering the future. I know ... it fails to deal with the here and now, which is why the curriculum development / audit is needed at the same time. There are a number of good sites and discussions which already give good lists of suitable apps to use for different parts of the curriculum so why be tied down to one site which is set on using Flash?

    [4] Migrate to windows 7 for desktops and at least server 2008/10.

    [5] All desktops for classroomss, ICT suites and offices need to be hardwired for both efficiency and reliability. Using wireless only for the entire school will frustrate users due to connections drops etc. Use wireless for laptops in trolleys, but making sure there is enough capacity to accomodate the number of laptops.
    It all depends on the wireless ... if using devices which do not require hefty work for logon/logoff then it is not too much of an issue ... and also depends on what type of wireless we are talking about too.

    [6] Ideally, you should have one desktop/laptop for each child in the ICT suite/l apsafe respectively.
    Sort of agree but disagree ... depending on the class, the age of the children and the activity then sharing devices is very beneficial for group work. There are some good examples out there of group work on mobile devices, but there are also times when you want a device per child ... a hard call at times and it depends ... yes, you guessed it ... on the curriculum.

    [7] Your current IT support provision is totally inadequate, even for a small school.
    Based on the kit they have now (and considering the MIS support seems to be an extra so I am not considering that) then they probably have a reasonable amount of support as it stands, but depending on how they go forward then yes, they may need more ... but that is not 100% ... it also depends on what sort of activities the staff (teachers, TAs, etc) could reasonably be expected to do and how support requests are managed.

    [8] Donít rush into buying anything yet without consultation resulting a network not entirely not fir for purpose

    There's a lot to consider when planning for your new ICT provision, and getting it right will make your network both efficient and reliable. And it doesn't have to cost you a fortune.

    If you need further help, let me know and will be glad to help with future proof specifications or put you in contact with the right people so that you get a fit for purpose network that will last five/seven or more years.

    Hope this helpful.

    Abe

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    I have been kitting out a primary school and was going to purchase netbooks. I had a meeting with a rep from one of the big manufacturers who told us not to buy netbooks, they were a price point product that most users found did not fulfil their needs and that they are going to stop producing them. How true that is am not sure but it made us think twice.

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    Thanks

    Quote Originally Posted by GrumbleDook View Post
    Good to see you Abe.






    I agree with a number of good things you mention below but there are a few things which could be argued the other way.



    There are a few options to reuse the old equipment though, as long as you accept the risk that the kit is out of warranty and likely to fail over time.
    These can range from investing in a terminal server instead as many low- to mid-range programs will be happy this way and you can have minimal build on the old desktops (the good old LTSP or equivalent is an option) or you can go down the Linux route instead ... but this also goes back to making sure the technology is suitable for the curriculum.



    Mobile devices can get damaged but sometimes this is down to working with the class teacher and the children to reduce the rate of damage. Also, due to the reduced cost, you can keep some money in reserve for reserves or replacements ... almost making it a consumable. As for future-proof ... depending on what route the school goes down they may opt for more web-based systems and the power of the mobile device is not as important it is if you are relying on it to run local programs.



    I'm going to be a little pedantic here ... an Apple Mac is the desktop, server or portable device (laptop) running Mac OS X, and the iPad/iPhone/iPod Touch runs iOS and they are generally just called iOS devices ... but they sit in a different family to Macs.

    You need at least one Apple Mac to manage the iOS devices but yes the management of the devices is going to be problem (if not 1:1 devices and in the control of the families ... but that is a different set of issues). As for Flash ... yes, it is a problem now but there is already a move to cross-platform apps or HTML5 friendly sites and even Adobe are moving away from it on mobile devices. You mentioned future proofing earlier so people could argue that by ignoring Flash you are considering the future. I know ... it fails to deal with the here and now, which is why the curriculum development / audit is needed at the same time. There are a number of good sites and discussions which already give good lists of suitable apps to use for different parts of the curriculum so why be tied down to one site which is set on using Flash?



    It all depends on the wireless ... if using devices which do not require hefty work for logon/logoff then it is not too much of an issue ... and also depends on what type of wireless we are talking about too.



    Sort of agree but disagree ... depending on the class, the age of the children and the activity then sharing devices is very beneficial for group work. There are some good examples out there of group work on mobile devices, but there are also times when you want a device per child ... a hard call at times and it depends ... yes, you guessed it ... on the curriculum.



    Based on the kit they have now (and considering the MIS support seems to be an extra so I am not considering that) then they probably have a reasonable amount of support as it stands, but depending on how they go forward then yes, they may need more ... but that is not 100% ... it also depends on what sort of activities the staff (teachers, TAs, etc) could reasonably be expected to do and how support requests are managed.
    Hi... Thanks for your input. I'd deliberately made it simple and easy for James, without all the grey areas of argument. The key points I considered were

    (i) compatibility
    (ii) Interoperability
    (iii) Capacity
    (iv) Cost benefit
    (v) User experience

    Terminal services: Nothing new here, been around from the days of Unix. But there are several downsides and costly to implement, especially with clusters/redundant servers. When it goes down, the whole thing is down. Technology still relatively new in a GUI environment, although it's been around awhile.
    I donít think terminal services is right for James's school as a solution in terms of cost/performance ratio.

    Wireless alone: children like using multi-media applications, especially on the Internet, causing a lot of congestion, even in a celled network. Not best solution for software deployment etc.

    Apple Macs: Was referring to the brand, also cost of ownership is too high - parts not easily available.

    User Experience: teachers just want things working using resources they always been using. They haven't got the time to start finding alternate sites etc, and why go through the frustration trying to fix old computers all the time. When they start going wrong, you'll be repairing the same machines every several weeks. Just not worth it.

    Compatibility: IBM compatible machines (desktop/laptops) and windows o/s will always support whatever is out there, where Apple tend to deliberately make interoperability with existing technologies as difficult as possible. Apple have been trying to do this since the 80's and is the reason why they fell behind in the race. Too greedy.

    Computers: Having enough computers for each child in the classroom is the way, but this does stop teachers from instructing students to work in groups when required. Again, user experience comes into it and effective learning.

    In my experience, primary schools make many mistakes in the planning and acquisition stages, for example, some headteachers have gone mad and converted their entire environment into Apple products, without proper consultation, just because of their personal preference. Pure madness.



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