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General Chat Thread, Primary School - Removal of ICT Suite in General; I am the governor at a primary school which is about to start a new build process, and as part ...
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    Primary School - Removal of ICT Suite

    I am the governor at a primary school which is about to start a new build process, and as part of this is considering doing away with its ICT suite entirely in favour of laptop trolleys.

    However before we commit to this approach we want to talk to other schools that have already gone down this route so we can find out about their experience.

    Does anyone know of any primary schools that have no dedicated ICT suite?

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    rich_tech's Avatar
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    not sure about knowing primaries that fit the no it suite, but theres a lot of well documented cases on here about the amount of work involved in maintaining and keeping laptops and the problems associated with them.

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    Mr.Ben's Avatar
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    We are an all through Special School without a dedicated IT suite, PM me for more info

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    JaseO (11th May 2012)

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    SimpleSi's Avatar
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    3 out of my 6 current schools do not have suites

    One of them recently (last 3 months) converted theirs into a new classroom to save the 10,000s of building a new one (and happy do to so as they already have 40 netbooks that they are happy with)

    Suites are more reliable and much easier/cheaper to maintain but laptops are more flexible - in an ideal world you'd have both (one of my schools is doing this and buying 16 desktops for their shared resource area as well as 20 netbooks)

    Si

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    stevenlong1985's Avatar
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    Dont get rid of your ICT suite, we got rid of ours big mistake. In theory laptops are great the problem lies with time to turn the laptop on, logging in time, deployment of software etc, breakages, battery failures. You want a Suite for dedicated for improvement of ICT core skills

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    IWDave (29th January 2014)

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    Michael's Avatar
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    Yes I've done this at several sites and replaced the ICT Suite with more wireless devices.

    It integrates ICT into the Curriculum more and allows whole classes or small groups to use ICT throughout school. Just make sure a suitable wireless network is in place first and not the other way around

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    SimpleSi (10th May 2012)

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    stevenlong1985's Avatar
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    a mixture of both sounds good, best of both worlds

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    synaesthesia's Avatar
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    Did this with a couple of schools, and managed a couple of schools built without suites with wireless in mind. One of the latter didn't even have a managed wireless system, just AP's that went with the laptop trollies.

    I think everything's been covered re maintenance (laptops are far higher maintenance, wireless is less reliable regardless of what system is in place etc etc) so it's only worth commenting on actual experience.

    In 2 schools of note, they found that using laptops in class *detracted* from the end education, which was opposite to what they'd been advised previously and is indeed the "trend"; the pupils found the provision of specific ICT time somehow useful and/or morally boosting. However we decided that was likely because of previous habit. Unfortunately I left the company managing that school before I could get an answer to that.

    On the whole, the trend was correct - having a bank of machines useable throughout the site was more useful, ICT wasn't just a designated time in front of a computer, it was brought into nearly all subject areas, and this will be even more apt from this september when "ICT" is revamped entirely. It caused issues with resource management which as a result needed to be tightened up and/or more resources bought in (more trolleys, more laptops).

    Tablet computing is adding to this too - and could also help with resource management alongside traditional laptops. Although not much good for word processing or general editing, they can be very good for most early years stuff, research, general internet use, questionnaires and more.

    I am an advocate of "ICT Suites" in the context of "a room that happens to be full of computers" like a library is a room that happens to be full of books. Use however I think can be very specific to the school. I certainly would not advocate ridding ICT suites/moving entirely to mobile devices in schools that have expanded around/shoehorned into old buildings and have more steps than the average 90's pop compilation albums. Mostly for safety reasons, both for the users and the devices!

    My best tips, again many are merely echoes:

    1. A decent wireless system. Don't go for adhoc wireless points, it's not worth it and you'll bin them in the future.
    1a. You'll bin them even sooner if they're D-Link
    2. Buy quality. Trolleys and devices. Don't cut back on the cost of laptops just because you might need a lot of them and it appears cheaper just to replace damaged ones, it's a false economy. Laptop parts are not as expensive as they used to be, nor are many of the people that will fit them for you. But if you buy something decent in the first place, it shouldn't matter. Avoid anything by Acer, non business model Fujitsus or cheaper Toshibas. You'll be replacing hinges and screens weekly. Look into toughened devices - RM, Viglen etc do some good ranges.
    3. If you go down the route of Apple anything (iPads etc) then please make sure you buy an Apple laptop of some description to manage it. Don't risk iAnything on Windows, it's like asking a teenager to wash up.
    4. Do not discount physical security. You might be in the best part of the country, but once a kid plays with a new laptop, said child will tell his or her friends, parents, cousins, aunties and the fellow on the corner of the street that looks a bit like Bill Bailey. Make sure you have resource booking and management in place - items booked in, items booked out.
    5. Maintenance : make sure there is a good maintenance program in place, and have mobile devices checked over more often than you would a desktop. Laptops get knocked about a lot and will be more prone to failure. Consider getting them with solid state drives, especially in primary schools.
    5b. Make sure staff and students are well versed in reporting damage. Mobile devices *will* get damaged, and you *will* need to know how it happens so you can try and avoid a repeat. You won't often be sending bills home to parents but you will want to be able to ban some people from using them. Not just kids
    Last edited by synaesthesia; 10th May 2012 at 10:32 PM.

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    Michael's Avatar
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    I think it should also be noted, there is no right or wrong answer here. Some schools turn ICT Suites into classrooms and this can save considerable amounts of money instead of extending a building.

    Other schools still prefer ICT Suites and like the idea of whole class learning, although notebooks/netbooks do allow smaller classes or smaller groups to work throughout school. Tablet PCs love them or hate them as well as Smartphones are all becoming more popular too, so many schools could argue you should move with the times. You could argue also this is why it's good to have the best of both worlds.

    Personally I still recommend full fat PCs connected to whiteboards and for admin use, but other than that, going wireless when planned and costed correctly can add to the learning experience.

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    GrumbleDook's Avatar
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    Seen it done well in some schools and terribly in others.

    Have a read of Another ‘No to ICT Suites’ thread | Grumbledook thinks for a few things to look at.

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    Consider getting them with solid state drives, especially in primary schools.
    Sound like good advice but in retrospect I've never lost a laptop due to hard drive failure so I think the cost isn't really worth it.

    But shatterproof screens with everlasting cable connections and long life batteries would be worth forking out for

    Si

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    synaesthesia's Avatar
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    Laptops are mostly resilient like that (re hard drives), it's rarely the design of them that causes problems - it's users. Too often I'll peer into the laptop trolley to see half of them still turned on whilst they've been carted around the school, jolted around like mad and used as cricket bats. 75-80 quid though for a 120gb drive isn't a huge amount!

    Amen to screens with decent cable connections though - used to dread going to some schools and opening the ICT book.

    "Laptop 12 has gone a funny colour"
    "Laptop 15 is green"
    "Laptop 2 looks like someone has poured water inside the screen"

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    DSapseid's Avatar
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    They did this at one of the Primary schools that we support a few years ago. They purchased 16 laptops in a trolley and also moved the 16 pcs into the 4 classrooms (4 each) on some kitchen work surface and got some proper trunking installed so it looks good. Its not the best solution but where this school is only 4 classes it serves the purpose well. Yes the laptops are a pain but with they have 'laptop monitors' so they look after the trolley and move it from class to class and make sure there all plugged in etc etc.

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    AngryTechnician's Avatar
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    The problems you might face are probably more about teaching than they are about technology.

    For example: how long are your lessons?

    If you have short lessons (ours are 35 mins), you will have problems without a dedicated suite. The benefits of walking into an ICT suite to find all the computers ready to go that instant cannot be understated when you are working to a schedule. Spending just 5 minutes setting up laptops and 5 minutes packing them up eats away 29% of a 35 minute lesson. That's a big waste compared to 2 mins logging on in an ICT suite and 20s to log off at the end.

    Of course, many primaries have longer lessons than this (or don't have strict lesson times at all) so this may not be an issue for you, but if it is, ignore it at your peril.

    Some of our teachers are also enthusiastic about the benefits of taking their class to a different setting sometimes instead of bringing the technology to their normal classroom. Involving your teachers in discussion the pedagogical aspects is crucial if you want the change to be successful and accepted.

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    hardtailstar's Avatar
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    I support two schools, one hasnt got an IT Suite and one has. The school that hasnt got the IT suite only has one laptop trolley with 16 laptops and this is constantly used throughout the school without any problems apart from laptops not getting charged.

    The school that has an IT suite also has two laptop trolleys in one year spread across three classrooms and the other class rooms in the school have a bank of laptops in thier own classroom.

    Ive found that people tend to look after the laptops in thier own class alot better than laptop trolleys because they are seen as part of 'Class equipment'.

    I guess it all depends on your school and what works best for them, as one of my school looks after the trolleys more than the other.

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    JaseO (11th May 2012)

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