Hello, first post on this site but what a great resource!
I'm not an ICT Tech, but a School Business Manager just doing some research!
Each of our teachers currently have a fairly basic laptop. The laptops are now between 3 and 5 years old and are somewhat tired and are scheduled to be replaced. The teachers (and the rest of my SMT) are keen to introduce tablets for the teachers/SMT, as they can be used to take photos and video for assessment as well as the usual tablet functions. It makes logical sense to me to replace the laptops with a tablet/convertible tablet device.
It would need to:
Take photos and video;
Have access to our file server;
Have the ability to use Microsoft Office (365?);
Run SIMS for class registers (and for me; FMS);
Dock or be able to be connected to a SMART board and speakers.
My research has suggested that a Windows 8 device would be the best machine to use. I've looked at a few, and tried out a few at a recent ICT event I attended. I was impressed by the Acer Iconia W510 which I am told will do all of the above, plus have the ability to be used as a laptop (or notebook) when connected to the keyboard.
I have found them around £400 ex VAT which is in the ball park I was hoping to spend.
The downside was that they did not feel as well made as the iPad (which we'll be introducing in the classroom for pupils) or some of the more expensive machines.
I'm looking really for opinions on what device may be suitable, or whether I am in the right ball park with the Acer. One company I spoke to suggested a Microsoft Surface, but as I'd need the full fat Windows 8, rather than RT, the price is somewhat higher than I would ideally want to pay - although I could stomach a Surface Pro for the SMT and something along the lines of an Acer for the class teachers.
The Acer's are probably a good bet but there aren't many devices that will feel as solid as an iPad. I would say the HP Elitepads are though, and they can be expanded in every way you can imagine but there's a fair price bump to that too.
I would ask though, why discount the iPad? (yes, there's irony in me recommending/asking this). OK you won't have a full Office suite on there but is that necessary? SIMS can be pushed out to any device you can think of via remote app methods (check licensing though, requires some thought on the servers/services you run). Again a no-go with interactive whiteboards *but* if teachers and class are using iPads, there's a very big "Why use IWBs?" question there. You can certainly hook up to a projector easily enough. I'd say you'd probably be better off having the same set of devices with kids & staff; it's easier to support, better all round manageability, there's no differences between them, you won't be stuck with staff trying to show kids something with a device they don't actually have etc.
I didn't mention in my first post, but we are a "Special School", so the in-class set up is unlike most mainstream primary or secondary schools. We will have 2-3 iPads (or at least that is the plan) per class of 8-12 pupils. The pupils will not have an iPad each and will often be working on different things at different times, depending on the level of the child. The IWBs are often used as a separate learning device either for an individual child or small groups of children (perhaps with vision difficulties or who cannot use an tablet device) so are very much needed. In addition, the lack of Office or integration with our network would be a sizeable drawback for the teachers. This is a huge shame as I think the teachers would love the iPad and at £260 ex VAT for the iPad 2 they are IMO good value.
Another option would be to allow them to keep the laptops, but simply purchase a very basic tablet to allow them to take photo and video which would be stored on the servers. Most of the lower end tablets run Android? Can this integrate into a Windows network in any way to allow photos taken on the tablet to be stored on the server?
I haven't totally discounted the iPad, especially for SMT, but the downsides to me are that to run SIMS, we'd need to use something like Emerge which carries a high cost. I also wouldn't be able to use SIMS Personnel or FMS unless it was via RDP (or at least that is my understanding), and RDP with a touch screen device doesn't seem the slickest way of doing it. The iPads in class will be pretty much stand alone, without the need to integrate with our existing network except simply having access to the WiFi.
I had a play with the HP Elitepad and they are very iPad like with the quality, but as you say, they are about 50% more expensive than the Acer when you include the dock, keyboard etc, and I don't have the budget for this for all the teachers!
I think what your looking at the Acer Iconia W510 seems a good option for what you wish to use them for and we are looking at these ourselves after doing some research. We have a few Ipads that are used for specific things like videoing in PE, lesson observations, Pupil premium with some specific software, ebooks etc.
Also reading your second post you seem to have a very good take on this.
We do use ITAP on the Ipads to access our own remote desktop solution as well as students and staff accessing this for external access to school PC's which makes the Ipads a bit more useable as a whole. Your also right about an RDP solution not being the slickest with Ipad devices and is a much better experience with a Windows device with keyboard etc.
Ah, fair play The SIMS doesn't even need to be RDP based - I was going to say, many VLE providers can integrated with your existing learning platform for most stuff including taking registers, however for something a little more like behavioural and SEN reporting, IEPs etc then I imagine you would indeed be more limited.
The majority of cheaper kit is indeed android; but you do get what you pay for. There's little integration, you can get 3rd party apps that'll help but I wouldn't recommend it.
In which, the Iconia probably is quite a good bet all round; the next best option certainly would be retaining laptops but if you get the right price then I don't see that being an issue.
One of the special schools I work with have both tablets (iPad2's) and laptops, the latter are used for general office usage and to drive the IWBs, whilst the iPad2's are often used with AppleTV to drive projectors now and then and otherwise pretty much browsing devices and digital notepads. A bit of a waste tbh I like how the iPad2's get used by the kids, they have huge rubber bumpers and they're absolutely solid as a result. Kids love them!
Last edited by synaesthesia; 15th June 2013 at 09:02 PM.
I agreed the Acers are nice. V sturdy and good screens. My Ionica 210 has a full size USB socket in the side, which is super handy. Get them for about £180 now.
A remote desktop app (RDP) is an option. There are plenty available for Android. Hook it up via wifi to a PC running SIMS and do it that way. It won't be quick though.
If you've got a nice IT techie he might be nice enough to root it for you and stick linux on it - you could run anything you want then using Wine (Windows environment emulator)
IMHO I'd bite the bullet and (Gulp!) go for a Windows 8 tab. I'm sure you have more than enough on your plate to be messing about with tablets.
Watch out for SIMS issues with Windows 8 and Office 2012 isn't supported yet - call Capita or your local support.
Last edited by mikkydoos; 17th June 2013 at 05:48 PM.