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Hardware Thread, Laptops for students in Technical; Whats everyones view on student laptops in school? Our Head of ICT wants 5 trolleys containing 30 laptops that can ...
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    Laptops for students

    Whats everyones view on student laptops in school?

    Our Head of ICT wants 5 trolleys containing 30 laptops that can be bookable for use around the school.

    My honest opinion is that they would take a massive amount of my technicians time managing all these laptops because they would be more prone to damage and also problems with battery life if the charging of the laptops were not managed. I would much rather have more dedicated ICT Suites!

    Does any agree with this? it would be nice to know other peoples point of view with the pros and cons.

    We have an excellent wireless system in place so 30 laptops in a room is not an issue.

    Thanks

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    Quote Originally Posted by techie08 View Post
    My honest opinion is that they would take a massive amount of my technicians time managing all these laptops because they would be more prone to damage and also problems with battery life if the charging of the laptops were not managed. I would much rather have more dedicated ICT Suites!
    I think that sums it up quite well, but it's usually difficult to persuade management of a bad idea when it's their idea.

    I suggest you do some costings based upon long term usage and sustainability.
    Compare the costs of laptops (renewal after 3yrs + tech time) with a fixed thin client solution (5yr renewal). I guarantee it will look less attractive to governors if they know it's X times the cost.

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    Sylv3r's Avatar
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    Whenever the idea of a laptop trolley comes up, I give my reasons for not having them (similar to yours) and we decide to move against the idea.

    From experience in the past, it has never worked here and I much prefer hard wired PC's.

    The major reason for laptops here is lack of space, we only find somewhere eventually and put the required number of PC's in place.

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    stratisphere's Avatar
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    I think the idea of this depends on your school and your students. For example, we recently got a batch of 16 laptops which I thought we're doomed and were going to be destroyed very quickly. But i was wrong, in the 6 months we've had them we've had no problems with them at all (aside from one key that was taken off but that student was taken care of!).

    As a quick side note, would you mind telling me what you use for your wireless network? We're looking into doing a full wireless network and getting more laptops but I want something that is future proof. PM me if you like.

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    User3204's Avatar
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    We had 12 laptops for KS5 use available in the Library... it was a disaster:

    The Librarian didn't know what to do with them, which is fair, she's a librarian not an IT tech;
    The kids didn't look after them, charge the batteries etc, so the batteries died very quickly;
    We had laptops from Rock (they eventually went bust), which had some really dumb design faults, that they kept "fixing";

    We have also gotten laptops available for the Tech Dept, unfortunately, because the Teacher's don't look after them, they're all trashed too. Different problems, but it's all down to the teachers not caring. As perspective Science also got some, but theirs are all okay still (3 years old now), but the use them for data-logging only, so it's a few hours a week, and they have a tech who stores them properly.

    We have also recently bought some laptops for Music... not my decision, the Head promised them laptops last year, which meant I lost some of my budget to buy them (I still don't get that). They had all the problems that I told them they would have, but this is due to the fact that Music is based in a dungeon, where there is really poor Wireless coverage. They appear to be looking after them better than Tech / Library does though, they are also better built machines, we got them Toshiba Tecras, which cost more, but are built for school use. I bought 30 laptops, and gave them 24, the rest are for a few years time, when they're broken, and I need to send them off for repairs (but don't tell Music).

    Basically, No, they're a right pain in the arse, they will show up every little issue with your wireless coverage, the only way to make sure the machines survive, is to a) buy expensive ones (panasonic toughbook) b) make sure the people using them have a list of things to do (IE tidy the cables, charge the batteries, etc)

    We dropped them off the AD domain, as otherwise the Group Policies took ages to logon over the wireless, imagine 12/15 laptops all using 54mb to download their profiles at the same time, that means 54mb/10 = 5mb each. Then we discovered we needed a way to map their homedrives, logon to the proxy server, and stop them up the machines (we got DeepFreeze, but it's too complicated to get running).

    There are rumours that certain staff want to purchase netbooks for all the students.. but it's just a rumour at the moment, if they do it, I'm running away...

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    We have 5 trolleys of 15 including 1 of Macbooks which media use. I would make the following observations.

    1. They will get damaged - how much will probably depend on your staff. We have mixed results depending on which department own them. Some are great and check them in and out - others less good to the point where laptops have been dropped.

    2. Good wireless infrastructure is important. Now we have managed wireless things are much better.

    3. We moved to mandatory profiles - again this makes life a whole lot better (to be fair on the network as a whole)

    4. Buy high quality kit - we have some RM Mobile Ones and they are much better than some of our other kit.

    Are they a good thing? Well they certainly solve a problem and allow us to give ICT kit to a number of courses which we would struggle to run without them as we don't have the space to put in more fixed suites. They have got better with time - maybe as we have equipped our teachers with some basic skills/troubleshooting/do's and don'ts.

    Would I like a laptop for every student (as has been suggested) - NO! but that's a different discussion.

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    We have 4 trolleys with 25 laptops and a printer and the biggest problem is improper shutdowns as most laptops will not charge unless they are shutdown. I have set-up logon and log scripts which tell me when they are not shutdown properly which i identify to staff. Most staff act on this but a few still say they do not have enough time.

    But the best best thing is that the staff are responsible for the trolley and learning managers sign for the trolleys so teaching staff listen to thier line manager. It will bw a learning curve but staff can take ownership provided you support from the headteacher and leadership group.

    As far as the power issue goes, budget for spare power packs just make sure they are signed for or else they may take legs and walk away.

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    Lappies

    Laptops and children do not go together....i know you guys wont be surprised at the myriad ways that laptops end up in the graveyard at the hands of kids.....liquid spillage, dropping off the edge of the desk, resulting in broken keyboards which are expensive, cracked screens which can be so expensive its cheaper to buy a new laptop, broken drives.

    Most of the schools i work with hate them, and to be honest govenors and headteachers probably due to government persuasion still think they are a great idea. Im a supplier and i hate them now thats got to be saying something...the number of broken laptop keyboards and media drives we replace is incredible...I just hate hearing the ridiculous things that happen to them.

    I always have the "thin client suite" conversation , cheaper in the long run, more managable, secure, simple, and the only thing kids can really do is damage a cheap usb keyboard.

    If a time ever comes when Panasonic Toughbooks are available cheaply, or Hp releases its military grade notebooks into the EMEA....thats when i might be on the panel to give kids laptops.....until that cold day in hell......laptops and kids...NO

    sorry for having a moan guys....

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    2 Laptop trolleys at our place takes pretty much all of one technicians time. Biggest problem is power, they won't last three periods so he has to put in 'fake' bookings to ensure they come back to be charged as and when.

    Wireless is a big problem, we too are hoping to move to a managed wifi system in the near future in an attempt to help this. Students use it as an excuse to not do any work or claim it was lost when the WiFi drops. I love auto recover in Office 2007 that shows that they had done bugger all.

    Keyboard damage is an issue, always seems to happen towards the end of term. Dell replacement keyboards cost 87 !!!

    End of the day, laptop trolleys are covering a problem we have; not enough ICT Suites. DH did mention a third trolley and I pretty much stomped on that idea unless they were willing to pay for an additional technician. There is talk of another ICT suite being built, but I can't see where in a building that is 95 years old!

    Pete

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    dhicks's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by techie08 View Post
    Whats everyones view on student laptops in school?
    Like wot everyone else all said. You could consider different trollies, though. I've seen trollies at BETT that could take 6 compact screens and keyboards around the outside with fold-down tables for children to sit at and space in the centre for computer equipment - maybe one server powering six thin clients / Ncomputing system would be best. You'd need to have somewhere in each location you want to use the trolley to plug a power socket and network cable in. Also, the wheels used on pretty much every cabinet I've seen are useless - small castor wheels that shake to bits over even the slightest bit of rough ground. Try and find something with decent tyres.

    --
    David Hicks

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    JJonas's Avatar
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    Any thoughts on getting parents to provide the laptops? Has anyone done this? Do they suffer less damage because they dont belong to the school?

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    Quackers's Avatar
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    We have

    1 x 32 Laptops Trolley
    3 x 30 Laptops Trolley
    1 x 20 Laptops Trolley
    Plus 5 seperate laptops of odd use stored on a member of SLT's desk. Giving us almost 150 for student use ontop of our 4 30 machine IT Suites and other small suites, which is good considering we only have 480 pupils.

    We got our first in 2006, and teachers have gone mad for them, and would scream like mad if we took them away now. They just love them, and the kids too.

    Damage has been minimal, but its always going to happen. Just buy one, see how it gets treated in your school. We are lucky, our kids look after the PC's and laptops generally. Batteries will go, nothing you can do about that, but our first laptop trolley had a fresh batch of batteries after 2 years, at 29 a battery, so did not cost too much. Keyboards are also an expencive one to replace, sometimes costing almost 100 each! If a screen goes we write the laptop off and use it for spares as the cost of a new screen is the same as a whole new laptop almost.

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    Edu-IT's Avatar
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    Personally I wouldn't bother. They're a nightmare to manage.

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    My experience is pretty much as everyone elses, depends on students and staff.

    1. We had two laptops sets X15 with trolleys for science 4 Years ago total disaster had three to four laptops back every couple of weeks keys removed or keyboards broken, broken screens etc.Mainly due to poor management of staff and Science techs as I was on my own at the time one man band and didn't have time to manage these along with everything else.I have not replaced these as they have been broken just repaired with spairs from other laptops so now down to about 6 laptops out of the two sets.

    2. We also introduced 1 set of laptops X 15 into the sixth form this has been a completely differen't story only one machine replaced in 3 years. Staff and students much more responsible so has been much more successful. I have now replaced this laptops and looking at a full Aruba Managed system in the sixth form which will be scaleable to other areas of the school easily.

    What I have learn't if you can ensure that the laptops are used and Managed responsibly and that it has limlitations, it has a chance. I would have major concerns about applying a wireless solution school wide without a major increase in staffing and informing senior management about the increased costs this solution would incurr as number of people have mentioned.

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    Over the 4 locations (PRUs) I manage we have about 200 laptops and 50 desktops, about 10 laptops for student use in each location, and 5-10 desktops, rest are teacher laptops that they also sometimes use with one-to-one teaching. We have 1 ambassador lapsafe (4k) at each location, 25 slots individual keys, not all in use.

    Main problem is battery life, the old laptops have none, pupils just use the ac adapter, max of 6 in a class so not much of a problem. Then missing keys, mostly just ignore that. We've had 2 laptops stolen, 6 screens broken (old ones used as parts, new ones repaired), about 4 harddrives die.

    Not using roaming/mandatory profiles, just whatever the default user on the laptop has, Impero and GP to block stuff. Sometimes it takes a while to apply GP in the locations with cheap/less APs, 2 locations have cisco managed wireless, 2 3com/linksys APs.

    Offline files on shared machines are another problem, I've limited the disc space allocated to offline files to attempt to reduce the number of files it has to check. Need them on for staff, and pupils who work off site.

    Sometimes find laptops in the lapsafe still in standby, or occasionally still on.

    Used to have a laptop trolley, but it didn't move as only a few pupils per class, worked ok until the batteries died, then getting them unplugged from the back of the trolley was annoying, lapsafe has sockets near front (or optionally built in charging if you have lots of the same model of laptop), but still hard to plug/unplug due to narrow slots

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