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Hardware Thread, Why buy a Laptop Cabinet? in Technical; My question is, to ask what reasons your school may have had for adopting a laptop cabinet solution for whole-class ...
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    Voodoo's Avatar
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    Why buy a Laptop Cabinet?

    My question is, to ask what reasons your school may have had for adopting a laptop cabinet solution for whole-class use?

    We have a number of threads discussing the best cabinets and the many technical issues surrounding laptop use. But I would like to focus on what the business reasons were behind your school deciding to go for the laptop cabinet solution?

    (All information gratefully received since we, despite having an extensive wired network and readily available computer suites, are being pressed to introduce laptops and wheeled cabs throughout our primary school.)
    Last edited by Voodoo; 18th October 2010 at 03:32 PM.

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    CPLTD's Avatar
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    A good question indeed....

    Before offering any feedback I'd like to clarify that I don't work for a school, merely an educational supplier.
    However we find most sites adopt trolley solutions for various reasons:
    Mobility of notebooks - fairly obvious
    Power/data management - higher spec trollies allow unified charging of note/netbooks as well as data connection for seamless updating
    Structure of learning - trollies assist mobility of notebooks etc, allowing teachers to provide IT aided learning...opposed to lessons focussed solely on IT within suites
    Security - being prone to break-ins/thefts etc, trollies can provide another line of defense, especially the higher end, more robust brands.
    Trollies can also be provided with wireless Access points to provide adequate wi-fi coverage in more remote areas of the premises

    I could go on, but I'm sure you get the general idea!

    Joe

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    LeMarchand's Avatar
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    All Primary.

    School 1: 2 cabinets/class. Could quite easily have used fixed cabinets. Have 1 laptop/child (originally a "take home" project) so a lot of storage needed. They don't use the charging facilities as most of the batteries are dead.

    School 2: 1 fixed cabinet (30) + 2 movable (20/20). I've never seen either move (and I suspect that the netbooks in the newer cabinet are rarely used). They have 1 fixed suite with ancient machines and wanted to have something children could use in class, though I'm not sure why 30 laptops (as opposed to desktops) were bought that seem to be going to be used only in a fixed location.

    School 3: 2 movable cabinets (12), 1 either end of school - the idea is to wheel them into the class that uses them. This goes into effect after 1/2 term. I predict that in a month certain classes will decide that they have to keep the laptops in their classrooms. Luckily I grabbed the cabinets from School 1 when they were about to be thrown out! They have one ageing suite of machines and the teachers tend to use the current fleet of recycled laptops in small "in class" groups so it does seem in some ways a good idea.

    So movable cabinets - I wouldn't say they're used in my schools (possibly in School 3). If you get a fixed cabinet though, get a decent one. One of my schools had a brand new batch of laptops stolen from a standard cupboard within days of deployment.

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    Ours were a result of people needing access to ICT suites for lessons that are timetabled when all the suites were in use. There's free slots, it's just depending on how the timetable is organised in a particular year, you may never be in a position to take advantage of them. Our booking system is first-come, first-served with a right of appeal if someone's clearly taking the michael.

    If you have the space, a dedicated computer room is a better long-term solution (IME) but it's not always feasible to lose a "conventional" teaching room.

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    Hightower's Avatar
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    We have two trolleys of 16, which were bought about 7 years ago I believe - long before my time. I expect they were bought because the subjects in question had nowhere they could use ICT facilities. This has since changed, and although the laptops sit ready to pounce (in a 386 sort of way) they are never used as they are long past their best and waiting for them to load would waste 70% of the lesson.

    We have no plans to replace them, as we have made available computer suites for these subjects, and any calls logged about the laptops are not really supported any more.

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    I know you're a primary, but I think most of this still applies to the decision making process.

    We have 12 laptop trollies in our academy, stocked with 28 or 30 laptops depending on the size.

    Our main drive behind it was increased availability of ICT to encourage active use of things like the learning platform in lessons as a matter of course. Each department has 1 or more cabinets depending on their size and access to other ICT resources e.g Science have 1 cabinet because they have desktop PCs in some of the labs, but English have 3 cabinets because they have no other access to ICT in their department as their rooms are too small to accomodate desktop PCs. The idea is to make ICT integrated into the school instead of having seperate dedicated facilities.

    Of course this has taken us 3-4 years to get to this stage, they wern't all brought in one go. The very oldest laptops (Dell D510's) are getting very ropy now and take an age to start up on a fully patched windows XP install. They will be phased out this year and disposed of.

    My advise. Choose your laptop cabinets carefully, and choose your laptops even more carefully. Buy the best you can afford and with a 3 year on site warranty or longer if you can, and try and get a warranty that includes a battery replacement as you will have to replace the battery on most laptops at least once in their lifetime. Also ensure your wireless infrastructure is reliable and can support this number of devices and that your network is optimised to take account of wireless devices and the fact it's slower than cabled workstations. e.g our desktop, start menus and wallpapers are stored locally instead of on a network location to reduce the amount of data travelling over the network at login.

    The other advice I have make sure management are fully aware of the increased costs of maintaining and running a resource of laptops, and the added technical support it may entail. We spend much more time maintaining our laptops that the desktops we have.

    When done properly laptops can be very effective, but I've seen it all too often where the laptops themselves are great, but the intrastructure to support them is inadequate making the whole resource impossible to use properly.

    Mike.

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    Voodoo's Avatar
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    Thanks for your replies, everyone.

    @ Mike (maniac) - do you judge your situation to have been a success and are planning to continue/expand that strategy in the future?


    If I'm summarising properly the comments made so far, I'm seeing the main reasons given for adopting a laptop solution as being:
    1. Lack of hard-wired wired facilities.
    2. Increase the local availability of computers, allowing them to be integrated into more lessons as standard practice.

    Our own Junior SMT gave me the following reasons for why they want to implement wireless laptops:
    a) Other schools are doing it.
    b) It's the way forward with IT.
    c) It will allow computers to be integrated into lessons without disrupting the lesson flow.

    On point a), Whilst it's true that some schools are of course doing this, it's not really an argument in support of the proposal.

    On point b), SMT couldn't expand on that...I think it was more of a comment from the "Populist IT" school of thought than anything else.

    On point c), this seemed to be the most tangible reason given. However, based on a practical evaluation of wireless laptops we carried out a couple of years back in our Senior school, we found (technical issues aside) that one of the problems was the time lost to set up and take down. This came to around 5 minutes at the start and again at the end of a class. In a Junior classroom where the teacher will probably have to do all the set up and take down by themselves for each of the kids I can see this taking even longer. I'm sceptical therefore that losing an anticipated 10 - 20 minutes per lesson will be less disruptive to lesson flow than walking the kids along to a wired computer suite. It's not really making it a winning business case for me at this juncture.

    So, given that we have an extensive wired network here with a number of permanent IT Suites (with reasonably good availability) I'm still struggling with the rationale of going down the laptop cabinet path. But thanks for giving analyses of your own decision making processes. That's very useful, cheers.
    Last edited by Voodoo; 19th October 2010 at 03:07 PM.

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