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Hardware Thread, Laptops + Primay School Ages in Technical; Ok I know there are many threads on wifi and laptops in schools but felt a need for a new ...
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    john's Avatar
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    Laptops + Primay School Ages

    Ok I know there are many threads on wifi and laptops in schools but felt a need for a new thread.

    We have been told that WE WILL have this in and working for September (note its top of manglement saying they are getting and you will make it work! none of the usual discussion we get).

    So what do people use on here, I am very interested in them in use in a Nursery, Foundation, Primary School environment, so thats Nursery up to Year 6.

    What makes of laptop have you found the best and robust, they have said that the staff will only move the laptops, get them out of the laptop safe etc but that will last less than a month IMHO. I am keen to hear of ones that have been good and bad so then I can say look those are bad and those are good rather than just being able to say X are great, especially if the ones that are good are more expensive.

    We are happy to pay more for something more reliable and robust (Panasonic Toughbooks have even been mentioned!) but clearly to balance the arguements over the cost I need to be able to say I know of a school that has them and they have just been big hairy pants or the best thing since sliced bread.


    Also, how do you go on for printing with them, puting updates on, new software etc

    So any thoughts and ideas, also interested in the Wifi kit you are using with them, we only "play" with wifi AKA 1 AP for 1 PC thats it, so the kit you are using with that would also be good please.

    Finally, is there any school that covers that age group / has this kind of setup willing to let a fellow IT guy come and visit them and ask the techy questions and have a nosey around at it. We are keen on trying to see them in use in the yonger area rather than the older High School age area, especially with those lovely graphical programs like 2Simple, Sherston, BBC stuff (basically more than just MS Office and Internet), I fell it could be a nightmare, so really want to speak to the IT people and if possible see them in use. Feel free to PM me if you want to make the offer of a vist quiet to save you being bombarded by people.

    We are in North Yorkshire, in the Yorkshire Dales close enough to the Yorks / Lancs border so happy to pop to schools in North Yorks, Lancs, and Cumbria.

    Cheers in advance.
    John

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    Re: Laptops + Primay School Ages

    We have a set of laptops in our primary. They are occasionally used by year 1 but mainly year 2 to 6. I'm in reception next year, but even then I doubt I'll be getting them out (mainly because we don't have any mice but also it's a long way away!). TBH the way that nursery and reception work you'd be unlikely to be wanting a set of 15 all at once.

    We started with 10 bog-standard RM nbook laptops (manufactured by Compal and purchased just before my time) and added in 5 RM-branded Samsung laptops we already had. The power adaptors have broken on every one of the Samsung laptops we had. Not covered by our expensive warranty and cost £100+ each to repair.
    The only faults we have had with the RMs are keys being picked off the keyboards (irritating as they cost £60 to replace but hasn't happened recently) and 1 broken CD drive - so not bad really.
    I'm no great fan of RM but not one of their Compal branded laptops have had power connector faults and they do get moved and plugged in by the kids (and I've seen the power connector go on Sony's, Fijitsu and Ergo's).
    Also, after 4 years their batteries are still going strong! Another handy thing is the power connectors are on the side when storing vertically. Kids could never manage to plug them in the TOP on the Samsungs.
    RM nbooks ARE more expensive which is annoying. I think some Acer laptops are rebadged Compals - so if you do some research you might be able to get the same thing for less.

    I looked at the supposedly more robust RM One but for the extra cash I didn't think it was really worth it. All you get is a trip wire, a bit of rubber round the hard drive (if they drop it I ain't really worred about the £30 HD!) and a hard glass screen. I have never had, or heard of having, a child poke their finger through the screen. Toughbooks are £2k - you could replace a cheep laptop 5 times for that.

    We also have the cheep RM trolley. It lacks any cable management so you'll just need to add your own clips in (I have my wires hanging down at just the right length - well worth it). You MUST stick your power adaptors on the back wall (using velcro and super glue). The heat from the power adaptor can reduce the life of the battery by 50% over a year.

    As for the network, we have D-Link 2100APs. They work fine now I have the right drivers for the DLink cards we use (I don't use the standard driver) and the new firmware. If you can afford it, those centrally managed doofers sound good. (But what about 802.11n just round the corner?)

    The computers are normal domain computers. Kids logon using a year group username and the profile downloads quickly. They print to networked printers. I have a little script that looks at the computer they are on AND WHO is logged on to decide the default printer.
    Sofware updates are via WSUS, a bit of a pain as it sometimes asks to restart but you can igore it.
    I depoy softare via Active Directory. I try to keep all of the sofware installed locally to reduce the burdon on the network. I just have to be aware that if it is a large package I switch on all the laptops (I have a special username with a script that does a domain refresh then restarts - that speeds things up a bit).
    The only thing the wireless network HASNT been able to do, is for compiling video in Movie Maker. So, not bad! 15 children editing short videos have been fine.

    Good luck. You could come and visit me but I'm in Essex. Any more questions let me know but I'm away all next week.

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    SimpleSi's Avatar
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    Re: Laptops + Primay School Ages

    IME wi-fi laptops have proved to be very flaky and generally unreliable.

    All my schools have them, the ones that had them first (4 years ago) have consigned them to being fixed desktop PCs in classrooms and hard-wired them to the network and you couldn't pay them to try wireless again as a whole class teaching resource.

    What makes of laptop have you found the best and robust,
    Toshibas and Dell have been the most robust.

    they have said that the staff will only move the laptops, get them out of the laptop safe etc but that will last less than a month IMHO.
    I managed to make the handing of a laptop by a pupil a hanging offence in all my schools, not even the most trusted pupils are allowed to lift them off a desk - so at least this is possible.

    Also, how do you go on for printing with them
    Can be problematical when whole class goes to print at the same time

    If you add up all the posts - all manfacturers of Wi-Fi have been lambasted by all of us (except maybe the very expensive "industrial strength" ones ) - I myself curse Buffalo but many crucify D-link

    The whole game shifts so fast that by the time you come to buy, probably most of the equipment recommended by anyone will have been replaced by different models.

    I personally couldn't recommend anything because nothing I've tried really works well enough to earn a recommendation.

    regards

    Simon

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    Re: Laptops + Primay School Ages

    Cheers for that eean, that is really useful and the kind of info thats helpful to me to throw into the pot as it were.

    Cheers SimpleSi, again that is the stuff I want, and I am glad you are being honest by saying you couldn't recomend anything really which is fine. We wouldn't get Dell Laptops for various reasons, but Tosh is a make we have considered in the past. For Wifi, im open to ideas, but I am keen to try and push a big industry thing, maybe Cisco stuff or the Bluesocket stuff that someone on here has (Is it Ric that has that?)

    Anyway, missed this little bit off my 1st post, we (as in IT technical) are quite against it but the manglement have said it will happen, which is very unusal in my place they normally say we would like or is it possible and then in this case we would fob it off or say knightmare so no and they go away but in our case its a new head who has come from a school down south that must have had either a million techies or just lived in word as he said it was amazing and never went wrong!

  5. #5
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    Re: Laptops + Primay School Ages

    In the process of implementing two new laptop trolleys in a middle school (Y3 – Y6) Chose Dell for the Laptops, Lattude D820 @ £500.00 was by far the best price / value and have chosen Lapsafe Mini Mentors complete with Data Transfer Modules. This means that over night the trolleys can be connected to the network and by using WOL can receive Updates etc overnight hopefully reducing wifi traffic.

    The current wifi network consists of D-Link 3200APs which thanks to a recent firmware update now support load balancing and as most classrooms can see 2 APs I am hoping this will also increase performance over the current system.

    I plan on taking some notes / photos of the install to share. Will let you know how it goes.

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    eean's Avatar
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    Re: Laptops + Primay School Ages

    but in our case its a new head who has come from a school down south that must have had either a million techies or just lived in word as he said it was amazing and never went wrong!
    It wasn't me was it?
    Personally, from a 'teaching and learning' point of view (or, if I want to keep really up to date with the current buzz words: 'learning and teaching') - I think wireless laptops are ace!

    Once they are set up, they actually very rarely go wrong. We had a few random problems in the early days, but that was down to dodgy dlink firmware and we were 1 AP short. The only problem I have now is that if 15 kids hit logon at EXACTLY the same time, the GP won't load on 1 machine. Soloution: log off and log on again.
    Perhaps we're lucky - we have a victorian school. I know in the new classrooms - with steel in the walls, the signal is rubbish. In my experience, if the signal in windows is reading much less than 'Very Good', you're going to get problems!
    That bluesocket stuff sounds good but really costs - like several thousand.

    You refer to 'we' in your ICT techical. My ICT technical is me. + I have a full time class, ICT & coordinator role and I get release time for 2 hours every 2 weeks if I'm lucky. The laptops take up no more of my time than any other machine.

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    Re: Laptops + Primay School Ages

    @eean, not that far south. The building it will be in is modern, built around the millennium, its re-enforced concrete ceilings, block walls, steel roof and lots of other steel in it, so I am predicting issues.

    From a L&T point I agree very powerful as we all do (all is 3 in total) but they will be at a far extreme of campus well away from our base, and we will still have another 360 pcs and 600 users to support elsewhere which is the issue.

    @sysman_mk, cheers for that sounds good, i've used D-links before and they were pritty pants IMHO, but as has already been said one mans ferrari is another mans old battered Fiat Panda.

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    Re: Laptops + Primay School Ages

    Must admit John that I have had issues with other models od D-Link ( 2100 anyone?) but the 3200's are / were towards the high end of D-links range and have none of the usual D-Link issues with them.

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    Re: Laptops + Primay School Ages

    I had D-Link 2100 APs and I found them useless but these were when they first came out. I think there has been several hardware revisions since. Upgrading the firmware on them didn't help much either. We were getting very intermittent signals with the D-Link. The 2100 AP is very much a small office/home AP in my opinion. It is great if you have the odd laptop connected but for laptop suites I got nothing but hassle.

    In future i would always go for the best APs possible at the time. I have some 5 year old cisco points and they have NEVER let me down yet. They are a bit slow now but they don't disconnect when things get tough, they work through it even if it i a bit on the slow side.

    As far as D-Link are concerned, I find they work much better if you use D-Link client adapters with the APs. I have had a lot of trouble with intel pro wireless client adapters and D-Link APs.

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    Re: Laptops + Primay School Ages

    @eean
    [EDIT]Sorry - missed your first post ops: [/EDIT]
    Obviously we just need what you've got

    What model of card do you use in your laptops?

    Do you use Windows Zero Configuration or D-links setup?

    How are your APs arranged (1 or 2 per class or just distributed through the building)?

    Do you carefully avoid channel overlaps or do you not worry about it.

    And - would your colleagues agree with your assesment of the situtation

    regards

    Simon

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    Re: Laptops + Primay School Ages

    I'm in a large primary school of that age group where I have total site coverage with WiFi using Netgear access points. (used wifi extensively when I worked in secondary and experience with Intel, 3Com and DLink kit), all of our teachers have laptops that they use on the Wifi all day every day with little or no problems (so can recommend Netgear kit, is fairly easy to setup and reliable), don't have any pupil laptops as other schools I visit from time to time have trouble with these from these age groups, and really most laptops aren't that robust in the hands of "little ones" - (bad enough in secondary never mind primary). Only laptops I've seen that are designed for "educational abuse" are, dare I say it? RM Mobile Ones which I've had my hands on at exhibitions, although you do pay a premium for what is a middle of the range laptop with a hard glass screen and child resilient casing.

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    Re: Laptops + Primay School Ages

    Currently using (albeit under protest) an RM NBOOK 4110 and I must say its built very well and has a great balance of perfomance and battery life (roughly 3-4 hours) Shame that its RM Would be well suited to the elder of primary age.

    Avoid D-Link at all costs unless you like re-booting APs hourly when under load

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    Re: Laptops + Primay School Ages

    Quote Originally Posted by Edenalig
    Avoid D-Link at all costs unless you like re-booting APs hourly when under load
    Seconded! We only have 2 Dlink AP's in our school and they are useless. The links drop like mad, we've had them both replaced at least once too...

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    Re: Laptops + Primay School Ages

    The main primary I work at has a set of 15 or 20 wireless laptops for each of years 1 - 6. I know a lot of people dont like them, but we have used soley Acer laptops for the past 5 years, and have had very few problems with them. Although their support isn't brilliant, they are excellent value - the last set I purchased came with a 3 year warranty with accident damage cover for an extra £25!

    The very first set we got didnt have Wi-fi built in, and ran with D-link cards. All of the others have built in Intel wifi, and are generally very reliable - only problem we have is kids switching the wireless off via the button on the front.

    All of our laptops are taken home every day by the Children, so do take a fair bashing, but have generally survive pretty well. Most of the problems are just keys going missing, and with replacement keyboards costsing £20 this isn't a big issue. One thing I would say about Acer is their supply of spares can be somewhat slow - 3 months is the longest I've had to wait, but now we have so many I just keep a good stock of spares.

    I did have a look at the RM One notebook, but the best price they could do for this worked out at over £200 a laptop more expensive, and just isn't worth that much more.

    We use Cisco Aironet access points (the 1200 series) to provide complete site coverage, using 7 points. These have proved to be very reliable, but are a tad expensive. I have also had good experience with Netgear access points in another Infant school, who use 2 sets of wireless laptops. Only company I would never touch again is D-link, after installing some of their earlier DWL-2000+ ap's, they might have improved now, but I wouldn't go there again.

    Steve

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    Re: Laptops + Primay School Ages

    Cheers for all your answers guys, it is really really appreciated. I think I will be making some calls tomorrow to a few suppliers to get some ideas of costs, will be looking at Acer, HP, Panasonic Tough Book, the RM One (find out who makes it for RM and cut them out, and Tosh. Also will see what cost the Cisco AP's are.

    Keep the things flowing guys if you have more to add I really do appreciate it.

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