Laptops in Classrooms
Currently we have 5 IT suites in our school, but are looking to add. These all use desktop PCs.
The request has been to add a suite, but to use laptops.
Has anyone done this, and have any practical experience?
I can foresee issues such as storage of the laptops, power (mains vs. battery), network (wireless vs. wired, and sufficient capacity in the wireless), and the kids breaking them more easily. Is there anything else though that happens in practical use?
What about keeping them in a Lapsafe trolley? Lockable so the kids can't get to them without a teacher. I believe it's the Lapsafes Mentor range means the laptops will also charge will in the trolley.
I don't know when you're looking at doing it, but if it's before Xmas, Toshiba have got some good offers on at the minute :)
They go missing, it's annoying to update them as you can't turn them on at night, the wireless drops out, the batteries reduce in capacity over time, people forget to charge them, people move them whilst they're on.
Something with an 8 hour battery life, SSD (If you can get something with 64GB ssd, which seems tricky), training for how to put them away (photos on the doors of the laptop trolley), a schedule to get them all out and turn them on for updating every month might alleviate some of those issues.
I've set up a shelf in our walk in safe with a switch and power sockets so I can image them and leave them overnight.
Also printers are a pain, have to teach people to actually look at what printer is selected and change it if needed, or read the wifi AP MAC and assign them that way (which needs scripting).
We have deployed laptops and they are used in the manner you describe/you anticipate using them should you go down this route.
The solution is popular with staff as they do not have to decamp to an ICT suite part way through the lesson [there are no full class sized ICT suites near to these classrooms]
The solution is less popular with us [Support] however as we see more damage to the laptops than with an equivalent sized/equipped classroom. Students often do not logoff properly before putting the laptops away [IF they put them away] and they seldom put them on to charge in the laptop caddy.
Around a year ago we had a break in and the thieves stole 15 laptops from a 'secure' caddy in a 'secure' part of the school.
Even after this event staff often leave the laptop caddies unlocked [:censored:]
Despite all of these negative points I have made here I would say that if it is properly managed it is a good alternative to a classroom suite.
We have gone down this route and it was a mistake.
The laptops get damaged, their battery is only good for one year and the expense of a trolley which renders the battery useless after one year is rediculous. Our laptops are now permanently hard wired into the network and continuously plugged in. We are getting desktops next time.
If you are equipping a Suite, have them hard wired in like the desktops and find a way to secure them to their positions. We don't have n standard wireless, so may be different now, but wireless just doesn't cope very well with 30 pupils all logging in at exactly the same time. We use mandatory profiles here, and a lot of time the laptop/wifi combo is too slow to load the profiles and goes to local profile. We have specially made laptop cabinets here which are bulit like furniture and won't restrict us to a specific model of laptop. I think some trolley type storage is custom made for a particular make and model of laptop?? As soon as you need to replace one, you are then in trouble. We purchased high end laptops (Toshiba Tecra) rather than cheaper models, and so far they are holding out well (about 18 months down the line), batteries included.
Thanks all for the replies. Food for thought, although it sounds like the wireless "overload" is going to be a showstopper.
We had it here - didn't work so we scrapped it! now have 19 ICT suites instead of Laptop Trolleys (for less money to the laptops would have costs us to replace over the cycle).
We have one suite of laptops in a trolley, luckily only 15. Not been positive overall (4 years). Poor batteries, wireless issues due to students messing with the wireless buttons(!), damage. That's in a department that looks after them pretty well. Further laptop suites have been suggested since, and I convinced the powers to go for proper suites instead (where we were lucky enough to have space).
For all of the reasons above do not get laptops. The only reason we have them is due to major building works over the next year, once they are finished we will be going back to a hard wired suite. Nightmare
Are they suggesting that you equip and ICT suite i.e a room with laptops? not just wheel 30 laptops around in a trolley?
If so there are no benifits to doing so and all the drawbacks that have been mentioned.
I agree with all the above except for the caveat about wireless - we can log 34 machines on to our wireless network (meru in one school and ruckus in the other) with no problems whatsoever.
We have netbooks for portable IT and oddly they seem to attract less damage than full sized laptops!
We use netbooks quite extensively in my district. The high school has four carts of 30, the middle school has five carts of 30, and the elementary schools all have two carts of 30. The systems we use is Dell's Latitude 2120 model; which is a more durable netbook design with a rubber exterior, 2 GB of ram, and a dual core Atom 550 processor. We still have the occasional vandalism and unintentional damage here and there, but it has been largely mitigated by the means of a sign out sheet and one person who is responsible for loading and unloading the carts. Students never go into the carts themselves and the carts are checked over upon removal and putting them away. When damage is found, it is as simple as going to the sign out sheet to see who had it last.
For buildings that don't have a lot of room netbook carts are the best way to go. I was apprehensive about them at first as I used to prefer desktops over everything else, but they grew on my and haven't been anywhere near the support nightmare I thought they would be.
Laptops using wifi can be problematic because the cost of buying them ih high the life span is short, damage ratio is high, technician time is high.
These are the problems I have had with wifi laptops
Wifi dropping out due to high traffic on network. Ghosting on the network can stop it working.
Wifi dropping out due to wifi interference from equipment like hand dryers, microwaves other businesses.
People trying to get too many computers connecting to one access point
Security and stopping people breaking into your wifi. I have just watched a tech real life break into wpa2 in under an hour. It with nothing but free software.
Students keep turning off the wifi on the laptops.
Place the access points where staff cannot get to them they will press the reset button so they can join other items to the network by resetting them.
Staff not charging the laptops or over charging the laptops and burning the batteries out.
Problems with wsus and software deployment if you use group policy to deploy software. If software too big and too many connected to access points.
People running them out of power and damaging os.
Students picking keys off and damaging screens.
Laptops and powerpacks going missing.
Staff not reporting when they are not working and just putting them back in the trolley or cupboard.
Staff running later and not putting the laptops away.
These are the ones that come to mind, but in theory taking ict to students is good except when it does not work.
We have over 400 laptops in one of the academies I support and have probably experienced most problems you can get with them.
Firstly if you're expecting to use them wirelessly, make sure your wireless kit is up to the job, as a large quantity of laptops all logging onto a network at the same time is enough to test even the most robust solutions. We have Meru now, but up until recently we had a very old Cisco solution which just did not cope at all.
The single biggest problem we get is battery life and laptops not being put away on charge, or even put away at all. A laptop isn't much use when it's flat, and if you're not careful you end up issuing power adapters so they can plug them in to use which kinda defeats some of the idea of having laptops in the first place.
The next biggest problem we get is vandalism, as the keys on laptops keyboards are relatively easy to pick off and the screens are fragile. They also suffer if they get dropped, so make sure you have some budget set aside for repairs of this nature, or buy laptops with 'accidental damage' included so things like this are covered.
Bear in mind lithuim batteries degrade at a predictable rate whether they are used or not, so you will have to replace most of your batteries by year 3. This can be expensive so do your research before hand and buy a brand which has a readily available supply of spare parts, or by laptops with a battery warranty.
Think about where they will be stored, we use 'universal' laptop trollies which means using the power adapters that come with the machines and fitting them into the cabinet. The problem with this is no matter how tidily we put the wires in, they end up all over the place in a relatively short space of time. They also get damaged by being trapped in the doors of the cabinets etc. so this is more expense to replace these. You can get dedicated cabinets with built in charging circuits, but these are more expensive.
Remember a laptop computer will rarely last as long as its desktop equivalent. We have some GX60 desktop machines that are still going strong after 6 years, but our oldest laptops are just 4 years old and are really showing their age now with many many more problems than they used to have.
Theft can be a problem, so a good security marking system is a must as is educating staff to count the machines before dismissing the class. We lose around 10 laptops a year due to theft.
There's nothing wrong with provisioning laptops in schools as long as the school is prepared to accept they are NOT desktop replacements, and will never perform and be as reliable as a well fitted out dedicated ICT suite. When they are looked after and setup properly they can be very effective.
And I'm afraid there is no getting away from the fact that as a technician, they will be more work for you to look after. I saw this as a positive and a challenge to make it work sucessfully, and although we spend a lot of time changing batteries, repairing keyboards and such like, generally speaking our laptop resource is in good order and used very effectively in the Academy, but it is a lot of work to achieve this.