We are currently designing a new Junior school, and the schools advisors and architects have told the head\govenors that they don't need a dedicated ICT suite and that all new schools use laptops/wireless to change any room into a ICT classroom.
I am slightly concerned, simply because currently the juniors here have a dedicated ICT suite which is used to teach ICT and is available to them break/lunch and after school. We then have a set of laptops that they use in the classrooms to aid them in other areas of the curriculum. (i.e. they want to do some research on the victorians). Now the teachers and the pupils love coming to the ICT room and many prefer to use the suite over the laptops.
If this is what is decided then I will do my best to create a system that will work well for them, but I just feel that its wrong for them to abandon the ICT suite, I would prefer to have the suite and laptops.
What are peoples opinions/experiences on this matter??
I can use my schools as an Example. I have 6 schools ( Primary) One out of the 6 doesn't have an ICT suite. THey are a new build, and like you, they were advised that it was best not to have an ICT suite. They, instead, have a trolley of 30 laptops. It's a nightmare. They haven't and won't invest in a good enough wireless system. The laptops are constantly being damaged. Not malicious but just through young hands getting them in and out of the trolley. They get dropped, knocked off desks etc.. The schools with the ICT suites love that they, as you say, can go in their during lunch and breaks. They can hold staff training in there. Staff can go in there for the PPA time. I don't understand the thinking behind getting rid of ICT suites.
ICT suites are expensive to fit out, they take up more space & cost lots of money to cable. These are often the real reasons why architects, planners and advisors holding the purse strings don't like them.
You might want to ask what would happen if the health and safety guidelines with respect to wireless suddenly change, especially for younger children with more rapidly developing brains?
In my experience (admittedly at a Secondary school) fixed desktop systems in ICT suites have a longer life expectancy than laptop systems, and are easier & cheaper to maintain.
If it were left to me I would always aim to have a mix of fixed & mobile equipment in school.....
actually if it were really left to me I would have all fixed equipment, built into the furniture in every classroom :)
I know I'm on record as being firmly in the anti-laptop corner and for this school I do me level best to stand my ground.
However laptops are not all bad so long as they engineer around the problems. Buy in to a decent managed wireless infrastructure. Design GPO's and profiles around the WAP's contension ratio and resulting speed. Purchase spare batteries and chargers. Maybe even splash out a little extra on decent models like the Ergo Toughbooks.
It's when they fail to do (or in our case can't afford to do) all of this that the problems with laptops creep in and they get disrepected by staff and students a like.
That's a very sweeping statement that's simply not true. Not ALL new schools use laptops and wireless as their only ICT provision. There are some that take this approach granted, but this is where you have to make absolutely sure the school is aware of the repercussions of its decisions in terms of higher maintenance costs, possible reliability issues with wireless depending on the investment they make, increased likelyhood of theft, generally increased cost of purchasing in the first place and the logevity of laptops is not as good as desktops etc. etc.
Originally Posted by TronXP
If it's the advisors/archetects giving that opinion, don't be afraid to ask them why that is, and for examples of where this is being done sucessfully in a simelar school to the one being designed - they should be happy to provide this information as if they're recomending it then they should have case studies etc. they can refer to. You can then arrange visits, or chat to the people at those schools and find out all the facts, does it work? what would they have done differently? etc. and if at that point you still think wireless only is not the best way forward, put together a well structured series of recomendations in writing to the archetects, designers, senior management etc.
In the course of my research for our new build I've only found a very few schools using 100% laptops, most have at least 1 room of desktop PCs, even primaries.
This is very true, the fixed infrastructure, i.e the Cat 5/6 cabling is normally the responsibility of the building contractor, so the less they have to fit, the cheaper the build costs and the more profit they make. I've had to negotiate very hard recently for our new build project to ensure we have adequate cabling provision throughout the building. The origenal number of network outlets we were told we could have was totally in-adequate. They will budge on these matters, but you need to push it and make sure you can fully justify your recommendations.
Originally Posted by broc
When you ask them, get them to give a case study from a school 18 months on that are happy - I doubt they can find one.
You will need a fully managed wireless solution, with an expensive switch to control it. Classrooms should still have a desktop to run the Smartboard (otherwise you will have to maintain at least 3 more laptops for cover staff, then that may not be enough).
Batteries need to be replaced at about 18 months - 2 years and make sure that 3 year warrenty/repair contracts are purchased for each laptop - at about £30 per machine you will save money in the long run.
Also, the school needs to realise that the Laptops will only really have a lifespan of 3ish years, where as a desktop suite will last for 5-6 years
The answer is that a good mix is the best solution. Here I don't have a suite, just 3 trolleys of laptops and a couple of desktops in each room and 3 in the Staff Workroom, Staff have there own laptops as well.
If your going to buy 2 trolleys, why not buy 1 of netbooks and one of full laptops? That saves a bit, and in all honesty for english/science etc where you are only typing or looking up things on the internet netbooks are fantastic.
EDIT: Do some research into the cost of replacement parts - Ergo will charge you £90 for a new battery, £50 for a new keyboard. Dell will charge £30 per battery and £25 for a keyboard.......
I am a firm beleiver in no laptops for kids, every school i have been to who has got laptops for the kids hates them. Batteries need replacing about every 6 months, at a cost of around £50-70 each laptop. Keys pulled off by pupils cost £20-30 to replace, breakages are far higher than desktops and they are more expensive to buy, run slower and harder to upgrade.
Wireless solutions cost a lot if to be done right.
Here we just have the teachers with laptops, the pupils have to use the ICT suites of which we have 6, plus deicated areas for Learning Support, Music, Drama, DT and Food Tech as a result we rarely have any serious problems..
Mainly posting this because it's got the 'tmcd35 technology of the month' award and I'm going to bore the pants off of everybody by talking about it continuously ;)
But there are other solution to using laptops everywhere. A multiseat computer with 5/6 terminals in each class room for instance. Or maybe a couple of multiseat computers in each classrooms. You get 12 stations hardwired to the network. Only need plug and network sockets for two computers (alright you need sockets for 12 monitors!). Takes up less space, cheaper and more reliable than laptops.
Another solution that has worked well in our science deparment has been to disable the wireless and remove the batteries from the laptops. We then use Homeplugs - network over mains - to join the laptops to the network.
well I have been told the reason for no ICT suite is not money and that costs haven't come into the decsion.
Well that's a very good thing. Push for quality kid-proof laptops and a managed wireless system. Look at uber expensive Bretford trollies, and additional batteries with charging stations. If they are not cost conscious and agree to all that then you may actually end up with a very nice system.
Pros and cons of suite vs. no suite aside, my experience is that schools advisers, architects, and building contractors know bugger all about IT. They are the reason that the following problems exist in the 2-year-old building in the school I joined 6 months ago:
Originally Posted by TronXP
- ICT suite is literally more than twice the size it needs to be (with the floor sockets all too far back to see the board properly, even from the front row),
- Interactive whiteboards mounted on walls that get direct sunlight most of the day through skylights that have no blinds (and will cost a fortune to fit),
- In teaching rooms, 1 single UTP socket in each room (though to be fair, one or two have as many as TWO single UTP sockets, at opposite ends of the room)
- To top it all off, the cable ducts between floors have been sealed with concrete. Yes, concrete, directly into the top of the ducts. On the top floor in the comms room I literally have 50-odd cables emerging from the concrete floor. This means I can never run any additional cabling to the lower floors (which typically don't have enough) without a new duct being cut between the floors.
A project of this magnitude demands an evidence-based approach to design, with input from specialists. I wouldn't expect them to take my opinion on heating systems, despite my personal preference for under-floor heating, so why should they accept unproven IT advice from an architect? Demand to see the evidence behind their decisions. I suspect it will be sadly lacking.
Then there's no excuse not to have an IT Suite. Talking from experience working in a prep (infant/primary) school and secondary school, our prep school couldn't live without an IT suite.
Originally Posted by TronXP
- It's the central hub where all IT lessons happen. Our dedicated IT teacher can manage the resources properly and our IT technician can fix problems quicker (more spare parts for desktops).
- As much as the costs for a fixed IT suite might seem higher in the short-term when starting out, it'll work out much more effective as laptops (regularly used) have a maximum life shelf of 3 year. You can extend desktops in a junior school to at least 5 years (lower demands on hardware because of less intense software).
- Laptop caddies aren't fool proof. You have to consider longer login times (twice with wireless) over a new 1Gbps-to-desktop setup using Cat5e), set-up time for laptops (up to 5 minutes getting laptops out of cabby and getting all students ready), replacement for chargers/batteries are expensive, forgetting to charge laptops overnight (wipes out a whole day of teaching with them), expensive replacement parts, wireless issues to contend with 30 laptops connecting with one AP possibly).
- Laptops can be stolen, broken, accidentally damaged much easily
- Designing a IT Suite in a new building is the best opportunity to get it right; desk heights correct, best furniture, very good specification desktops, solid network infrastructure.
Sounds like the architects want to be lazy and leave you with the short-straw. Even with the best laptop cabbies, managed wireless systems, best dummy-proof laptops; you'll still need teachers to be proactive and learn much more about the technical and timing issues when setting laptops up. That will be very difficult to maintain. I'd keep pushing for a fixed ICT Suite.
Make sure the laptops have 3 years NBD Warranty (more if possible) and full accidental damage insurance too and the wireless network is secure,scaleable, upgradeable and managed.....
Originally Posted by TronXP
Look at lapsafe storage trolleys, I am told they are even better than Bretford
Make sure the building has adequate secure ventilated laptop trolley storage space with protected power supplies for charging.... you would be surprised how often this gets overlooked....
Ensure there are spare laptops & power supplies for the inevitable breakages plus a budget for spare batteries, it is ill-advised to keep stockpiles of spare lithium ion batteries as they go 'off' over time if not used.
Seek guarantees from any potential suppliers that after 18 months the laptops will still be capable of holding a charge for a whole school day.
OR.... stick to your guns & insist on an ICT room.....