Back in December I posted about my thoughts on investing in a pool of laptops for classes at school. Well it has been nearly 5 months since those initial thoughts and since then I have managed to pin down the make and series of machine we want and I have a much clearer understanding for the sort of resource we want.
The most important thing for me is the variables that may affect their performance in the classroom and I want to pre-empt these so that the classteachers and children can confidently turn to the technology when they want. The 16 SMARTBoards we have were installed after many weeks of intense research and price hunting. It has been much harder to find the right hardware with this laptop project, for a start. There are so many machines to choose from.
The problems that I envisage (from experience and advice):
- Battery life – can they be used successfully throughout the working school day? Do we need spare batteries?
- Wireless strength – we have an old building that is not particularly conducive to wi-fi.
- Ongoing maintenance – how will problems be dealt with when we only have a part time technician?
Our SMARTBoard project had far fewer variables than this one and so far there has not been a single problem with the SMARTBoards, in what will be 4 years of use this coming December. I want that sort of reliability from the laptops. Inevitably there will be problems, and I am not daft enough to think it will be all plain sailing – I just want to solve them, or at least anticipate them before they happen. Hopefully my considered choices now will help smooth the user experience when and if we finally purchase some.
I say “if” because I was brought back into reality after reading Stephen Hall’s post ‘Laptops are a Costly Mistake for Schools’. It was such a contrasting view on laptop projects and I am curious as to the reasons that such schemes have been considered a failure. I believe that at my school our approach is slightly different in the sense that the children will have limited access within school hours, they will not be taking the machines home. We are looking into this technology as it is part of our ICT vision not to directly address standards – as I have stated previously:
We would like our children to have a uninhibitied personal choice when to use technology; whether that be a calculator or sharing an online spreadsheet on a laptop.
I just sometimes think looking at standards or levels or grades or percentages is the wrong thing when deciding whether the project has had an impact. They did it here in the UK with interactive whiteboards. The impact is so much wider.
Not many tests are taken on laptops are they?