When coordinating IT in school, there never seems a day goes by without decisions to be made! Whether it’s the development of mobile technology use in the school, the upgrade of PCs, a move towards cloud based resources or how to ensure that filtering is up to standard, we need to continuously move forward, spend wisely and ensure the children are making maximum use of technology to enhance their education.
It seems that similar decisions are made by school IT / computing coordinators all over the country and I thought it may be useful to share our experiences. This blog will cover some of the many issues we’ve come across at school over the past couple of years and while we don’t make the right decisions every time, hopefully others can benefit!
It is important to note that first and foremost I am a school teacher not an IT specialist – I am learning as I go along. So, all the views expressed here are just my opinions, which inevitably are swayed by the specialists I talk with and get advice from!
May 2015 – Should schools have an IT Suite?
This is a question that comes up regularly in courses I attend. The answer from the ‘people in the know’ is usually “No.” The key reason for this seems to be the assumption that schools are stuck in the dark ages of the 1990s where the only use of technology was an hour each week timetabled and rigid! Of course, this is not how technology should be taught or used to enhance learning. That said, I believe that if used correctly, the IT Suite is still a very valuable facility to have in school. Let’s consider the advantages of a Suite: it is a room, inevitably with hard-wired PCs or laptops which tend to work more reliably than some laptop trolleys, they don’t run out of charge and can be set up prior to use with minimum fuss or worry from the teacher who has just finished an English lesson and after computing will be teaching maths or science! A school with a designated ‘hub’ for computing shows a commitment to IT.
If a school is considering whether or not to spend out on an upgrade on a Suite, I’d recommend considering the following questions: Do you have an effective wireless network and mobile technologies in place to ensure that IT truly is flexible in the school? Can you spare the room for a designated IT area? If the answer to both is ‘yes’ then I would continue to invest in IT Suite. If the choice is to spend on mobile techs or a Suite, go for the mobile techs as priority, as flexibility in this day and age must be a priority.
June 2015 – Which tablets should we invest in?
We decided to invest in iPads about two years ago. Has this been a good decision? Having been through the implementation of tablet computing in a primary school, I’d say that things have gone smoothly on the whole. The advantage of going with iPad was that most staff members are very familiar with the operating system – owning iPhones! This means that little time has been designated to training for the staff or pupils – bonus! There are a wide variety of good quality apps and a volume licensing system which can mean significant savings on multiple app purchasing. The quality of the devices is good and they have survived two years worth of use with few problems.
The key feature of the successful implementation is to build up an ecosystem around the devices. We initially purchased 30 iPads and decent protective cases. We invested in a MacBook to act as a server to sync the iPads and a charging trolley. We enrolled on the Volume Purchasing Programme and selected a range of apps after some detailed research. The inclusion of an Airprint printer and ‘Airserver’ installed on our classroom PCs allowed for an output from the devices – hard copies or presented work on the class IWBs.
Most of this could be achieved using other types of tablets and I believe that it doesn’t really matter which device you select. However, the devices are only as good as the wireless network they are using!
July 2015 – Filtering on iPads
Most schools have broadband providers who include high quality internet filtering services as part of their service. This is very important and limits what children can access on the school PCs. However, it should be noted that the filtering offered doesn’t necessarily work on iPads. We found it beneficial to set up each iPad as we would for an individual device – using the options in the restrictions section of the settings menu. If anyone else has encountered similar issues or has another solution, please do let us know.
July 2015 – Cloud Computing
I was told the other day that within the next couple years we would be saying goodbye to the school based server and back-ups. Initially, I was quite impressed. ‘Wow! Are schools moving to cloud storage services now?” I thought. This seemed a big move but I could see the advantages … and the potential pitfalls. In discussion with our school techy, this potential move to cloud storage was reigned in somewhat! There may be issues with what classified information can be stored off-site, especially if not held on servers in the UK. Ok .. one to look into. Also, any cloud computing is reliant on the speed and quality of the broadband connection. I can just imagine 14 classroom PCs all trying to access files, watch videos, download materials at the same time over a broadband connection – potential issues. This is certainly an idea to keep I mind but maybe it’s not for us, for a little while at least!