Tag Archives: tech support

Internet Safety Talking Point 2

This is my latest blog post based on Scott McLeod’s 26 Internet Safety Talking Points.

Over the next few weeks I am looking at each point to tease apart the ideals behind them, to try to see both sides of the discussion and to share examples about who others have work on the issues. A lot of this will be from a UK-centric position but hopefully it will provide some insight into the similarities and differences with our friends in other countries.

Today’s point is about Decision Making

The technology function of your school organization exists to serve the educational function, not the other way around. Corollary: your technology coordinator works for you, not vice versa.

To use technology you should have a reason, understand what you want it to do and also understand how you can measure whether it is achieving it or not.

Oh dear … this sound like we are going to talk about planning again.

In the past a number of choices about technology have been a little chicken and egg with what has been used. There have been pilot projects or innovative schools who have gone out and done something interesting with new or emerging technology. The technology has inspired them to try something new and when it has worked you then find research to look into it on a wider scale. This is where folk like Becta came in … as well as groups such as the Association of Learning Technology, NAACE, Besa and so on. They took the research to the next level, either as partnerships with schools, those doing the research, with suppliers or as the controller of funds (or any combination) … resulting in ring-fenced funds to allow schools and LAs to implement a given technology.

So the idea that the technology should be based on your choice has not always been the way it should have been, but it was usually instigated based on good practice and research. How will it was implemented is then debatable and how much that removed control and decision making from individual schools is another point some will raise.

But where does the technology coordinator (NM, ICT Coordinator, LA Technology Manager) sit in this? To some extent they might have chosen the specific technology based on available funds, with a certain set of features, but the pedagogy behind it all should be pretty agnostic and be able to use whatever is provided. An IWB is an IWB … and whilst specific software might have benefits over other solutions the idea of it being used by learners is common … it is just the method which might change. The arguing point against this is around wireless tablets connected to projectors (removing the requirement for the learner to come to the front of the class … an important feature in some schools with learners who do not engage when in front of their peers) or the ‘add-on’ tools such as voting systems (actually a separate technology in their own right but can work well with IWBs).

The other arguing point around this is about policies and strategies. I hate to say it but there is a little thing called the law. In fact it is the Law. It deserves the capitalisation. And this varies across the world. There are many things which educationally would seem to be perfect decisions but are then put on hold or stopped because the NM / Tech coord / etc says no. This is not done lightly, nor is it done without consideration for what benefits will be lost and it is usually done with some attempt at compromise. Areas where there will be clashes ranging from safeguarding, copyright and intellectual property, data protection and information management, funding and classroom management. A good NM will educate you about these (if you are not up to speed) and will work with you to get the most out of tech … but they are frequently the gatekeeper as to what tech you can use because they have the knowledge about the bits which will cause problems. In the same way you have people to tell you not to try blowing up the science lab (in spite of how much fun it was when we were at school to see people do experiments that blackened the ceiling), or have people who tell you not to use certain classrooms due to them falling down … you have people who will say not to use certain technologies in certain ways. I’ll discuss the legal side of this in a later post … but just try to believe that a good NM is talking these into account and advising Senior Leaders, classroom teachers, office staff, parents, learners, local community and the random people who ring up the school because of things you post on the internet.

Yes, the Technology Coordinator works for you, but part of that job is choosing or helping to choose appropriate technology and keeping you safe. Don’t give them a job and then tell them they can’t do it!

On the other side, your NM should not keep things as a dark art and be the only person making choices. Any choices made should be clearly explained and, as per the last blog post, show where they are held accountable. Likewise the choice of technology should not force you down a particular educational route, but it can be an inspiration for doing something different. Be aware of the differences and look at the early adopters to see what they did and what worked / failed.

Internet Safety Talking Point 1

In my last blog post I republished Scott McLeod’s 26 Internet Safety Talking Points.

Over the next few weeks I am looking at each point to tease apart the ideals behind them, to try to see both sides of the discussion and to share examples about who others have work on the issues. A lot of this will be from a UK-centric position but hopefully it will provide some insight into the similarities and differences with our friends in other countries.

Today’s point is about responsibility and accountability.

Even though they may use fancy terms and know more than you do about their domain, you never would allow your business manager or special education coordinator to operate without oversight. So stop doing so with your technology coordinator.

This raises an important point. With great power comes great responsibility, and there is a group in schools who have a lot of power. Whatever you might think of your Network Manager or Technician, of your LA Support Manager or even the Academy Technical Director (I will generically use the term NM to cover these and similar positions), how they have gained power / ownership / responsibility / control will be so varied it would take several posts to pinpoint which applies to your case. We would also end up talking about stereotypes and pigeon-holing people.

In reality it is rarely for it to be one reason as to why a single person might be making major decisions which affect a wide range of people, and it would be wrong to always assume malice, arrogance, superiority complexes on their part. It would also be wrong to assume the ignorance of senior managers in schools, apathy of staff, poor funding and poor communication. However, I am sure all of the above would sound familiar to many.

Instead, let us look at the idea of responsibility and accountability.

Yes, the NM is likely to be the expert in the field as to what technology can work, how it can work, how to support it and so on, but the requirements which set out what technology is needed should not be set out by a single person, but by a group of stakeholders working out what is best for the school (or schools if part of a larger group). This involves planning, communication, compromises, compliance (with laws, local and school policies, etc) and it will require targets / outcomes. This is where the oversight and accountability comes in … and it doesn’t just apply to the NM. It is needed … and should be in place.

And this is where we hit a number of problems.

Firstly you might be in a school where there is no communication, planning, team-working, etc and so someone has to effectively be a visionary, trying to guess what is needed or to lead on the choice of technology, almost in a single-minded way as nothing would happen without this. This can effectively place all the power and control with a single person with no oversight. This is not specifically their fault, and Scott’s point, in my eyes, appear to be a shout out to Senior Leaders in schools to wake up, stop relying on a single person and to make it more of a team effort … not a call to snatch back power from someone else.

Within the UK there is a standard for IT Support (based on industry standards) called FITS. This clearly sets out how the NM, Senior Leaders and other stakeholders can establish the targets, hold people accountable for delivering on projects / work and set out the standards by which systems will work, how changes will be decided and managed, how choices of technology can be made and how this can be measured against the desired impact.

To Block or Not to Block, that isn’t the question!

With kind permission I am reposting Scott McLeod‘s ‘Dangerously Irrelevant’ Blog Post about 26 Internet Safety Talking Points.

I hope to then follow this up by looking at each point (one a day perhaps) to strip it down and look at both sides of the point.

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For Leadership Day 2012, I thought I would gather in one place many of the talking points that I use with principals and superintendents about Internet safety…

 

  1. Even though they may use fancy terms and know more than you do about their domain, you never would allow your business manager or special education coordinator to operate without oversight. So stop doing so with your technology coordinator.
  2. The technology function of your school organization exists to serve the educational function, not the other way around. Corollary: your technology coordinator works for you, not vice versa.
  3. Mobile phones, Facebook, Wikipedia, YouTube, blogs, Wikispaces, Google, and whatever other technologies you’re blocking are not inherently evil. Stop demonizing them and focus on people’s behavior, not the tools, particularly when it comes to making policy.
  4. You don’t need special policies for specific tools. Just check that the policies you have are inclusive of electronic communication channels and then enforce the policies you already have on bullying, cheating, sexual harassment, inappropriate communication, illicit behavior, etc.
  5. Why are you penalizing the 95% for the 5%? You don’t do this in other areas of discipline at school. Even though you know some students will use their voices or bodies inappropriately in school, you don’t ban everyone from speaking or moving. You know some students may show up drunk to the prom, yet you don’t cancel the prom because of a few rule breakers. Instead, you assume that most students will act appropriately most of the time and then you enforce reasonable expectations and policies for the occasional few that don’t. To use a historical analogy, it’s the difference between DUI-style policies and flat-out Prohibition (which, if you recall, failed miserably). Just as you don’t put entire schools on lockdown every time there’s a fight in the cafeteria, you need to stop penalizing entire student bodies because of statistically-infrequent, worst-case scenarios.
  6. You never can promise 100% safety. For instance, you never would promise a parent that her child would never, ever be in a fight at school. So quit trying to guarantee 100% safety when it comes to technology. Provide reasonable supervision, implement reasonable procedures and policies, and move on.
  7. The ‘online predators will prey on your schoolchildren’ argument is a false bogeyman, a scare tactic that is fed to us by the media, politicians, law enforcement, and computer security vendors. The number of reported incidents in the news of this occurring is zero.
  8. Federal laws do not require your draconian filtering. You can’t point the finger somewhere else. You have to own it yourself.
  9. Students and teachers rise to the level of the expectations that you have for them. If you expect the worst, that’s what you’ll get.
  10. Schools that ‘loosen up’ with students and teachers find that they have no more problems than they did before. And, often, they have fewer problems because folks aren’t trying to get around the restrictions.
  11. There’s a difference between a teachable moment and a punishable moment. Lean toward the former as much as possible.
  12. If your community is pressuring you to be more restrictive, that’s when it’s time to educate, not capitulate. Overzealous blocking and filtering has real and significant negative impacts on information access, student learning, pedagogy, ability to address required curricular standards, and educators’ willingness to integrate technology. It also makes it awfully tough to prepare students for a digital era.
  13. ‘Walled garden’ online environments prevent the occurrence of serendipitous learning connections with the outside world.
  14. If you’re prohibiting teachers from being ‘friends’ with students online, are you also prohibiting them from being ‘friends’ with students in neighborhoods, at church, in volunteer organizations, at the mall, and in other non-school settings?
  15. Schools with mindsets of enabling powerful student learning usually block much less than those that don’t. Their first reaction is ‘how can we make this work?’ rather than ‘we need to keep this out.’
  16. As the lead learner, it’s your responsibility to actively monitor what’s being filtered and blocked and to always reconsider that in light of learning and teaching needs.
  17. If you trust your teachers with the children, you should trust them with the Internet. Addendum: Mistrust of teachers drives away good educators.
  18. If you make it too hard to get permission to unblock something, you might as well not have the option in the first place.
  19. Unless you like losing lawsuits, remember that students and staff have speech and privacy rights, particularly off-campus. Remember that any dumb decision you make is Internet fodder and has a good chance of going viral online. Do you really want to be the next stupid administrator story on The Huffington Post?
  20. When you violate the Constitution and punish kids just because you don’t like what they legally said or did and think you can get away with it, you not only run the risk of incurring financial liability for your school system in the tens or hundreds of thousands of dollars but also abuse your position of trust and send messages to students about the corruption of power and disregard for the rule of law.
  21. Never make a policy you can’t enforce.
  22. Don’t abdicate your teaching responsibility. Students do not magically gain the ability at the end of the school day or after graduation to navigate complex, challenging, unfiltered digital information spaces. If you don’t teach them how to navigate the unfiltered Internet appropriately and safely while you have them, who’s going to?
  23. Acceptable use and other policies send messages to students, staff, and parents. Is the predominant message that you want to send really that ‘the technologies that are transforming everything around us should first and foremost be feared?’
  24. Imagine a scale with two balancing pans. On one side are all of the anxieties, fears, barriers, challenges, and perceived problems that your staff, parents, and community members put forth. If you want effective technology integration and implementation to occur in your school system, it is your job as the leader to tip the scale the other way. Addendum: It is difficult to understand the learning power of digital technologies – and easy to dismiss their pedagogical usefulness – if you are not familiar enough with them to understand their positive affordances.
  25. In a hyperconnected, technology-suffused, digital, global world, you do your children a disservice – and highlight your irrelevance – by blocking out our present and their future.
  26. Educating is always, always more powerful than blocking.

BONUS 1. Elsewhere in your state – perhaps even near you – are school districts that have figured this out. They operate under the same laws, regulations, rules, and procedures that you do. If they can be less restrictive, why can’t you?

A huge thanks to everyone who has influenced my thinking and my writing in this area, including folks like Doug JohnsonSylvia Martinezdanah boydWill Richardson, and Tina Barseghian. I’m sure that I’ve forgotten a few talking points that I’ll just add later. Which one is your favorite (or least favorite)? What would you add to or change on this list?

For other Leadership Day 2012 posts, see the complete list of submissions and/or#leadershipday12.

Apple Workshops – Deploying iPads in Bulk

After a week of looking at the best way to cover the different variations of using Apple Configurator it seemed like destiny to come across a thread on EduGeek which looked at one of the principle methods by which schools could make use of Apple Configurator and iTunes. The thread can be found HERE and will no doubt have numerous updates where further questions get answered.

A massive thank you to Rydra for allowing me to reproduce the original post in the thread. I would heartily recommend people keep a track of this conversation, and other similar ones, over on EduGeek.net.

Process for bulk imaging an Ipad using mac OSX + Apple Config + iTunes

So I finally managed to pin down how to do this, though it took a while, and I’m going to have trouble in the future till Apple fix their entire operating ethos.

The problem, is that Apples configurator program, for mass deploying iOS devices, now only support the Apple Volume Purchasing Program. This is bad, because that is only available in the US for fully registered companies with a DUNS ID (cant be bothered to explain, but it’s a database in the US for businesses to register themselves.)
This means, that only free apps can be deployed as part of Apple configurator, not paid apps, unless you are in the US, where you can buy volume licensing for them.

So this is what I’ve had to do to get around it.

I recommend that you either run seperate accounts for your different device sets, or, if you have what I have, and that’s a single account, make different itunes libraries (it might be worth doing anyway even if you have multiple accounts)
To do this, hold down Alt + click on the itunes icon. Then create library…

This means, that for the different ipad varieties, yes you have to keep multiple copies of the same apps, but it makes your life a lot easier to manage the apps on your device.

The general process flow to follow is this

-Update iOS to latest version using Apple configurator; you can either let it go and download it, or you can download it yourself and point it at the upgrade file. You can plugin as many ipads as you’ve got USB ports (or hubs), but even better, once you set it up, you simply unplug the ones that were done, and plugin the next one(s) and it just carries on going till you hit the ‘stop’ button.
-From the apple configurator window (Prepare Tab > Settings), only select from the dropdown the iOS version you want. Do not change anything else in the window.
-Hit Prepare
-Swap in/out till done.
NOTE: HIT THE STOPP BUTTON WHEN YOUR DONE! I forgot at one point, and nearly factory wiped my master ipad when i plugged it in for imaging!)

-Install all apps, books, music, movies etc and arrange the way you want (NOTE: it’s best to do this using Itunes. I’ll explain later.)

-Transfer purchases from the ipad to itunes/the pc. This makes sure your PC has all the apps you want if any were added via the device rather than itunes.

-Hit sync. This makes sure what your ipad has, so does the PC and vice versa.

-Right click the Ipad in Itunes, and do a backup.

This will now give Itunes a full backup of the SETTINGS. Note, this does not save the apps themselves.

Now, the reason I said above that you need to use Itunes to setup the layout, is that there are 2 kinds of restore for the ipad.

If you use the summary page restore, it is a factory reset, and reinstalls the iOS from scratch, giving you a vanilla ipad. It will then apply your settings/preferences. The problem is, that it hasn’t put all your apps back on at this point. And if you were unlucky enough to have ticked ‘sync apps on setup’ and/or ‘sync new apps’, then it will put every single App on your account (that you’ve downloaded to the PC) on the device.

Now this is not really that cool. At one point we had more than 270 apps in our library here, most of it junk, and we ran out of home screens to put them all on. This is why I suggest having different libraries. Seperate libraries means you keep each library with only the apps you need for that set, and applying the app sets is as simple as shift selecting all the apps and dumping it onto the ipad.

Onto the restore part:
-Stick in your new ipad with nothing on it, fire up itunes, and then tick to sync apps (suggest unticking auto install new apps, this gets annoying if your trying out apps etc.) along with anything else you want to sync up. Because you have a seperate library with just the apps you want in it, you can just shift select all the apps, and dump them on the ipad!
-Wait till this is done syncing
-Once it has all the apps you want on the device, Right click the ipad in itunes, and select Restore.

THIS IS IMPORTANT.

This right click menu option does NOT reinstall the iOS! It ONLY restores the settings, therefore all apps on the device are left alone. Since all the apps you want are on the device, it can create your home screen layout the way you want it. Anything on the device it’s not sure of, it’ll dump it loose on the home screen (so you can have some customisation where required)

-Once this is done for all your ipads, it’s time to go back to the configurator.

-Setup profiles the way you want (To create a profile, click the ‘+’ at the bottom of the window). You can set restrictions, wifi settings, mail settings, whatever is in the settings on the device, you can control it here.

From the top:
-Give the set name. Tick the ‘number sequentially starting at 1’ button. If you want the numbers to start from a different number, tick it, then change the number and it updates itself.
-Supervision on/off means if you set it, only your PC can alter the settings on the device.
-iOS: assuming you did it earier, don’t touch this setting.
-Restore: don’t touch this setting, you did this stage during itunes.
-Profiles: Tick next to the profile you want to apply
-Hit prepare, and swap in/out devices till all are done.
-HIT STOP!

This will give you a set of ipads all with the same layout, same iOS, same app sets.

-From Apple config, select from the restore drop down: ‘Backup’
This makes an Apple config backup file for later use. label it appropriately.

In the event of needed to reinstall from scratch, follow the processes above entirely.
If you just want to reset the layout/settings, and assuming no apps were removed/added, you can simply hit ‘restore’ from here and it’ll restore back to your master. If you update your app set, you’ll have to do it all from scratch again.

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(Original post by Rydra on Edugeek.net : http://www.edugeek.net/forums/mac/95070-process-bulk-imaging-ipad-using-mac-osx-apple-config-itunes.html)

Apple Leadership Summit – The Workshops pt 2

The workshop spent some time looking at the range of tools to support and manage iOS devices and so I’ll run through some of the areas which it covered. I’ll also try to highlight where most of us are when it comes to many schools trying to do ad-hoc management of devices. For the sake of short-hand I will use iPad to describe an iOS device … but I could easily say iPhone or iPod Touch.

The first things we are generally all used to using is iTunes. Those of us with personal devices or those who are using BYOD / student leased devices are likely to not see a lot of use of iTunes as it is done by the user instead. Some schools with only a handful of devices might be using iTunes managed from one machine to look after devices .

All devices, whichever method you use, needs to go through 4 phases and iTunes can manage all those.

  1. Activate
  2. Update
  3. Configure
  4. Sync

When you get an iPad out the box or when you do a remote wipe it needs to be activated. It can be done over the air (with the advent of iOS5) or it is commonly done using iTunes for many users. This allows you to set up basic things like language, country, enable / disable location services, connect to a network and restoring from a saved backup (an important idea to come back to later).  It is also possible to put iTunes in Activation-only mode so that the update / config / sync can be done by other users and other tools.

The iPad will then check to ensure that it has the latest version of iOS (remembering that it cannot restore a backup from a newer iOS version). You then configure the iPad as to how it will backup, whether it can sync over Wi-Fi, what it will sync (going into detail in the tabs for Apps, Tones, Music, Movies, TV Shows, etc), type of video quality (i.e. between HD and SD) and so on. In the general summary tab I personally think that people should have a good look at the ‘Configure Universal Access’ button as the use of voiceover and zoom can be quite handy for many learners.

Once you have the device the way you want it with the relevant Apps and media then it will sync, taking us through to the final action of setting up an iPad in the simplest manner, via iTunes. Of course, trying to do this for a raft of devices is neither practical nor efficient. The simplest method of doing this on bulk is to take one iPad, build it the way you like it and then restore the backup onto each new iPad as you activate it, which will go some way to automating the configuration and sync sections.

And this is where a lot of school stay … an ad-hoc arrangement where a HLTA or IT Technician has to build a new ‘image’ (well … backup an exemplar iPad) and load it onto the other devices. There is little ‘locking down’ of the machine and whilst it is a bit of a mess to cope with it can be a lot cheaper than spending a lot of time and money on the other tools.

There are some quick wins though. iTunes on its own will allow you to configure certain things but to really perfect a device you need delve into the on-device configuration. Setting up for home sharing can make it easy for learners to access resources shared via iTunes (always use a second AppleID for this in my experience) but the real benefits come when you look into Settings > General > Restrictions. Here you can turn off access to iTunes, installing or deleting apps, YouTube and even Safari … though Ned and co did warn us to be careful about this as some Apps make use of Safari to work. You can set the ratings for content, allow or block In-App purchases, and more. Well worth having a look at the Online Manual of iOS 5 for more information about what setting you can control.

And this deals with basic setup of the iPad. Fine for a handful of devices and there are some tools to make bulk restore / sync a possibility when also tied in with storage / security trolleys.

In the next blog post we look at iPhone Configuration Utility and who this will build a profile of setting for you similar to the manual job of using iTunes / on-device settings.

Apple Leadership Summit – The Workshops

There were 3 streams at the event and, although I really wanted to buck the stereotype and get more involved in the content creation stream, I really had to go to the infrastructure stream as there are so many questions and queries about Mobile Device Management (MDM) that needed looking into.

I blog fairly extensively about the last Leadership Summit here and here so I already had a good idea what we were in store for, and I have also done a fair bit of investigations already. The introduction of Lion Server changed a number of things, and newer tools which have been added on since are also changing ideas about how to plan and manage devices.

I’ve got to say a big thanks to Ned and the rest of the Apple team in the workshop. We all know that companies will toe a certain party line, and these folk are no different, but the allowances for healthy interjection from delegates, questions ranging from the slightly enquiring to the in-depth technical and still managing to keep the workshop pretty much on track meant that they had to field some difficult questions and gave some pretty good answers, and tried not to disappoint when they could offer no more than some basic “sorry, but there is no VPP yet” responses.

I’ve also got to say that there are some legal and regional things about MDM which were covered. The Apple folk did remind us that *we* have to make sure that *we* are happy that *we* are following the T&Cs, laws of the land, etc. The session was a technical one, not a legal and contracts one. There are differences about how we might opt to manage things in UK compared to US because of a number of facts, but the main one is that the Volume Purchase Program (VPP) does not operate in the UK so solutions which talk about bulk purchase and pushing out apps are technically possible in the UK, but not following the rules at this time! We did look at options about how to ensure you are fully licenced and that is another key fact to remember.

So, caveats done and we can continue.

The session started with each delegate introducing themselves and explaining what they were looking for from the session. It was good to see a range of primary, secondary and special schools, people employed by schools and 3rd party support firms, as well as representatives from RM and Jigsaw24. In general most are looking for ideas about how to deploy and manage devices, and about app deployment and the legalities behind it.

Presently we tend to think of traditional IT deployments of suites in classrooms, or we have started to move away from them to mobile classrooms. We then also have those who have gone (or are starting to go) down the one to one route to give an easy way of all being able to access devices (a common theme from the day, to be honest). iOS devices are slightly different and we have a number of options. How you plan your infrastructure is dependant on how you want to plan to use the devices.

We can split it into 3 areas. Device Sharing (closest to present day), One to One (mix of institutional and personal data) and User Responsible (highly personalised and almost anything goes). Once you have thought about which option you want then you can start to plan how to get there. Personally I think it is likely that once you start planning then you might find barriers to going down certain routes and you might have to make compromises … sometimes down to money, sometime down to the need to change the curriculum … it doesn’t mean you shouldn’t try but there might be times you have to be a little pragmatic.

Looking at the methods of managing devices we can see 6 areas.

iTunes – which we are pretty used to with them being consumer devices, but with a large manual requirement

On-device configuration – where we use the settings on the device or on particular apps, again a familiar task with a large manual requirement

iCloud – again something we might be used to

iPhones Configuration Utility (IPCU) – a way of generating profiles which can be applied to one or more devices. Those of us used to GPOs within Windows AD or WorkGroup Manager with macs will find this fairly familiar and the idea that a GPO is just a series of registry changes, or in WGM generates changes to .plist files … profiles are pretty similar.

Apple Configurator – the new kid on the block which is likely to be key for many of us. It allows for prep for mass deployment, supervising devices and assigning devices to individuals within the organisation.

And finally … Mobile Device Management (MDM) – the full blown tool which makes use of a framework provided by Apple to do all of the above. Within Apple’s toolset we have Profile Manager on Lion Server (used in conjunction with some of the above where needed) and you have an MDM lite solution …

There are a number of good 3rd party MDM solutions out there and to some extent it is a bit like making the decision about whether to use middleware on your network to manage Windows, whether it be RM’s CC3 or CC4 or one of the other products out there (Viglin’s Classlink, CSE, etc). It also depends on the mindset of the school. If it the attitude is “lock it all down” then you might want one route, and if you prefer a more ‘enabling’ and user reliant option then you go down another path.

So … there we have the first post … with the above tools you can go from delivering a shared device in a library which can be set up quickly for each user as it is booked out to them, a device which has all the settings for email etc and just requires the user to finish it off by putting in their username and password, you can stop the buying, deleting or even access to various apps, or you can bulk prep personal devices but to get access to your wifi settings they have to ‘log on’ to a certain managed profile. Over the next week I will try to cover each tool in a separate post.

The final thing I will say is that, whilst not explicitly mentioned, it is important to have a decent infrastructure for the devices to run over, and a presumption that most of the management / config will be done on a Mac (some tools don’t require a Mac but the significant ones will do).

Tech Support – By Schools, For Schools

I know some of you might already recognise the phrase including in the title, as it is a central tenet of the ICT Register, but the same ethos is wide spread within the education community. It doesn’t matter whether you are talking about school staff getting together at TeachMeets, having in-depth discussions via twitter though things like #ukedchat, online communities such as EduGeek.net or more local groups such as NorthantsBLT the growing role of schools taking ownership of their advice and guidance and how they share it with others is a very important part of how schools need to react to recent changes which have come out of DfE.

Many of the above are free … well, when I say free I really mean that they are paid for by people and schools using their own time for the benefit of others because they get the same sort of response back, or it is a bit of educational philanthropy on the part of others. This is brilliant in many ways, but can make it difficult to plan for sustainability. Also, there is nothing wrong with paying for advice, guidance, ideas, expertise, etc. There is often a saying used, “you get what you pay for!” and this is very true. People forget that the payment is not always cold, hard cash, but time and your own expertise … and when time, expertise, capacity and ideas are running short then people face the reality that paying for something is almost inevitable.

And this is one of the areas where I think some schools do it wrong. It shouldn’t be that paying for something in cash is the last option, it should be considered an option from the very beginning when you are planning what you need, what your goals are, how your school will develop / deliver things like CPD, technical support, parental engagement, etc.

Technical Support is a perfect example of where failing to plan can result in staff in the school, both techie and teacher, having to scrabble around to find information and guidance. I have been preparing a number of reports around the use of Framework for ICT Technical Support (FITS) within Northamptonshire schools and conversations with schools who have staff trained and accredited against FITS has shown what a difference planning makes. Except that it doesn’t just stop at the school gates. A number of schools are actively involved in supporting other schools. This will range from Lodge Park Technology College being actively engaged with the ICT Register and Microsoft’s Partners In Learning, Sir Christopher Hatton School providing support on Microsoft training courses and technical support to local schools, Wrenn School providing technical support to local schools and staff being active in online communities such as EduGeek.net, and both The Duston School and Southfield School for Girls providing staff time and expertise to chair local working groups such as the Schools Broadband Working Group and NetworkNorthants (the local IT Community for technical staff in schools and school support providers). Some of this is for free (i.e. no charge to others) but some of it does have a cost and is well worth it.

Having another school cover your tech support or provide advice around it has some major benefits. This can range from educational understanding and expertise, through to experience of deploying some education specific technologies. Couple this with easy access for teachers to talk with teachers, SLT to talk with SLT, you can having a winning combination.

So I was please to see, over the weekend, a tweet from a friend on the south coast. Tim Dalton is the IT Consultant at The Wildern School, the school which runs its own TV Studio (BBC Schools Report), has previously run YouTube style services for other schools, has developed advice and guidance on using media technologies in schools … and much more. Tim put a tweet out letting his PLN know that they are doing it again, taking their expertise and bundling it up for others. This time it is is punnet; a support, development and advisory service for other schools. Whether it is hands-on, regular tech support, development of software and applications for schools or advice and guidance around classroom use of technology and school strategy, Wildern hopes to be able to cater for your needs.

Yet another example of By Schools, For Schools …

Do you have more examples? Are you involved in similar to the folk at punnet or the other schools mentioned? Have you spoken with other schools to share ideas, expertise, tools and goals? Go on … now is your chance.

Think … erm … Different (part 2)

Thanks to all for the positive response to part one of the report on the Apple Birmingham Leadership Event. I have tried to continue to be as open as I can about the day, and whilst there is still considerable criticism in some parts about Apple and their strategy on technology, I hope I am giving some insight into how their tools can be used within schools. It is not intended to be a sales pitch but to give people as much information as possible to make decent evaluations on their options. I know there may be some inaccuracies in here and it is an opinion piece. Apple staff are unable to comment on it formally so if anyone who was there spots anything, please let me know.

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The afternoon also contained the Hands-on workshops and I opted for the technical strand, ably hosted and run by Chris Jinks from Apple. Out of my 5 Questions, a number of them were linked to the technical strand … not because I am a Geek, but because this seems to be one of the major areas which is a barrier to adoption of new tech. Lack of information and advice can be a key reason for failure of using any technology in an educational environment. it detracts from the benefits of the tools and the reason they are there in the first place. This is true no matter where the technology is from and is in no way Apple specific as a problem. However, the approach which Apple has taken in the past has sometimes been open for question. At a previous BETT show, Russell Dyas and myself were at the press briefing from Apple and when asked about giving more advice to schools on the technical side we were told that schools shouldn’t need to use in-house staff but buy the expertise in from ASEs and partners. That obviously went down well.

However, there is more information available to schools … if you know where to find it and who to ask. ASEs, ADEs and AASPs are still the first point of call for many areas but events like today are starting to fill in the gaps.

The session was a two-hour version of what is usually a full day training event. We knew it would be a tad sparse in some areas and Chris apologised about that, but there is a lot to squeeze in. Again, Apple like to breakdown the areas covered and look at it in the following blocks.

  • Mobility with Apple
  • Creating Content
  • Distributing Content
  • Managing Devices
  • Infrastructure for Learning

What is mobility? It is about my content. Anytime. Anywhere. Video, Audio, text, applications … things I create and consume (I was feeling like I was listening to Graham Brown-Martin from Learning Without Frontiers actually). This is about whether in a lab, at home, on the move, etc … important to remember the difference between 3G, WiFi, LAN. We looked at having to consider the broadest audience … desktops, laptops, mobile … think of who you are reaching and how. Consider the delivery mechanisms, work to standards and understand why some are moving away from certain tools. This is where the Flash-bashing started. Earlier in the day I had raised about the issues with the lack of Flash in education since there are many resources in Flash (with few plans to change from talking with some vendors) and the push is very much that Flash might have been very good once, but now is just not suitable because things like killing battery life, CPU overhead, etc. Likewise, when conversation go onto standards HTML5 was up there are the way to go … and I had to point out that it isn’t ratified, that there is the risk that it might go down a route Apple don’t want and that time / money could be wasted. However, Chris did ask what the alternative would be then … and after you rule out the use of Flash (and we can have a long discussion about Flash and open standards) there is little left to go for. As an aside, I have been party to a number of rants about how bad Flash is, especially for updating, things breaking and not being open, yet when someone decides to drop it (such as Apple or Microsoft for the Metro interface of Windows 8 ) you get an outcry of the masses … sometimes I think you just can’t win!

Back to the session though, and we looked at what were the building blocks (Text, Audio, Video) and the construction areas (podcasts, web, apps). Again, stressing the use of open formats, text comes in 2 forms – PDF and ePub. I did query (via Twitter) about whether Open Document format (ODF) should be included in there and after some research it is indeed a standard for office documents along with OOXML and even the UK Govt has previously stressed ODF and open standards should be used as a standard for sharing documents … and it has support from Apple but iWork still does not support ODF. We already know that PDF is fine when used in it’s simplest form but as soon as you start adding other objects into it (video, etc) then you are relying on additional code to make it work … and there in lies a problem. In schools it is so frustrating to receive materials as PDF from an exam board only to find you need a particular version of Adobe Reader to open it and that it will not open in any other PDF reader. This is where ePub comes into its own. It gives a greater user experience, allows for more user control such as changing font, text, colour, flexible orientation, etc. Personally I like to use Scrivener or Calibre to create ePub files. When looking at audio we talked about the importance of compression vs quality. MP3 still wins out as a format for many. For video we looked at the difference between Codecs and Containers, H.264, MPEG-4, MPEG-2 : m4v, mp4, 3gp, mov, avi, etc … and looked the simplicity of selection within the Apple toolset. Assembling all these parts together is the construction bit … and this is what makes the difference.

The Web is standards based … HTML5, CSS3 and JavaScript. At least these are where Apple technology is centred … mainly because it works and keeps things simple. We looked at the use of apps v web and a hybrid approach, but Chris was keen to say that Web Apps give the best method of dealing with a broad audience. We looked at using Pages to create ePubs and it does work extremely well …

Distributing content is an important factor in education still. As much as we might love the idea of user created content and co-creation as an approach within the pedagogy of your curriculum, you are pretty much guaranteed to have some content to distribute to the users / pupils / students. There are 2 ways to get content onto devices, via cable or via WiFi. Cable requires plugging in and using iTunes. This is suitable for personal or 1:1 devices but is a pig for class sets. Even setting up the small technology toolkits we have had going out to schools takes up time and I was glad that Peter Ford was doing it rather than me! I have to admit that iOS5 and Sync over WiFi has been very handy for me on my own devices … but again, that comes down to personal responsibility. When it comes to WiFi there are a number of tools for hosted shares for accessing WebDAV style solutions … WebDAV Navigator can be a handy app and many apps have tools to allow you to save to WebDAV too. I did ask about the use of iCloud and the Data Protection Act and at the moment there is no direct guidance / advice. As always with these things, if you have concerns or cannot confirm you are not covered then you should not use such services. On a personal note I think iCloud to a local server would be a good option … but I doubt we will see Apple do that for a variety of reasons, including security. The methods of ensuring that published apps are done via Apple’s services are also part of the locked down environment and I’ll leave it to iOS App Developers to give better explanations of how and why this works. As far as those deploying solutions in schools go … you are not bundling your own apps and pushing them out GPO style.

We then started to make use of a locally deployed Lion Server. This was key to how the workshop continued but with a bit of careful thinking a number of the features can be delivered via other options. We started by accessing the Wiki Server, an easy way of getting resources made available by the class teacher, in this case it was hosted on a local MacMini Server. Interestingly I was discussing the use of Wikis with Tom Rees (@trees2066) and we both agree that this is one of the best co-creation tools out there. Unfortunately, as far as I have been able to find out, Wiki access is a bit clunky still in Lion Server. If anyone has a good guide to allowing student control of the Wiki I would appreciate it.

Then we get onto controlling the devices. Yes … I know most are thinking the same I was … about time, but it really did make sense why the session followed the structure it does. You need to understand what type of resources may need to be used and how they are accessed first.

The session talked about the 3 options … the personal device (in a 1-to-1 situation), the institute owned device assigned to an individual (still 1-to-1) and the shared device. With a shared device it is a fixed setup, only admins make changes … and you have to return to base (i.e. the SysAdmins) to reset, update or redeploy.

With any 1-to-1 setup you are going to get a mix of institutional and private data. Apps could be owned by the institute (gifted?), provide updates one recovery capabilities … but there is a massive amount of user responsibility. The User is in charge, can do pretty much anything and chooses to accept the configuration to be part of the educational environment … but more on that later.

All new devices (or when devices get redeployed) have to go through 4 steps. Activate, update, configure and sync. Who will do these steps really depends on the model used. Mobile Device Management tools are key. It seems that Apple’s MDM tool actually uses the same provided sub-set of controls as the larger commercial offerings out there. There is a difference in the UI and when you buy in a commercial package you get told how it will work … I suppose this could be viewed as the same as using parts of RM’s CC3/4, which bolts on / controls aspects of Microsoft’s Active Directory.

A key aspect of using MDM though is the Certificate Signing Request. No matter what you use, this is a must (again, going back to the security mentioned earlier) and is needed as part of the Apple Push Notification Service … Security of updates of configurations is carefully thought out here … and yes, it needs to be thought out and planned, the central server / controller needs to be available … and at this point you realise that if you don’t have a central machine then you are going to struggle. If you already have an OSX Server to control any desktop / laptops from Apple … then this is where to start.

Centralised configuration can do a lot … sort out wireless settings, proxy settings, email, calendar … and much more. A number of these can also be provided on OSX Server, but you can also use other providers too. Exchange is big one in many schools now, but I have recently seen a setup accessing a hosted Sharepoint / Exchange solution from a VLE provider too. But back to the configuration … One important thing to remember … you cannot stop people removing apps via the central configuration, it is a setting you have to do on the local machine (Settings > General > Restrictions … then Enable Restrictions and turn Deleting Apps off).

The main config tool you will come across is the iPhone Configuration Utility to create Profiles of how devices will be configured. These are then initially pushed to connected devices (via cable) or pulled by the user. This is where OSX Server comes into play. The same box running the Wiki Server also enables devices to connect to a configuration service. Pretty simple really. Set up a guest wifi in your school which only gives you access to the config server. Connect to the server via a web page. Pull down the config (if you are allowed too … security starts with User Authentication) by authenticating, install the provided certificate and then the encrypted config comes down over the air. The details of what can be controlled via the iPhone Config Utility are covered in detail in Apple’s documentation and there is quite a bit covered there. This new config can then have the *real* WiFi network settings in it.

Those of you who have experience of dealing with .plist files for controlling Apple OSX devices via WGM or .adm files for GPOs will not be surprised that the settings are just XML strings … but the config tools do all the work for you.

The session showed some examples of over the air changes. We had YouTube running … and then it was gone. The app closed and was then gone from the device. Access to particular WebApps / resources pushed out as weblinks. Device access to OSX Server provided WebDAV used to show uploading of pictures and documents created in Apple apps such as Pages.

The session really did only touch the tip of the iceberg, and I think that even doing a full day would not cover all the questions many of us would have. Like many things, it would only be after a few weeks of hands-on testing of a deployment that we would have a good idea about the full extent of what can and can’t be done, the different places you have to go to to make changes, the extent to which Apple security controls so many things … and so we come onto the positives and limitations of central deployment.

I’m not going to strictly put them in order, because so many are linked.

The ability to have some control is needed and what you get is kept as simple as possible. This keeps the background load on the device pretty low, which has the positive affect of longer battery life, etc … let’s face it, we have all moaned at some point about the load AV software or certain middleware applies to devices … and it also means that there is less chance of conflicts of settings. The limitation is that you have to operate within boundaries of the tools and settings you have … you can’t suddenly think of a new tool or setting. If the option is to turn YouTube off then that is what you have … not just limit it to particular sections. For that you have to use another tool such as a proxy server / filtering solution. You can’t stick remote monitoring tools on there such as you might have on desktops (Impero, NetOp, AB Tutor Control) or the security key loggers (Securus, Policy Central) as this is not what it is designed for.

As a device which can be personalised you also have to accept that the user can choose to turn of your centralised controls. If they do then they loose access to all those settings you have loaded onto the device … the wireless, the email, weblinks, etc. Now, I know many will be screaming at the screen right now about that being useless in class environment … the disruption as yet another student needs to go to see IT Support to get things fixed … but surely this is just another bit of classroom management. If a child doesn’t turn up with the right PE kit, or damages equipment in Design Technology … then surely it is a discipline issue, not the problem of the equipment / technology. And yes, it does go back to what has been mentioned before about carefully thinking about which model you are going to use.

Personally, I can see a class set of iPads only really being usable if there is an OSX Server device in the same room and accessed by the class teacher. There will be some admin tasks around this and I can see that being a problem due to some restrictions about how much tech support / admin teachers should be doing. I think you do need this personal access to the OSX Server too as this will be a key tool for providing access to resources and pushing things to the devices. I do also worry about how files / resources on a class set of devices would be tidied up / cleaned out. This needs a bit more thought and planning really. In a 1-to-1 scheme this is the responsibility of the user, and you could say that tidying up the device could be seen as an activity by the child in the same way they would tidy up the classroom before leaving a lesson … but we all know things get missed. All it would take would be for one naughty child to find a dodgy picture or, probably even worse, take an unsuitable picture and maliciously leave it for someone else (another child) to find. This is not just a concern I have about Apple devices … far from it, I worry about the misuse of any handheld device … and the lack of pretty much any control on Android devices worry me even more. We’ll have to just see what happens when Windows 8 comes out too, but based on previous experience of working with Microsoft tools … I think this will be a bit more thought out.

So, a summary.

iPhones, iPod Touches and iPads can be centrally controlled in an educational environment. It is best designed for a 1-to-1 scheme rather than class sets, but that doesn’t mean it can’t work and work well. No matter what model you choose you will have to think carefully about how you want to deliver the curriculum, how you will push out access to resources, how you will change some of the school procedures to take into account the growing use of handheld devices and this really does mean thinking about how classroom management will deal with things rather than relying on technology to fix things for you. You need to look at how you deploy and control your wireless networks.

I would honestly recommend anyone looking at either class-sets or 1-to-1 schemes to talk with other schools already doing it. You must also talk with at least one Apple Solutions Expert or AASP. They will help you with access to Apple Distinguished Educators who can work with you to think about your curriculum to make the most of the investment made in the kit. It is not just about the cost of the equipment alone.

ASEs will also help you access other things too … including things like information / support from Apple Financial Services. If you are serious about going to a 1-to-1 scheme then the finances need to be carefully thought about. I have seen too many 1-to-1 schemes fail on that aspect or fail on the curriculum design.

There are plenty of good resources on the Apple site to go through (some already linked) and the case studies make interesting reading … and with enough time in-house staff will be able to deliver good, workable and stable solutions … but I would still like to see a comprehensive guide as to how to deliver this. However, we have already covered how Apple tend to deliver things … and, being honest, the expertise of ASEs is usually worth the investment in time and money.

How do you plan?

Lifecycle Management

Developing a process

Whether you are using ITIL, FITS or other ideology / tools to help you develop a support service, you will find that you will borrow, adapt, use, tweak, refine and make wholesale use of a plethora of pre-existing examples of procedures. It is a simple fact of life that sharing and comparing procedures is more efficient than re-inventing the wheel in isolation.

However, you will find that there will be occasions when you have to create a process specific to your school and your school’s services. You may be the first school you know to move to a specific technology or to use it for a particular purpose, within the curriculum or for services involved in running the school. It is at this point you can fall back on two areas of support for such tasks.

You might have developed a house style for your processes with set communication routes, set timescales, a pre-defined hierarchy of decision-making and clear mechanisms for measuring success. Or it might be that you truly are starting from scratch.

Either way there are a number of ways that spending some time looking at Lifecycle Management could be beneficial to helping developing processes. Those with FITS or ITIL experience, especially ITIL v3, will tend to look at the whole service first to see where the process sits and then work on it, but the principles are basically the same.

In ITIL the service lifecycle is made up of 5 sections

  1. Service Strategy
  2. Service Design
  3. Service Transition
  4. Service operation
  5. Continuing Service Improvement

And these we can change into some simple questions.

  1. What do we want?
  2. How is it going to work?
  3. How do we get it to work?
  4. How do we keep it running?
  5. How can all this be improved and how can we use it to improve other things in the future?

And those with ITIL or PRINCE2 experience are now screaming that this is over-simplifying the process … and they are right, but we have to start somewhere. It is hard to talk purely on theory and go on about simplifying ITIL or FITS, so we will have to look at a real world example which we have to fit processes around. Let’s go for a big one that will affect every school, no matter whether a school runs additional management software from companies such as RM, whether you run thin clients, schools who manage computer deployments from central systems, all the way to small schools with a handful of computers … yes, we are talking about INSTALLING NEW SOFTWARE.

Over the coming weeks I will be looking at the questions above and applying them to the task of installing new software, looking at the wide range of options, looking at how different schools and schools systems might come up with different answers, looking at what the impact is on those having to come up with solutions, giving real examples of how schools have overcome obstacles to developing these processes and looking at the various roles within schools who will have to be involved.

As always, I am always interested in talking with schools who have gone through some of this and if anyone would like to be involved then please let me know.

Another ‘No to ICT Suites’ thread

This comes around on a regular basis about whether some schools (frequently primary school, but not exclusively so) need an ICT Suite. The desire or need to have one, or move away from one, will vary from school to school and there are many good discussions already out there about helping people decide what is best for a school on an educational basis.

After my post and video about the perils and pitfalls of mobile tech in schools (mainly aimed at handheld devices) this can be extended to other areas … and so, after a tweet from Mary Farmer, I thought I would put down some of the small things which I have come across over the years which can cause problems. None of these are show stoppers, and most will have some sort of solution, work around or can be planned for … but it is good to be aware of them first.

Now, there may be some assumptions here which are not right for every school but I am basing a fair bit on this around the idea that the ICT Suite will go and be replaced by either a handful of machines in each classroom or by sets of laptops which can be rotated around classrooms. It might even be a mixture … but there you have it.

1 – Initial Cost: The amount of money to set up, look after and replace a trolley of laptops is generally more than of a suite of desktops in a classroom. To get the same spec of laptop as a desktop is more expensive. You then have a mobile trolley to stick them in. There are various solutions out there, some with charging alone, some with network sockets (Important for a later point), some with security cables, some are seriously heavy duty and hard to break into and some are flimsy things which are basically a box on wheels with a number of 4 way extension leads to plug the laptop power pack into. Guess which one is cheapest? Guess which one schools are tempted to go for?

2 – Setup and maintenance: I know … this is all very boring and practical … and can easily be dealt with if you throw a bit more time at it. And there is a key point. Time is money … it doesn’t matter whether you employ someone in the school to do your IT Support, buy it in or it is done by one of the teaching staff in their ‘spare time’. The more efficient you can make this the better. To set up a set of machines, laptops or desktops, it works better if they are connected to a physical network point.

Remember I mentioned about those laptop trolley with network sockets as well? Well, connect the laptop to a wired point in the trolley and then the trolley is connected to a single wired point (preferably one with a 1 gig connection back to the core / central switch in the school). And this is presuming that you have purchased laptops which are happy to be booted up with the lid closed to have the systems, any software or any settings loaded onto them … most do but guess what … cheaper devices tend not to be happy about this or have problems with overheating if done on a regular basis … and it takes time and expertise to set a system like that up anyway … time + cost!

More common is to just get all the laptops out onto desks in a classroom, have a switch which they are all hooked into and then away you go … taking a classroom out of action in the process … and so it is done at weekends or holidays. Not the best thing in the world if you need software installing during the working term! And once they are set up … then there are updates and patches to the OS and software you need to do. Again, you can have similar problems … Security updates from Microsoft are a monthly thing. There are tools to help manage this but you then have to plan how these updates will get to machines, how will you test them beforehand to make sure it will not break any other software and whether there is a risk by doing so. This also applies to antivirus updates which should happen automatically each day!

3 – Storage: We have already covered about laptop trolleys and how they come in different shapes and designs, with a raft of different features and associated costs. You also need to make a serious decision about where you are going to stick this trolley before one of the teachers tells you exactly where you can stick it! This will probably be after they have had to walk from one of the of the school to another to push a heavy trolley around the school, trying not to run over little Emma or Michael (no matter how you are feeling it is *never* a good idea to run over little Emma or Michael… ), trying not to damage doorways, walls, tables, chairs, the trolley, other staff … only to find you have accidentally brushed past a display of work and torn it!

And then we get to where it is stored over night! Security is quite important here because a trolley which can be wheeled out of the school quickly (a burglar will not care about the doors and walls so they will be bashed a bit too) is a better prospect for your average IT seeking tea-leaf. Some trolleys can have security plates bolted to the floor, but that means wheeling the trolley back at the end of each day … trying not to damage doorways, walls, tables … you get the picture.

Of course, this is before you work out that the children are the ones who will be opening the door of the trolley and getting the kit out, and then putting it away again. And there will be times when you need the laptop power pack too (I’ll deal with batteries in a bit) and if the power pack is all cable-tied in (for very valid H&S reasons) then how do you get it out? Have spare packs at more cost? And what about the time to take the packs out (if not cable-tied in) and put them back in neatly so they are not damaged (ah … device lifespan … see further below!)

4 – Device Lifespan: In general the IT profession say you should replace a desktop after 3 years and a laptop after 4. This is not purely about usability, but also about when the warranty will run to, how long the device will physically last and about the amount of investment made in the first place. Software will change over time and new software will place more demand on the device. Because a laptop costs more initially then you have to run it longer to make sure you get full value. However, a laptop is more likely to suffer from physical degradation than a desktop. If we take hard drives first. Some laptop trolley store laptops on their edge and usually lean a little to one side. This means that the hard drives are not flat (or even directly upright), so if the devices are put away whilst running or are started up remotely (for updates, etc) then you can have, over time, hard drives fail and need to be replaced. Whilst this might be whilst they are in warranty (you did go for the extended 4 year warranty at some extra cost didn’t you?) you might find the manufacturer comes back to you and questions why 15 out of 30 devices have had to have their hard drive replaced. The usual response from a school or company is that we think that this laptop maker is rubbish … *when it is not their fault*!!!!

Then we get to laptop keyboards. You get what you pay for and so many cheaper laptops have keyboards where the keys fall off if you sneeze on them (not a good thing to do on any keyboard actually) and then you have to buy replacement keyboards and get them fitted. You do have the similar problem on desktop keyboards … but they are a few quid to replace, whereas laptop keyboards will by £45+ and they might insist an engineer comes out to install it so that you keep it in warranty … at more cost. Some manufacturers now treat it as a customer serviceable part and will just send it out with simple instructions about how to change it … but these devices tend to cost a little more on initial purchase … invest now to save later?

And then you get back to the reason why you might want to run down little Emma or Michael with the laptop trolley … because they have, between them, broken 3 screens (pencil on the keyboard when closing the lid), dropped two laptops, broken the socket where the power pack plugs into the laptop on 3 other them and put plasticine in the network socket of others (they wondered what shape it would make). So, from your set of 30 you could be down to 20 fairly quickly.

And then we get to battery life. Batteries on mobile devices suck. They don’t last the full day when you need them to, if they do then they make the machine big and bulky (and heavy) … making it difficult to allow certain year groups to get the kit out themselves … and certainly makes the laptop trolley even more heavy when pushing it around, then do not keep the same level of charge for the full 4 years and they have a limited warranty meaning that if they fail you might not be able to get them replaced after the first year (YMMV). So you have to consider them a consumable and plan to replace them when they start to fail. Oh, back to the initial cost again … you did budget for that didn’t you?

And there you have a short list of some of the issues which have cropped up … with some things people have done to work around the issues, or at least plan for them. It is by now means an extensive list and I would happily accept more things on there, and more suggestions about how you can get around them.