Thursday, 28 March 2013

Teacher Devices: Our unexpected solution - Mobile Device Strategy for Schools (Part One)

When the Berkhamsted School ICT Strategy Group meets, there is a collective knowledge and wisdom around the table that always makes for a lively debate (@nickdennis, @elearninglaura, @davidpacey2, @steveredman63, @independenthead and our (no-longer) non-tweeting, iPad-loving Vice-Principal - Business Operations @peteranicholls). Recently we met to grapple within the thorny and topical question of what should be our school mobile device strategy. Heading into the meeting the hot money was on iPads for staff and pupils, but after a couple of hours of kicking around the issue, we came up with a surprising solution . . .
Mobile Devices for Staff: key factors that we considered:
We wanted a flexible solution that would allow ICT enthusiasts to push on, whilst enabling the less confident ICT users on the staff to continue developing their skills at a pace that didn't take them too far out of their comfort zone. At the heart of our strategy is that we want a solution that does not box us in for the future.In particular the solution needed to encompass the four following factors:
  1. We believe that teachers are going to want to put teaching resources up on the wall for the foreseeable future, so any solution needs to drive the classroom projectors - we are moving from IWBs to Epsom projectors with WIFI capability (EB-475Wi). We are configuring these devices to be driven in three ways: hardwired from the classroom PCs, by teachers' laptops (windows and MacBook) using WIFI and by iPads using AppleTV. 
  2. To run ISAMS, our school SMS, which only runs on IE. 
  3. To run specialist software in key subjects, some of which are only available for PC (e.g. CAD-CAM software in DT etc.) and drive Specialist peripherals (e.g. data loggers in Science). To run Apps - to extend the range of T&L opportunities for pupils. 
  4. We believe that Apps are key to where we want to go. We think that whilst web-based apps have their place they are always likely to be inferior to ones that run locally. The range of Apple apps is better than that for Android.

Our Solution: Apple + Citrix
The need for access to Apps drove us to an Apple solution. By also running Citrix on the Apple device, teachers can have easy access to the SMS and to specialist software through the virtual environment.

iPads v MacBook?
There is no right or wrong answer to this question. Ultimately it will come down to user preference, but the advantages/disadvantages of seem to be:
  • are more portable, lighter
  • lend themselves to a classroom without walls - they are excellent for field-trips
  • have smaller memories - there are capacity issues
  • have a shorter life span - replacement cycle (2-years(?) more like a smart phone than a laptop?)
  • the keyboard/ typing interface does not lend itself to extended work
  • don't have a USB port
  • aren't compatible with some peripherals
  • Printing is more difficult from iPads (WIFI printing more expensive and Drop-box solutions cumbersome)
  • There are 'mouse' issues with iPads - large fingers on touch-screens do not make fine tuning easy (try editing an Excel spreadsheet in Citrix)
For these reasons, whilst it is likely that we will  have some teaching staff who wish to use iPads, we anticipate that most staff will opt for a MacBook.

The MacBook running Citrix seems to be the most flexible solution going forward.
Yes, it surprised us too!

We'd obviously value comments and feedback - especially if we've missed something here! Thanks

1 comment:

  1. Dear Mark,
    I´ve read your post driven by its title for we seem to be undergoing a similar process. Being at an initial phase of a BYOD programme, I also believe that the thrust must come from teachers and thus that´s where we should be looking at right now to put all resources necessary (time, devices, support, etc). More in my blog, if you like... so as not to bore you.