Tuesday, 5 July 2011

Help! How do we sustain 900 PCs with all the cuts?

Hi Paul,

Hope you are well. You may remember I came out to see you last year to seek some guidance on directing my schools strategy on the development of the ICT infrastructure.
Congratulations on the ebook http://bit.ly/haighysbooks  by the way, I have bought it but just need a chance to read it now!!

I have a question and was just wondering if you could help me in my line of enquiry: I am currently looking at ‘virtualising’ the site here as currently we cannot sustain the costs of supporting 900 + desktops in school, however I am slightly worried about the impact this may have on developments within technology and L&T in the future as all contacts I speak to think that mobile devices and the ’cloud’ is the future?? I am not overly technical so trying to get my head around all this. However I see no way around this at the moment as our curriculum and the fact that we still teach ICT as a discreet subject directs the technology at the moment.
I have been told that you removed ICT from the curriculum discreetly and integrated it into other areas. Is this correct and did this work??

Anne Assistant Head.

Hi there Anne,
I think you’ve got two questions here- how to sustain 900 PCs in school and what’s the best way to deliver ICT.

You certainly don’t need 900 PCs to deliver discrete ICT but you do need access to a lot of computer devices to deliver good teaching across the school and ICT lessons need a ‘proper computer’ per child.

We do have discrete ICT, many years ago we did go for a fully cross-curricular model but not anymore- the ICT curriculum got bigger and more advanced and we needed expert teachers in discreet lessons.

Student owned mobile devices are something all schools should consider, but they won’t replace proper computers well, they might plug gaps and make lessons that otherwise wouldn’t have use ICT better but it can only be part of the strategy.

You might want to look at replacing full blown PCs with thin client terminals- for anything other than heavy developer work like video editing they do a great job, essentially you have a monitor and keyboard working off the processor, files and software on a central server. You will save not only a lot of money in buying hardware and software but they will last much longer and use a fraction of the energy (remember to consider TCO: Total Cost of Ownership).

The discrete ICT teacher might be less keen on them at the higher end of the curriculum but in most school ICT suites they are great- although we prefer to put ICT into classrooms rather than suites but with a bit of fixed benching they can find their way into ‘normal’ classrooms.

The other option you have is equipping the students with a mobile computer each- netbooks for example and setting up an e-learning foundation with charitable status that parents make contributions in to for a device their child owns and then you have a sustainable model that you stop equipping the school with devices that are not accessible to anyone most of the time. Add in business sponsors and gift aid and you can put a great package together.

The other angle is reduce your costs by moving to open source software- Linux operating systems, open office applications, moodle VLE etc.

A lot of this is in the book but if you want to hear me and other explain it all face to face then come down to Save me a Million next week and I promise we’ll save you at least that over 3 years if you like all the ideas we present. Sutton Coldfield next Tuesday http://bit.ly/kussw5

ICT as a subject is potentially under attack in the national curriculum review and almost certainly not going to be a core expectation so a cross curricular approach could become more appealing but only if you have the expertise across all staff and the ICT access. This move that might mean some schools lose some or all of their ICT teachers is very worrying as we need all students to have great digital literacy and many to have ICT careers for the future of the economy so I’d ignore the national curriculum review and offer what your parents, children and local employers want and keep a large KS4/5 ICT option department going with all students getting a good foundation in KS3, perhaps through a creative model such as putting ICT on a carousel with other subjects that have a small share of time or embedding projects into other subjects that are team taught for part of the year with an ICT specialist (which would also help improve the ICT skills of the other teachers).

Happy to chat more and support your developments over a longer period of time- another member of your team was here on a learning walk a few months back and wanted to work more with us.

Keep in touch and hope to see you soon. If you don’t mind I’ll depersonalise this and put it on my blog- your question is a biggy for many schools.