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Laptops in school
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Shalliornot · 03/08/2020 09:53

My daughter is starting a state secondary in September. All pupils have been asked to take a laptop each day to facilitate covid measures (teaching in non specialist classrooms, not handling paper etc).

I’m a governor of another local state secondary, if this were suggested there I would have a number of objections - I’m just wondering if I am being overly negative? Has anyone any practical experience of laptops in the classroom?

My negative points would include;

Financial pressure on parents (this would be my main one, my daughters new school gave no reference or detail to financial support)
Increased risk of crime - 1800 kids carrying hundreds of pounds of equipment to school.
Faffing - no way are they all going to be charged, what will they do with them for PE etc
Infrastructure- I don’t think the wifi would cope
Not sure whether 30 11 year olds on laptops are compatible with teaching from the front...

I don’t see how these outweigh the positives - which as far as I can see are text book availability which could be dealt with in other ways and marking, which could be dealt with by quarantining written work.

Also word processing and long hand writing are different skills of course.

Any thoughts? Am i being a luddite? From a teachers perspective would laptops be a good thing?

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JulyBreeze · 04/08/2020 00:20

Wow @Shalliornot that's a shocking thing to ask of parents!!

What kind of socio economic area is the school's catchment? Is it academy? Was there no mention of what would happen if parents couldn't provide such a thing?

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echt · 04/08/2020 03:05

I'm in Melbourne, in a secondary school where all students bring their own laptop. It's in a reasonably comfortably-off area. There is support for those on lower incomes, though because of privacy laws, I don't know the scale of such take-up though know it's means tested. All students have laptops and always bring them. They are banned at recess and lunch, as are phones all day.

All students have lockers and I've not heard of any stealing/damage. Coming in with their laptops charged was problem at first.
The school has the software to control access to the internet while in school, e.g. needs teacher permission via links for Youtube. It's called Cyberhound.

In terms of infrastructure, there is a cost in terms of upgrading the wi-fi to support increased traffic. Also access needs to be in every classroom and this costs too. IT technical support bods to set and repair laptops is needed. To get value out of having laptops, the school has bought into a system called Compass which does everything, rolls, reports, homework records so teachers can check work has been uploaded, and that lesson plans have been read. But it's expensive.

Online learning has knocked a hole in handwriting skills but in general we balance the two so they aren't disadvantaged at exam time.

Covidly it's good but online marking is very time consuming indeed.

Last but not least, the teachers need to be supported in this work, i.e. loaned a laptop, as happens in Victorian schools. Ours are new and replaced very three years. They're not top of the line, but OK.

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user1471525172 · 04/08/2020 08:52

Urgh. I have one student in year 10 with a laptop for all lessons. It's rarely charged. He forgets the cable. He needs to sit near a socket but also near me. He forgets his passwords. I have to remember to add stuff to one drive. He types too loudly. His assistant types too loudly. He dropped it and smashed the screen.
It's his Normal Way of Working, so it's fine - but a classroom full of them would be interesting. From an access arrangements point of view, I can see this might be a problem later when parents want their students to type exams - if it becomes their NWW, then the school would be hard pressed to say no. But that has massive implications for exams.

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Shalliornot · 04/08/2020 08:53

Thanks both, JulyBreeze it’s an academy in a fairly middle class area but there are definitely kids whose parents will really feel, or just not be able to afford, the outlay, particularly on top of £x hundred for uniform. I expect that help is there if you ask but they didn’t say that.

During the school partial closures this school required all pupils to log in to lessons so I expect that part of it might be preparation for further lockdowns and there is expectation that most students already have laptops. I know access to computers and internet was a big problem for students at my school and we supplied some laptops and dongles as well as work on paper. I don’t know how they are going to afford to support getting all kids laptops though (or the rest of it).

Echt, that’s really interesting and incredibly helpful, thank you. We are in the process of updating staff laptops but I hadn’t thought of tech support. Were the laptops introduced as a response to Covid? Do you think there are any advantages outside Covid?

I used to be an examiner for professional exams and I hated the switch to online marking.

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Shalliornot · 04/08/2020 08:59

User, that was my mental image! From looking at my son working at home all those little barriers with the tech multiplied by 30....

I think they are hoping it won’t become NWW, but who knows....

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JulyBreeze · 04/08/2020 10:08

I hate it when there is financial help for things in school (or elsewhere), but people aren't told about it or invited to ask, puts too much onus on people being confident and / or desperate.

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Hercwasonaroll · 04/08/2020 10:08

Aside from the cost, I'd be pleased with this as a parent.

Laptops mean so much more than just textbooks. For my subject there are so many interactive resources that aid learning. It will also make the transition over to online learning when school has to shut much easier.

There will be issues you anticipate but they will be a useful learning tool.

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user1471525172 · 04/08/2020 10:39

@Shalliornot if they're using them every lesson, it's NWW. Your exams officer will have a break down thinking about it (we struggle to get enough computers for the candidates who need them as it is...)

Our tech team were providing remote support to staff and students during lockdown and a lot of it was passwords - but there was also a lot of support needed in relation to out of date software (which we could fix), poor infrastructure (some of our villages have terrible internet access), old tech with too little storage capacity.
Our laptops For year 10 from the government arrived on the last Friday of term, incidentally. Brilliant.

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Shalliornot · 04/08/2020 10:57

That sounds like a horror waiting to happen!

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echt · 04/08/2020 13:22

Echt, that’s really interesting and incredibly helpful, thank you. We are in the process of updating staff laptops but I hadn’t thought of tech support. Were the laptops introduced as a response to Covid? Do you think there are any advantages outside Covid?

We've had laptops for a good number of years now. Teachers have always had them, they're standard issue.

The Victorian , or was it federal?government funded laptops for all students about 8-9 years ago but stopped it about three years in as it cost so much. About 5 years ago my school along with other went for BYOD - bring your own device, which had to be a laptop, not phone or tablet. The IT support covers getting all students' devices onto the school's system and dealing with printing/log on issues. Broken screens, etc. are entirely the owner's problem. Now I think of it, when the school provided the laptops, broken screens were very common. Now not so much Hmm

Having laptops already in place made the move to online teaching and learning less of an issue in terms of access, though getting our heads around Teams and Zoom at short notice was as mind-boggling as it was for teachers in the UK.

Outside of Covid the laptops are good for research, access to films vis Clickview, Education Perfect, and allowing students and parents to always have access to lesson plans (this last not the ridiculous plans insisted on in the UK), records of work submitted, etc.

I forgot to say that part of the infrastructure is projectors with audio in each classroom so the teacher can hook up their laptop and screen whatever part of the lesson they need to.

It's expensive.

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Danglingmod · 04/08/2020 19:18

I think it's utterly ridiculous to ask this of parents just four or six weeks before term begins!

And all the issues you raise are perfectly good ones, charging, storage (very few UK secondary schools have lockers)... Kids not knowing how to touch type would be right at the top of my concerns and all round IT skills... Not so much ten years ago, but with the advent of tablets, kids' IT skills have really gone backwards.

I bet teachers will end up getting closer to the kids to sort issues (like how do I open a file?) than they would with exercise books...

A move over to laptops in the classroom, with planning, up skilling, infrastructure (our school WiFi is woeful) and money isn't a negative thing in itself but in a crisis situation, just daft.

I'd hate to be a teacher in that school.

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Hercwasonaroll · 04/08/2020 19:45

The ICT skills deficit would be tricky to begin with but after a few weeks that would be sorted. The skills deficit will still be there if online learning is needed again. At least these students will just be able to get on with it. I can see lots of positives to having a laptop. WiFi would need to be locked down and only set websites accessed. To begin with it would be a nightmare, but a few weeks in they'd be flying and so much more prepared for online.

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Danglingmod · 04/08/2020 20:06

WiFi would need to exist! In my school, no WiFi and only 3g network coverage.

Let's hope OP's school isn't like that!

And I agree that the skills deficit can be swiftly overcome, but would definitely entail the teacher getting really close to the pupils - more so than looking at books, so it seems contrary to their aims in a "Covid secure" (ahem) world Grin

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Hercwasonaroll · 04/08/2020 20:12

Impossible to teach properly without getting close to them in any world to be honest.

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Danglingmod · 04/08/2020 21:21

Completely agree, but distancing for teachers seems to be the reason this school has landed parents with a totally unexpected large expense in the middle of a very challenging time, financially and otherwise.

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Hercwasonaroll · 04/08/2020 21:27

Perhaps they're saying distancing but really aiming for a seamless transition to online learning. They won't want to outwardly say they predict a switch to online as it will rock a lot of boats, but seems a sensible move.

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echt · 04/08/2020 21:30

I forgot to add a significant element to the requiring laptops and the money angle. In Australian schools, all of them, the parents pay for books, paper, writing equipment for their child. And even government schools have annual fees, so the culture is one where families expect to pay.

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Danglingmod · 04/08/2020 21:47

Most probably, Herc.

I don't have an issue with the Australian system (or Irish re paying for textbooks,) where it's known in advance.

I still don't know how they expect half their parents to find hundreds of pounds with no notice.

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noblegiraffe · 05/08/2020 10:33

I think the WiFi will be a massive issue if the school isn’t set up for it. We have school WiFi, it’s fine for the odd device, but when 30 laptops try to log in at the same time it can’t cope. Sometimes it takes 20 minutes to get logged in and there’s always some kids who can’t and who end up sharing with another kid.

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cdtaylornats · 05/08/2020 22:58

Scotland spent £9 million on 25,000 laptops in May. Still in storage.

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Rosieposy4 · 06/08/2020 19:43

We are an iPad school, and have been for years.
The expensive bit of kit being stolen just hasn’t happened at all, before we rolled it out we had lots of parents worried their dc would be mugged on the way home.
It has saved us as a school a lot of money ( maintaining IT suites is super expensive and the kids kept vandalising the computers), we have invested heavily in decent wifi in every room and it’s mostly ok.
The kids very quickly learn how to use them properly, we use specific apps mostly and the year 7s are nearly all competent within a day or two. We pay for access to online text books, and testing apps as well. This means every student has access to a book, and it’s always up to date, before that we had reached the stage where we had one up to date class set ( 16 copies) of my particular GCSE subject, you had to book them ages in advance, only to then discover LS had borrowed one, a member of staff had left one on their desk and the kids were 3 to a book.
The testing apps allow us to check recall really quickly, and with no marking, that’s good because marking longer stuff online definitely takes longer than book marking.
Dyslexic students can have the work read to them by the iPad, spell checked etc, dictate their work.
We do make all the students ( bar those with writing support) write in books as well.
It has been a massive help during this pandemic, we have consistently been able to set decent work across the year groups, the pastoral staff did identify some kids with interent issues early on and we supplied dongles.
My only objection is the cost. Kids on fsm get them for free, the others can supply their own or pay a monthly fee for them. As usual the families just above fsm levels have it hardest. I do think yours is very short notice, but I think you might be really happy about it from a learning point of view.

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