Hardware Decisions: A Small Play

Well, naturally this never took place between one Headteacher, one Subject Leader and one Technician at any time, but it sums up many conversations I’ve had or have discussed with various folk about who decides to purchase what.

HT: Good morning. The school has just purchased some new laptops. They’re in the trolley in the corridor waiting for you.
SL: OK. That sounds fine but I thought we were going to consider other options and not just increase our stock of what we already had?
HT: The technician thought that laptops would be best.
SL: Why?
HT: He didn’t say
SL: Did you ask him?
HT: Well, he looks after our IT equipment, so I just went with what he said.
SL: But he doesn’t use it with children so might not be best placed to judge. We did float the idea of tablets and/or Chromebooks when we spoke. And, with all respect to the technician, isn’t that a bit like getting the mechanic to choose your next car?
HT: That’s a bit harsh. Don’t you think he should have a say then?
SL: Of course, but I don’t think it should be solely his decision. I think the end users ought to have a say, including the children. Harsh? Well, as one of the people who use them day to day I’d have liked a say, as would some other staff.
HT: But the technician said Chromebooks have some limitations.
SL: They do, but so does any hardware. Tablets are great for portability, doubling up as a camera and there are some fantastic apps out there, and more, but for some of the work the children do, a larger screen, keyboard and mouse are still relevant and are a better choice.
HT: I know about iPads……
SL: Tablets. There are alternatives to iPads and depending on the task you’re doing they can be just as useful and cheaper.
HT: Don’t you like iPads then?’
SL: I do. I own one but I use it when it’s appropriate and personally don’t do work that requires a lot of typing on it. For that I use either my iMac, laptop or Chromebook.
HT: (Smiling) Have you got enough toys?
SL: (Also smiling) I’m a bloke, so no, but over the years I’ve acquired a few and currently the laptop is the least used as it’s old and slow. My next decision will be whether to replace it or carry on with my remaining stock. Incidentally, I also have a Tesco Hudle and a Leonovo tablet, bought partly so I could weigh up the pros and cons of each.
HT: I was at a meeting last week and one of my colleagues said she never uses anything else apart from her iPad and she’s not going to but any more laptops.
SL: With respect, she’s probably not delivering any of the curriculum and is likely to be only taking notes, answering emails and making diary entries when she’s at meetings. I’ll bet she has a PC in her office to work on.
HT: Fair point. So, which is best then?
SL: Impossible to answer as it all depends on what I’m doing and sometimes which one is nearest to hand. For example, I know of one school that purchased staff an IPad each just so they could run an online assessment package and check the online calendar. They could have done this just as well with a cheaper Android tablet if that’s all they wanted to do. Actually, they could have used their existing hardware and spent nothing, but that’s another debate. Anyway, back to the laptop purchase. Why didn’t we have a joint chat about this?
HT: The technician said one reason for buying laptops was that the others don’t connect to the server.
SL: True. They won’t, but we haven’t used any software that resides on the server for well over a year I don’t see this as a disadvantage. In fact, most of the time we connect to the server and then access the web. We just spend 5 mins connecting to something we don’t then use.
HT: What do you use then?
SL: An online software suite of software that does meets most of our curriculum needs as it stands and also links to other software on the web as and when we need it. As time moves on I see less and less need to connect to a server. More of what we want will be in The Cloud.
Enter Technician:
Technician: But what about those times when you need a piece of software that isn’t available online?
SL: Then we’ll use the laptops we already have with that software installed on it.
Technician: But you’ll need to connect to the server to save it.
SL: Not necessarily. We’ll save locally and when the work is finished, the children will upload it to their online storage area that comes as part of the software suite.
HT: What about MS Office?
SL: What about it?
HT: We need to connect to the server to access it.
SL: Well, there’s Office365 and GSuite. Both free and online and available to those who need access to an ‘office’ suite, but we still have these laptops and they’re connected so it’s not as if we’ve lost that facility.
SL: These laptops and the PCs that still drive the whiteboard still connect to SIMS. Anyway, these new computers were more about boosting our stock for curriculum use not admin use.
Technician: What if the children need Office though? Your software doesn’t do what Office does.
SL: Well, firstly I’d argue that they don’t need the facilities that Office has, just like most adults don’t and as I mentioned, there’s Office365 and GSuite available free if needed in addition to our paid for curriculum software.
Technician: Just a question. If Office365 and GSuite are free, why do you spend money on other software for the pupils to use?
SL: Because I feel that they’re not appropriate vehicles for most primary pupils to use. For example, we’re not in the business of teaching them ‘PowerPoint’ we’re about teaching them how to present, with or without software and if they choose with, they choose with what.
HT: So, what’s our way forward so we don’t have an disgruntled Subject Leader and unhappy technician at loggerheads?
SL: Have the discussion. Talk about the pros and cons of each device. Don’t put all your eggs in one basket and have a range. Oh, and ask the pupils what they think. Some of them have some pretty interesting thoughts on the matter. We could engage them via a blog and/or a vote, both of which exist in our curriculum suite.
HT: OK. for the next purchase, that’s what we’ll do. Agreed?
All: Agreed.

Exit, Stage Left, All on speaking terms.

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