Project #000000001

Well, at least project #000000001 that I have blogged about. It’s a biggie too.

That OS, everyone has been moaning about as being a failure – Windows 8.1 – well, I have a plan to role that out. To some 387 tablets.

I have a plan that puts 16 of these into every classroom. With the option of booking an additional 16 into the lesson to make 32.

Gone are our laptop trolleys. I have always hated laptop trolleys.With a passion. From a support perspective, they are everything you are told to avoid. But from a teaching and learning resource perspective, they are everything you want in a classroom.

Instant access to technology, to user areas, software and work shares. All in a familiar environment that everyone is used too. This is pretty much what our staff Network Development group told me as we sat down to a pizza.

Schools have tried to replicate that instant access, with tablets, especially iPads, us included with some 200 deployed. And until now, I can promise you, every type of tablet solution fails in some way. You might win some people around to your fantastic iPad setup, but I bet it has its limitations, I bet you have had to train staff in new ways to achieve things that laptops could do easily.

Now, some might argue – that is progress, that is using new technology and people need to adapt, and to an extent – they are right. But at what point does adapting to new technology, which has no future upgrade path or development, stops becoming progress, and starts becoming hassle? When do you count the cost of additional training and all the additional bits to get it to do what a laptop already does with ease.

Don’t get me wrong, there are places and times for these technologies – the app stores and apps themselves, their build quality and ease of use, their battery life are all fantastic, but they are not the only answer to mobile technology in classrooms. They are a great resource, but teachers are looking for more then that. They want integrated IT in their classrooms with no hassle. They see iPads and Android tablets as too far away from their windows desktops to be integrated IT, time and time again we get asked, across all schools, to get iPads to do things that  a laptop could do straight away.

But laptops are not tablets, and tablets have clear benefits to them. Cost, battery life, cameras (the most used features on our iPads, weirdly) among some.

So the answer is clearly Windows tablets then, isn’t it? Windows 8.1.

Our new demo tablet

Well, yes and no. I am walking into this deployment quite blind. 8.1’s deployment in domain environments on this scale are somewhat limited. Tablets which run Windows are still new products, and Windows 10 is on its way (I am sat here writing this on a Windows 10 laptop)

8.1 has been criticised time and again for being a crap desktop OS, and it is woeful, but stick it on a tablet – and understand that it can achieve, with ease, what staff want, and it starts to make sense. More so, when Windows 10 is only going to enhance the solution and hardware further.

In simple terms – people can login and access their files, they can use fully fledged Office programs, no watered down apps. Cameras save straight to user areas for editing on a desktop, and windows runs Chrome, Chrome has flash.

Software deployment is cheap and easy using existing solutions. Site wide licences and EES already cover us. Performance is good, login times under 10 seconds (which Windows 10 should improve on) and office, chrome response times are all acceptable. We don’t have to train staff or support staff again.

Devices? The terra unit’s we are going for, from MillGate and VeryPC, come in at sub £200, with a mouse and keyboard.

I may be mad, but the order is in. 16 in every classroom, and additional trolleys of 16 to make class sets when needed. Even PE are getting 16.

I plan to blog through the process, so take a look at those when they arrive.