Our Strategic ICT and Education Group met yesterday.

This is our key planning group which oversees our  £1 million revenue budget and £1 million capital ICT budget. The group is composed of head teachers, members of our education ICT team, the corporate ICT team plus a rep’ from the Finance Department.

It’s our job to try to translate our ICT policy (which is linked to our Learning and Teaching Policy) into reality and we’ve made some great progress over the last 18 months.

A key decision we made yesterday was in relation to 1:1 access to the web. We’ve been involved in the Learning Hub initiative for a year now and it’s been interesting how our ideas have developed.

The aim of the Learning Hub project is to provide every teacher and school child (primary 6 and above) with a personal learning device or “learning hub” such as a laptop computer, PDA or Tablet. We are involved in a pilot programme where we will trial 1:1 access with one of our primary classes.

However, we reckon that given the financial limits which we will be facing in the future makes it very unlikely that we could sustain the free provision of hardware for all 15,000 pupils and 1300 teachers for any extended period of time.

Our preferred option is to explore the creation of a wireless environment in all our schools where pupils and teachers could use their own device to access the web. There are many technical, financial, security and political challenges to overcome in translating such an aspiration into reality.

One of the ideas we explored yesterday was the notion of bulk buying a range of machines which we would ‘badge’ and ‘sell’ onto parents. The fact that we could buy in bulk would significantly reduce costs. Obviously we would need to consider how we provide hardware to those with low incomes but this need not be an insurmountable problem.

We’re looking forward to the pilot programmes which will take place this year but it’s good to have an agreed vision for the future towards which we can all direct our attention and use to influence our future decisions.

9 thoughts on “MiWiFi

  1. It’s fascinating to hear how things are going with this project. Sustainability is always going to be a nightmare when this year’s top-end must-have is a piece of junk in 5 year’s time!

    Did the OLPC Project come up at all in discussions? It’s aimed at developing countries, but they are talking about including the developed world at some point.

  2. Robert, OLPC didn’t specifically come into our dicussions but we do hope to see every child being able to use their own device in schools. There is going to be an issue when some pupils have a top of the range laptop provided by their parents and others have $100 version provided by the authority – and we think we’ve got problems now with what sort of trainers kids wear!

  3. A great vision and its all eminently doable. I am sure that with the vision and vigour of the staff in East Lothian, budgets permitting, it will become a reality.
    Its not just teachers and pupils that would benefit from this, all the other staff in the schools would get a great deal from wireless and having their own device. It would mean that staff wouldnt be tied to their desks so much and therefore have greater flexibilty for movement around the school.

    One of the pages on the GLOW website by LTS imagines a typical school day when GLOW is up and running. It starts with staff logging onto GLOW in the staffroom on their wireless laptop. I am sure that this will be the norm in the near future, and there’s no reason why East Lothian shouldnt be at the forefront of the wifi revolution.

  4. I’m in agreement that WiFi is the way forward. We are about to make large investment in wireless at Musselburgh which (along with the network we already have established) will cover the Social subjects, CDT, English and the Science Department.

    Interestingly a number of our students have been reporting that they can pick up (but obviously not access) the wireless network in social subjects on their PSP’s.

    I guess one of the big issues for a project like this would be the software that would go on the laptops. Did open office and other open source software come up in your discussions?

  5. In my (admittedly limited) experience so far, two of the biggest frustrations in using ICT effectively have been connection speeds and hardware availability. I have had instances where it has taken almost 30 minutes to connect to a site, and if a significant number of users are also accessing the net at the same time, it can prove impossible, certainly within the length of a lesson, to get a connection. I understand this issue is being addressed through the GLOW initiative, so I’m looking forward to that day! Turning to hardware issues, most of the schools I’ve been in so far have one bank of laptops, or a computer suite, and classes are timetabled in, usually once a week for an ICT ‘lesson’. In my view there is a lot more we can do, across the curriculum, if the children had laptops available at all times – even down at the younger end of the primary school. ICT can be used to capture spontaneous learning opportunities which could otherwise be lost. While I can appreciate that giving each child their own equipment to take home and so facilitate 24/7 learning is the ideal which we should work to, I would suggest that an interim step should be to work towards much greater availablity of laptops in schools leading to the goal of every class having their own set.

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