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Putting the right hardware and infrastructure in place

Created by Silicon Schools Fund and Clayton Christensen Institute.

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  • female robot ada style avatar for user Ronald petit frere
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Video transcript

- On the infrastructure and hardware front, we're actually not going to go too deep because the reality is that a lot of these decisions are common sense, and the reality on the field is actually changing every six to 12 months, so we just want to give you a few tips as you think about these decisions. - Yeah, and the first tip is that the design of your program is going to influence the kind of hardware you need. If you're going for an ambitious flex program where kids spend a large portion of each day at their own time and choice, when they're online, you're gonna probably need one-to-one. And if you go to a station rotation model, in which there's three stations, you probably need one computer for each three students, but the model dictates your tech needs. - Now either way on that though, you're going to need a lot of bandwidth, and our friends at the EducationSuperHighway recommend that you have 100 megabits per second for every thousand students, and that seems like a pretty good recommendation that if you don't have, you're gonna choke your blended learning model. - Right, and if you take a look at the EducationSuperHighway website they have a nice testing feature, so you can actually see how much you have in your setting that you're in doing education. But the network is usually the place where we see most of the problems, either not enough bandwidth coming in or even just bad internal configuration. - Now of course you have to think about your charging, your outlets, and security as you dive into this, and we're seeing a lot of schools move away from this fixed model of desktop computers chained to an outlet with an ethernet cord, and much more toward using laptops and tablets with charging stations that allow you to get power for an entire day, and we would note that having power for an entire day on a device is really a critical requirement to do these sorts of blended learning models. - And schools think about charging in a couple of different ways. If they keep the devices at school, they usually have a system where every student plugs in before they go and the teacher ensures that the devices are fully charged when kids arrive. If you send the students home with the devices, you have to build in a routine that requires them to do the charging and bring back the devices fully charged. Just trusting students to do this on their own, probably not gonna work out for ya, and you might even need a backup. So set up a station in the room where there's a couple of charging outlets set up, and students can work there in case those two kids forget, and don't bring a charged device to school. - On the device front, your choice is really between desktop, laptop, or tablet. Now Brian and I aren't here to endorse a particular product, and we don't have any allegiances or compensation per se from any of the folks out there, but what we're seeing is that schools are generally moving toward adopting Google Chromebooks right now. There've been a bunch of market surveys, as well as in our blended learning universe, we're seeing this has become a clear trend right onw, and we think that the reason for this is that Chromebooks are significantly less expensive than a lot of the other options out there, they're often just $250 a pop, and also they're far easier to manage in a blended learning environment. They charge for a full day, so you don't have to constantly figure out where you're gonna recharge the computer, and because they operate in the cloud, they're really interchangeable. You can do your work, store it in the cloud, and then jump on another Chromebook, and leave just where you left off, and so they're really user friendly in these blended learning environments right now. - Now the one downside to Chromebooks is that you generally need a wireless connection for them to have their full functionality. So if you're in a school that has good wireless, they can be a great option, but do make sure that the software you want to use is Chromebook compatible, and this is only an issue if it's not web-based. If it can be run on a browser, you should be fine on the Chromebooks. - Now we also hear a lot of schools moving toward iPads, and iPads certainly have a cool factor, and there's also a lot to like about a tablet form for computing. Reading is a lot easier on these devices, and for younger students it's a lot more intuitive to use your finger and just swipe along on a device, rather than trying to figure out a trackpad on a laptop. In addition, a lot of the apps that are emerging are only available for mobile devices, which means that you'll need a tablet if you want to use those. - People are very excited about tablets, and I like tablets too, and I have seen tablets used best with the youngest kids. Kinders, first, second grade. In my schools, and what I've seen also a lot is usually around third grade and up, and even second grade and up, teachers want a physical keyboard. It's easier for the kids to start typing out whole sentences, paragraphs, and essays and papers and reports. - So do think about the cost, and whether tablets actually cost more than having a computer, but then also do think about this keyboard question because if students are producing a significant amount of content, generally schools are telling us that that keyboard is still a necessity because it can actually get really hard to think about typing a paper on your touchscreen, and if you get one of those flip keyboard cases to go with your tablet, at some point you're creating a more expensive version of what a Chromebook already has at the $250 price point. - One other thing to think about is how you're going to manage the devices across your school, and Google's actually done a really good job here with the Chromebooks by providing a central device management system that allows you as an administrator or you tech lead, to push out updates to all devices or sync settings, or bookmarks, and so forth, which makes it really easy and seamless to update. - Schools are often tempted to buy these really low cost netbook or cheap PCs because the initial purchase price looks so attractive, but you forget how much time and energy it takes to maintain these machines. Every time there's a new software update, or you install software, your tech team has to go computer by computer by computer to update these, which is a maddening process if you're talking about 30, 100, 400 students in a school setting. - So it's really important to think about all of these costs, and repair, and servicing, as you're considering which devices to buy. Really just think about it as a total cost of ownership, and there we also think that the nod goes to Google Chromebooks because they're just frankly a lot less expensive when you look at the total cost you'll put in over the life of the device. - Now there are certain tasks that still require more of a hard heavy duty computer. If you're running AutoCAD or you're doing real video editing, you might need a dedicated room or set of computers that can run Photoshop, and have full computing power, but if you don't, that's where we think there's some better options than the old fashioned large desktops.