ICT in a box

9th February 2001 at 00:00
Usually this column covers the commercial products that will make your life easier, but sometimes it's teachers who come up with solutions to ICT problems.

Elizabeth Garrett Anderson is a large, innovative girls' school in the Kings Cross education action zone of the London borough of Islington. When it went wireless, it had to find a way to make the laptops secure and accessible.

Staff chose the laptop option because too much pressure was being put on the school's computer network rooms, and meeting pupil demand was a constant struggle. Helped by funding from the school's recently acquired City Learning Centre status, EGA decided to invest in laptops and wireless technology.

But laptops can bring their own challenge: how to make sure they are secure? Where to store the radio transmitter? What about storage and security of peripherals such as printers, scanners, projectors? How to move the laptops between classrooms? How to make sure they were powered up for the next lesson?

School ICT co-ordinator Phil Walker's solution was to design a special transport and storage case. It has been custom-built to a high specification and houses 16 laptops, the radio transmitter receiver, a set of battery chargers, a projector, printer and scanner. The case is wired to plug into the school network, which is accessible from every classroom.

One of the first classes to benefit from the laptops is 9T. They arrive at their French lesson as normaland are excited to hear that the new laptop trolley is on its way.

A few minutes later it glides through the door, matt black with aluminium trim, like a rock star's luggage. But this is no band on tour. This is a flexible ICT classroom in a box on wheels. Secure, sturdy and easy to use, it also looks impressive.

Phil Walker is there to make sure there are no hitches. He unlocks the case, takes the top off and positions the transmitter. The front comes off, revealing the laptops stored neatly on shelves. These are quickly distributed and the girls log on to the school network. The computers sit on the desks among the textbooks with not a wire in sight.

Working in pairs, 9T are set a task, "tout sur moi", designing their own websites in French. Using NetOp, the ICT co-ordinator takes over their screens for a few minutes to demonstrate what to do, and the rest of the lesson is mainly in French. French teacher Yolande Rabet encourages the students to research vocabulary on the internet.

Students use the award-winning CSE Workspace Explorer software, which provides controlled access to applications and the school's network. At the end of the lesson, students save their work on the network and return the laptops, which are then recharged in the carrier, ready for 8A in geography. Ms Rabet and 9T are impressed.


Phil Walker is happy to share ideas and discuss ICT solutions. Email: phil@egas.islington.sch.uk

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