Schools wasting money on tablet devices that won’t work properly


Schools could be wasting thousands of pounds on tablet devices that won’t work properly thanks to old and insufficient wireless connections, according to technology experts. 

Experts says slow download speeds, frequent disconnections and complete ‘wireless wipeout’ are becoming more common because schools don’t check their wireless network capacity before they invest in tablets. 

The warning follows predictions from the British Education Suppliers Association (BESA) that almost a quarter (22%) of “pupil facing computers” will be tablets by the end of 2015.

Andy Cartwright, from Probrand, said: “Old wireless local area networks (WLAN) traditionally designed to cope with one mobile device to every three users are the main cause of ‘wireless wipeout’.

“However, demand has risen to more than three devices per user, and aging wireless networks simply cannot meet the demands of numerous modern devices and high levels of data transfer. 

“Common issues include users regularly getting disconnected as they move around campus and high signal interference, which hinders connectivity and speed of downloads.  This dictates poor user experience, which is bad for technology learning.”   

“Educators need to appreciate tablets and other mobile devices present different IT challenges to laptops and classroom PCs from security to accessing the main network.  Advice should be sought if planning to move to a mobile infrastructure.”

Despite many schools facing performance and implementation issues, it is expected that the use of tablets will continue to increase in education.  The Scottish government recently introduced a framework that could see £60m spent on tablets and netbooks in the public sector, while Cardiff council is making tablets available to every school in the city. 

Mr Cartwright said: “There are three key things that schools can do to prevent a costly mistake.  Firstly, consider how you want learners and teachers to interact and use technology today and tomorrow as part of a three year plan.  This will help to make sure a long term strategy is developed, which will reduce costly mistakes.

“Secondly, before buying mobile devices, check your WLAN is up-to-date and can cope with high demand.

“Finally, don’t forget to set a usage policy and manage expectations internally.  Wireless devices are wonderful learning tools but they are naturally slower than laptops and PCs as is a wireless network when multiple devices connect at once.

“Pupils used to getting almost instant downloads on their smartphones at home will easily get frustrated if their expectations aren’t managed.”

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