Implementation Issues

What is the best type of chair for your school’s computer room?

Tuesday, November 8th, 2011 | Implementation Issues, Tips | Comments Off

By the time a school has purchased hardware and software to kit out a computer room, there is usually not much funds left for other things, such as chairs.  Yet, learners need to be seated comfortably in order to obtain full value of the technology.

Many schools have found that simple, cheap chairs – such as bar stools – are the best.

After 8 years of constant use, this stool still serves its purpose

Some learners must computers share
It could be two or three
They can not all sit on one chair
Or on each other’s knee

Do not go just for fancy chairs
Look carefully at price
When learners have to work in pairs
Choose those that will suffice

Search for a chair that’s small enough
The learners must sit near
To look at screens for long is tough
Each word to them be clear

The best with chairs that one can do
Is buying small bar stools
At a good price they come to you
They’re just right for the schools

(Taken from Furnishings, a section of The Khanya Story)

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Why ICT implementation in schools requires serious consideration

Thursday, September 8th, 2011 | Implementation Issues | Comments Off

Implementing an ICT project in a scool is not a simple matter.  Just because you’re experienced in the use of computers won’t guarantee implementation success.  Much more is involved.

The following suggestions could help you to succeed when you attempt the next ICT project in your school:

Outsource ICT implementation to a competent service provider if a school or education authority does not have internal capacity to do so.

Take time to conceive an ICT implementation project; it is too complex to do in one meeting or session.

Don’t try to impose a standard ICT solution – schools differ too much and one size simply does not fit all.

Most schools were not built with ICT implementation in mind; be prepared for considerable infrastructure modifications.

Ensure the quality of the ICT facility’s infrastructure – technology will be refreshed periodically, infrastructure not.

If the school’s electricity supply is unstable, ensure an uninterruptible power supply (UPS); it is essential.

Involve the school’s community during the early infrastructure phase of an ICT project; it ensures buy-in and ongoing support.

Identify an ICT champion from the ranks of the school’s staff to support the implementation of ICT from within the school.

Did you notice that not one of these suggestions has nothing to do with technology?  Yes, technology itself will be the least of your worries when you set out to bring ICT into your classroom or into your school.

These thoughs were tweeted by @e4africa with the tag #ictschooltip.

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The total cost of ownership (TCO) of implementing ICT in schools

Wednesday, August 31st, 2011 | Implementation Issues | 1 Comment

Do not think for one moment that the cost of implementing ICT in schools is restricted to the cost of hardware.  When contemplating to bring technology into your school for the first time, or to expand its use, consider the following:

The total cost of ownership of ICT in a school is much more than the initial cost – it includes recurring and hidden costs.

Recurring costs of ICT are those that come back again and again, such as software licence fees and often exceed the initial cost.

Hidden costs are those expenses that you don’t foresee when you purchase ICT equipment, such as additional training.

The main cost of installing ICT in your school may not be the technology itself but rather that of creating an appropriate infrastructure.

Never underestimate the cost of training teachers to equip them with the necessary skills to use ICT optimally.

These thoughs were tweeted by @e4africa with the tag #ictschooltip.

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Even windows are important in a school’s computer room

Tuesday, August 23rd, 2011 | Implementation Issues | Comments Off

Neglecting to pay sufficient attention to infrastructure issues is one of the most common mistakes made when implementing technology in a school. 

How much thought do you give to the windows in your computer room?

You may think that the windows in the room where the technology will be deployed do not warrant attention.  Wrong!  Consider the following suggestions that could make all the difference in your computer room, or even in your classroom if you are fortunate enough to have technology there:

Vinyl or plastic blinds are better than curtains in a school’s computer room – they’re easier to keep dust free.

Paint windows with enamel paint if you can’t afford curtains or blinds – this reduces glare from sunlight on computer screens. 

Brick up a computer room’s windows, or part of them – this decreases the likelihood of burglaries.

In dusty areas, seal the windows of the school’s computer room with silicon to prevent dust from seeping into the room.

When sealing the windows of a school’s computer room to combat dust make provision for adequate ventilation.

These thoughs were tweeted by @e4africa with the tag #ictschooltip.

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Infrastructure preparation for ICT facilities in schools

Wednesday, July 6th, 2011 | Implementation Issues | 3 Comments

Never underestimate the importance of creating a suitable environment and adequate infrastructure when planning to bring ICT into a school.  Here are a few things to keep in mind:

When a school decides to establish a computer room, a venue of adequate size and structure must be made available.

Any venue in which ICT is installed in a school must be secured in all possible ways to keep criminals out.

Provide a stable electricity supply and a plug point for each piece of ICT equipment you bring into a school room.

An air conditioner is not a luxury item in a computer room where windows and doors are closed to prevent dust from coming in.

Computers in schools should not be put on rickety tables – provide a firm working surface, safe for learners and equipment.

Sufficient lighting is required when ICT is brought into a school room but it must be possible to dim it to reduce glare.

Even the floor of a computer room in a school forms part of infrastructure – it must be firm, level and easy to clean.

Humidity is an enemy of ICT equipment – waterproof the doors, windows and ceiling of the school rooms in which it is housed.

Don’t forget to install fire extinguishers, which meet safety requirements, in your school’s computer room.

These thoughs were tweeted by @e4africa with the tag #ictschooltip.

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Why should ICT implementation in a school not be attempted without project management?

Sunday, June 12th, 2011 | Implementation Issues | 2 Comments

Implementation of ICT in schools is labour intensive.  An aspect often over-looked is that of project management.  Here are a few thoughts to ponder when you consider bringing ICT into your school for the first time, or when you plan to expand your current technology facilities:

ICT implementation projects require extensive project management – these projects will not succeed by themselves.

Prepare an individualized project plan for every new ICT implementation in the school – each roll-out is unique.

If project management capacity to implement an ICT project is not available in a school, obtain it from outside.

ICT projects involve infrastructure, hardware, software and training – a project manager is required to pull them all together.

An ICT project plan sets out who must do what, in what sequence it should be done, and how much it will cost.

These thoughs were tweeted by @e4africa with the tag #ictschooltip.

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What are the infrastucture costs that I may incur before installing an interactive whiteboard?

Thursday, September 24th, 2009 | Implementation Issues, IWBs | 3 Comments

Never underestimate the cost of infrastructure preparation to accommodate an interactive whiteboard in the classroom.  Your requirements depend on the state of the room and the type of equipment you want to install.

The following is a list of things that need attention:

Security: Some form of security in the room is always required to protect your equipment.  The computer and data projector are particularly vulnerable since they are portable and are easy to resell.

Electricity: You will need a few electricity plug points, and these must be in convenient places.  If you install the data projector in the ceiling, provision must be made for a plug close to where the data projector is mounted.

Internet: If the school already has access to the internet, ducting must be installed to house the connection wires to the point of access.

Light: It must be possible to reduce harsh light to enable all present to see the images on the board comfortably.

Worktop: The teacher requires a sturdy worktop on which to place the computer – in most cases a small cabinet suffices.

Wall: A sturdy wall is required on which to mount the board.  Walls of old schools are often made of clay or wood that may not be strong enough to hold the weight of the board – in these cases reinforcement is required.

You may fret about the cost of the board itself, but could find that the real killer is the cost to create an acceptable infrastructure.

Click here for more information about interactive whiteboards.

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Don’t underestimate infrastructure

Wednesday, September 23rd, 2009 | ICT in Africa, Implementation Issues | 4 Comments

The hole in the picture below is an important step towards technology installation at a school in Grabouw, South Africa.  It was dug to erect a pole that will carry electricity to the school.

Hole dug to provide electricity to Umyezo Wama Apile School - picture taken by Jaco Joseph

Hole dug to provide electricity to Umyezo Wama Apile School - picture taken by Jaco Joseph

The importance of infrastructure preparation as a first step towards technology implementation in schools in Africa is often under-stated or outright ignored.

While talking about e-learning and Web 2.0 and social networks and the classroom of the future, and debating the merits and demerits of specific operating and application software products, don’t forget that there are more mundane things that can make or break your project … such as digging a hole for the electricity pole!

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What is meant by the “total cost of ownership” of a laptop?

Tuesday, February 3rd, 2009 | Implementation Issues, laptops, resources | 4 Comments

The phrase Total Cost of Ownership – often referred to as TCO – means exactly what it says.  When the term is applied to a laptop, it refers to the accumulated costs incurred from the time you purchase the device until you dispose of it.

It is a mistake to think only about the purchase price of a laptop.  There are many other costs that must be considered as part of the total cost of ownership of the machine.

An analogy may help to explain the concept of TCO.

A ten year old boy, Thabo, wanted a dog.  He saw all his friends walking around with their dogs but his parents could not afford to buy one for him. 

Then they heard that puppies were available at no cost from the animal welfare society.  Thabo’s father rushed out to select Fluffy, a cute puppy with some Labrador blood in him. The boy was ecstatic.

At first the puppy ate leftovers from the table and slept in the house.  As he grew, his appetite increased and he became too big for the box in which he slept in front of Thabo’s bed.  The family could not afford a kennel, since their resources were already stretched to the limit by the dog food that was required by the growing dog.

At this time the municipality passed a by-law demanding that all dogs be neutered or spayed, or else a tax would be levied for permission to keep the dog.  Thabo’s parents could not afford either.  A distemper epidemic broke out among the dogs in the neighbourhood, and the cost to vaccinate Fluffy was high. The family realised that they were faced with a dilemma: the boy and the dog were inseparable, but they could not afford to keep the dog any longer.

What went wrong?  Simply: they did not consider the total cost of ownership of a dog before they took Fluffy home.

Owning a laptop is similar.  A teacher may acquire one at no cost, or at a fraction of its normal purchase price, but could forget about the cost of keeping a laptop.

Before rushing out to bring a laptop home, do the wise thing: calculate the total cost of ownership.  Then consider if you can afford one.

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Security in computer rooms

Sunday, February 1st, 2009 | Implementation Issues, security | 1 Comment

During summer vacation periods in the Western Cape, schools are the target of criminals.  This year many schools were vandalized once again.  But only two out of a thousand Khanya computer facilites were broken into with a loss of only a few pieces of equipment.

This is good news amidst all the bad news we receive daily.

To what could this good fortune be attributed?  Strict security measures undoubtedly play a major role.  Windows, doors and ceilings are secured – yes, the ceiling is an easy way for thieves to enter the computer room.  Alarm systems and the presence of security guards also act as deterrents.

The Khanya Story gives a glimpse into some of the efforts that go into securing the computer facilities in schools:

The safety bars must not be thin

  They must be thick and strong

The burglars – may they never win –

  Their tries must all go wrong

 

The stone guards on the outside wall

  Firm be they and robust 

No stone or rock may through them fall

  They are an abs’lute must

 

A flimsy gate is not enough

  To keep intruders out

One’s needed that is strong and tough

  The thieving one to flout

 

Attempt to find a safety door

  One made of heavy steel

Impossible through it to bore

  No one the goods can steal

 

Fort Knox – a place that’s quite secure –

  The lessons to be learned

Of entry points make doubly sure

  Full safety will be earned

 

The same rule you can here apply

  Pants with a belt you hold

To feel secure and keep them high

  Are braces to you sold

 

A double safety door is not

  An over kill at all

It will keep out the wicked lot

  The thieves both great and small

 

So brace it up and bolt it down

  Of thieves who’re bold beware

Protect the lab like a fine crown

  Be brave and take good care

In addition to our own safety precautions, Khanya formed a partnership with ITCrimes – all components of each piece of computer equipment are recorded electronically and made available to the police force.  In this way stolen equipment could be tracked with ease.  I believe that this initiative plays a major role in making thieves think twice before they would target a computer room protected in this way.

If, in spite of all these precautions, criminals still get away with the loot, a good, paid up insurance policy will soften the blow.  Schools are encouraged to keep their policies up to date to ensure that they are adequately covered.

In our experience, the most effective protection mechanism is the committed involvement of the community. When community members are actively involved in the process of creating a computer facility for the school right from the start, they are sure to assume a protective role.  The low incidence of burglaries in computer rooms this year once again proves the wisdom of this approach.

We will continue to use belts, braces, buttons, bolts and whatever bulwarks can be built to bolster the security of precious technology facilities at schools.

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