Some schools encourage student-owned laptops as opposed to school-owned laptops. The families are therefore responsible for the machine (software, troubleshooting, repairs, etc). This model puts the onus of support and repair on the students and families, thus relieving the school's tech department from many issues. However the school obviously has much less control over the machines. Granting access to network resources and the internet requires carefully planned solutions to avoid security threats. For more info on security and accessing network resources see Wireless Networking & Security.
OES describes the growth in number of student computers being used at school:
We have a 1:1 program in the Middle School with school-provided laptops, but in the Upper School we have a more flexible system.  We record information about home laptops as they are brought in, and we aid in the process of gaining Internet access and printing capability. We don't add them to our domain, however, because we don't want admin rights on their systems. Also, we don't want them to have browse rights to our network. AD authentication would make some things work more easily (like PaperCut), but we've always found a way to work around the need for AD authentication by the systems themselves. We had a bumper crop of home-owned laptops brought to OES this week for the Upper School finals. The only technical issues we had were minor problems with printing, which were almost entirely resolved by the proctors having students email or Jumpdrive files to a school computer for printing. Even in our Middle School program, we're incorporating as much open source software as possible (for image processing, audio work, programming, 3D modeling) so that students can install the same software on their own computers without incurring significant costs. If we ever had courses that expected all students to have Mathematica, for example, the challenge would be greater, but we would do our best to investigate the best prices and options for families. Currently, I believe the student price for Mathematica is $130, which isn't much more than some textbooks. One title that we expect all students to have on their home-owned laptops is Microsoft Office. We're planning to register our school and all US students at http://www.techhead.org/ so that Office Standard can by bought by students for $68 to $75.
St. Agnes says:
We allow "home" laptops on our network using a captive portal and placing all IT resources on our student intranet. Resources include web based storage and class collaboration, exchange email, community blog server, laptop repair ticket/status, web based hot spot printing and application/book streaming server. We moved from AD clients to the portal environment this year and have reduced our service desk tickets by 25%. The system is easy to navigate and we never have scripting issues. We have 950 laptops. Podcast Describing this Portal System
Questions to consider:
From a teacher support stand point, when you have a classroom of random student machines does it make life harder on the teachers? What support does your school provide to students as far as laptops go, since they can be any model? We use Toshiba exclusively and like the fact that we can do repairs onsite so we can return them in minutes to hours instead of days to weeks. Do you provide loaners or are students without a machine during repairs? Our families have the option of buying outside our program but then they don't receive the same level of support.
Laptop Tracking ProgramsEdit
- We have been using software by Computrace on our Macintosh computers. They are supposed to call in daily and register their IP address. We have not had success with this software. Some call in on schedule, others never call in no matter what we do. If you are using Macs, I would stay away from this product.
- We've had great success with Computrace. We started out with Windows laptops for quite a few years and have done well recovering lost and/or stolen machines. We are now in the second year using Macs, we are half Mac and half Windows. All have Computrace. We have done just as well recovering our Macs. Just last week, the local police, armed with a search warrant, recovered a Mac from a house where the parents swore their son could not have stolen anything. So we are quite pleased with the results. Also, knowing that Computrace is on our laptops prevents friends or relatives from "acquiring" a laptop by simply paying the deductible.