Our experience with carts has been very positive, and I can think of no better way to provide the access teachers want and students need without having to drag kids to the “wired” lab. We also do not have space for more than one lab, and with 15 classrooms (plus Unified Arts) =250+ students in the middle school one lab is just not enough.
Cycle: we do 3-year leases, and are just about to retire our oldest generation of laptops at six years (!). This is a BIT too old, but they are holding on. We have replaced most of the original batteries, but most lasted 3-4 years. That said, the labs were not used in the earlier years as heavily as they are now, and a couple of our 3-year olds are beginning to need battery replacement already. Still not bad, and I consider this a justifiable expense to keep them going. Battery prices are also going down, but you get what you pay for. BTW does anyone have a suggestion for disposing spent Lithium batteries?
As for maintenance, yes it IS a bit more time consuming, but again I think the time is well spent when I walk by classrooms where students are learning core subjects “in place” and computers are wherever we want them, whenever we need them. As I worked in one of our “project rooms” today with our Lego Robotics club I also had a discussion with the facilitator about how such applications would just not be possible without portable labs. Laptops are also much more conducive to collaborative projects – three kids at one table vs. trying to cluster chairs in a lab.
Washington West Supervisory Union
on 4/1/09 8:48 AM, Steve Cavrak wrote:
On Mar 31, 2009, at 7:40 PM, Bjorn Behrendt wrote:
Something to consider is that the batteries only last about 3 years before it no longer holds a charge. ~ my theory is that the mobile lab should be on a 3-4 year replacement cycle anyways.
(1) The replacement cycle is an important point to consider - one way to make this somewhat easier is to move towards a leasing model - so that there is base funding for computing.
(2) We've had good luck so far with a cart that has two racks of notebooks in them - we leave the notebooks on, so they charge for 6 hours, then discharge a bit for 6 hours. This is a cycle, I gather, designed to prolong the life of the battery - leaving them on charge too long destroys their memory ?
(3) In our case, these are all Macintosh notebooks running XP as a Parallels application. Windows 7 has been shown to run very nicely under VMWare, so that's another option for them.