How will Windows 7 help schools – Part Three – Giving teachers their own laptops

Continuing my thread of half-term learning snacks, this one’s is shorter (only 7 minutes long), but talks about a feature which you may want to think about to help your teachers.

Here’s a scenario that may well have happened in your school:

  • You allocate a teacher a laptop

  • They use it in school, and take it home

  • Whilst at home, they use it for school work, and also use it for personal use – like downloading their photos and plugging in their iPod.

    As far as I’m concerned, so far so good – a sense of personal ownership helps teachers to value their laptops more highly, and also helps them to see more possibilities for using it to enhance their teaching. It’s great to walk into a classroom and to see a teacher using music to set the mood for a lesson, or showing a short video clip as a lesson opener, and I think giving teachers ‘ownership’ for their laptop helps this kind of use.

    But it’s when we move from the above, to one of the below that we get a problem:

  • The teacher wants to print something to their printer at home, which is connected to their home PC

  • The teacher wants to download some photos/music from their home computer to their laptop

It doesn’t take much – okay, it probably only takes 10 minutes and the teacher asking their teenager “Can you set this up for me”, for it turn from a secure school laptop, to an open-for-business home file server – with hard disk shared with every other computer in the household. Next thing you know…

There are obviously two approaches to this. One is to lock it down, which I personally think removes the ability for the teacher to feel ownership. The other approach is to allow teachers some flexibility and sense of ownership, but making sure that they don’t wander into trouble. (Like accidentally sharing all of their school reports with their children!)

HomeGroup, in Windows 7, is a new feature which is designed to make things a little easier to manage. As well as enabling easier home networking (at last!), it also means that “domain joined” computers – ie your school laptops – can be connected to their home resources (like printers, and shared photos etc) without compromising the security of the files on the laptop.

Take a look at the “Creating a HomeGroup” chapter to see what it can do.

Learning Snack - Introducing Windows 7 

Learning Snack: HomeGroup in Windows 7 

I used to work for a company which locked down our laptops – we got absolutely no control over software installation, and very restricted Internet access. As a result, most of us spent the time emailing files between home computers and work computers. If I wanted to write a presentation with images, I typically wrote it at home, and then emailed them to myself on my work laptop (even though it was sitting on the same desk). The same happened in reverse if I wanted to print something out. The IT people probably thought they had good security, but our workarounds probably drove a cart-and-horses through it!

Comments (2)

  1. AngryTechnician says:

    Need to take a look at the URL in the link… this one links to the BitLocker snack again (snack03 in the URL). The HomeGroup snack is snack05.

    Home use is always a conundrum and this will make it a little easier. Up to now, we’ve been recommending staff set up their other computer at home as the sharing ‘server’ and use their school laptop as the client, so security on the laptop is not altered.

    The biggest problem, however, is not a technology one at all. When teachers are permitted to use laptops for personal use, they become a taxable benefit under UK law. I don’t know of any schools that declare it through payroll, and I think you’d be hard pushed to find any teacher who would file their own tax return to declare it!

  2. Ray Fleming says:

    Thanks for letting me know about the broken URL AT. Have fixed it.

    Apols to anybody else who’s suffered!


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