In thinking about this blog post, I spent a few minutes looking at inspiring quotes, and possible ideas on ‘time’... then quickly realised that this blog post (meant to be ideas on saving time) was actually wasting time. So, no inspiring quotes from famous visionaries, no gutsy statements or ideas taken from elsewhere… just this…
One of the biggest challenges or pains that I see every day in schools is this: ‘We don’t have time to…’ and ‘We don’t have the budget to…’.
One of the biggest challenges or pains that I see every day in schools is this: ‘We don’t have time to…’ and ‘We don’t have the budget to…’. This weekend I might have found a quick win, solution, to help save a bit of time during your working day, at very little cost!
My girlfriend has a laptop, provided by the school where she works, which is meant to allow her to be productive at home. The problem is, that from what I’ve seen it actually absorbs time...rather than provides chances for her to be productive.
Let's go back in time.
Its Saturday and we are are sat having morning coffee and breakfast. My girlfriend has plugged her laptop into the mains, and has powered it on. For fun, and because I'm working on my Chromebook already, I have started timing the laptop boot up. The laptop for reference is about 4 years old, runs Windows 7 and has a rather uninspired configuration - doing a bit of research this afternoon the device would have been about £350-500 new.
Anyway, back to the booting machine (and me and my stopwatch). To get to the point where someone could log onto the device it took slightly longer than 3 minutes. A further 2 minutes and Microsoft Word is loaded into a new document, and we are ready to type!
Time to do some maths.
For the following calculations there are a lot of assumptions, best guesses, and are meant to get people thinking...these are not promises!
So, I got to thinking, that if my girlfriend has to power this machine on and off during the day (the fact it needs to be constantly connected to a power source is another matter), and lock or log out a few times, how much time is actually wasted just by doing this?
Turning the machine on initially once at the start of the day and off once at work, then repeating at night at home. Perhaps one break time to log out / lock the device and log back in, then the same again at lunch. Perhaps once a week moving to a place (not a classroom) for PPA time? Then one day like this at the weekend? That should give the minimum amount of time in a working week. Im also assuming that there are 38 teaching weeks in a year (excluding bank holidays, training days etc).
In short, if you said 10 min a day is used to just get the machine to a state of being able to work on it (and that is probably a bit conservative), that's 50 minutes a week (excluding the weekends), it is about 1900 min a year, or, say 30 hours, or about 3 ¾ days used to just wait for a laptop to turn on…!
Time to get real.
Ok, its not possible to bunch all this time together and have it off in lieu, BUT...imagine even having just 5 minutes extra at the start and end of the day...imaging being able to drink that coffee whist flicking through your twitter feed and engaging with other teachers...imagine having just a few minutes extra a day...an awesome start, right?
There were a few stipulations (a design brief if you will!)
- It had to run ‘Windows’ because the IT support team hadnt the time to try to figure out other operating systems on their network.
- It had to have Office (it turns out the annual subscription to this for HOME use is about £79 a year). Office had to include Word, Excel, Outlook, Publisher, and Powerpoint
- It had to be able to run web video, and complex VLE pages quickly.
- The fan on the old machine was crazy loud, so the new machine had to be quieter (I did think about measuring the sound level, but got told it was ‘going too far’)
- The battery life had to be good enough, and mean no power lead was laid out in the classroom / our lounge (this was my stipulation)
- The laptop had to connect to the schools ‘new’ wireless ( I assumed the new wifi would have the latest technology / speeds / connection types)
- Finally, the device had to be portable, light, and have a ‘comfortable keyboard.
So, all this AND a wireless mouse and case...hmmmm…
I gave myself the time it took to visit and return on the train from Manchester on Saturday to try and solve this problem. If I couldn't find a way I would resort to loaning my Mac out (with VMware or something similar..not the best solution).
After watching a few YouTube reviews, looking at offers from PC World, Tesco, eBuyer, eBay and Amazon, I reached the understanding that; an ultra portable, low speed, multi core laptop would be good enough for general 'Microsoft Office style' use. That most high power ultra portables (think ‘better than netbook’) are expensive, but the entry level devices are stupidly cheap. And, for most day to day use (SIMs, Word, YouTube, Powerpoint) 4gb of RAM with an Intel(something-or-other) would be a good base to get a few years from a device.
Next I researched into what schools spend on kit (you might be able to tell me exactly what you spend per device in the comments), it turned out that the budget is usually £350-500 and the devices are assumed to last a minimum of 3-5 years. So for the sake of argument, let’s assume £100 per year for each year of a working device.
I rounded it down to a handful of devices.
The Acer went out in the first wave of decsions as the laptop cases for £25 minium for a 15.5” laptop…
The Lenovo MIIX reviews seemed great at first, but as the device was 10.1 (and my Chromebook is a 10.1) the keyboard was rather compact, and reviews hinted that for long term use it would be tricky to get used to the compressed layout.
This left the HP and the ASUS.
Having watched the reviews for both, I opted for the ASUS, the device was smaller and lighter than the HP, with less ‘bloat ware’ (extra stuff installed on the machine) and had a slightly better actual battery life - also, Amazon Prime could deliver the device by Sunday 1pm! (Winning!)
Asus ordered! Next up was a decent small case to hold the device and the ‘geek bits’ to go with it. After much delberation, and being a sucker for advertising on Amazon, I went for the reasonably priced and 4.8 starred Amazon Basics 11.6 laptop case.
Time to recap.
A quick discussion (mainly about my rough approximations and poor research and statistics) and I had browsed Amazon, found the laptop (sub £180) the Asus E200HA. It is fast enough to run Office, fan-less, light, and cheap! The laptop case was a £9.99 Amazon Basics 11.6 inch bag (which is big enough to hold an iPad, the laptop, and all the chargers and cables. Lastly to make the 32gb hard drive a bit more substantial, a micro SD card 128gb (about £29.99) all delivered next day before 1pm!!! Oh, and I forgot to add, the laptop came with a free 1 year subscription to Microsoft Office Home (worth £79.99?).
Once the delivery arrived on Sunday morning it was time to test the idea...would the little sub £200 Asus laptop stand up to typical teacher use. A quick set up, rather surprisingly for Windows, and the device was good to go.
Side by side with the older laptop the Asus was rocket fast, silent running, and even better...lasted a long while. I could do a complete rundown of the device from top to toe, but essentially the idea (for me) that I can buy a teacher a decent and quick working machine that is actually portable (doesnt need a power adapter for a full working day) all sub £200 is excellent.
Time to reflect.
An interesting thing to come out of this is now how I see schools planning on using laptops in the classroom. Lets get away from the Windows, Mac, iOS, Chromebook debates...Its not really about that.
For me, it is a simple proposition. Does the piece of equipment I am purchasing help teachers teach. In this case, I want to stop a teacher waiting to do work. Does the solution mean the teacher can do the thing they want, with the minimal amount of fuss/wasted time, and then move on…It is not a case of making do, that simply costs time / workload increase / stress.
The question when looking at this type of technology should be more about WHY, than WHAT.
I understand that this Asus Laptop is brand new, the battery is as good as it can be, and hasn't yet been ‘clogged’ up with bloat ware. And in three years the device will probably look old and out of date. However, for less than £200 I have a device that WILL last a few years, and if leased over that, or budgets set aside, would mean for the same (or less than the previous laptop) I could have all staff working on devices less than 24 months old… ALL THE TIME… not just once every so many years. Surely that's a great thing to have? Surely saving a little time here and there will add up to bigger things?
We are already seeing benefits from this little device (it could have easily been any of the other light and cheap laptops), namely the time saved during the weekend on just getting things done!
This is just the tip of the iceberg for saving time with tech, it is a simple and cheap step to help staff get stuff done. What are your thoughts? Do you have old machines? Can you work remotely...easily..without loads of logins? Is your laptop wired down and not truly portable? How many times a week to you stare at your screen waiting...
Let me know what you think in the comments below!