When one solution for student devices wasn’t working, Whangarei Girls’ High School took the initiative and changed its supplier. It turned to Acer and hasn’t looked back, writes Lee Suckling.
Whangarei Girls’ High School recently invested substantially in buying several hundred Acer laptops after the school’s previous solution proved too problematic.
The school participated in SNUP in 2013 and began purchasing COW (computers on wheels) units that could be moved to different classrooms as needed. Originally the school bought 104 new laptops for its COW units.
“We went with a solution but it turned out that it didn’t work that well,” said Deputy Principal Kevin Dean. “They were dropping off the network, and their start-up times were too slow. The performance was disappointing and the log-on process was hard.”
Deciding the school needed higher-specification machines and a comprehensive trial to ensure they were suitable, WGHS asked its IT service provider New Era IT to go to the market and come up with some options.
“We’d had a lot of Acer devices in the school previously and been really happy,” said Dean. “The background to this was that we had been running 240 Acer PCs in the school and had been super impressed with not only the performance of the machines but also their reliability – we had zero failures over a prolonged period of four years.”
Therefore, Acer laptops with high specification RAM (8GB) and a fast processor (i54210) were chosen for the school.
“The major benefit was the Solid State Drive (SSD). This has resulted in a huge performance improvement. Laptops connect very quickly and cope well with all the demands of students including running heavy applications, such as Adobe Creative Cloud. And it has solved the problem with boot up. The machines take seconds, not minutes.”
Originally the school purchased 110 Acer TravelMate P245-M laptops to bring the total available to more than 200. Right now, it’s purchasing an additional 58 Acer machines from New Era IT.
“In a school of 1,400 students, that’s still never enough and the COWs are booked for weeks. Next year, 2017, we hope to get to one-to-one. We still have the older laptops, so the Acers have definitely made things easier.”
Collaboration and confidence
Microsoft Office 365 and OneNote are the primary software systems used by the school on the Acer laptops.
“The speed and the SSD of these has made classroom activities a lot smoother. Collaboration is much stronger. We have students all working on the same PowerPoint presentation simultaneously. They feed all of their work in with OneDrive, and some teachers are using OneNote Classroom now.”
For teachers, especially those who have been hesitant to use the COWs because of the long administration time to get them booted up, Dean says the Acer laptops are “boosting confidence” significantly.
Back-up support and service
The school has had a laptop storage issue that was causing keyboard keys to dislodge but found Acer’s back-up support and service very good.
“They have worked with us closely to determine the cause of the problem and sort out solutions for us. Physical keys were coming off. Acer was good to support and fix the affected laptops until we found out the cause. In the end, it was a storage issue. When you pushed them into the COWs and weren’t careful, the separation bar could slide between some of the keyboards and screens.”
Acer Platinum Partner
After establishing a good working relationship with Acer, with most of Whangarei Girls’ hardware sourced from the company, it was offered to become an ‘Acer Platinum Partner’. Both Acer and New Era IT are also looking to sponsor cultural or sporting events for Whangarei Girls’.
“This has really only come in during the last few weeks and we are absolutely delighted.
“Acer will generously sponsor a staff member (IT professional development coordinator Desley Dempster) to attend the prestigious EduTech conference this year in Brisbane. Acer will also work closely with New Era IT on hardware deals to support good decisions and great value. Both companies have committed to working together in supporting best practice use of the technology they are supplying.
Clearly, making the move to Acer has brought many benefits. However, looking forward, Dean knows the school can’t rest on its laurels.
“We still need to make sure we’re always getting a good deal and good quality. What’s being provided needs to remain competitive – but we’re more than happy with our current relationship with Acer.”
Lee Suckling writes for INTERFACE Magazine