Had a small meeting today to try to finally get (at least on a pilot basis) a tryout of our laptop carts (they’re similar to these, but not exactly the same–30 laptops in a huge, tank-like, rolling cabinet–to which we’ll be attaching a router, a projector, and–maybe–a printer).

We’re going to have a technician accompany the cart, to help with checking in and out (all laptops numbered, all checked out and returned in exchange for ID cards–no card, no laptop), and to troubleshoot any issues that may come up in class. I’m not sure that’s going to be a sustainable model in the long-term, but I hope so. It seems like it will help a lot with getting nervous faculty to give it a try, and (maybe) lessen the class time consumed by technical and logistical issues. I know it’s a system that is used successfully elsewhere.

Some other longterm questions…

What about maintenance on these machines as the use gets heavier? Especially as students start downloading malware, deleting vital system files, and so on. We don’t have the staff at this point (and probably won’t ever) to re-image each machine more often than maybe once per semester.

How well (if at all) is the wireless access going to work? And how secure (if at all) is it going to be?

From what I hear, the math department tried a similar scheme with calculators, and it worked for two or three years, and then the calculators started disappearing. Why was that? How can it be avoided? Nobody seems to know.

What if students want to (unlikely) bring their own laptops? That should be no problem–but letting them into the network may be tough.

Shall we have some kind of required training for faculty who want to use these carts? Even though we’re going to have a technician in the room?

There will probably be even more questions as we really get it moving, but I’m anxious to have it work. The equipment is already bought (of course, the questions should have been answered first, but that’s not the way things work!), and I don’t want to waste it. And I’ve had faculty asking me, already, “what if I want to use a lab, but only once in a while. They’re all reserved by people who use them every week!” This would solve that problem.