The really big suppliers of PCs and laptops are rarely the ones that are known for learning – the pedagogy that's at the heart of schools. In fact the big suppliers are sometimes regarded with disdain by educators. The term they still use is "box-shifters".
While DELL's equipment can be found in schools across the UK, it has been working purposefully to be seen as an education 'player'. It has even designed a rugged netbook for school students, with an optional touch-screen. At BETT 2010 it will be launching its Connected Classroom approach, which it has nurtured at the American School in Milan (see YouTube video below).According to DELL's director of public sector marketing James Quarles, the Connected Classroom is not just about products but is a learning "Ecosystem" for an entire school community - to acknowledge the fact that technology is not for its sake, the only answer.
"We are very interested in trying to connect the student experience the teachers, the senior leadership team the IT staff and parents into this community of learning so that the content they share and interact with actually enriches the students and enriches the parents experience."
The American School of Milan, which has students (aged 3-18) from 52 countries, was one of the first schools to use the Connected Classroom approach. Now instead of crowding around a small petrie dish, using a document reader teachers can project the dish and its contents on to a whiteboard. Using the touch interface of the Dell Latitude 2100 notebooks, learners can create all sorts of digital works including animated storyboards, music, art and explore virtual 3D worlds.
"Through the Connected Classroom parents don't have to wait until the end of term for scores or test results – they get it in real time," says James Quarles. "And for students who outside of class have many different connectivity devices – Facebook, Twitter, their mobile phones – they are now more able to come in and use the same creativity of how they connect in the way in which they learn, so they are more engaged."
"And for the IT staff who have been largely a support infrastructure, doing deskside support in a lab historically, they are now part of how teachers decide how technology gets integrated into courses."
January 13-16, Olympia, London
DELL - Stand B20