Cork school’s cloud system has silver lining to reduce costs

A pioneering Cork school has called on the Government to roll out a cloud-based system which cuts out the need for parents to purchase expensive new PCs, laptops, or tablets.

Bandon Grammar School has already started using a new computer technology to dramatically cut costs which means all students, regardless of the device they use, can access the same material in the same format.

Primary and secondary children are returning to school in the coming days and parents often come under financial pressure, especially since some tablets can cost upwards of €500.

Assistant principal of Bandon Grammar School, Trevor Collins, said the school has been working with Dell through its Flexilabs programme and now hopes it can be expanded nationwide.

Under a new system of virtual desktop infrastructure (VDI) schools no longer need to purchase new PCs, laptops, or tablets. Instead, once they log on to their VDI account, students using cheap tablets have the same processing power as those using expensive iPads. The system is centrally managed and centrally updated through the cloud.

Every child has their own individual account that they can log on to from any device so you have a kid with a very expensive top-of-the-range device and another kid with a €99 tablet and they will see the exact same material.

Mr Collins said the functions of the laptop or PC are not being used so older computers can be retained with software updates added to them. This means that his school, which received donated second-hand PCs more than five years ago, has not had to upgrade: “It’s a huge saving from a school’s point of view. It is about a change of mindset; often if a school is spending money on IT they want a room full of new computers, they are not needed.”

If rolled out nationwide, Mr Collins said children in underprivileged areas would have access to the same resources as those attending exclusive fee-paying schools. He said this system would also give the Irish education system an advantage over other countries.

Minister Jim Daly said: “The purchase of costly iPads for schoolwork in a world where technology is constantly changing is a serious worry for parents.

Mr Daly said the initiative is “a revolutionary development that could transform education” and said the Government now has a political responsibility to pursue it: “I have already brought this initiative to Minister Bruton’s attention.”

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