Tips for managing laptop trolleys and laptops in the classroom

Vicki Cole

Vicki Cole is an Innovate My School expert and writes regular articles on laptop security and charging solutions for charging mobile ICT en masse.

Vicki works at mobile ICT security, charging and storage expert LapSafe® Products, the company behind the UK’s first ever laptop trolley. LapSafe® Products has been a trusted brand within the education sector for more than a decade, providing superior solutions to track, manage, store and charge laptops, netbooks and tablets since 2000. LapSafe® Products pioneered the industry it now leads and manufactures the most comprehensive range of charging products on the market. Recent products include: the UnoCart™ sync and charge for iPads, the ClassBuddy™ quality low-cost laptop trolley and the RFID Diplomat™ laptop locker.

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Laptops are fantastic learning tools, but it is no secret that mobile devices can pose issues for schools when it comes to managing and deploying equipment. Although laptop trolleys were created to resolve these problems, it is still important to have an action plan in place to get the most from your mobile ICT.

To make organising your school’s ICT equipment that little bit easier, I’ve put together some short tips on how to manage laptop trolleys and laptops in the classroom.

Organise training

Most laptop trolleys are easy to use, but there are still things to consider when using charging carts in your school. For example, where will you store the laptop trolley overnight? What security precautions should you take, and how are you going to make sure that all classes have a fair chance to use the equipment?

You should give some thought to these issues and then organise a short training session to ensure that staff know how to use the laptop trolley, its contents and how they should look after the equipment. In doing so, you can provide answers to any queries that staff might have, make sure that laptops are shared fairly and are less likely to be faced with damaged or stolen laptops as a result of misuse.

Combine timetables with banks of laptops

Unless you are lucky enough to be able to invest in a laptop for every pupil, you will need to find a way to effectively share your limited resources between classrooms. To do this, you could create a rota or booking form which can be stored in a central location, uploaded to your school’s intranet, VLE or even made into a Google Form to make it easier for staff to reserve a laptop trolley. However, I would advise against posting the rota publicly on your school’s website, for obvious security reasons.

If your school has more than one laptop trolley, you might want to store one of these units centrally so that pupils can still access a laptop even if their class is not timetabled to use a laptop trolley. This could be helpful for pupils that only need to use a laptop briefly to research or check information.

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Plan for flat batteries

If laptops are going to be used many times throughout the day, it is likely that they may not be returned to the laptop trolley for long enough to fully charge before they are taken out to be used again.

Although you might be able to plan a rota so that a laptop trolley is not used in two consecutive lessons, this will obviously reduce the amount of access that pupils will have to equipment and could disrupt learning. What is more, if your laptop trolley is designed so that the AC adaptors are stored inside the back of the cabinet, it can be fiddly to remove these at the start of a lesson just to power the laptops whilst pupils are working on them.

With this in mind, it is important to plan for flat batteries. If you want to use your AC adaptors to power drained laptops whilst they are in use, you could select a laptop trolley with integrated charging. This would leave you free to store your power packs outside of the charging cabinet so that pupils can quickly access them if their laptop needs to be plugged in.

Alternatively, you could invest in a desk charging solution that can power multiple laptops from one wall socket in a central location. This will mean that the AC adaptors can remain securely stored inside the trolley and minimise trip hazards by reducing the amount of cables littering the floor.

Decide how laptops will be issued and returned

In many cases, pupils will probably remove laptops from the trolleys themselves, returning the machines at the end of the lesson. Although this may be easier, it will only be possible if pupils are willing to tell staff if they have accidentally damaged a laptop before it is returned to the trolley, or are not in too much of a hurry to get to their next class that they do not plug in their laptops to charge. If they are not, pupils in other classes may find themselves unable to use a broken or uncharged computer. Even worse, laptops may not be returned at all.

It is, of course, unrealistic to suggest that you inspect each laptop when it is returned to the laptop trolley to see if it is returned, damage free and on charge, but there are things that you can do.

You may find it helpful to stand near the laptop trolley and use a register to tick off pupils’ names when they have returned a laptop and placed it on charge. Alternatively, you could invest in a locker that pupils can access with their smartcards. These cards can link to your school’s database, enabling teachers to monitor which laptop has been taken or damaged, and identify its whereabouts if stolen.

I hope that the above tips make managing your school’s laptops easier and help you to get the most from your laptop trolleys.

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