The new school term starts on Wednesday 4th September here in Cumbria and it has been a busy week on the Server-Free School project. The Chromebooks have all been commissioned and enrolled on the school domain and the Aerohive wireless network is installed but it still needs a few tweaks tomorrow to ensure it is ready for the staff training day on Tuesday.
Getting the Aerohive network up and running has been more difficult than anticipated. As a remotely managed network it requires particular ports to be opened so that there can be constant two way communication between the Access Points and the Hive Manager. The school takes its internet connectivity from the Regional Broadband Consortium (originally Cumbria & Lancashire Education Online or CLEO for short, but now One Connect - a joint venture between BT and Lancashire County Council) and it took a few days and several calls to the helpdesk to get someone to take the necessary action and open the ports. However, even with the correct ports open, the APs are still not connecting so I'll have to spend a couple of hours tomorrow on the phone to Solutions Inc, the Aerohive supplier, whilst we tweak and check to ensure everything is working correctly.
Chromebook commissioning was a walk in the park by comparison. The Google Apps for Education Management Console is a wonderful tool - simple, intuitive and and powerful. Enrolling the Chromebooks and Chromebox is handled automatically and it took only an hour to create 145 users and set up the apps they will use. I had kept one access point from the old wireless network working and this was sufficient for the enrolling process. As each device was enrolled the Chrome operating system was automatically updated and was then rebooted to the latest version of the Chrome desktop. This automatic updating is one way in which technical support time is reduced.
I managed to persuade Google to provide the school with a free charging trolley - as they do in the US for a school that purchases 30 Chromebooks. It really would make Chromebooks a much more compelling option if this were to be standard practice in the UK too, but Google seem reluctant to take this step. The trolley arrived on Friday and I was able to leave the school that afternoon with all 30 Chromebooks snugly fitted into the trolley and the timer set for automatic overnight charging.
So, we're nearly there. Fingers crossed for a smooth start at the staff training on Tuesday.
I'll report on that later in the week and keep the blog updated with how the devices and Aerohive network perform over the next few weeks.