Class in a box
is a rather nifty little idea that is finding great favour in education
circles at the moment.
Basically, class in a box is exactly what it says it is in terms of information and communication technology. What you get for your money is a steel cabinet on wheels, which contains a number of portable computers whether they be Windows or MacOS based. All the power requirements for the machines (anything up to 12 at the moment) are all contained within the cabinet. Also included in the cabinet is a network laser printer and (typically) an Apple Airport base station. All the computers are equipped with wireless network cards.
The cabinet can be put into a secure storage area overnight where the only thing it needs is a mains power supply to charge the machines. Then, when a number of machines are needed in a classroom (or any other space suitable for teaching) its simply wheeled to the desired space and plugged in. The portable computers are then handed out to the students and they can start work. They can transfer files to one another and access the laser printer as they would in any typical computer lab. If LAN or WAN access is required, a single connection on to the school network is all that is required as the base station handles all the routing that is required for the class in a box machines.
In terms of resourcing, class in a box is a managers godsend. CIB by its very nature can be used a much higher percentage of the time on a weekly basis than even a dedicated suite of computers that is shared by several groups of students. An average desktop computer in one of our primary schools is used something like 20-25 percent of the week. Its stuck in the corner of a classroom and only used by students in that class. CIB can achieve something like 80-85 percent usage (in theory) by virtue that you can take the computers to the students instead of the other way round. A single CIB can be shared amongst several classrooms with great ease.