Metropolitan Business Machines (MBM) will roll out almost 200 PDAs at Gosford Christian School (GCS) after completion of a successful trial. It is the largest contract of its kind in Australia and the reseller claims to have another 20 schools looking to follow suit.
"This is a benchmark contract and certainly something other schools will look at," said Karen Norsa, education account manager for MBM.
"A lot of schools want to go down the portable track, but don't want notebooks because they think they are too heavy or expensive. We see good projections for PDAs over the next year or two because parents like to see their children using the latest technology and enrolments go up as a result."
Norsa is planning to run seminars early in the New Year with Stephen Babbage, IT administrator at GCS, to promote the role of PDAs in the classroom and beyond.
Teachers and students at GCS used the iPAQ 3760, iPAQ 3850 and HP Jornada during an eight-month trial. The Jornada proved to be the PDA of choice but MBM will roll out iPAQ 3950s, because the Jornada has been discontinued following HP's merger with Compaq.
About 40 teachers will have a new PDA this month with around 150 high school students expected to take the digital plunge next month. The machines will be backed with a three-year insurance and extra warranty contract adapted from the reseller's notebook program. Parents have an option to upgrade after two years.
MBM is also conducting a wireless assessment with GCS at the moment and Norsa estimates that 70 to 80 per cent of what she does with schools relates to wireless.
"We will start with some hotspots in the playground and around the school where teachers can have access and get the hang of it," she said.
"The school envisages extending this to students about a year down the track. It is a brand new program and it is important to ease into it slowly."
The school asked for features such as a battery life that covered the whole school day and a shock-proof case to make it robust enough to withstand being dropped. The PDA also had to be small, portable and inexpensive and featuring current technology so parents are not buying obsolete equipment.
Parents can choose to pay $1,650 up front or make repayments to the school through a two-year scheme at an extra cost of around $20. Babbage estimated that the total price, which includes bundled software, represents a saving of 45 per cent on the recommended retail price.
"We are the first school to do it and companies are keen to secure the business because they believe many schools will go in the same direction," he said.