Wednesday, August 14, 2013

Back to School Laptop guide

As a parent and a teacher it is difficult to ignore the annual ‘back-to-school’ shopping ads.  One item that may be on your shopping list is a laptop.  While this might be one of the more expensive items on the list, it is important to make a decision that ends up with a tool that lasts several years.


creative commons photo

Here is my guide to choosing well.  Each item on this list is further explained below.

  • What type of device or laptop?
  • Cost
  • Battery Life
  • Weigh and Size
  • Software

Laptop or ‘Device’??

If you are considering good educational technology for the student in your family then the first choice is on the platform that suits your son or daughter.  While an iPad tablet my have the appeal, a laptop is the most effective tool for school.  More about this can be found in thisa rticle from Dave Truss, an administrator in our district: http://pairadimes.davidtruss.com/byol-vs-byod

As hybrid device that I tested in my classroom for the last few months is a Google Chromebook.  While Chromebooks can’t run all software and websites, the students really liked them and the cost is under $300.

Cost

I’ll state the obvious.  It should be as cheap as possible.  While the specifications that include processor, memory and storage always lead you to spend more, this doesn’t make it better for learning.  Any basic laptop purchased in the last two years will meet the needs of our students.  There are lots of 14 inch screen laptops in the $400-$500 range at our local retailers.

Battery Life

Charging a machine at school isn’t practical or safe.  Long extension cords around a classroom can be dangerous.  Find a machine with a 5+ hour battery life and the student can work at their desk all day.

Weight and Size

Light, small computers fit comfortable into lockers and backpacks to travel between home and school.  Also a smaller screen and laptop better fits on our small student desks beside a textbook or notes.  The less that hangs off the edge the less likely it is to get bumped to the floor.

Software

Almost all software titles can be found online or for free.  The one exception is Microsoft Office suite of tools.  More about software from a previous post.

More information

Here is an article with good point on what you need and, more importantly, what you DON'T need to spend money on.  It is by Alex Cocilova at PC World. http://www.pcworld.com/article/229929/how-to-buy-a-laptop-for-college.html

This article suggests 10 great student laptops.  It also includes good criteria to consider.  Via Mashable http://mashable.com/2013/07/29/back-to-school-laptops/ 

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