Bill MacKenty

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Middle School Laptops: a heavy burden?

Posted in Educational Tech Design platform on 18 - November 2010 at 04:53 AM (13 years ago). 230 views.

We are deep in the process of procuring new laptops, docking stations, and service for our middle school (275 users including teachers and students).

As may be expected, there are many different factors we are considering when we look at which machine to buy.  Here’s my current list of considerations in rough-priority consideration:

1. Service. We need on-site, accidental damage, rock-solid, no hassle, no fine-print stupidity, service that serves. I don’t want a maximum number of issues, I don’t want some bean counter telling me I can only fix X number of machines per day - nonsense. I don’t mind paying for good service, but if service fails, the whole boat sinks (what good is technology that doesn’t work)

2. Processing Power. Funny thing about Middle School teachers, they do really cool stuff with their laptops - stuff like rendering movies, rending sound files, and doing media-intensive work. That sort of thing requires actual processing power and real ram. Also as we look towards a three year lifespan, we would want these computers to be capable. I know 802.11n isn’t technically processing power, but it’s important that these computers are capable of the fastest possible connection to the network.

3. Existing-system compatibility - mainly, do these computers have standard I/O, is there anything silly about their network cards, wireless cards, USB ports, etc… Do they work from a hardware point-of-view with our existing infrastructure? This is normally not a problem, but it’s important. This usually isn’t an issue, but I’ve seen weirdness with wireless cards, touch screens, and audio inputs.

4. Durability. These computers will be used by 12, 13 and 14 year-old kids, who on their best days don’t always manage to walk in a straight line. Laptops are banged, bashed, squished, and dropped.

5. Great sound - I want great sound and an integrated microphone.  We had some tablets that had horrible sound playback - not so good for multimedia programs.

6. Weight. Every teacher has seen a student carrying a bag that weighs more than they do.  Imagine a young tween, carrying a 5 pound computer plus charger, plus bag, plus books - you get the idea. If all the above conditions are satisfied, and I have 2 choices, I’ll choose the lighter of the two.

So, I’m looking for a light-weight workhorse with exceptional service and standardized i/o that can’t be killed by a 13 year old with great features.

Weight is part of our consideration, but not the only thing we think about. I balance all the above considerations as I think about what a good machine should be.