WHAT TO BUY
 

DEVICE SPECIFICATIONS TO CONSIDER

In order for devices to be suitable for most student needs, there are some minimum requirements that should be considered for all devices. :
  • Wi-Fi capable - Students at the high school have access to many resources available online. Wi-Fi capabilities allow students to connect to these resources from anywhere in the high school.
  • 7”+ Screen Size - While there are certainly many things that can be accomplished with a hand-held device, it is difficult to do holistic editing and visual manipulations on something that small. We recommend a screen size found in netbooks, larger tablets, and laptops.Student with Chromebook
  • Large QWERTY Keyboard - In order to allow for adequate keyboarding speed for taking notes or creating documents, nearly full-sized standard keyboards are recommended. Laptops and Chromebooks come equipped with such keyboards. Tablets usually require the purchasing of an accessory keyboard.
  • Currently Supported Operating System/Web Browser - Much of what students need to access and use is online, and online resources often use the most current technologies. As a result, students will need access to a fully supported and regularly updated web browser. 
  • 4+ Hour Battery Life - Technology use will vary for students on any given day. With a 6.5 hour school day, students who rely heavily on their technology should keep this number in mind. For most students, a battery that will provide close to 4 hours of battery life should be sufficient for most of their needs.

Possible Devices:


Chromebooks
  • similar in appearance to laptops
  • lower prices (many under $200)
  • uses Chrome OS created by Google 
  • Won't run Windows or Mac Software, but have many apps available for little or no cost
  • excellent weight and size - perfect for backpacks
  • battery life optimal - should easily last for a full school day or more
  • This is the best choice for most students due to price, size, and functionality. 
  • Chromebooks are better than tablets due to keyboard availability and often price.
  • Although they are somewhat less functional than laptops, this is the perfect tool to create documents, spreadsheets, and for internet applications.
Laptops
  • great for all applications with the greatest functionality
  • provides full sized keyboard
  • capable of running commercial applications that may not run on tablets or Chromebooks
  • can be bulky and heavy to carry around
  • greater cost and size can increase theft risk
  • battery life can vary widely, and should be considered
Tablets
  • small and easy to carry
  • often provide extended battery life
  • often expensive relative to Chromebooks
  • require an additional keyboard
  • tablet size & screen rotation offers nice format for reading 
  • may have limited connectivity options (many lack USB or SD ports for removable storage or interfacing with accessories)
There are any number of manufacturers that are making items that will work well for students. While we are not recommending any specific brand, here are some things to consider:

Hardware Considerations

  • For most students, Chromebooks are a great option at a reasonable price.
  • Buy from a reputable dealer, including retail and online retailers. Become familiar with warranty and return policies.
  • Consider the "computing power" required for the student. All new laptops and Chromebooks will be adequate for most students. (Additional processing power may be needed for extensive video editing or large scale image editing, but this is beyond what students will need for our high school uses in most cases.)
  • Consider battery life. Most students can get by with 4 hours of battery life, but if your students wish to do extended computer work before and after school without recharging, this may require additional resources.
  • Look for deals. Closeouts, refurbished equipment, and holiday sales are often great ways of reducing the expense. Tiger Direct (and others) often offer refurbished equipment (new items that required repair) at greatly reduced prices. 

Software Considerations

  • Most student needs can be met with free services or software, so before software shopping, please consider the following opportunities available to all students:
  • All students at FLHS have a Google Apps account at http://google.com. This account allows students to create documents, spreadsheets, presentations, email, calendar items, etc. These tools will meet the software needs for most students. The documents, spreadsheets, and presentations created can also be imported to, and exported from, Microsoft Office. Google docs are also very powerful for collaborating and sharing information with others. (Additional Google Accounts can be created for free at Google.com if there are other home users that wish to use these tools.)
  • A free productivity suite similar to Microsoft Office is Open Office. Open Office looks and acts very much like MS Office. It will open MS Office files, including Word documents, Excel spreadsheets, and PowerPoint presentations. This software can be downloaded from http://www.openoffice.org . The advantage of this software over something like Google Docs is that document formats are less variable from machine to machine.
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