What device is the best fit for my student?

Much of that decision will be based on several somewhat subjective answers to some basic questions. Holy Family is not here to say which device, operating system, platform, brand or price point you should choose. In fact, you may choose not to participate in the BYOD program at all. The school will always make sure that all and any student will have the necessary options (hardware or procedural) available to complete their assigned work. This means that specific courses may not use BYOD, but instead use labs or mobile carts with specific uses.

That said, most surveys of our teachers would say a student would do best with a laptop or tablet, versus a phone. Though writing papers on tablets is restrictive, students could use workstations in the labs or possibly at home to do the bulk of the typing. Tablets would allow minor editing, longer battery use and of course be easier to transport. Most ‘smart’ phones provide all that the tablet does, but is more restrictive because of size and some teachers do not allow them in class.

Ideas/Thoughts

As you can probably guess, there is no one answer to which device is best and for many parents it is a dilemma.

First, if you are pondering about getting this device to use through college, you might question if that is reasonable. Life expectancy of these devices including laptops, is less than one might think. One should assume that under constant use (at work or school) laptops will need to be replaced in 3-4 years and tablets, probably sooner. Obviously some of the good ones (hardware-wise) will last longer. They will keep running. But the hardware is only a portion of the full equation. Software changes are non-stop and many are on a fast track, and though you might keep up on those updates, the processing speed, memory capacity and the storage capacity need to grow with those updates. So that is when the hardware will usually impact the usage of the machine (even if the machine still operates).

This purchase should probably be thought of as a 4 yr. investment to get your student through high school and then later address their college needs (maybe a graduation gift). In fact, no one knows what the needs and products will be like in 4 years.

So what device now all depends on if the student has access to other computers (at school or at home). The big factor in choosing might be can the student sit at the device and pound out papers and projects. If she/he can do that at home on another machine, then you can consider going with a light weight notebook, tablet or other.

Tablets

Even though you can go with ANY operating system or brand and still do much, if not all the work that Holy Family requires of these devices, the iPad is a very easy fit. And even that device can have keyboards and other features with add-ons. It is what the school has invested in and the teachers use. That means that any app that a teacher might recommend is more likely to be on a device using iOS (Apple’s Mobile Operating System), though many apps may be available and work on Android or Windows. Other than the issue of apps, most tablets will suffice for general research, communication and operations in the cloud (MS Office 365) as most any browser on any platform should work.

Another wonderful tablet/Ultrabook option is the Microsoft Surface which works seamlessly with the Office Programs we use and provides a good adequate typing keyboard.

Notebooks/Ultra-books

If the tablet is not the right choice and you are looking bigger and mobile, look at sturdy well-known brands of ultra-books or light weight notebooks.

FYI – the Chrome book is designed for online use and has less features than many traditional laptops and don’t use the same applications that you would find in a Windows or Mac OS X based computer system. They are more directed toward cloud computing (which using our new Office 365 account is not an issue). I think their use is best suited to a 1:1 school where everyone has one and the systems are designed around that.

In comparison, you might look at the Windows Surface (Windows 10) with built-in keyboard and see how that feels. Being a Windows product it will have some advantages over the others in terms of using some Windows Desktop technology and Office applications, but remember that much of this is irrelevant in the ‘Cloud’.

Laptops

If you are set on a notebook/laptop, look at weight, battery life, processing power, memory capacity, appropriate screen, and cost. Remember storage space can be added externally anytime. The more of those you can afford the better.

Laptops obviously allow for better typing, but unless it is a touch screen tablet notebook, it will not allow for some of the interactive work the courses might be doing. Mac or PC will handle general research, communication and operations in the cloud (MS Office 365) as most any browser on any platform should work.

Other

Smart Phones/iPod Touch, etc. You should probably follow the same thinking as tablets but consider size and of course they are really restrictive when it comes to typing and teachers may not allow them in the classroom.