Choosing the Right Device for your School Ten Considerations Schools Should Make When Purchasing New Devices
Choosing the RightDevice for your SchoolTen Considerations Schools Should Make When Purchasing New DevicesToday there are a myriad of devices for schools that range from those that are good atdoing just one thing to those that promise to do everything. It’s confusing to knowwhich one to choose given your school’s budget, educational goals and existingtechnology investments.In an era when schools are asked to do more with less, school administrators really wantto make sure new devices meet the needs of students and drive positive educationaloutcomes. Schools should ask themselves “What do we want to accomplish with thedevice?”. The answer usually includes schools wanting a device where students canconsume digital content, easily take and share notes, create presentations and writepapers, plug in an array of peripherals like microscopes, take a tough and rugged schoolenvironment and (oh by the way) be less than $400.Students need to be prepared for life skills they’ll take into higher education and theircareer. Do the devices prepare them for the creative and collaborative workforce they’llultimately join? Will the devices be more distraction than instruction? Do the devicesrun the software necessary to crunch data, write papers, edit photos and tie it alltogether in a presentation?
There’s a lot to think about. In an attempt to help, we’ve narrowed down ten importantconsiderations schools should make when purchasing new devices: One: ChoiceChoice and competition drive innovation, lower prices, improve service and ultimatelycustomer satisfaction. Education institutions benefit as manufacturers create affordablebest of class hardware designed specifically for the demands and rigor of a schoolenvironment. For example, Lenovo just released the new Lenovo Classmate + - arugged Windows PC laptop that converts into a tablet, sports a drop resistant exterior,spill proof keyboard, reinforced steel hinges, 10.1 inch touch display with pen (optionalHD), 10 hour battery life, multiple USB ports and VGA or HDMI output to monitor.Dell’s “Inspiron Duo” continues to win praise from students and teachers alike because itsinnovative flip hinge design makes it very easy to go from touch to type in seconds. The10.1 HD multi touch screen, student sized keyboard and rugged design make it theperfect device for schools that want a HD tablet and a laptop in one device.The Lenovo Classmate and Dell Duo are two great Windows PCs out of many made justfor the education industry. It’s very important for schools to understand they do have achoice when it comes to devices and they should be wary of getting locked into a singleform factor or a single hardware provider. Two: Total Cost of OwnershipThe cost of the device is only one of many expenses when it comes to deployinghundreds – if not thousands – of devices across a school system. It’s very important tounderstand the hidden costs of maintaining the devices, hiring IT professionals (full timeand contractors) to deploy the devices, updating the software on the devices, trackingthe devices and replacing new devices when they break.That’s why it’s very important for schools to procure devices that deliver the best overallperformance for the price and have a good track record for meeting their schoolsbudget and needs. Three: Compatibility and InteroperabilityThere are switching costs when schools move to a new device with an operating systemthat doesn’t work with other computers in the classroom or in the school. Is the devicecompatible with the school’s existing devices, software or backend systems. Will theschool need to buy entirely new hardware, software and system software to
accommodate the new devices? Schools should do their homework on what will need tobe replaced as a result of switching to a new device operating system.Schools should also consider whether or not existing educational content works on thenew device? For example, if a school uses educational content that runs on Adobe Flashor is dependent on the Internet for learning content, it should consider a device thatworks with the many standards found on the web. If schools have custom software forstudent and teacher assessments or distribute content via CD/DVD, they should considerhow they will get that content on a device that doesn’t have DVD/CD drive. Four: Security and PrivacyIn education, the security and privacy of students is perhaps the most importantconsideration for any new device. Yes, there will always bugs and viruses across allplatforms and operating systems, but the question is how well does the company thatmanufacturers the device and operating system handle security problems? Is there aprocess in place where the company automatically patches holes, sends updates andinforms their customers of potential problems? Is it easy for hackers to break throughthe system or take over the system in the school? Does the maker of your device andoperating system care about your privacy by not selling your students data or advertisingto them?Some hardware manufacturers load an operating system on a device that does not havethe security standards in place that protect your students and meet the minimumsecurity requirements set by your school. They either do it because it is a less expensiveoption for them or because they’re convinced that an integrated hardware/softwaresolution is less prone to attacks. The reality is that software gets hacked every day andthen it needs to get fixed. The best bet is to go with a device manufacturer and softwaremaker that you trust. Five: ManageabilityWhen accessing what your school wants to do with the device, make sure youunderstand whether or not you want the student to be able to take the device home andwhether or not you want to be able to control what the student does on that device athome, i.e. not surf adult websites. The ability to manage devices on and off schoolpremises is a very important consideration and should be taken very seriously by schoolsthat want to ensure students don’t get distracted during the day playing games like“Angry Birds”.
It is also important to be able to easily deploy software applications and images acrosshundreds if not thousands of devices – especially if you’re a large school system. To savetime and money, make sure the device you choose is set-up to easily deploy and managethe device so you aren’t manually setting up the devices before and after the start ofeach school day. Six: Productivity and EmployabilityConsider how teachers and students learn and work on the device. Most students andteachers want devices where they can multi-task between applications, have windowsopen side-by-side when doing research, and easily cut, paste and print. Perhaps mostimportant is how students input information in the device. Are they more accustomed totyping on a keyboard or using a stylus?Also consider whether or not the device runs powerful applications such as the MicrosoftOffice suite - Word, Office, Excel and PowerPoint – or Adobe Photoshop. Theseapplications are industry standard productivity applications that will help your studentsbe more productive and learn important skills used in the workplace.Finally, make sure the device your school chooses is one that sets-up students up forsuccess in college and beyond. Yes, technology may evolve and change over time, butkeep in mind that industry standard operating systems and productivity software keepsgetting better over time and is likely to be there when students graduate. Just ask anemployer how important it is for new hires to use industry standard software likeMicrosoft Office and Windows. Seven: Partners and Partner EcosystemThink about the software your students will use, what books your students will read, whatassessments your students will take, what learning management systems your school willrun on, what printers and smart whiteboards and microscopes….and the list goes on andon. Outside of the device hardware and software, there is a very important ecosystem ofcompanies that produce applications, hardware and systems that provide educationalsolutions to schools. There are even companies that deploy devices and manage theirupkeep and security. Understand who the education partners are working alongsideyour device hardware and software manufacturer to maximize the utility you’ll get fromyour device.
Eight: Durability and QualitySchools are tough places for fancy devices. Think about how many computers, mice, andkeyboards a school goes through in a year. Many new devices are made rugged withrubber “bumpers” such as the Lenovo X130e, have spill proof keyboards and sportscratch proof glass. If that isn’t enough, a trusted device maker will have generousservice plans in case something goes drastically wrong. Stay clear of devices that requireexpensive cases to make them rugged because they’re made from some fancy metal.Remember that devices in schools get thrown in backpacks, dropped on the playgroundand get heavy general use during the day. Nine: Training and SupportWhat’s the point of educational technology if the teachers, students and administratorsdon’t know how to use it? There are many places online to get curriculum and trainingthat shows best practices of using technology in the classroom – but how does onenavigate everything out there? Enter Microsoft Partners in Learning. When teachers jointhis very powerful educator network – 4.6 million teachers strong – they’ll have access toshared lesson plans, technology best practices, curriculum that integrates technologyinto traditional subjects and more.Also consider Microsoft’s IT Academy for your students. Here students and teachers cantake additional courses to sharpen their skills and get certified on Microsoft software.Also consider the support you’ll get from the device manufacturer. For example,companies like Dell provide many additional services to schools that go beyond thedevice such as storage and integration of peripherals like digital whiteboards. Ten: Accessibility and Language SupportLearning should be universal – regardless of physical or mental disabilities. That’s whyany device your school choses should be able to work for someone who needs multipleand sometimes non-traditional ways to input and consume information. For example,Microsoft has a long history of taking accessibility very seriously – for nearly twenty yearsMicrosoft has focused on making computers easier to use for individuals with a widearray of difficulties and impairments. Microsoft builds into its products features that notonly makes its technology accessible, but empowers and enables people with disabilitiesto do things they couldn’t do before.
Also consider students in your classroom may speak many other languages beyond themainstream languages that are supported by most devices. Microsoft provides fullylocalized versions of Microsoft Windows and Microsoft Office in nearly 40 languages,Microsoft currently supports 95 languages through the LLP (Local Language Program) –even the Andean language of Quechua! Microsoft is dedicated to providing individualsaccess to desktop computer software in their native language.We hope this guide has been helpful to your school and would be glad toassist you and your school in making the right technology decisions. Pleasefeel free to contact us by visiting us here to find your local Microsoft officeand account team.