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Advice for students considering buying or bringing their own device to school?

In Planning, Tools on September 4, 2009 by TIPS Team Tagged: , , , , , ,

Schools who have EPSB reliable, filtered, wireless network that students will be able to connect to with their own devices.  While this device could be an i- Touc h, a laptop, or a netbook, there are few key things you should keep in mind if you are considering bringing your own device to school:
  • Any operating system will do.  While all school-owned computers are Windows-based, students can bring devices which are Mac, Windows, Linux, or any operating system (including WIFI devices like the i-Touch, Blackberry & i-Phone)While any of the devices listed above will connect to the school’s WIFI, if you’re considering bringing ONE device, a netbook would be our recommendation.
  • Netbooks are a great option for students.  Designed to be small, lightweight, and portable, they have better battery life and will give you what you need to do most of your work at LOHS.
  • Your device will connect to the school’s WIFI, so it needs to have at least 802.11 b/g wireless capability. (Most laptops and all netbooks, and i-Touch/i-Phones have this.)
  • Student-owned wireless devices will not connect to the network server (i.e. you won’t have access to a network drive to store your files.  What this means is that while you may want to choose a laptop with a reasonably-sized hard drive (40+ GB), this is not necessary as most school work can be created/saved with an online suite of tools (Google Apps Education Edition ) and stored on the web. You’ll still want to have some space for some of your own files, so shoot for a hard drive that has a capacity of at least 60GB and a rotational speed of 5,400 rpm.
  • Many netbooks or laptops come with an “Office Suite” of tools.  You will be able to use these, but they are not necessary. The only software you need on this device is a browser (Internet Explorer, Firefox, Safari…whatever), and virus-protection software.
  • Many of the most popular models of netbooks feature only seven- or nine-inch screens and a smaller keyboard. Your best bet, before committing to a purchase, is to test using a sample or evaluation unit at a local retailer. Many users find nine-inch displays the smallest they can comfortably use.  Depending on the size of your hands, the smaller keyboard could be an advantage or a big inconvenience.  Try a few out.
  • Battery life is important since there will be limited places in the school to securely charge your device.  Typical netbooks come with 3-cell or 6-cell batteries, but the more important number is the Milliamp Hour (mAh). mAh is important because it’s the easiest way to determine the strength or capacity of a battery. The higher the mAh, the longer the battery will last.  Look for a battery rated at 66 mAh or higher. You’ll soon be sorry if you go for the cheaper 3-cell, 30 mAh battery when it’s sitting in your backpack every afternoon because the battery is dead.At this time (May 2009) the Intel Atom processor is the fastest and most energy-efficient netbook processor you can get in a netbook. Don’t be distressed when you review a netbook’s technical specs. The CPU details are not misprints. While your desktop PC may boast a 2.83GHz quad-core CPU, netbooks are anemic by comparison.
  • How much RAM? This is a moving target, but a good rule of thumb is to future-proof your purchase by either getting as much RAM as possible, or by getting a device that has room to add more. As of today, 1GB of RAM is okay, 2 GB is better.
  • A USB port and USB Flash drive will be useful in moving or backing up files when you don’t have wireless access.
  • Other nice-to-have’s, but non-necessities include an integrated web-cam, a card-reader (for flash memory cards like the one in your cell phone or camera), and blue-tooth.
  • An optical (CD/DVD) drive is usually not available on a netbook, and isn’t needed.
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