1 to 1 Computing -- Seeking Input

What better place to ask students about what technology THEY would like to use in the classroom and why its important.

I am part of a statewide task force investigating best/next practices, hardware, and policies for implementing a statewide 1 to 1 computing device rollout. We have to report to the state legislature by January, so feedback now is IMPORTANT - so little to do, so much time…I know there is a survey they are going to run past IT folks and teachers who respond in the summer, but I wanted to get some STUDENT feedback.

Anyhow, my main questions are, as students, what device features would be most important knowing that there is a limited budget and you’d be using it for daily school work as well as online course access. (No, we’re not getting a 17"+ display with quad core anything :slight_smile: Don’t spec a system out for me, but think more along the lines of:

Display Size (minimum)
Tablets vs. Netbooks vs. laptops
Expansion Ports?
You get the idea.

Thank you all for your input, it will all be considered and discussed in committee in early July at our state capitol!

Personally, I don’t think the government buying students computers is a good idea.

My school recently decided to give all the incoming freshmen “laptops” I think that this will help 10 -15 percent of students. the reason is this. many students already have computers at home, and for their homework they will be using those, who would choose a laptop the school gives out, when many people have desktops at home, with a real keyboard, and a laptop built on a school budget, wont be able to match the speed and effectiveness of some of most of these systems.

For the 10-15 percent of students that do not have access to a computer at home, this might be beneficial, however, I still don’t think that there are enough assignments where computers are necessary, i think a donation program where old computers are given to students who do not have one, would be better than giving out Laptops to everyone.

Personally, i think the best solution is to find a way to give the students information, and a way to better utilize computers. My thought on what would work the best is to distribute 8 or 16 gigabyte flash drives, with the latest version of one or more computerized encyclopedias, open office, and maybe a few other software items. this would allow students to use any computer, even without internet access for many projects. another thing to look at is the cost. a 16 gig flash drive can be had for around 15-20 dollars depending on a bulk discount, you could even go to 32 gigs and put more content on it. even the cheapest computers cannot match this.

There is one more advantage to giving out flash drives, they are virtually indestructible, and more likely to be returned working if lost. I have run them over, washed them, and they still work.

Personally, if the school district had the money to buy kids laptops and stuff, I would much rather invest in better textbooks and teachers. Now, personally, as a student, I find the whole teacher student relationship to be a fundamental aspect of education. I never was for the whole “online courses” thing. Now, I am in favor of ebook readers such as the Kindle. Now consider the fact that the average textbook is $100-$200, if one Kindle costs $140, it can potentially store thousands of books. Most ebooks are available at a reduced price too. I use a kindle and I love it. The battery life is literally a month.

To be honest, I agree with alot of what you said. However, parts of it don’t belong here. He is specifically asking for device features not alternatives to the device. Your idea of a flash drive is a great suggestion for a feature that could be added.

Everyone: Please make the assumption the program is going to exist and discuss the features rather then debate whether such a program should exist.


For the kind of laptop that is used for daily school work, portability and long battery life is required, so screen size should either be 14, 15.6 inches or netbook size. Laptops that cost $600 or less are good for this. Software that can allow students to take notes better would be useful, such as Microsoft OneNote / Word or an iPad.

But personally, I don’t think students should be given laptops. Two problems I can foresee is theft (I am always afraid of losing things or having it stolen) and the likely dearth of computer literacy among students, so they may raise questions about using the technology.

Some good alternatives have already been suggested. I think the teacher would benefit from a up-to-date laptop and a projector, and the classroom may also benefit from having a few computers for the students to access.

Now in California, schools, especially my school are still facing budget cuts (Our Pre-Calculus textbooks are from 1986!), so I think another good idea is for the state government to save some money in general.

I think, assuming it exists, it should have Openoffice, and other free software. It should also give students admin rights, but operate on something more obscure to the majority of students (Linux of some kind?)…this is to allow the more computer-oriented students to experiment, install programs, etc, but stop problems like viruses.

It should have
At least a 10-inch display (if it has external connections) or 14 if not
Laptop/netbook preferred as the Tablet market is not super established yet - although a Xoom could alleviate a lot of problems - its open-source and gives admin rights, but is obscure enough to avoid most viruses, general stupidity.
Should have at least 2 (prefer 4-6 USB ports)
Firewire port
Both in and out sound ports
full sized backlit keyboard (for those late-night essays)
dvd/cdrw drive (preferably internal but I guess external is OK)
Easy-To-upgrade HDD/SSD, ram
decent processor (>2.4Ghz, dual core)

As a student who rather likes technology, I do not think that schools should give out laptops. I am not sure if this is an attitude shared by many, but I would feel nervous about using it on my newtork as it would obviously have some kind of a “big brother” program installed. In fact I probably would refuse to use a school-issued computer whenever possible… :yikes: … Even an application I would have some worries about installing… (yes i am a bit crazy about other people + my data… regardless of how insignificant it is…)

Perhaps a better option is allowing students reduced prices on certain models of laptops, or free software licences for major programs. If you did give out hardware though, please make it 1) major/standard brands (not off-brands) and have major software without monitoring software installed.

More details please. What’s this program intended to do? Will curriculum be designed to require (or take advantage) one of these devices? Is this a way of passing responsibility for IT services on to the students? How rich is the content on the online course system? Is it possible to replace textbooks with this device? Will the device be crippled so that students can’t do various extracurricular things during class? Does every student need the same thing? Do the legislators understand enough about computing, education and people in general to make sensible decisions about this?

And depending on the answers to those questions, it may indeed be valuable to debate the usefulness of the program. Similarly, those answers will allow respondents to make informed feature lists, rather than wish lists that may be based on impractical expectations.

(And yes, I’m a variety of student, though perhaps not quite what you had in mind.)

Well if the computer is intended only to be used for school, a netbook would be the way to go. I can’t imagine any high-school schoolwork that would require a lot of high end processing. Back-lit keyboards and other features are nice but really all students need is just the bare essentials for high school.

I DO NOT recommend anything approaching a netbook. Netbooks do not yet have the processing power required to do much of anything in the classroom, or much anywhere else for that matter. They are also painfully small, and therefore very hard to work with/on. I can go get a used 5 year old Dell Latitude on Ebay (or even my own workplace) with more power and features than a netbook, and STILL save $200 bucks compared to a netbook.

NOW, that opinion may change with the advent of Intel’s Sandy Bridge and AMD’s Fusion/Bulldozer chips, but until then, NO. Trust me, your IT department will thank you. Take that from a technician who works at a PC repair shop.

This is a legitimate concern.

There have been some rather depraved incidents where a school board that didn’t know a damned thing about information technology installed software with camera access on students’ laptops, and allowed their IT staff to activate it. You can imagine what ensued: lawsuits everywhere, and rightly so.

If the school is going to fully control the software that is installed on such a system, it needs to accept commensurate responsibility for the consequences. It also needs to be proactive in demonstrating that school employees will not have access to any sort of information that might be considered confidential, except under court order, or following a clear and equitable internal procedure (with notice given to the student).

It serves nobody’s interests for users to have reason to distrust their office supplies. High school students are very perceptive when it comes to detecting software that appears to have contempt for them. Website filters that block legitimate sites, or a locked-down user interface (or worse—software that reloads a fresh copy of the operating system on bootup) just serve to crystallize the impression that the school doesn’t trust them. For some users, that mutual distrust will manifest itself in a desire to acquire full permissions on the system, in order to be able to independently verify that there is no monitoring software (e.g. examining the contents of their personal e-mail). (There is no practical way to prevent a determined person from acquiring administrative access on most operating systems, or even to mitigate that possibility without severely compromising functionality.) Others simply won’t use the systems to their full potential, and may end up less-educated as a result. Either way, distrust will reduce the program’s effectiveness.

I will assume this will actually happen, and leave the debate for another thread.

Go for laptops. REAL computers: Kids these days want computing power, and lots of it. Also, the more computing power, the more it will get used.
Go mobile: make sure there is a lot of battery life, or a plethora of outlets/chargers in every class room. It does no good to give out laptops that won’t last through the day.
Expansion ports: 2 USBs is minimal, but more is always better
wifi b/g/n is a necessity. No questions.
If there is no internal optical drive, an external one is also required
Focus on upgradablility. Get something that is easily able to adopt new standards of RAM and SATA hard drives. Make sure that these things are easily accessible too.
Audio in/out is a good idea, but not required. Really just audio out is required.

As far as software: make sure that it can run windows 7, but run whatever OS the school system uses. I would not put monitoring software on it, but retain the ability to search the web history etc if there is a reason to. Having Microsoft office is also required, just because its the industry standard.
Finally, give the kids admin rights. Its so frustrating for me to get onto a computer that cannot run software because something like java is out of date. The kids need to be able to upgrade/install stuff.

I would also throw out the idea that including an image disk, with the appropriate disclaimer is a good idea too. Either way, reimage the computers each summer to keep them relatively functional.

A project like this opens a whole new can of worms/problems. I wouldn’t recommend it. I would like to see solid statistical numbers showing such a program improves student achievement greater than putting those funds elsewhere.

Too many administrators these days think education can be fixed by giving (or sitting kids in front of) a computer, which is simply not the case.

I’m just about to graduate from HS, and I’ve been thinking about things like this for a while. I see a couple main things:

  • Software Control. School IT has to be in control of the systems, otherwise every computer used is going to get a viruses and infect the rest of the school. Most people just ignore updates and things, so without it, the system won’t be secure. Also, issues with the computers being used for things they really shouldn’t be used for arise. On the same note, the software should be standard - I’d reccomend LibreOffice (Long story, but it was OpenOffice, and now is better) for office suite. That way, no matter if the student is on Windows, Linux, or a Mac, they can use their documents anywhere, without extra charge. Because sometimes, they won’t want to use the laptop (Or other device)
  • Hardware Control. How do you keep it from being stolen or broken? I think that the laptops should be a thing requisitioned by a teacher to use them in class or signed out by students on a night-to-night basis.
  • Upgradability. You really don’t want to have to buy a full set of new computers every 4 years. Look for things, as mentioned before, that the RAM and hard drive can be easily upgraded on. Also, run software appropriate to the systems - Sure, Windows 7 is nice, but if you’re running lower end computers, consider Linux (such as Ubuntu). I’ve used Linux for a long time, and I’ve yet to come across a major incompatibility problem.
  • If you go tablet, go Apple iPad or RIM Playbook. Both of them are much better in controlability than Android. I’ve always seen Android as a tinkerer’s OS - it’s great, but it’s not all too stable and the software for it is sub-par in a lot of regards. Both the iPad and the PlayBook are easy to manage (remote upgrades, wipes, installation of software, lock, etc.)
  • Tablets don’t have keyboards. Taking notes on them can be a pain if you don’t prepare for that. I used an iPad this year as an experiment, and it did great - but I had to work out the keyboard before it was. However, the touch screen more than makes up for it in science classes, where you can draw diagrams right into your notes - computers can’t do that.
  • iPad has wicked simple everything. I’d recommend for a school to get the low end model, 16GB, no 3G. And AppleTV’s for the classrooms - for $99, you’d get simple video mirroring and output, so a student can make a presentation on the iPad and give it, and the teacher can show their iPad screen. All flawlessly. The App Store can be disabled, and probably should be. Have Pages, Keynote, Numbers, and a selection of notetaking apps installed by default, and allow students to sync their music onto the devices. And apps they buy on their computers, sure. If they want to do that, they can. Because the App Store is curated, there’s not a lot worth protecting from in there.
  • Portability - you want it to be carried everywhere. iPad wins there - it’s like carrying a magazine.
  • Usefullness. You want it to be able to do more than just view the web and type. The more power there is, the more it will be used (to echo above), and for cool things, too. If I didn’t have a system strong enough, I wouldn’t have gone and created a documentary for my AP US History class. The iPad lets you do things like that, though - iMovie, $5, is supposed to be great, though my iPad 1 can’t run it.


Apple iPad probably offers the best choice. Most people have computers at home. New iPad features in iOS 5 mean that it can replace the computer for a lot of things.

Note that I’ve used Android tablets, and don’t like them for general use. I’ve never used a PlayBook, so it could be worth pursuing, but I can’t advise there.

I can’t say I like the idea, but this is what I would want.
I would personally like a 15" monitor, it is large but not unmanageable.
Laptop definitely. so much more functional. sure tablets and such make you look cooler (supposedly) but I like functionality.
plenty of usb ports, maybe even usb 3. I always run out of them. Also some ports for external monitors, hdmi and dvi are what I would suggest. esata can be nice, but I only use it for external hard drives.
NOT mobile anything, like no ipads/ipods/android anything. our school just bought 30 ipads (total hs size is 500), only practical thing they are used for is browsing internet. otherwise kids just play games.
make sure the HD is decent, it really makes the system run lots better. also, if you are doing anything besides internet and MS software, get a decent graphics card.

I think that it is better to just let the kids get their own laptop. most kids don’t need one. if they do, they can get one that is good for their needs. spend that kind of money on something else.

I’m a grad student, so I count, right? I’ve used various methods for note taking over 8 courses and quite honestly “it’s all about the same”. I’ve used paper/pencil versus typing in OneNote vs a Slate Netbook in various Math classes, ‘business-esque’ classes, and diagraming/modeling classes. The end result of how much I learn is still more greatly influenced by how much effort I put into the subject matter and irrespective of the technology I used in the process.

As a taxpayer, I better have an input to this or some elected official may lose their job –
$550 per tech x 30 students + cost of full-time IT staff & infrastructure is about the same cost as a teacher. What exactly is gained by using technology in this manner? “Better” note taking? Getting more organized is less expensive and teaches better life-long lessons. “Easier” presenting? Learn how to deal with technology rather than how to consume what’s hand-fed to you means students are more agile to the inevitible changes in technologies.

Chemistry sets, magnets, and even VEX robots are cheaper than inserting technology like this into a elementary, middle, or high school classroom. I’d also argue that they’re more effective than some rudimentary “interactive” wannabe museum-like presentation on any tech, but that’s a bit subjective based upon experiences.

Before asking a loaded question to students such as “what would you like?”, realize that individual students rarely ever know what is going to help them learn subject matter until after they’ve learned it.

Looking at other peoples’ inputs, I generally agree with what they say. As a classroom tool, the iPad is a serious idea - perhaps the last gen, a hundred dollars off. The lack of a keyboard can be a serious issue, however - that may have to be addressed. I recommend doing research at local schools into the iPad virtual keyboard vs. a physical keyboard. The real benefit of the iPad is simplicity. Setting up a three class-wide Google Docs system took two days at my middle-class school… for a pre-AP English class.

In the same class, we discussed this earlier. Frankly, I think it comes down to two things:

  1. Do you need the processing power? For day-to-day school stuff, no. For engineering and other electives, probably. If the computers need to fill a need of lots of processing power, then you’re probably going to have to explore the likely cheaper AMD competitor to Sandy Bridge. With that: 14-15" laptop screen, at least 3 USB ports (from personal experience with my 2-USB port laptop, which means I have to carry around a hub), and a video-out, probably VGA. SD card slot would be nice for some of the photography-related electives.

2)However, if this is just intended to be a computer just to get online and type papers, what is wrong with a Chromebook? Google-supported (so it will eventually be very reliable). Browser-only, so less software distractions and hassles for the IT department. Everything can tie into your school’s Google Apps account if they have one (like my school). 12" screen, Intel Atom power, and reasonably priced - they’re looking into $20 or so a month plans, and some other very reasonable pricing structures for enterprises.

The legislation is done. The debate is now how to implement. I know the question is loaded…this information is helping me form a survey that is going to be distributed in state. Your ideas are helping me form those questions and offering options and opinions of current tech that I might not have thought of otherwise. Here’s the task:


The readings, minutes and directives of the task force are here:


By my own math there are approximately 29-30k students in each grade state-wide. If they buy for 1 grade a year that’s $300-$350 per device. This will need to include warranty and insurance. But remember, the buying power of a 29,000-30,000 unit purchase might come into play one might think. I have heard as high as $600 per unit, but I haven’t seen hard numbers. Again, I’m not asking for a specific device, more the important features or useful features for learning. If it doesn’t impact learning, it doesn’t warrant consideration from my understanding.

IT support is supposed to largely come from the vendor with local controls being placed on the units.

This was not intended as a debate of the merits. If you are presently in or an alumni of a school with a 1:1 initiative I’d love to hear from you.

This is more about what features you’d like as a student or would have liked as a student for accessing online classes, hybrid or blended learning classes, multimedia, digital textbooks, etc. Again, I know this is an open ended and loaded question, but I ask it because people have a passionate opinion or experience that I can learn from.

As for theft and damages – my suggestion so far is that if students want to take them home their family can make a small contribution to the insurance on that device. Otherwise they would check it out from the library or some similar system that already exists on a daily basis as needed. I don’t know if that would happen, but that’s my thought on it right now. It also helps with some buy-in on the student and family’s part. There would of course be some agreements signed with the parents as well.

As a FIRST coach I’d love to load them up with portable workstations, CAD/CAM, LabVIEW, Wind-river, etc. But I don’t see that happening, nor useful for the majority of the population.

So again…

Tablet vs PC vs Netbook vs ???

Google’s Chrome devices look promising, but I wonder how many programs are ‘married’ to MS Office. I’d bet most Business courses include a Mouse or IC3 program directly tied to Microsoft…so we have to be cognizant of that fact in some way. That said, I’m not suggesting a windows based device, but just putting the ideas out there. I have an iPad…it has it’s uses. I have a Kindle that I love…but lack of animations, video capability, or interaction make this a textbook substitute, but not a multimedia learning tool.

Thank you for your input. Did not intend to open a debate on the merits…it’s happening…help me make it as best as I can!

That is essentially small business laptops (ThinkPads, Latitudes, EliteBooks). They are robust, and the cheaper models should be negotiable to within $300-$350. Then, you have a good OEM support system behind you.

As for the real world:

If you want to have support for most/all of the school’s courses, you’re going to need Windows, no doubt about it.

So, what does most of the school population (read: not students who are in FIRST or on Chief Delphi) require in a laptop not for special electives (engineering, graphic design, programming)?

-Internet browsing
-Microsoft Office tools (papers, presentations, etc.)
-Easy usability. It literally needs to be able to be understood by a baby - that’s how difficult it is for some students in our education system to understand technology.

And that’s about it. That perfectly fits the definition of a netbook.

In a netbook hardware-wise, you’ll want, from my perspective as a high school student:

-Strong battery life (go a whole day without charging may be an appropriate goal). People don’t like fiddling around with cords
-Larger screen than the Classmate (the only netbook I’ve fiddled with really, at 10"). The screen is shrunk almost to the point of no usability, as is the keyboard. I would recommend 12", as those tend to be the larger netbooks, and you still get good power consumption. Or, if you are going to step up to real laptops, 13.3" is a good, popular form factor.
-Robustness. Teenagers, at least, drop electronics (phones) ALL of the time. It will happen.

That is essentially small business laptops (ThinkPads, Latitudes, EliteBooks). They are robust, and the cheaper models are within $340-$400, on their website. Which is when you negotiate, because of your buying power. Plus, you have a good OEM support system behind you.

Those are the basics for hardware - usability for every student, every day. Literally, 99% of the students are not going to care about the specifications. Now, just go out to vendors and figure out who will most likely give you the best deal.

As for software, which seems to have to do more with “This is more about what features you’d like as a student or would have liked as a student for accessing online classes, hybrid or blended learning classes, multimedia, digital textbooks, etc.” That’s likely completely up to each school’s IT department. The only way to innovate that way with hardware is by trying a tablet.

I’m curious - what are the things you don’t like about an iPad? They are very easy to pick up and use, which is the issue with Windows - some people struggle. That, I believe, will be a big issue with putting this laptops in schools. Also with an iPad, document-sharing will be simple® with iCloud, and with iOS 5 comes easy video-out compatibilities. They are sort of a toy, but very powerful if used correctly.

Ok, then I won’t say anything about the merits of the program. However, perhaps it’s best to narrow down the approach some, since the average student tends to ask for more than he/she wants and for the wrong reasons. A couple of aids to help narrow down the questions to ask:

With regards to content and online courses – unless the online exams are all multiple choice then a touch-only interface (or any non-tactile touch keyboard) is a bad idea (IMO I suppose, though there are articles supporting it). This is really driven by content providers – those who write the tests, make the learning material, etc. If there’s a hybrid approach to online courses (receive content online, turn in products like tests/project in person), then this may be a non-issue.

Word Processing, Spreadsheets, and Presentation Slides can all be done without Microsoft, so you’re not stuck with Windows machines if you don’t want one. On the flip side, Microsoft OneNote does offer a lot of value for students. The snip tool was the key deciding factor for me – snip a piece of the screen, insert it into OneNote, type some notes on it. Works better than Evernote in most cases. Works great for very interactive things (e.g. pause YouTube video, snip the YouTube screen, make notes, resume video), but not so great for creating new documents.

Other than that, programmers usually want big screens, or at least the ability to hook up to one. Everyone wants keyboards that are easy to type on. That goes back to the limitations on what the students are allowed to do.

From there it’s a matter of how much leniency you want to give the students – more controls (network policies, antivirus, antispyware, website blocking) all take more resources to use. I seriously doubt a 2-core Atom processor is enough to handle all of the IT policy-type things that could come up. Yet if you’re stuck with a (pre-insurance/etc) price of less than $300, then netbooks may be the only option – so adjusting the IT policies may be in order.

The next thing to consider is the infrastructure to store all of the user documents, particularly if it’s a netbook check-out system. Should students use their own storage service, and if so, which services should be supported by the IT department (Dropbox, MS Sync, any other cloud services) and what limitations would be expected (say no to thumb drives, honestly…). My personal favorite for school-type things is DropBox.

As for Chromebooks – I’m still out with the jury on this one. On the one hand, they’re almost exactly what you need right now. However, that’s a bit impulsive over the life cycle of a product. Google makes the implication that the life cycle of their product is 2 years – which implies $480 for the hardware & software. If $480 (pre-insurance/etc) fits your profile for the life cycle & features, then it may be a good deal. However, consider that $960 can get a piece of hardware that will last for the life cycle of a high school student and have more capability.

Good luck.

My recommendation is that whatever you get, get the cheaper ones, and plan to replace them a few years down the line. All the time I see schools making foolish decisions buying the latest and greatest technology which loses its value due to depreciation and becomes obsolete long before they ever plan to replace or upgrade it. It makes much more sense to buy mediocre computers every 4 years than to buy awesome computers every 8 years.

Also, don’t ever depend on the vendor for IT support. It simply won’t happen. Your district needs a proficient, robust, efficient, and well staffed IT department to venture into this realm.

Finally, content, content, content!

What is going to be loaded onto these devices? What types of activities will the students be doing? Laptops, netbooks, tables, and Smart Boards are all useless in a learning environment without the educational content to go with them.

Also, as a matter of cost-benefit, what exactly is gained by giving the students a device they can take home as opposed to keeping the resources at the school. I’d expect a rather high loss and damage rate if they were allowed to regularly take them home.