How to choose the best 1:1 device for your school

How to choose the best 1:1 device for K-12 schools

Schools all over the world are enjoying the benefits of EdTech. For many, adopting a 1:1 device strategy (where every student has access to a digital device) is the most direct way to improve learner outcomes.

But with such a crowded hardware market place, how can you know which device will work best for your school’s 1:1 system?

Let’s have a look at how you can make an informed decision to make your EdTech efforts a success. 



What do you need to consider when choosing student devices?

Sadly there is not one winning device that will work perfectly for every school and district (this article would be a lot shorter if there was!). As with all big decisions, a lot will depend on your individual needs and circumstances. For this reason, it is important to do some information gathering before you start even thinking about specific devices. You will need detailed and accurate answers to the following questions:


What are your learning goals?

All purchases made by schools should in some way support learning – and where devices are concerned, it is their most central attribute. It is essential to start off your device search by considering what your learning standards and goals are and how they can be supported by technology. 

This involves gaining a deep understanding of how devices will be used in classrooms across the school. For example, will teachers be wanting to use apps or simply inbuilt functionality? Will an internet connection be vital or is an offline working mode preferable? Are devices going be classroom features alone or will students be taking them home?

 Remember that you need to ensure that there is cross-curriculum functionality. The English department will likely have different needs to science – so it’s important that each is catered for. 

Learning exactly how devices will be used and which learning activities they will be engaged in, will form a lot of the basis for your device decision.


How will you ensure data security and privacy?

Like all developments, the introduction of EdTech is not without its risks. Protecting your staff and students from online threats and data hacks should be a primary concern and one which requires a solid strategy long before you roll out your devices. 

Carefully considering which platforms and infrastructures will be needed to provide wide-ranging protective functions, not just at this moment but for the foreseeable future, should significantly impact your hardware options. Make sure that you have considered how your security protocols will affect any device choices and that the hardware you do choose provides you with maximum security. 



How will you manage your devices?

Managing devices is a crucial part of any 1:1 strategy, not merely an IT convenience. Management includes functions such as installing software, implementing updates/ patches and both physical and digital security checks. It’s important to ensure that your back end systems are aligned with the devices that you introduce to your school.

Alongside device management are also considerations around infrastructure and what this can support. Aspects such as wireless networks with sufficient bandwidth and appropriate charging facilities need to be looked at carefully. How many devices can be reasonably used on the existing digital infrastructure and do you need to invest in a more robust system before flooding it with new devices?


Where will you get support? 

Digital devices sadly do not remain intact throughout their lifespan. Many will require software and hardware fixes or updates to continue being functional education assets. Creating a solid understanding of what will happen when fixes are required will ensure a smooth running 1:1 system. 

This could include having IT support within the school itself, but also bear in mind connections with vendors. Do they offer continued support once devices have been sold and are there any forms of community-based support that you can access? Reliable support options will be a vital lifeline in the case of any minor or major tech failures.


The true cost of the device

The initial purchase price may seem like a steal, but what will it cost you over its lifespan? Calculating the true cost of device can be complex and there are a lot of factors to consider, such as:

  • The device itself:  How long is its lifecycle? Will it be useful for 4-5 years or will it wear out or become obsolete in 2-3 years? Reviews are often the best way to suss this out for yourself – don’t take the salesman at their word!
  • Do you need to purchase hardware?: The price of peripherals such as keyboards, mice, styluses or extra charging cables need to be weighed up. Does the device come with these, do they need to be purchased as add-ons and how can you get hold of replacements?
  • Will you need to buy software? Will the device be compatible with existing instructional software or will you need to purchase it new? Also consider what apps you will want and their accrued cost. 
  • Professional development: You can’t expect staff and students to pick up a drastically new technology in a few days. Consider whether this is an evolution from previous, older, but similar devices and applications or is the device platform and applications entirely new? What will you need to invest to get everybody up to speed?



Available devices: the pros and cons

Once you have your school situation carefully considered, it’s time to look at what device types are actually out there, and the benefits and drawbacks of each.


1. Smartphones

The device: Such is the progress of technology that smartphones now function as mini computers. Fitted with touch screens they can be used for phone calls as well as internet access and most applications can be installed and used. The majority of smartphones use either an iOS or Android system. 

Pros: Smartphones are small, easily transportable and come in a broad range of prices. 

Cons: Their main function is communication via cellular service, rather than app usage. This can make them distracting and loaded with unnecessary functionality. Their compact size can also make working and reading on them fiddly. 


2. Laptops

The device: Portable computer devices that consist of a screen and keyboard which can be folded together. Laptops are increasingly thin, light and more powerful. As such they are often the device of choice for many working professionals. 

Pros: Laptops are easily portable and fit into a backpack. They come with a wide range of features, battery life and storage. 

Cons: Though the market is broad, there are still some very expensive options. Equally,  cheaper laptops may be bulkier and less easy for young students to move around. Modern laptops will also often have many more features than you may need.  A significant section of laptops don’t provide touch screen capability, which can limit engagement with certain apps.  




3. Desktop computers

The device: The original computer device is stationary consisting of a monitor, computer tower, mouse and keyboard. Desktop computers must be plugged into a power outlet in situ.

Pros: Desktop computers are often reliable with a good amount of processing power. They do not require charging or wi-fi which can reduce infrastructure complexity. As they are stationary they are less likely to be damaged by wear and tear. 

Cons: These devices are not portable which reduces the flexibility of their usage. The spaces in which they can be used must be static and makes for very formulaic, limited classroom design. They are also unlikely to have touch screen ability and may not support all applications.


4. Google Chromebooks

The device: Appearance-wise they are almost identical to laptops, however, they only run a browser rather than providing a full operating system like Windows. Chrome books are a specific subsection of netbooks which only run a Google Chrome browser. 

Pros: Netbooks are much cheaper than standard laptops and provide no unnecessary, heavy functionality. They also tend to have longer battery life and are light and portable. 

Cons: They are much less powerful than standard laptops. This may be fine for light app usage but more complex tasks such as creating media or coding may not be possible. 


5. Tablets

The device: Portable touch screen devices which do not have a hardware keyboard attached. They are very light and portable and often come with styluses. Tablets often run iOS or Android operating systems, though they can also run Windows and others. The market leaders in this arena are: iPad, Android, or Windows RT tablet. Each has their own separate benefits and drawbacks. 

Pros: Highly portable and intuitive to use. They are also reasonably cheap. Their central touchscreen functionality is an added bonus for many educational apps.

Cons: The large screen can be easy to damage and expensive to replace. The type of operating system can limit the use of certain apps, for example, iOS is not ideal for running Google’s suite of functionality, including Docs. Typing on a touchscreen can be difficult for long form writing, so schools may want to consider keyboard peripherals. 



6. Hybrids

The device: These devices come in a few forms, some work primarily as tablets that can also be attached to a keyboard and so used as an ultrabook/netbook. Others are primarily ultrabooks that have additional tablet features (such as capacitive touch screen.)

Pros: Hybrids give greater flexibility of function than merely a laptop or tablet, with the advantages of both.

Cons: They have more moving parts which can lead to damage and expensive replacements. They also require the purchase of peripherals which can make them a more expensive option. 


The moral of the story – take plenty of time to research any device before purchase! 

The type of device you use must be matched by exceptional educational apps and a well thought out learning integration structure. Find out how the Kami app could help you to create a more collaborative, creative and interactive learning environment today!

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