Although quality laptops are more expensive out of the box than either desktop or low-end laptop computers, they can be a better value for the school system and the county if we are willing to consider the bigger picture.
Laptops enable educators to access their gradebooks, lesson plans, websites, staff development and other educational tools virtually anytime, anywhere—thus increasing the likelihood and efficiency of technology-rich instruction.
The use of laptops to create mobile computer labs allows students seamless access to technology within the context of classroom instruction. The computers come to the class rather than the alternative. The mobile labs reduce the need for dedicated building space for computers which is a “bricks and mortar” cost savings.
When we purchase laptops for our schools, we look for computers that will perform well for hundreds to thousands of users in a variety of contexts over many years. We have identified four main points as being important as we move toward deploying laptops in our schools. These are in order of importance:
Durability: We do not look for home or personal laptop models. Instead, we look for a heavy-duty chassis and features that influence the longevity of the laptops. These features include components that defend against material stress, shock and fatigue in high demand, multi-user environments.
Warranty: We spec laptops with 3-year, on-site, next-business-day, Complete Care Accidental Service extended warranties. This includes immediate top-level phone support and replacement due to accidental breakage over the life of the warranty. This coverage greatly extends our technical support reach and keeps equipment in educational use.
Performance: We spec durable computers above current standards to solve future problems. Our current laptop specs include Intel Core Duo 2Ghz processors, 2 GB RAM, DVD burner, and Windows XP or Vista Business Edition operating system. XP or Vista Home Edition will not work on our networks.
Flexibility: We spec our laptops with 9-cell batteries which allow up to 4-5 hours of continuous use without recharging. This allows multiple classes to use these computers each day. We have included the cost of seven fan-ventilated laptop carts into our per computer cost for student laptops which will remain in schools. For teacher laptops, we have included the cost of vinyl carrying bags.
It is particularly important to recognize the length of time that we expect to keep any computer we purchase today since our history of erratic local funding suggests that we are buying these computers not only for today but for many years to come.