What are the pros and cons of choosing different devices for classroom use – e.g. laptops vs. tablets vs. desktops vs thin-client?

Joseph Videtto February 13, 2013

Thank you to all who’ve answered my posts regarding thin-client solutions for classroom use, and related server capacity and support issues.

It seems the school is now leaning toward laptops over the other device choices for the obvious reasons of: portability, ease of adding devices, lower cost per CPU/monitor pair. The disadvantages I see include smaller screen size, centralized administration more difficult, more attention to preventing breakage or loss.

But going back to square one, and considering all the factors – which devices would you recommend for schools starting from scratch (because existing hardware is obsolete ) ?

  1. Javier Vega
    February 24, 2013 at 6:08 pm

    I'm using my tablet at the moment as a note book, it helps me a lot for fast sync and back up of the information in classes, also to read PDF or view videos related to my studies, at class time i limit myself just to class related use of the tablet, so it helps me a lot when learning.

    At a school i guess it depends, depends on the types of classes you are willing to do, depends on what the teacher will need or use, and also depends on the children.

    I think the best tool would be the one that gives enough freedom to learn without barriers, but limits if children are getting out of the learning process, procastination is a BIG problem nowadays and must be taken in consideration.

  2. Nate Clark
    February 17, 2013 at 2:11 pm

    In my opinion, students don't need any of these things. I went to a high school with about 4 computer labs that held ~25 computers each. Whenever students needed to do something on a computer, they could go to a computer lab.
    Giving students their own devices opens up all sorts of issues relating to misuse. Unless there is a way for a teacher to monitor what EVERY student is looking at on their laptops (the computer labs at my high school did, and the teacher could remotely access your computer to close whatever program you weren't supposed to be using), some students will be playing games, chatting with each other, and in general not paying attention.

  3. Nevzat Akkaya
    February 15, 2013 at 1:44 pm

    another question with unaccepted answers. You guys really give good answers and really thought about it, spared time for it, but got no response. I'll add likes for you then, you deserved this.

    • Joseph Videtto
      February 16, 2013 at 9:20 am

      please explain 'unaccepted' - if you're referring to the original poster - perhaps I haven't kept up with what I can do as the person receiving the answers to show as appreciation; I'm going to go back and "Like' all the good answers that are good, if that's what you mean - let me know if it's something else. I tend to post questions in batches, and sometimes take some time before I can review all the answers. I'm now in review mode. regards.

      • Nevzat Akkaya
        February 16, 2013 at 10:39 am

        I meant any response, whether any of the suggestions solved the issue or nothing worked, any feedback.

  4. Nikhil Chandak
    February 14, 2013 at 3:52 pm
  5. Bruce Epper
    February 13, 2013 at 7:55 pm

    Just because the existing hardware is obsolete does not mean that it is useless in your situation. Those machines could easily be turned into dumb terminals for use as clients in a virtualized environment. If the existing network infrastructure can support it, adding the servers required for virtualization and file storage, converting existing machines into clients and augmenting with laptops to fill the remaining seats may be a viable solution.

    The screen size probably is not much of an issue unless the intent is to have multiple students looking at the same machine at the same time. The administration and security issues become huge with laptops and in order to protect the school's internal network, especially if using Windows-based machines, will require more time and effort as well as additional expense in security software and possibly hardware as well (internal firewalling/proxies). There will be more issues with breakage than with desktops depending on the age of the users. The loss issues can be mitigated by the use of software systems such as Prey (used to find/disable lost or stolen laptops).

    Are these questions regarding a single school or an entire district? Is the school in a single building or a multi-structure campus? What is the current network capacity internally? What are the current usage patterns on the existing network? What are the expected network usage patterns of the classroom systems? What kind of security and control systems are already in place? Will they also be used with the classroom systems or are they being viewed as an entirely separate network? What kind of shared network resources are available?

  6. ha14
    February 13, 2013 at 7:31 pm

    Intel advocates for a “smart client” approach. Smart clients are defined as “standard desktops or laptops remotely managed through a network”. This means that applications can be run “on and off the network” while at the same time having the advantage of a centrally managed and controlled client. Intel touts these smart clients as “the right choice for education”.

    The school that swapped its laptops for iPads… and wants to switch back

    if you do not want that laptop swing left and right then desktop computers are best choice and durable.

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