Demystifying Bring Your Own Device: What to look for in a device for a student
Hundreds of schools across New Zealand now have Bring Your Own Device (BYOD) policies in place. This means students can now use their own devices, such as tablets or laptops, at school to help with their learning. It allows them to do research, complete their homework and collaborate on projects with their classmates or teachers on their very own devices.
But with the sheer number of devices and accessories available to students, how do you as a parent know what the right product for your child’s learning needs is?
Price is obviously a main consideration, but must be balanced against the device’s features, such as size, memory or robustness. Some of these features will be more important than others, depending on what your child needs.
Choose the right type of device
Tablet vs laptop
The first decision to make is whether you need a tablet or a laptop. Each of these has its own strengths and weaknesses for school use. For example, tablets are more centred on consumption of information rather than the creation of content, which can be a limitation if the curriculum requires content creation, as is often the case for secondary students. A fully featured laptop might be overkill for your Year 7 student on the other hand.
Tablets are ideal for younger learners, or as a secondary device for older students. They’re best for reading content, simple web research and using apps, and are very portable. These often run different operating system versions than laptops, such as iOS or Android, which can’t run full software. Tablets are app-based devices, which limits what they can be used for.Shop Tablets
So-called 2-in-1 devices bring together the best of tablets and laptops. They are great for secondary students with the versatility of both touch and keyboard for all types of learning. Some models feature detachable touchscreens, while others can easily convert from notebook to tablet mode with a 360-degree hinge. This is excellent for creative work in art or design classes, as students can write directly on the screen with stylus pen.Shop 2-in-1s
Thin and lightweight, but with the performance of a premium laptop, these ultra-portable laptops are fast becoming the device of choice for secondary students in particular. While they represent a larger upfront investment, they do boast a longer shelf life. They also have enough power to keep up with large software programs like graphic design and video or photo editing tools. They are also able to run many things at once like office software, while sending emails, listening to music and researching online.Shop Laptops
Choose the right Operating System
Operating system: Apple, Chrome or Windows?
All three of the main operating systems have their own advantages and the choice between comes down to budget, personal choice and the ecosystem required by the school.
- Windows: With Windows being the most widely installed operating system in computing devices, many schools prefer a Windows-device. Popular applications such as the Microsoft Office suite are also designed natively for the Windows systems. The range of Windows-based devices is plentiful, especially in hybrid and laptops varieties.
- Chrome: Chromebooks, laptops powered by Google's Chrome OS, meanwhile are incredibly lightweight and affordable. They are designed to be used primarily while connected to the internet, with most applications and data stored in the cloud, so they’re accessible anywhere, anytime, and from any device. Teachers and students use these to work collaboratively on documents live using Google Drive and Docs. They’re also very safe and simple to use for younger students.
- Apple: Apple’s range of ultra-portable MacBooks are a very popular choice for BYOD. They offer simple syncing of documents and files with other iOS device such as iPads and iPhones, and are compatible with Mac versions of Microsoft Office.
Screen size & resolution
For most school work a minimum of a 10-inch screen is essential, although 7 to 8-inch tablets can do the trick for less intensive work for younger students. For creative or technical work, a larger size would work best. Keep in mind that a larger screen means more weight and a shorter battery life. A good screen resolution, at least 720p, is important if students will be watching HD media, or reading a lot of text.
Since your child will be carrying their device to school and back each day, it needs to be light and portable enough to carry all day. So aim for something under 1.6 kg, that can easily slip into a backpack.
After weight and screen size, this is the most critical criteria. Generally, schools request that devices can survive a full school day without needing to be charged. This makes sense as otherwise their classrooms would become a tangle of cables, as each student attempts to plug in their chargers. Make sure the battery on the device you choose lasts a typical school day - around 6 hours. This shouldn’t be a problem for most tablets and light laptops.
The amount of memory you need will depend on how the device will be used. Will it be used mainly for reading, or for lots of multimedia stuff such as photo, audio files and videos? While cloud-based tools like Microsoft’s SkyDrive, Apple’s iCloud, Dropbox or Google Drive reduce the need for on-device storage, a certain amount of built-in storage is still recommended. With storage it’s always safer to overestimate. In tablets, aim for at least 32GB, and 128GB in laptops and hybrids [2-in-1s]. A good option is to also invest in a portable hard drive to both backup important documents and to extend storage - we cover these devices in more detail below. Storage on some tablets can also easily be extended with a micro SD card.
The device you buy needs to withstand the rigours of everyday school use. Look for tablets with toughened glass, while the lid on laptops offer some level of added protection. However, no matter how durable the device is, if it lands on a corner if dropped, it will most likely damage. Investing in a protective case is therefore essential. After all, kids will be kids!
Ports & connections
Students will need to be able to connect their device to a host of other devices such as printers, projectors and external hard drives, so a USB port (or two) might be essential, but most often does not appear on tablets. Otherwise, many accessories can also be accessed through Bluetooth or a shared wireless network.
Apps & programs
What type of apps or programs will your child need to access? For basic, online apps, most basic tablets and laptops would suffice, and once again this is likely to apply to younger students. Devices for intermediate and high school students would likely need to be able to handle a wide range of programs like Word, Excel and PowerPoint, as well as more power-hungry applications, such as video or image editing software.
Safety & security
Keeping your child safe online and their device protected are vital concerns to address when it comes to BYOD. Most devices do offer some measures to prevent access to unsuitable websites, such as parental controls and family-friendly settings. However, considering the risk, it is well worth investing in a fully-featured antivirus and security software package. Not only will this help keep your child safe online, but it can also help prevent future costs if a device is compromised or important data is lost. It is also essential for everyone, particularly children, to be informed of the potential dangers online. Consider signing up for cyber safety education seminars, such as those hosted by Noel Leeming at Open Learning Centres across New Zealand.
Why Noel Leeming for BYOD?
Noel Leeming has been delivering BYOD solutions to schools for several years, working closely with them to build a BYOD partnership that ensures success and simplicity for all.
With 70 stores nationwide, we’re the closest technology store to nearly every school in the country. We can help you get the right product for your BYOD needs and get the most out of your technology. We offer a range of services to help with all your technology buying needs, including:
- A free 30-minute one-on-one intro to your new device from one of our learning specialists, with the option for more in-depth training if needed
- Weekly in store seminars where you can learn the benefits of technology and find out how to keep your kids safe online
- Exclusive BYOD evenings nationwide, as well as in store events to help schools and parents understand how technology is driving learning in future focused environments
- Delivery, installation, set up and in-home learning for all of our computer products to make sure you get the most out of your purchase.