Choosing a device for pupils

BLAYNE SLABBERT
Last updated 05:00 18/01/2014
SCHOOL TECH: More schools are asking parents to buy their children a tablet for school.
SCHOOL TECH: More schools are asking parents to buy their children a tablet for school.

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Pupils around the country head back to school soon and this year many of them will be carrying a device in their bags.

Increasingly, intermediate and high schools are asking parents to provide their children with a laptop or tablet, but the options available to parents can be confusing.

Schools are keen to stay at the cutting edge of teaching methods but parents face paying from $400 to $1500 for each child.

So what's the best device for your child?

Here are some tips to help you decide.

TABLETS

A tablet has many advantages, including being light to carry and intuitive to use.

Tablets weigh about less than a kilogramme and won't burden children already carrying a book-laden bag.

It is also cheap to buy a protective case to ensure your investment doesn't end up cracked and dented.

The other advantage of tablets is the ease of which children take to them. It is more natural for kids to use their fingers to open apps and push around elements than a mouse.

However, the top reason why tablets are so popular is the number of apps available. Both the Apple and Android stores offer thousands of educations apps to help children with writing, spelling, drawing, geography or any other school activity.

The one perceived drawback is the keyboard. While parents are used to a physical keyboard and may find typing on a screen slower, kids will adapt and be able type without a problem.

If your child does have trouble, you could buy a keyboard such as the Ultrathin Keyboard Cover by Logitech ($129) which holds your iPad up like a laptop and has a great keyboard.

It also snaps magnetically with your device to act as a cover.

LAPTOPS

One of the main things to consider is size. No-one wants their child lugging around a heavy 15-inch laptop all day so try and stick to the smaller 11 or 13 inch models.

There is also the balance of getting something affordable and getting something that will last for several years. Unless your child is into video-editing, most laptops on the market will have enough grunt for them to do their school work.

Another key consideration is battery life. Getting a laptop that lasts more than five hours means your child doesn't need to lug around a charger.

While Windows PC are generally cheaper, don't discount Macs. The latest Airs have a battery life of nine hours and only weigh 1kg. Unfortunately they cost $1450 for the 11-inch model.

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SCHOOL REQUIREMENT

The first thing to do before buying a device is to check with schools about their requirements.

Most schools offer support for any device so parents aren't locked in to buying a high-end brand. However, some school may ask for you to buy a specific tablet or laptop.

Many schools overseas are buying bulk orders of devices and distributing them to pupils, but that trend doesn't seem to be catching on in New Zealand.

Also, if you are struggling to afford a device, ask the school about payment options.

RESTRICTING ACCESS

It's a good idea to restrict access to apps or websites on your childs' device. This stops them from accessing inappropriate content and wasting time.

With tablets you can use the Restrict setting to "hide" apps. This can beused for apps such as Safari, YouTube or Messages.

For laptops make sure a system password (which you set yourself) is needed to install new programs.

If you child needs access to a web browser, check the privacy setting to make sure they are appropriate.

OPERATING SYSTEM

Don't get too hung up over which operating system to get. Both Apple and Android are great and offer many fabulous apps in their stores.

One deciding factor could be what you use as a household. It's often easier if everyone is using the same system so you can share tips and recommendations.

TIPS AND ADVICE

Don't cave to pressure to buy the latest model. Make sure the device is supported by the school.

Name the device with something that is not removable.

Get a protective case or cover.

Don't get a 3G capable tablet, wi-fi only is fine.

Get the device insured.

The 16gb models offer enough storage.

Don't get a hybrid laptop.  

- © Fairfax NZ News

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