Hmmmm, Black Friday is just one week away here in the U.S. Actually less, since it seems many big box stores barely give employees time to digest their turkey dinners before opening their doors. The newspaper is full of ads and products like this one from Amazon are popping up all over the place.
My worry when I see ads for products like these is that parents will purchase such devices for their kids, the kids will bring them to school only to discover that they will not meet their academic needs, parents will get upset with the technology department, and kids won't be happy. "You want kids to bring their own devices, but you didn't say which ones!"
So as a precaution and as an assist to gift purchasers, we will again send out the letter below to all households. Use it to create your own if you are a BYOD district....
Oh, please let me know what "specs" you'd like to have in student-owned devices.
Dear Parents and Guardians,
As the holiday season nears, gift buying will move into high gear for many of us. I am sure that some sort of technology device is on many of your children's wish lists. Products like the iPad Mini, the Microsoft Surface, various Android tablets like the Nexus and the Galaxy, and color e-book readers such as the Fire and the Nook along with netbooks, Chromebooks, and laptops are adding a lot choices (and confusion) to the low-cost computing market. Smartphones, both iPhones and Androids, are popular with many children and young adults and are surprisingly powerful.
We thought it might be helpful if we outlined some specifications of any device you might buy Mankato Area Public School students if you'd like them to use it to complete school work (and not just play Minecraft, watch YouTube, or send text messages.)
While we won't recommend specific models or even kinds of devices, I would encourage you to buy a piece of equipment that meets these requirements if it is to be used for most school work. Your child's device should have:
- an 802.11x wireless networking capability (the district provides filtered wireless access in all buildings to students)
- a virus protection program if purchasing a desktop or laptop computer
- a color screen with a resolution of a minimum of 1024 x 600
- an on screen or external keyboard or other means of entering text
- an audio out port for earbuds or headphones
- a minimum 4 hours of use from one battery charge
- a full functioning, recent web browser (Firefox, Explorer, Chrome, Safari) that will allow it to access GoogleApps for Education tools and documents, the Infinite Campus student portal, Moodle 2.0, the state of Minnesota's ELM content databases, and the Destiny library catalog along with other e-resources the district provides
You may wish to consider getting a device that has
- a camera that takes both still photos and video (front and rear cameras are most versatile)
- a microphone
- ability to run Flash (this is to view some online videos and animations until all sites convert to HTML5)
- machine-based productivity software (MicrosoftOffice, Open Office, iWork) for use when an Internet connection is not available
- the capacity to run graphing calculator software
Many smartphones, netbooks, tablets, or a full-sized laptops (new or used) can do the job.
You might wish to bring the above list into the store to inquire of the salespeople that the devices you are considering meet the requirements.
When writing a paper, solving a math problem, researching a topic or collaborating with fellow students, technology can help your child do his or her school work and develop good technology skills along the way - and maybe even text when the studies are done.
Please e-mail one of us if you have any questions.
Doug Johnson, Director of Media and Technology