Electronics 101: essential devices for all school needs

In our lifetime the way we take notes, handle schoolwork and do research has completely changed. It wasn’t that long ago that typewriters were the norm, students wrote assignments in longhand, and the library was the main source of information which involved poring through large, heavy books.

Computers have revolutionised people’s lives, and no more so than in schools and university. Electronic tools and software have made the education process more palatable and helped engage those more resistent to learning. They provide ways for students to enjoy a much more interactive experience, and give teachers the opportunity to take a whole new approach when it comes to relaying information and conducting classes.

There are so many devices, computers and software choices on the market, it can sometimes be difficult to make the right choice for your child. You may be tempted to buy the latest and greatest thing on the shelves, but this could be overkill. In the end you need to look at their minimum requirements, your budget, and getting the best bang for your buck.

The first years of

grade school

Children usually begin grade school at around the age of five. Even at this early stage a computer in the home can assist with the learning process. There are fun programs that teach basic math, English and problem-solving techniques, but it is always a good idea to get the teacher’s or school’s recommendation if you’re not sure of what to buy.

For children this age, the computer should be in a central place in the house with appropriate password protection so you can always monitor your child when he or she is using it. A desktop computer is a good choice under these circumstances as it tends to be hardier than a laptop and can offer a nice large monitor. There are a wide range of Windows-based machines available from names such as HP and Dell, and then of course you have the Apple range of iMacs with dazzling high-resolution screens and terrific apps. Just remember that when kids are younger the stuff they need won’t take up a lot of hard drive space, nor will it require a high-end processor. If you are getting them a computer separate from the main computer for the family, there is no need to spend a fortune on it. Bells and whistles are definitely optional.

Grade school through high school

As your child gets older you have to consider whether you want them to have their own computer. It is so very important to keep an eye of the content they are viewing and particularly what they are doing online. You need to have a discussion with them about posting personal information and all the other obvious concerns that come with access to the Internet. Make sure you have a reputable anti-virus program running such as McAfee or Norton and always keep it up-to-date.

As far as software is concerned, when they head towards high school you will definitely want a word processing and spreadsheet package loaded on their computer at the very least. Microsoft Office and a number of other programs are available at much lower prices for students so bear this in mind when shopping for software. You can save literally hundreds of dollars. This may also be the time to consider a laptop for portability, but check to see if it is necessary before spending the money. If you do, try to purchase a machine that will last for a good few years and is expandable. Most laptops allow for extra memory to be installed which will bump up their performance and allow them to run more resource-heavy programs.

University

A laptop definitely makes sense at this stage. Portability is important, and hopefully your teenager is old enough to be more careful with such expensive items. Depending on the course they are taking, choose a machine that can handle the programs they will need. Apple products tend to be preferred when it comes to any study in photography, graphic design or film. They have exceptional high-resolution screens, great processing power and software that is head and shoulders above others for these kind of courses. Machines like MacBook Airs are extremely light and portable, but they are not as easily expandable as the MacBook Pro line, which also features much higher-capacity hard drives. To get the most for your money you need to be practical. HP also offers a wide range of laptops that pack a punch. Just remember that the bigger the screen, the bulkier and heavier the machine will be. Between 13 and 15 inches is usually considered the sweet spot.

A tablet like an iPad is a great tool as well and very portable, but it all comes down to your budget. A computer should be the priority and something like a tablet should be considered as a secondary tool or backup.

Speaking of backups, it is so easy to focus on the machine you are purchasing and then the work your child is doing, that you may forget one of the most important aspects of relying on computers in any part of your life. They can and do fail from time to time. Whether you have a PC or a Mac, make sure that you back up your data on a regular basis. You can purchase an external hard drive, use an Apple Time Capsule, sign up for a web service etc but whatever you do, make sure you put this in place. It is the probably the most important option you can install on your machine, and the one people remember 
the least.

You may be tempted to buy the latest and greatest thing on the shelves, but this could be overkill.

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