My children attend a primary school that is BYOD. Any device. We have not been given specs or advised what it is needed for so parents are on their own. We have learned from our children that they do everything in Google Drive and we know that the high school they will go to mandates iPad. But they are a few years off high school so decisions had to be made for this year.
We did a lot of research. We had the advantage of having eldest take an old notebook we had lying around the house last year and learned from his one year with BYOD that those students on tablet devices struggled with production, although dictionary work was not a problem. He struggled on his notebook for no other reason than his notebook was 5 years old and the battery kept going flat (it used Windows XP).
Thus the research began. There are so many blogs out there that compare laptops, android tablets, iPad and Microsoft surface. They look at things such as battery life, screen size, camera, display, weight, and amount of apps available. What they don’t look at is production and the big consideration for parents with more than one child – the cost.
After all our research we decided on the Microsoft Surface. These are the reasons why, and why I think it is the best device to be used in schools:
$220 for a 32GB Windows RT device v $700 for a 32gb IPad Air. I have 3 children all needing devices. The answer is quite obvious on this one. Generic laptops start at $399 (but then you need to buy the software).
The Microsoft Surface comes preloaded with Microsoft Word, PowerPoint, Excel, OneNote and Outlook. You can now buy these apps for the iPad Air and laptops, but this adds to an already costly device. Yes, there are free apps out there that mimic the productivity of Microsoft, but why go with the mimic when you can have the real thing that now seamlessly integrates? You can even convert your Surface back to the old familiar desktop look, for those who don’t like change.
Of course, my kids’ school uses Google Drive for all their word processing and slide shows and this is problematic with the Surface. You cannot download Google Chrome or Drive onto a Surface. However, their devices are permanently connected to the WiFi at school so they can still access these easily through IE and I have pinned them to their Start Screen so that it is easy for them to access.
I’ve also shown them that Google Drive docs, forms, spreadsheets, etc just don’t have the functionality of Microsoft, so when they are producing assignments they should use Microsoft and then just upload their docs into their Google Drive. Easy.
OK – iPad is a bit of a winner here. There are so many more apps in the apps store than in the Windows store. Yet there are some 60,000 apps in the Windows store so is it really a problem? Because our school is BYO Any Device, apps are a moot point because they don’t use them at school. However, so far every app in the app store that I like, I have been able to find a similar one in the Windows store. Evernote? Well the Surface comes preloaded with OneNote. icloud? Surface has Sky Drive (which gives you much more space than the always tight Apple). Explain Everything? You can use the PC version on the Surface (which has better functionality in my opinion than the app). Edmodo? Again, you would have to use the PC version.
I will be honest, I am one of those mothers who have said they cannot upload games onto their school devices. However, I have let them upload maths and spelling games, which were free and they really enjoy. If I was a bit more relaxed, I would allow them to connect their Surface to the Xbox so that the can play all their Xbox games on their Surface, but really, I’m just not that relaxed about their education.
I will admit I’ve seen kids make some awesome films on their ipads. But I’ve also seen my kids make great films on their Surface. IPad is slightly in front with iMovie v Windows Movie Maker, but hey, how often do they make films in class? I’m an English teacher, my high school students do it once a year, maybe twice, no more.
This is a big winning point for me. That little thing on the side called a USB port. Apple really should investigate them, they do come in handy.
I know that in the scheme of things, a kickboard is really not that important. But no, wait. IT IS. The magnetised clip on keyboard, complete with the kickboard that pops out of the back of the Surface, turning it into a functional laptop, is brilliant. Something so simple, is a major selling point.
You have to have a Microsoft account to use the Surface. I was able to setup up all the Surfaces through my Microsoft account and then create child accounts for each of the boys, setting up security based on their age. As a parent, this is important to me. I need to know what they are seeing, and I need to know they are not going to stumble into sites that are unsafe.
So we have gone Microsoft Surface in this household. The main reason being I could get 3 Surfaces for the cost of one iPad Air – and for any struggling family that is a really big selling point. But I’m really impressed with these devices. As a teacher myself, I’m looking at the Surface Pro as a device for myself. As a former business woman, I wish the Surface had been around before I sold my business. As a business device, they are brilliant.
Now, we just need someone to challenge the legality under Consumer Law, of a school specifying the exact device that must be used, and we may just be able to continue using our Surfaces in high school. Otherwise I better start saving so I can afford 3 iPads in a few years’ time.