Consider 'appropriateness' when back-to-school shopping

While communicating with my editor over the summer, it dawned on me that I haven’t written about back-to-school for a couple years … about time for a refresher!

Whether you are buying a device for your child's educational needs or yourself, "appropriateness” is still very important.

Many schools continue to become “Google schools,” an unofficial term for the official “Google for Education” program. It includes Google’s free applications (jargon: “G Suite for Education”). Further, your kid's school/district may have instituted the “One-to-One” educational concept, often abbreviated as “1:1,” where the idea is for each pupil to have access to a digital-world device so teachers can use the trove of information available on the internet, aka the cloud, to augment their curricula.

Although Google's Chromebook offerings have evolved with higher-end and pricier models for professionals, typical education-appropriate Chromebooks are still affordable compared to traditional Windows (from many brands like Dell, HP, etc.) and OSX (from Apple) computers. 

Bottom line, I recommend doing research into how your kid's school uses technology so you get the appropriate device that fits their learning needs.

You may find out that your school, whether a Google school or not, may require/recommend a  traditional computer instead of a Chromebook. This is because applications such as Gmail (email), Chrome (browser), Docs (word processor), Sheets (spreadsheet), etc. run on almost anything – from Chromebooks and smartphones to Windows and Mac computers. So here is some jargon demystified that you’ll encounter while shopping for traditional computers:

  • RAM (memory): Think of it as a desk. The bigger the surface of your desk, the more things you can put on your desk. Memory is measured in gigabytes (GB). Although Microsoft’s minimum to run Windows 10 is 2GB, if budget permits go for at least 4GB or even 8GB.

  • Hard Drive (storage): Think of it as a filing cabinet. The bigger your filing cabinet, the more documents you can file away. Solid state drives, or simply SSD, with only electronic circuitry continue to come down in price, replacing the traditional hard disk drive (HDD) with moving parts. A system with an SSD for storage should run snappier too, just like tablets and smartphones, due to not having any moving parts. If budget permits, try to pick a system with an SSD for storage, albeit with a smaller storage capacity to a comparably priced system with HDD, due to the aforementioned snappiness. 

  • CPU (processor): Think of it as the brain. As of this writing, systems you can buy off-the-shelf typically come equipped with one of the 8th generation Intel “Core” processors (three models to choose from with varying performance capability and pricing) or a system based on the 2nd generation AMD “Ryzen” CPU. Hobbyists, aka DIY folks, can procure the newest generation processor lineups from either company to “build” their system instead of buying it off-the-shelf.

Again, doing research on how your kid's school uses technology in their curriculum will go a long way to ensuring the appropriateness of your investment!

Tak Sato

Strategist and technologist with almost 30 years of experience in the private sector. Holds Bachelor of Science in Computer Information Science and Executive MBA from Cleveland State University.

As Founder of the Center for Aging in the Digital World, a 501(c)(3) nonprofit empowering seniors with digital literacy, Tak connects the dots to help people utilize appropriate technology in their personal and professional lives.

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Volume 11, Issue 15, Posted 10:09 AM, 08.06.2019