BYOD

All incoming high school students are required to bring a laptop to school. All middle school students are welcome and encouraged to bring devices as well. 

Please fill out this survey to tell us how you plan to provide your high schooler with a device next year.

We recommend all laptops:

  • Have at least 2 GB of Ram
  • Be small and light enough to transport easily to and from school and to fit into lockers easily.

To understand the philosophy behind our BYOD program, please read our letter to families.

Buying Devices

  • Chromebooks

    Positives

    Negatives

    • Cheap, effective & reliable

    • Teachers & students are familiar with the platform.

    • Modern web applications allow students to work on documents, mail, calendars, and even graphic design and some basic audio and video editing.

    • Upgrades managed by google; no need to worry about updating software, virus protection, etc.

    • Flash memory is fast and more durable than traditional hard drives.

    • Chromebooks are intentionally limited; they can do nothing more than browse the web and run web applications.

    • Students who want to install or write custom programs will be limited to web applications and chrome plugins.

    • While working offline on a Chromebook is possible, it is difficult. Families without internet access should consider a Windows laptop as an alternative.

    • Students about to head to college should consider whether their college expects more than a chromebook. UMass Lowell, for example,recommends that students buy a Mac or Windows laptop.

    Recommended
    Specs

    We recommend a chromebook with flash storage, at least 2GB of Ram and wifi connectivity (not 3G, which will let your student bypass the school’s filtering). If you buy through Amazon, you can add spill & drop protection for around $50 which is sold throughsquaretrade.  (You can also go to squaretrade directly to buy spill & drop protection)

    Recommended Model

    An Asus 13” Chromebook with 2GB of Ram for $189

    Upgrade Alternatives

    If you’re willing to pay another $40 or so, you can upgrade to theAsus 13″ Chromebook with 4GB Ram , which will make the machine more responsive when the student has many tabs open or is trying to do more intensive work on the computer, such as graphic design or video editing using web-based tools.

    If you’re looking to spend around $300, you can upgrade to a higher resolution screen such as the Toshiba 13” Chromebook, which will allow a student (with good eyes) to fit more text on the screen at a time or work in two windows side-by-side.  The storage, as opposed to the RAM, is not likely to be of much concern to students, as the vast majority of material is stored in the cloud rather than on the individual machine.

  • Windows Laptops

    Positives

    Negatives

    • Anything you can do on a chromebook, you can do on a Windows laptop.

    • Greater opportunity to install applications

    • Work can be stored locally.

    • Windows machines also come in a vast array of forms, with many different touchscreen/tablet-laptop hybrids on the market.

    • A windows laptop will meet most college expectations (UMass Lowell, for example,recommends that students buy a Mac or Windows laptop.)

    • Windows laptops carry a greater risk of problems with malware and spyware and require more attention to upgrades and virus protection. We’d recommend Avast free antivirus.

    • Cheap windows machines are often poorly built and don’t last long.

    Recommended
    Specs

    Minimum specs: i3 processor, 4GB Ram, Windows 7 (or Windows 8 with a touchscreen). We recommend 14” or smaller screen. Here’s an Amazon search with those specs.  If you buy through Amazon, you can add spill & drop protection for around $50-100 which is sold through squaretrade.

    Note: I’ve recommended the Dell machines below. Dell consistently does well on customer service ratings compared with other manufacturers, but ratings for the reliability of machines themselves is all over the map and you should feel free to shop around for the features and price you want. Asus and Lenovo are two other brands that often do well on ratings

    Recommended Model

    Dell Inspiron 11 3000 ($379) with 4GB Ram, a touch screen to work well with Windows 8, and a small form factor (3.3 lbs, 11.6 inch screen).

    Upgrade Alternatives

    For $649, you can upgrade to a Dell Inspiron 13 7000, with a bigger, high resolution screen and keyboard and a nicer processor.

    $999 will buy you a Dell XPS 13 with SSD Hard drive,  8GB Ram, and a top-of-the-line processor.  Be aware, however, that a higher end processor eats through battery life more quickly.

     

  • Macbooks

    Positives

    Negatives

    • The school has a Mac lab, and students who take computer-intensive courses will get opportunities to work with macs in the classroom which they can translate into classroom knowledge.

    • Macs are great for introductory-level multimedia work (audio editing, video editing, graphic design).

    • Apple is consistently rated highly  in reliability and customer satisfaction.

    • A macbook will meet most college expectations (UMass Lowell, for example,recommends that students buy a Mac or Windows laptop.)

    • There is no school-based need that justifies the extra expense of a macbook.

     

    Recommended
    Specs

    Minimum specs: Any new Macbook Air or Macbook on the market will meet your needs at school. If you are looking at a used machine, we recommend a machine capable of supporting Yosemite (the new operating system). We have some existing machines that run OS 10.7.5 which could work in a pinch, though we wouldn’t recommend it.

    Recommended
    Model

    Macbook Air 13”  — for $949, this is one of our standard faculty machines and one that should serve students well. It has the best battery life of the macbook family and good enough processor and memory to keep most users happy.

    Alternatives

    Macbook Air 11 “ — the smallest, lightest, and cheapest of the mac options. I’d recommend trying one out at a store to make sure the screen size isn’t too small for the student.

    Macbook Pro – students who know they want to do lots of multimedia work may want a Macbook Pro, which features upgradable ram and a beautiful screen as upgrades to the Air, at the cost of less battery life and a bigger price tag.

    Purchasing

    I recommend purchase using the ~$99 educational discount via the Apple Store (note: Apple still lists us as “Murdoch Middle School” in the 01824 zip code), or watch Best Buy for deals that meet or beat that, which they have on a regular basis (the Apple store will also price match Best Buy’s deals if you’d rather get Apple’s better service and Best Buy’s better price).

  • Linux

    Computer enthusiasts may want to bring in a laptop with linux on it. Linux-based laptops will support everything needed at the school (though you may have to install Flash, with apologies to free software purists). Anyone interested in a linux laptop should know enough to pick one out that will function well for their schoolwork.

  • Tablets

    Positives

    Negatives

    • Tablets are light and often come with nice built-in cameras which can be useful for shooting video and photographs.
    • iPads make it easy to record video and share it with macs in the school’s mac lab.

    • iPads and Android Tablets have a limited google docs experience and are not recommended for school use.

    • Students using a tablet on a daily basis will need to buy a keyboard and case which will likely offset the cost savings of buying a tablet rather than a computer.

    The only tablet OS that works completely with google apps is a Windows tablet such as the Surface. Any tablet used for school needs to have a keyboard and case so that it can be used like a laptop.

    Android tablets and iPads with keyboards are both attractive options for many reasons, but that apps for google docs are severely limited and make sharing and graphing difficult. In rare cases, these could be acceptable devices, if, for example, students had access to other devices when graphing functionality was really needed. If a student already owns and likes an iPad or an Android tablet, they may be able to make do with it, but they will have to come up with workarounds for doing things like charting data in science class.

    Windows (good)

    The Windows Surface is a nice tablet capable of doing all the work needed via the google chrome browser. If you look at other Windows tablets, we recommend one, like the Surface, that includes a built-in keyboard.

    Android Tablet (not recommended)

    Android integrates well with google accounts, emails and calendaring, but google docs is limited on the android, making it a poor choice for schoolwork. For example, there is no simple way to create graphs using the google sheets app on an android tablet.Because there are many different android devices, the challenge will be in getting a screen size and memory that work.

    If you do want to try using an android tablet as your main device, we recommend that you get a case with a keyboard for it and that you have a backup computer that can be used when functionality such as graphing is needed.

    iPad (not recommended)

    The iPad works with most of the applications used in the school, but google docs is limited on the iPad, making it a poor choice for schoolwork. For example, there is no simple way to create graphs using the google sheets app on an iPad. That said, the iPad’s excellent camera and suite of applications certainly have compelling functionality for multimedia work and other projects.

    If you do want to try using an Apple tablet as your main device, we recommend that you get a case with a keyboard for it and that you have a backup computer that can be used when functionality such as graphing is needed.

  • Already own a device?

    Families who already own laptops that students can use should know that any computer capable of running a modern browser smoothly will do just fine for school. It is also helpful for computers to have machines that are light enough to be easy to transport back and forth to school in a backpack.

    The recommendations below are meant to help families making new purchases. In each case, we’ve highlighted a relatively affordable model that should serve students perfectly well. We’ve also tried to provide some guidance to families as to which upgrades may be worth the money in the long term.

FAQ

  • What if our family can’t afford a laptop?

    We believe that with prices under $200, laptops are more affordable than ever now. Nonetheless, we know some families will not be able to afford laptops and the school will loan laptops to students who need them. We’ve budgeted to supply laptops for all families who qualify for free and reduced lunch.

  • What if we choose not to participate?

    If you do not choose to provide a device for your student, the school will, at a minimum, provide one for them to use so they have full access to our curriculum during the school day. If families are willing to sign a waiver indicating they will be responsible for the care of the device when it goes home, then the school will allow the borrowed device to travel to and from school with the student.

  • Can I buy protection against spills or breakage of a device?

    Many manufacturers provide coverage that can be purchased with a device. In addition, SquareTrade sells plans that can be bought independently. SquareTrade protection plans are also available with many devices when you buy them through Amazon.

  • Can my middle schooler purchase one of the recommended devices?

    Yes, and we encourage them to. A significant number of families felt middle schoolers were not mature enough to bring devices every day, so we are not requiring them. That said, if you trust your child with a device, please do send them in with one.

  • Do I need to communicate my plans to the school?

    Yes, please! There’s a quick survey that has been mailed to families and is available on the BYOD page under Families that will help us plan for next year.

  • How can my student secure their laptop at school?

    All students are provided with lockers. We encourage families to send in locks with students and we will encourage students to lock their devices in their lockers when they are not with them. Students who have received a loaned device will be able to request a lock if needed.