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School districts across the country are adjusting to remote learning and the huge challenges it presents in keeping students connected and engaged. One important factor in the remote learning equation is student computing technology. Depending on grade level and subject matter, some students may be better served by a laptop form factor, while touchscreen tablets may be the ideal choice for other learners. When selecting student computing technology, key variables to consider include device and screen size, processing speed, connectivity options, and whether a keyboard is included.
For most students, learning from home is a new experience — and one that’s often fraught with anxiety. To account for this, administrators should focus on choosing technology that can lessen anxiety rather than increase it. Students need devices that are durable, with intuitive operating systems and online tools that are easy to understand and use.
With so many options out there, it can be challenging to decide whether tablets or Chromebooks would be the best fit for your students and teachers. One useful way to approach this issue is to ask questions about their needs and goals.
1. What does remote learning look like in your district?
Before you choose a device type, evaluate the nature of remote learning in your district. Are students doing most of their work on their own and turning it in once they’re able to connect? Are teachers holding live class sessions via videoconferencing? Will students need to use collaboration tools to complete group assignments? Talk to teachers and principals about the lesson plans being employed in your district so you can select devices that will best facilitate learning in your unique setting.
2. When are students taught keyboarding skills?
Some schools teach keyboarding by third grade, but are your elementary students ready for a Chromebook? Talk with teachers to determine whether their students would be comfortable with using a keyboards and trackpads as their main tools for completing work. Remember that in remote learning scenarios, students may have less support to help them learn about new technologies than they do in the classroom.
3. Are students more comfortable with tablets or laptops?
Ask teachers this question and consider polling students and their parents to gain further input. Some students, even in higher grades, may be more comfortable with a tablet than a Chromebook because they are accustomed to interacting with smartphones. One way to provide both experiences is with a hybrid device, such as the Samsung Chromebook Plus, which can switch between traditional laptop and tablet modes. Another option is to purchase keyboards that plug into tablet devices so students can use them for tasks that involve word processing.
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4. Is Wi-Fi accessibility an issue for your student population?
If your district has a large population of students who lack dependable internet access at home, you might consider providing devices with an alternate option, such as LTE. Some Chromebooks, such as the Chromebook Plus LTE, and many tablets come with cellular connection capabilities.
5. What do your teachers need to make remote learning effective?
Teaching from a computer is a far cry from standing in front of a classroom of students. Make sure you’re listening to your teachers and working to pinpoint their needs in addition to those of the students. If teachers are planning to record and edit instructional videos and teach live sessions through videoconferencing, they’ll need devices with the computing power and accessories to handle those tasks. If they prefer to annotate students’ written work rather than track changes on a word processor, a touchscreen device with a built-in pen might be an effective solution. Tablets such as the Galaxy Tab S7 and Chromebooks such as the Chromebook Plus and Galaxy Chromebook fit the bill.
6. What are your long-term goals for device life cycles and classroom use?
While the pandemic forces you to focus on present needs, it’s worth taking a step back to evaluate your long-term education technology goals. How long does your district typically keep devices before it replaces them? When normal classroom learning resumes, which device features will your teachers and students need the most?
Ultimately, one cannot assume that tablets are always better for elementary students and Chromebooks are always better for upper grades. There are often unseen variables that you will only discover when you consult teachers, parents and students. Once you’ve come up with a clear set of needs, reach out to a trusted partner like Samsung, who understands the complexities you’re facing and are ready to help you find devices that will help your schools thrive.