Computers for school

Advice please. My wife is the owner/principal of a growing (not high end) private school (up to gr 3 now 2013). In 2014 she want the gr 4 and up to have a personal computer. A computer for every student in every class (English, Geography and so on) would be very expensive plus different students are going to work on a specific computer. Security is also something to think about. If it is known that there are a lot of computers on the premises they will get a break in of course. I think a laptop for every student, that they can take from class to class, would work but it will still be expensive for the parents. How about netbooks? What is the difference between them and laptops? Can you load Office on them?

Netbooks should work. Typically they have very small keyboards and screens, and very little in the way of processing power. They’re meant mostly for browsing the web or doing lightweight processing. One would struggle to make one go throughout the whole day without recharging in every class. Office would work but will probably be a bit slow, and I imagine quite costly if acquired on the up-and-up. LibreOffice would suffice as replacement at no cost.

In a similar fashion one may want to research for a model where one can dodge the microsoft tax and install something like Ubuntu Linux. If this could be done cost would be kept to a bare minimum but you’d have to have a chat with teachers to explain that this “NOT WINDOWS”, and some teething problems from an unfamiliarity with Linux could happen. However these days ubuntu is pretty darn user friendly and I suspect everyone involved would rapidly adapt.

If I may add another option to the fray, you may want to have a squiz at the Raspberry Pi. This is extremely inexpensive per unit, but you would have to outfit classrooms with keyboards, mice, and screens (the screens would have to be chosen carefully, they have to work with the Pi’s HDMI output). Then the student just carries their own computer around with them, and can easily hook it up at home given a couple of bare essentials. This option is “Linux only” and would require someone onsite with a bit of experience to set up and help out, the Raspberry Pi experience is quite “smoothed out” yet.

different students are going to work on a specific computer

Computers can be set up so that each student has to “log in” using an unique username and can then only see their own documents. This requires some central servers (PC’s) to do the authentication and serve the files, and a school-wide network (was this a requirement?). A knowledgable person should be able to set this up.

What about tablets? You would also have to look at wifi and internet security if you want to add that? Plus what sort of
course work do you expect to put on them?

May I ask why? Kiddies in private schools will have computers at home anyway. They can teach themselves computing on their own time. Valuable classroom time should be spent focused on the subject at hand, and only that. My fear is that high tech stationary will simply cause unnecessary clutter and distraction.


I’m a teacher myself. I shudder at the very thought of the kids in my classes having computers anywhere outside of a dedicated computer class.

Yes I’d also say a dedicated computer class room. Would be better. At least the students need a class around computers and also time on computers to do projects ect.

By “growing, not high end” private schooling, what exactly does that mean, do you have children from poorer backgrounds (on bursary or whatnot), or is it a better-off former model C type of school?

Whilst I think the intended purpose is novel and has merit, I sort of doubt whether it is at this point of time going to be a viable route to follow. Laptops and like are going to be dropped, jammed by lunchtime sarmies and whacked over other kids heads (ever seen how kids treat their schoolbags?). There is the security risk as well, will these children be taking the equipment home? How long before the beggar on the corner, new nanny at home or other unlikables notice 10 year olds walking home with expensive gear?

They stared with a gr 1 class and it is now growing by a gr a year, up to gr 3 now. In is not rich kids, more like kids who can’t get in at old model c schools. Quite a number of schools now don’t have dedicated computer classes, they learn word processing for instance while they are writing a essay.

I think a dedicated computer lab is likely the way to go. Easier to fix a desktop than a laptop and with allocated computer time they can work in sets of two per computer initially until funds is of such a nature that you can expand (and upgrade).

:o No no I meant they should be learning low level programming (first write the word processor before writing the essay)

It might be worthwhile to rent short term, just to see if you really want to continue whatever route you take. There are places like Rent-Tech that do this. I just found them on Google, so I have no idea how good they are.

I suggest this, because I have a feeling you’ll be changing your mind a month after you bought the equipment. If it was my choice I would go for a proper server, and cheap as possible thin clients. That way you only need good physical security on the server side and any assignments/tests are backed up on the server. I assume that most people won’t steal a thin client, especially one running Linux; since they won’t know what to do with it.

Another consideration is to try to keep things as web based as possible so that you can later host the solution on the web. There is a comparison here: This will give children the ability to go online from home to study or complete assignments, for those days when they are at home with the sniffles. This will however have to be done with good study guides so that a parent can just pick up the “handbook”, flip to today’s lesson, and teach. The nice thing here is that the “handbook” will also probably be online.

It’s a good option considering most users don’t use most of there PC. Linux should help keep the price down.

Yes, quite obviously the options were going to be really simple, just like here… ::slight_smile:

Tut, tut, my fellow sceptics. Too much complicated advice is still too much. The man just needs sensible suggestions, not added confusion.


One of the private schools in my area has or is getting all students on IPad. They have set up a network and have or are in the process of having all text books digitised. As I have only heard about it from one of the parents I am unable to comment.
The IPads will be aquired by the students or as I should say their parents. I do not know what application they will be using as the parent is not very tech savvy!