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I’ve developed a very flexible solution with iPads and some ergonomic tools/devices.
The main goal was to have tech that was useful all the time, not just during quarantine, and tech that didn’t strain the network with video standards that can’t be handled by personal home networks. The investment would be useful for 3-7 years, or the duration of the equipment lifecycle. The tablet form factor I chose was the iPad, but this could be done with Android or Chromebook tablets.
This model eliminates document cameras, allows for hand writing on paper or real whiteboards, allows for digital whiteboards, and you can ergonomically adjust things so people feel like they are sitting next to someone.
Teachers can freely move around the room to demonstrate labs and other experiences that are eliminated in most virtual scenarios.
You can even do choir, band, and art.
If teachers/hosts have laptops, this allows for two cameras in every space. Students can flip between the iPad and the host device.
The conferencing software doesn’t matter. You can use anything for your video conferencing.
If people need to work from home they just take the iPad, and literally replicate their teaching environment.
This idea can be summed up in a single simple statement: The iPad is a Person in your Classroom.
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I rarely do hardware or software reviews. Patrick Cauley, here at IT Babble, is much better at those. However, I did swap my Apple Macbook Retina for a Surface Pro 4 for the summer. After the use and abuse, I can make a firm recommendation for schools thinking about buying these in bulk: Don’t Do It.
I hate saying that. I actually love/d using this machine. It is flexible, and should be the answer to many issues found in the day-to-day life of teachers and students. The model I had, had 4 GB of memory, and 128 GB solid state drive. I also had the keyboard and pen.
Daily performance was great. I had adequate battery life. The speed was good. The pen was extremely useful for me during a two week course I completed. I added a trial of Acrobat Pro, and the combo was outstanding.
I traveled alot. The Surface is so light, you don’t even realise you have it. The hybrid format is awesome from reading portrait style on the Kindle App. In hotel rooms with “smart TVs”, the surface can wirelessly project itself and stream audio. In a classroom, this feature means no wires for doing presentations. Imagine an iPad that actually does something real without 10 apps working in concert.
The Surface used the thunderbolt display, the same as Apple, so my Apple accessories worked seamlessly.
I have an iPad, and I feel the Surface has the same touch responsiveness as the iPad.
So why cannot I not recommend it? After 8 weeks of daily use, the Surface broke. The screen cracked from the inside out. The damage was very strange, and the final cause was attributed to me laying a book on the back cover of the surface. Just a normal book, not a full sized Oxford dictionary. This was a standard item anyone would have on a desk, and possibly place on top of their laptop when packing-up their bag.
The front glass and frame are fairly durable. I know, I dropped it several times. The back, however, is literally a thin [EDIT]thin flexible material shell[EDIT] with nothing to absorb shock or weight. The pressure from the book, and possibly the two items being picked-up at the same time, cracked the screen.
In a school, laptops and devices need to be able to handle the wear and tear of life for at least three years, and unfortunately, I do not think the Surface Pro 4 can make the cut.
As a personal device, I would recommend it. I am tough on equipment due to my rugged life as a commuter in Shanghai. People with a normal transportation plan, and a life void of pushing and shoving, would probably keep a Surface healthy for many years.
EDIT: I used the word “plastic”, but the material is not plastic. However, it is flexible and lacking a decent buffer between the back and the screen.