Schools are set to reopen and requests for education-related tech are falling like meteor showers. But what may exhaust most are coming to grips with the technical needs of operating a computer and printer, and ensure having internet coverage, the right software and apps.
Schools differ in the strength of their readiness for smart learning and the software they depend on. We can limit them to three systems, some of which support mobile and tablet apps and use systems such as Microsoft Team, Zoom, or even Google Meet to broadcast lessons and interact with students while providing services through smart apps or the official website page.
Parents can buy tablets starting at Dh500, such as the Samsung Galaxy Tab A 8.0 (2019), and there is also a Samsung Galaxy Tab S6 Lite tablet, which comes in a larger size with a stylus and costing nearlyDh1,000. Users of Apple devices can buy the Apple iPad 2019 for about Dh1,100.
There is another way for those who obtain all their services via web platforms and do not need Windows and advanced use of Microsoft Excel. They can use Google Chromebook devices, which are integrated systems that are more secure than others and do not require maintenance and follow-up.
Often the most used in the education space, prices of Chromebooks start at Dh1000 with specifications of not less than 4 GB RAM and 32 GB internal memory. It is always preferable to us an Intel processor.
It is also important to make sure that the Google Play Store for Android apps is available to verify that the device is up-to-date. Chromebooks do not need to be taken care of because they update themselves.
And they do not need Microsoft Office software, because alternative Google programs such as Doc, Sheet, Slides, Keep and others are rated just as sound.
Keeping those Windows
As for schools that still need Windows operating systems, you will need to buy a laptop with specs of nothing less than the following - otherwise, you will face all kinds of problems in dealing with it. The laptop or desktop computer must contain an SSD hard disk, with space of not less than 256 GB and memory of 8 GB and more.
The processor is not a problem because the hard disk can compensate for the weakness of the processor to some extent - but the opposite is not possible. You can choose an Intel i3 eight-generation processor, this is somewhat very old as we are on the verge of the 11th.
It is better to use the 10th generation i5 processor for a more flexible experience. There are also processors from AMD Ryzen, but you have to start from the fifth generation on. These processors are often cheaper and may outperform Intel in some tasks, especially in multitasking and media processing and handling.
Microsoft Office has always been a must, but due to Microsoft forbidding its availability on Android and iPhone at the beginning of the great smartphone transformation, Google rushed to fill the void and made several acquisitions until it was able to create a strong alternative such as Google Doc as an alternative to Word, Sheet to counter Excel, Slide to fill the PowerPoint void, and Keep as the option for One Note.
These programmes are free and available on all devices - and even on Mac. But if it is necessary to buy Microsoft Office, you can have a look at e-stores, as all of them provide it at nominal prices and with original versions. Beware of installing fake and stolen versions from torrent sites or downloading from unofficial websites because this may be laden with malware.
Putting up defences
If you choose to purchase Windows-based devices, you have to install an antivirus programme. You can purchase one, or at least use the free version of Kaspersky. It is powerful and fits the purpose, but know the paid version is stronger and more comprehensive.
I highly recommend buying Kaspersky, Bitdefender, F-Secure, ESET, Malwarebytes or Checkpoints.
Students need to have backup copies of their work for later review. If the device crashes for any reason, you may lose all data, so it is preferable to backup data on multiple devices and cloud-enabled Google Drive or OneDrive. You can also buy extra space from Google Drive for just Dh7.5 a month for 100 GB of data.
Nailing the printer needs
If you have ever dealt with a printer, it must have annoyed you at various stages. Such problems are usually inevitable except in more powerful and expensive laser printers. HP Ink Advantage printers are affordable, as are those from Canon and Brother.
But you have to pay attention to Liquid inkjet printers, if your use is not too frequent. The printer will malfunction because its ink dries up, so these printers are for heavy use only.
It is always preferable to use the printer through a USB cable or even connect it to the network using an Ethernet network cable and never turn it off as most of the wi-fi is still very weak. If necessary, the IP number must be fixed in the distributor DHCP, so that it does not change each time the printer is restarted, requiring re-adding the printer driver.
Reaching all points
One of the biggest issues is the problem of home network coverage, and the solution has been mentioned in detail on my YouTube channel. The Deco M9 Plus is still the best solution, as it gives strong coverage because it comes with three pieces that are distributed across the home. Preferably, they need to be linked through Ethernet network cables and connected by a network switch.
Most importantly, replace the device provided by the service provider, assuring them to cancel the PNP and request a password. The cheapest option is the M4 for those with a limited budget. You may need to purchase more than one set and the number of devices may reach 12, depending on the size and distribution of the house.
- Ahmed Al Zarouni is a Dubai-based tech consultant.