Laptops or Desktops in a Classroom?


The desktop is all but dead. Rumours abound (1) (2) how Apple is going to drop the Mac Pro (the desktop version of an Apple) and Laptop sales have outstripped desktop sales since 2008, (Wiki)(Reuters). So why would anyone buy a Desktop?

Desktops are cheaper, and if one part fails (eg the screen or keyboard) it can be easily replaced without calling in the technicians. But for more difficult parts like hard drives, the technical skills may be beyond the normal classroom teacher. In fact, it is easier for a lay person to replace the hard disk drive in some laptops than in the average desktop.

I have heard arguments that desktops are more ergonomic because they have external screen, keyboard and mouses. I disagree. If you need this flexibility in certain situations, then buy the external screen, keyboard and mouse and plug them into the laptop. Now your laptop can have two screens if your want (which is how I’m using my laptop right now).

But that’s about it for the advantages of the desktop. The advantages of laptops compared to desktops (in a classroom setting especially) are much more numerous.

  • Laptops consume less power, and cost less to run. Laptops consume typically 30-70W, whereas a desktop uses about 100-200W – and then the LCD/LED monitor itself consumes another 20W.
  • Laptops can be run without mains power. Desktops cannot sustain even the briefest period of a power outage.
  • Laptops take less space overall, and less desk space in particular.
  • Laptops have fewer connections/cables to plug in. Therefore there is less to break when plugging in and unplugging.
  • Laptops can be packed up easily. This should be a major consideration if you ever have to pack up the classroom, say for vacation care or community use
  • Laptops are quieter by far.
  • Laptops are movable from desk to desk – if a child requires help, the child can bring the laptop to the teacher, rather than calling the teacher.
  • Laptops are easier for teachers to manage, especially if there is movable furniture involved .
  • And finally, flexibility – if you need to show the rest of the class one child’s work on a laptop, you can just pick it up, brink it to the front and plug it into the class projector – and I’m sure this is just one of many examples.

Go ahead. Make your decision, but decide what is best for the students without forgetting the teachers who have to look after them.

Comments are welcome. Keep in mind I’m talking about classroom use of computers – not a purpose built computer lab (don’t get me started on my opinion about that).

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About RedNectar Chris Welsh

Professional IT Instructor. All things TCP/IP, Cisco or VoIP
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One Response to Laptops or Desktops in a Classroom?

  1. AA says:

    Depending on the type of place where you may be considering laptop or desktop for studies, I believe people worry more about laptops walking-out, and then they worry about locking them up in open with locks or they worry about putting them up in the closets at the end of the day (not to forget the hassle of managing the multiple lock keys etc). So in the end, ultimately desktops win out for labs or classroom settings.

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