What computers are best for programming in schools?

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In September 2014 coding was introduced to the ICT curriculum.

For teachers to be able to teach programming and for pupils to be able to learn, the correct tools need to be provided to them. This requires the correct software and the correct hardware to run the software on.

Over the past 3 to 4 years, we have seen the rise in popularity of tablets in the education sector. This has revolutionised teaching ICT in many ways, moving to a much more engaging, hands-on learning experience for pupils.

Current trends suggest that the purchase of desktops is on the rise while laptops are being replaced by tablets. It is more likely that desktops will move towards being primarily a business tool due to their greater processing power over their mobile counterparts.

With the advent of “hybrid” machines that can be converted from a laptop to a tablet by simply rotating or removing the screen, mixing the portability of a tablet and the power of a laptop would appear to be the way technology is moving and with the release of Windows 10 and the production of hybrid machines with greater capacity this may well be the way forward.

Bringing this back to the curriculum, as it is clear that desktop computers (or laptops) are primarily used for programming in the real world, it is logical that these should also have a place in the classroom.

Deciding where a school should invest their IT budget is a daunting prospect but that’s what we are here for!

Rather than focusing on which devices your school would like to buy, first consider the programs that you wish to use (with the curriculum in mind) and then see if these are available on the device of your choice.

Some apps are ideally suited for a tablet device, such as the popular 2Build a profile. The portability of a tablet, along with the integrated camera means that monitoring pupil progress is far easier than with a laptop. In the same way, typing out an essay in Word or creating a computer program in Python is more suited to a desktop computer or tablet / laptop with a keyboard.

Age is also a factor as younger, primary age pupils will often find a touch device such as a tablet more intuitive and easier to use. This also needs to be considered.

To summarise: taking into account the changes in curriculum and the technology currently available, the most prudent approach for most schools is to have a mix of both desktops and/or laptops and tablet devices.

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