HOUSTON – The alarm clock will replace the sound of the school bell as students go back to class at home in just a few weeks. At-home learning means you will need technology to help your student get online for classes and complete school work.
We turned to High-Tech Texan Michael Garfield for recommendations of low-cost tech he recommends and then we shopped around for the best deals.
No matter what grade your child is in, they will need a computer for at-home learning and to log into virtual classes. What type you need and how much you will have to spend depends on your child’s age and requirements from their school.
- This is the most economical laptop for students in elementary school.
- There are many manufacturers that make them; but no matter which one you choose, Chrome is the operating system. They do not use Microsoft Windows that most people are accustomed to.
- Chrome Books do not have hard drives, so they have very little storage space.
- Some school districts, like Fort Bend ISD, are telling parents that “Chromebooks are not approved devices.”
Garfield’s recommendation: the HP Chromebook 14 for $249
We found Chromebooks as low as $169, but the screen is much smaller. Experts say you really want your child’s screen to be between 13 to 15 inches.
Laptops with more power
Garfield’s recommendation: The HP Pavilion x360 14 is fast with a touch screen that folds over so you can use it as a tablet. It also has a 4G LTE chip that means it can work on a cell signal and you don’t need wifi. You will need to pay for a data plan from a wireless carrier.
For college students or even parents working from home, Garfield recommends the HP ENVY x360 13 that sells for $799 from HP. You should definitely shop around online because many retailers are offering back to school specials and bundles.
Laptops from the library
Some Houston Public Library branches will let you check out laptops and mobile hotspots for up to 3 weeks at a time.
In Houston ISD, if you need a laptop or hotspot, interim superintendent Grenita Lathan says you should request them through your school principal.
Don’t forget about the old laptops you have around your house. You may have upgraded because you thought your old laptop was too slow. If you wipe it clean, it may work fine to get your child through six to eight weeks of online classes.
Printers and ink
You will likely need a printer. These are easy to find around $50 or less these days. If you go with an inkjet printer, check the price of ink refills to make sure they don’t cost more than the printer itself.
I bought these off-brand ink cartridge refills on Amazon for $28.99 and they work great. You get two refills of each color for that price.
These are a must if you have more than one student working in a shared space. You’ll want noise-canceling headphones, not just earbuds or AirPods.