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Detailed Purchase Guide

Our Vision at AISB includes all students achieving personal and academic excellence, and as our Mission Statement says, we do this by providing an innovative and supportive learning environment. To support our Vision and Mission in the secondary school, AISB has decided to be a  Bring Your Own Device (BYOD) school.

With their own laptop, student learning can happen anytime, anywhere; there are more opportunities for choice in the timing, mode (offline and online, applications used), location and pathways for learning. They will not need the laptop “every day, every lesson, all lesson”; it is important, however, that students have it available at school so “just in time” learning is still possible.

The recommendations outlined in this document are what we consider to be the minimum specifications student laptops need to operate efficiently and minimize disruptions to learning. Our experience suggests that if the laptop is more than 3 years old, the likelihood of experiencing problems is much higher.  

We request that each student be provided with a personal laptop - tablets, smartphones, Chromebooks and netbooks are not suitable alternatives. Devices supplied as an alternative to a laptop do not have all the necessary features needed to provide a productive learning environment.


Sharing among family members, while a way to save costs, is not effective - particularly when siblings require access to a laptop at the same time, which will happen regularly.

Screen size

To make sure that the laptop is able to be used efficiently and easily, we require that the screen size be no less than 13”. While larger screens are useful for increasing productivity, they will add to the overall size and weight of the laptop - an important consideration for younger or physically smaller students.

Wireless

For student laptops to be able to connect to the AISB network, and the Internet, the laptop must have wireless connectivity that supports the 802.11 specification. This is standard on nearly all laptops.

Operating System

The Windows and Apple operating systems are able to be supported on our network. While a Linux distribution is a possible alternative, it is strongly discouraged as many elements of the operating systems and software are not compatible with our network. It is recommended that the operating system be no more than two versions behind the latest available. At present, this would be Windows 8, Windows 8.1 and Windows 10; for Apple computers, suitable operating systems would be OS 10.10 (Yosemite),  OS 10.11 (El Capitan) or macOS 10.12 (Sierra).

Battery Life

There are limited opportunities to charge laptops or connect them to mains electricity during the day at school. Therefore, it is necessary for laptops to be able to last a school day, and we recommend a minimum of 5 hours of battery life. The amount of battery life achieved will depend on the number and type of applications (programs) that are being used, as well as any other peripheral laptops that are plugged in (external hard drives, large headphones).

Hard Drive and Storage

When you are investigating the options available for your laptop, there may be a choice between an SSD (solid state drive) or a HDD (hard disk drive, also referred to as a mechanical drive). SSDs are more expensive than HDDs, and will usually offer less free space for storing files. The advantage that SSDs have, however, is that they have no moving parts - this means they are less likely to suffer damage due to being knocked or bumped, and will use less power which means the battery will last longer.

Assuming you purchase a laptop with an operating system already installed (such as Apple OSX or Windows), you will need to give some consideration to the amount of storage available for extra software and files. This will vary greatly from student to student, depending on what they install and the type and number of files they create. We recommend that laptops have a minimum of 50 GB of available storage.

Many of the documents that students create for school will be stored in their Google Drive, an online storage option. However, it is useful to also have a copy saved to their laptop.

Processor

Performance is going to be determined by the processor, which can be thought of as the “brain” of the laptop. You can usually upgrade other components on the laptop quite easily, but not the processor. So that your laptop can continue to handle future demands, we recommend purchasing the laptop with the best processor you can afford in order to future proof yourself. If you are continuing with an existing laptop, the recommended minimum processor is an Intel i5 or equivalent. If you are purchasing a new laptop for 2017-18, we recommend an Intel i5 or Intel i7 (or equivalent).

RAM

The RAM of your laptop is required for processing data; if there is not enough RAM, the laptop will operate slowly. We strongly recommend that the laptop have a minimum of 8Gb installed. Again, we recommend purchasing the laptop with the most RAM you can afford, to cater for future computing requirements.

Graphics / Display Adapter

For the majority, if not all, of the activities students will complete as part of their learning, the capabilities of the graphics adapter (also referred to as the graphics card, or display adapter) will not be an important consideration. It will become a something to think about, however, if they are likely to do video editing or gaming (the gaming would be in their own time, not at school!). If better quality graphics are likely to be needed, look for laptops that use a separate video card and not the RAM to process the display.

Language

It is possible have your operating system work in your preferred language. As our language of instruction for most subjects is English, we strongly recommend that you use English. Using an English-based operating system will also mean it is more likely that we can offer some technical support.  

Hardware and features

To be able to fully engage in 21st century learning, is important for student laptops to have a camera and a microphone.


We also ask that the laptop have:

  1. A display port (Apple Thunderbolt or DisplayPort; VGA for Windows laptops)

  2. At least two USB ports

  3. A headphone port

These ports are usually standard on a laptop, but it is worth checking to ensure that they are available.

Accessories

Required

A pair of headphones or earbuds are required. These are also listed on the general equipment list.


Very strongly recommended

  1. Protective case (such as a laptop bag) to transport the laptop. If purchasing a backpack, try to get one that is designed to project the laptop while being transported.

  2. Portable hard drive to backup your data, or archive files that are no longer required. Alternatively, you may choose to use an online storage solution to backup your files, but this will be severely hindered by the slower internet speeds available in Bamako.

  3. Spare power adapter. With the fluctuating power supply in Bamako, power adapters often fail. Purchasing replacements in Bamako can be difficult and expensive. Having a second power adapter will also allow for one to be kept at school and one at home.


Suggested

  1. Protective case or shell for the laptop and keyboard - this will help to protect the laptop from small bumps and knocks, and the keyboard from spills, food crumbs and dust.

Software

Where possible, AISB will make use of Free and Open Source Software (FOSS) and online tools.


However, we do ask that you purchase and install the following:

Productivity

AISB is a Google Apps for Education school, and makes substantial use of apps such as Google Docs, Google Slides and Google Classroom. These are online tools, and for many families home internet access that supports the use of Google apps consistently in Bamako can be difficult. Therefore, faculty will assume that student laptops will have access to Microsoft Office, as this will allow students the opportunity to complete tasks without the need for an internet connection.


There are number of different versions of Microsoft Office available. The minimum you will require is Word, Excel and PowerPoint. You have several ways of obtaining this:

  1. Laptops (particularly those sold with the Windows operating system) will often have Microsoft Office pre-installed. However, be aware that this is sometimes a trial version that will require the purchase of a full license at the end of trial period.

  2. Purchase a subscription to Office 365 - this requires the payment of an annual fee, and provides access to the latest version of Office. Office 365 Home provides access for five users, while Office 365 Personal is a single-user license. You will need to download the installation software; this will be a large download, and AISB may be able to assist with this. In the past, this has not been available for purchase in Mali, and you may need to use a vendor in another country such as South Africa, the United States or France.  

  3. Purchase a perpetual license (a one-off purchase) of Office Home & Student. This has the highest up-front cost, but does not require the payment of an annual subscription. You would need to purchase a new license if you wish to update to the latest version.


The free online version of the Office productivity suite will not be a suitable alternative.


Internet security

To protect your laptop from internet security threats, such as trojans, viruses, malware and phishing links, it is required that internet security software be installed. This usually involves the purchase of an annual subscription.

Traditionally, Apple Macintosh laptops were less susceptible to internet threats such as viruses; this is not the case anymore. To protect your laptop and data, as well as AISB network resources, you are requested to have internet security software installed regardless of your chosen operating system. Popular internet security software providers include McAfee, Kaspersky, Norton, Bitdefender and F-Secure; all of these will support both Windows and Mac operating systems.

You will also need to remember that it is necessary to update the internet security regularly; most reputable providers do this on a daily basis.

Other considerations

Some other things to think about when selecting a laptop for your student are listed below; these do not form part of the minimum requirements for your laptop.

  1. Keyboard layout - regional variations are possible for your keyboard layout. For example, a US keyboard has some keys in a different location when compared with a French keyboard, or use a different combination of modifier keys to type special symbols. Purchasing a laptop with a keyboard layout the student is already familiar with is highly recommended.

  2. Warranty - many resellers will offer an extended warranty on your laptop. This is a family decision, but remember that the likelihood of being able to have your laptop repaired by an authorized repair agent in Bamako is very low. If warranty repairs are required, you will most likely need to ship the laptop out of Mali.

  3. Insurance - again, this is a family decision and will depend on the availability of suitable insurance cover Bamako. Families can often have laptops included as part of their household contents insurance policy. This will cover the laptop in event of loss or non-warranty, accidental damage. It needs to be remembered that the laptop is owned by the family, and AISB is not able to provide repairs or replacements.

  4. Casing - is the case tough and sturdy? Can it survive the treatment that young people sometimes subject their laptop to? Is it possible to purchase an additional protective case? It is also worth checking to see if the keys, inputs and screen hinge are all sturdy.

  5. Weight - is the laptop light enough to be easily carried to and from school, and between classes?

  6. Optical drive - it is becoming common for laptops, particularly at lower price points, to not include an optical drive (also referred to as a DVD drive). Having an optical drive is not a requirement at AISB, but it is often useful to have one available. If an optical drive is not available with your chosen laptop, consider purchasing an external DVD drive.

  7. Life of the laptop - all laptops and hardware have a limited lifespan. The way the laptop is physically treated by the user, as well as the rapid changes in the demands of software, will affect how long it will last. Based on our observations, most laptops will last three to four years before requiring replacement. This assumes that a laptop with higher than the recommended specifications was purchased, and care is taken with the way it is physically handled.

Other devices in the family home - what devices are already in the household? What software do you already own - some companies offer “packs” that allow you to install their software on more than one device (for example, Office 365 Home). If you are a “Mac Family”, for example, it would make most sense to equip your student with an Apple Macintosh laptop.
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Marcus Tanner,
Apr 28, 2017, 6:55 AM
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