As we all get ready to go back to school, especially with either the reality or potentiality of teaching virtually from a distance, many of us are having to make decisions about the sorts of software learning platform and hardware device solutions that will best meet the needs of our students. Today, I am going to present an overview of Windows Laptops as a high-quality option to consider, situated in my context as an assistive technology specialist at a residential school for the blind in the southeast US.
At my school, we have students in a variety of educational programs, from standard academic curriculum to modified transition programming to life skills curriculum. Point being, we have to figure out what sorts of hardware solutions can meet our various students’ educational needs; these happen to be dictated in no small part by their visual experience.
The way that I attack this problem is to first consider the types of devices that have been used before as what I like to call “primary learning devices.” These will the first thing used for the most digital interactions and activities. At my school, examples of these include computers, iPads, and a variety of personal cellphones. In our specific circumstances, our school was fortunate to receive CARES Act funds with which we could purchase various technologies to meet our students’ learning needs resulting from the COVID-19 pandemic. Our issue we faced was that, given a certain preference for a certain solution (more to come in a second), we did not have enough of said solution to provide one to each of our students. So, we had to figure out what sorts of devices we needed to purchase to be prepared to provide devices to each student for their best educational success.
As the title suggests, the “primary learning device” I referred to was Windows laptop computers. As you might ask why, let me explain. I have found that generally speaking, primary learning devices do not need to be matched with students based on their specific disabilities. They are best selected based on their functionality and an audit of their accessibility features. From my experience, the best platforms for students with visual impairments will be Windows computers, iPad tablets, as well as Mac computers. Furthermore, I like to recommend solutions, software or hardware, that my students are most likely to encounter in the “real world,” specifically where they might work. What does that lead me to land on? Windows computers. Indeed, well over 75% of devices in use are either running Windows 7 or Windows 10. What I tell students and families is that in most jobs they might get where a computer will be used, it will be a Windows computer. So, there’s no time like the present to become highly proficient in its use.
So let’s dive into Windows laptops a little more. Here are some of the reasons I think they are great as primary learning devices for virtual learning:
I’m going to get off my soapbox now, but I do hope some of these considerations are useful for you as you make decisions about “primary learning devices” for your students. I hope to post more Virtual Learning Starter Kit posts soon, including a deep dive on Quick Assist. Leave a comment below with anything you’d like to share!
Virtual Learning Starter Kit: Quick Assist post