Tips for Buying a Computer for the Classroom

Buying a new desktop computer for the classroom depends on the activites for which the computer will be used.

Tips for Buying a Computer for the Classroom
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Buying a computer for the educational environment can be a daunting task for anyone not intimately familiar with the computer industry. By following the three areas outlined below, anyone with a sense of practicality mixed with a dose of frugality will be able to successfully purchase a computer for their classroom at a great price.
Evaluate The Requirements
The type of computer required is wholly dependent on the type of work it will be asked to perform. Specifically, an English class, where word processing will be the primary purpose, will have its computing needs easily met by a relatively basic computing system. Conversely, an engineering class, where CAD design mixed with extensive calculations will be required, demands a significantly more powerful computer. Another consideration is the environment these systems will be deployed in. The necessity for a hardened computing system in a Tech/Vocational location, where the keyboard will be equipped with a protective membrane and ventilation opening will have filters pre-installed, is very different from a clean classroom.

With that said, to insure that these computers have the longest useful lifespan, it is recommended that a mid-range system be ordered and that no entry-level systems be purchased.

Negotiate The Best Deal
While computing companies will proclaim that they provide huge educational discounts, double-check their quotations. In one case that this author personally witnessed, an educator received a written quote from three different resellers, each showing sizable "educational" discounts that were further discounted based on the quantity of the purchase. A visit to their source manufacturer's retail website showed that any end user could purchase the exact same make and model computer, quantity one, for significantly less than the written quote provided by the reseller.

Another technique employed by computer resellers specializing in the education market is gaming the system by using the time delay inherent in the budgeting process. This is how the techniques works. A request for quote (RFQ) is generated clearly outlining the exact specification for the systems to be purchased. Typically, 30 days later the vendors have responded with a quote based on the RFQ's specifications. Another month passes while the quotes are reviewed and the order is awarded with hardware delivery to be another month out. The net effect is that the computers which were originally quoted to make best use of the budget available are now three months older and their value has dropped significantly during that period.

Aggregate
The best way to stretch a budget is to buy in bulk as computer salespeople heavily discount when presented with an order for multiple systems. While, from a practical standpoint, is may be impossible for a school to purchase and install several hundred computers at the same time, the bulk purchase can be negotiated so that a smaller amount of systems can be delivered monthly and that each successive delivery will have increased hardware specifications based on a fixed dollar expenditure.
Resources
reference
Today's Computer Buyers: Advice From The Experts
reference
Hardware---In the Classroom
reference
Bridging the Digital Divide in the Classroom (audio)
resource
Dell K-12 Education