Computers purchased by schools tend to be more expensive than store prices.
There are a few ways to get your own computers for your classroom:
  1. Read Educational Technology Guy's Tips for Saving Money and Finding Free Resources for School
  2. Ask parents and craigslist members to donatea computer or monitor to the classroom
    1. In June, July, and August, post on craigslist, asking for anyone to donate computers or computer parts to a classroom. Also note that anything helps: keyboards, mice, headphones, and monitors. You should offer to have students write letters and send pictures to the donors. Donating to a school is excellent charity.
  3. Buy used computers($50 - $300) for the classroom
    1. Search websites (craigslist, Newegg, TigerDirect) for cheap used or refurbished computers.
  4. Buy new netbooks($250 - $300)
    1. The only technical difference between a laptop and netbook is that a netbook does not have a CD/DVD drive. The additional differences due to their build are netbooks use less power and have a better battery life while being slower, smaller, and lighter.
  5. Apply for a grant (Donors Choose and ClassWish) or make a Wish List (
    1. Read 11 Tips for Securing Grants to Enhance Education

Desktop vs. Laptops

  • Desktop Pro's: Faster, Ethernet, Bigger monitor
  • Desktop Con's: Require a set spot and power, require a monitor, bulky

  • Laptop/Netbook Pro's: Slower, Mobile, Light-weight, Wi-Fi, No additional monitor
  • Laptop/Netbook Con's: Needs to charge, More fragile, Wi-Fi (if none exist), Laptop carts are expensive


  • Monitor for desktops, preferably LCD (thinner than bulky CRT's)
  • Mouse, preferably optical, maybe even USB and wireless
  • Keyboard, any will do
  • Headphones, have children bring their own, or provide over the ear ones (not in the ear)
  • Microphone, optional, laptops have them built-in usually
  • Other Options: Multi-User Computers, where you have 5 monitors and accessories, but only one computer with 5 video cards ($350 + cost of a desktop computer)

  • Operating System (OS): Windows XP is just fine, though Windows 7 is better. Mac OS X is good. Linux is ok if you're used to it. Important links: How they work and About them.
  • Word Processing: Microsoft Office is expensive and requires a key for each copy. Therefore, I would recommend the free software that comes with the computer and Open Office (which is free). It's limited, but still works well.
  • Movie Making: Mac's have well-known user-friendly movie making software like iMovie. PC's have programs that are ok.
  • Web Browsing: Very important, needs parental guidance security. Recommended: Internet Explorer (widely used, more functionality, parental controls). My favorite: Google Chrome (fast, sleek, and simple), but no parental controls.
  • Free Utilities for Windows


  • Having an internet connection for your classroom computers is EXTREMELY important. Without the Internet, you are very limited (typing, word processing, graphics, etc...).
  • Ethernet: Wiring, consistent connection, fast! Perfect for desktop computers, because of the limited range. Desktops need to be ~5ft (or extended) from power outlet and an Ethernet outlet (or hub).
  • Wi-Fi: Wireless, connection can interrupt, routers are temperamental, slower. Perfect for laptops/netbooks.
    Wi-Fi is mobile internet. Both, Ethernet and Wi-Fi have their advantages and disadvantages, more so than desktop's vs. laptops/netbooks.
  • Find out what your school has. Look for the Ethernet outlets (look like wider phone outlets). Test out the wireless with a laptop/netbook. Also, ask the front office or the district technology employee about Internet connections.
  • Here are some links about networks: Guide for K-12, Networks (In-Depth), and Made It Guide.
  • Check out LifeHacker's Know Your Network: The Complete Guide


  • Goal: Ratio of 1:1, computer to student. Usually, schools have on average one set of computers per school. In the meantime, I suggest a 1:2 or 1:3 ratio. Also, I personally like half desktops and half laptops.
  • Try to get used computers for free. Set them up with a mouse, keyboard, headphones, and an ethernet cable. It's difficult to troubleshoot problems, though.
  • Set up the software. Computers need controlled content. Students cannot go to any website. They MUST be given a list of websites (links or bookmarks) to go to. To see if they are on task, the monitors should visible to the middle of the class, but shouldn't distract other students. Software, such as Open Office and GIMP, needs to be installed. Programs, such as Paint and the web browser, need to made accessible on the desktop.
  • Rules: Students cannot go on any website. They cannot play games during class time (only free time). They cannot disrespect the computers and damage them. If a student breaks any rules by going onto a restricted website, playing games during learning time, or damaging a computer, then consequences have to be strict and restrictive.
  • Usage: Students should be allowed equal time on the computers. They should be in groups with at least one computer-savvy student named the "computer assistant."
  • Levels: Depending on your students, they might have a varied level of experience. They need to be educated on how to use a computer and where to go. After that, they can be given more freedom to learn how to use the various aspects of a computer.

Parental Controls

  1. Computer login: Make a "Student" user (your login is as an admin) and limit what kids can do (move and delete).
  2. Web Browsers: [Internet Explorer] Go to "preferences" or "internet options" and setup the "content" section with a password. It restricts all websites with adult content.
  3. Get 3rd party software:
    1. K9 Web Protection: for one user with email. You have to request for more computers in a school)
    2. Parental Control Bar (Internet Explorer & Safari): up on your browser's toolbar to restrict content. Free and easy to install)