We all know that the price of laptops has fallen drastically; this is great news for students and those of us who have to buy computers for staff, teachers, and kids. However, there is no getting around the fact that desktops can simply be had for less money. Sure, they might use a bit more power, they can't fit in a bag, and they can't go home with you at night, but they still get you online, get you creating content, and can be hooked up to a projector in a classroom.
So now, as I watch my high school budget dwindle for last-minute summer purchases in favor of a desperately-needed elementary and middle school tech refresh, I have to ask myself, should I buy 20 laptops for 40 desktops? People can argue the math, but when it comes down to it, I can still buy a lot more reasonably-equipped desktops for the same amount I'd pay for 20 laptops. In fact, looking at the state contract pricing, with my current budget, I can put a new desktop computer in every classroom. On the other hand, I can replace roughly half of my teachers' aging laptops.
So what do I do? Is it better to provide my teachers who utilize their laptops most fully for classroom instruction with new notebooks or should I make sure that every teacher in every room has access to a solid machine? In the first scenario, I can redeploy older but functional laptops to those teachers whose laptops have died. In the second, I can allow teachers to use their own laptops (let's face it: most of us own a laptop) and redeploy functional laptops to students, classrooms, or teachers who still need a movable presentation machine (or who don't own a laptop themselves).
I'm really not sure which will be easier to break to a group of teachers who were expecting brand-spankin' new notebooks this fall before lease proposals fell apart (since leasing is a long-term commitment, only a couple of the leases we had in mind could be funded; everywhere else, we had to buy equipment outright, reducing our expected buying power). I know the community would rather see desktops in every room, preventing the perception that taxpayer dollars were being used to give teachers laptops.
Of course, I also know that all of the desktops we purchased three years ago are running like champs. The laptops we purchased at the same time are generally in dismal shape. I feel purchase orders for desktops coming on...I just hope they're headed for the desks of understanding teachers.