I just got a grant for a tablet and other tech stuff to do Skype in my classroom.

Then I found out I am not allowed to use Skype at school. They said it poses too much of a security risk. It stays open on the task bar, etc. Therefore we are not allowed to use it.


Does anyone have suggestions for me?  I know there are others besides Skype, but I imagine they would have the same problems.


How has your district dealt with security issues? 


If not Skype, can you make suggestions for using a tablet with my 4th grade students? I realize I can do video podcast NOT in real time, but do not need a tablet for that. I need reasons to keep the tablet....




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Which tablet? iPad, Samsung Galaxy Tab...?

Skype, FaceTime & Google Voice are your big 3 options...

FaceTime on the iPad is a great option. FaceTime uses a specific port on your network so that port might already be opened or your network admins can open that port individually without changing much else. The downside is it only works with FaceTime so the person on the other end needs to be on a Mac/iPad too.

You could try Google Voice if you are on an Android-based device, that might be open on your network. GV is a bit more open in that the person on the other end just needs GV, not necessarily on an Android tablet.


I have also used Yahoo Messenger, ooVoo, and Google + Hangout.   I never heard of anyone having security problems with Skype and lots of schools use it.  But have had connectivity issues at certain times of the day.  YOu can also share things via VoiceThread, Voki, andlots o other tools.  Hold on to those tablets!

I just found out that I get to do Skype after all.  So now I am trying to decide on which tablet to purchase and what other items I might need.  I asked for a tablet, wireless keyboard, protective case/stand, speakers or speaker dock, microphone, screen protector..... 

Have I left anything out?  I am going with an Android product for sure.  I have about $900 to spend.  I would like to use it with my Smartboard and projector. (VGA connection from the wall and USB to my document camera.) 


I guess I also need adapters/connections from VGA to ?????  I don't need HDMI, I think, but will I need it in the future. 

Thanks for your advice.



Hi Patti,

What you've just described is a laptop. Here's why a laptop is a better choice for education:

* Modern laptops are small and lightweight. For $900 you can get an pretty decent ultra-portable.

* More comfortable to use for extended periods of time: i.e. no need to hold or prop it up like a tablet, and they have a proper keyboard.

* More inputs and outputs. You typically, get several USBs, HDMI, LAN, projector output, mic input, CD/DVD drive, and SD/XD card reader. Some laptops provide more, e.g. Bluetooth, Firewire, TV tuner, Infra-red, etc.

* Bigger, higher definition screen.

* Better range of software available, especially for education and especially free open source.

* And especially: support for Flash. Flash is the de facto elearning platform. If your computer doesn't support Flash, you can't access the enormous quantity, range and quality of elearning resources on the WWW. For elearning, app stores won't cut the mustard.

* More storage for software and media. Tablets quickly fill up their meager 32 GB memories. Wouldn't you prefer to have 600+ GB?

* Better support for media types: audio and video of all formats and CODECs will just work. Apple and Microsoft have done exclusive deals with MPEG so that only their CODECs will run on mobile devices. Google are pushing their own CODECs and refuse to support MPEG's in Android.

* A far more powerful machine. These days, even entry level laptops can handle anything you throw at them, except high-end gaming, without ever slowing down.

* The laptop market is "mature", meaning that the technology is advanced, consumers have higher expectations, they're better designed and there's a lot of competition so prices are low. In other words, you pay half as much for twice the features.

If you are looking for a tablet (since that is what you said you grant would pay for) then I would suggest the ASUS Transformer Prime.  It is an Android device so it will run many (if not most) of the Android apps which run on other Android phones and tablets.  The cost is around $500 for the base tablet and $150 for the dock.

The tablet addresses most of the issues raised by Matt.

1. It is a convertible device.  You can use it as a tablet (with multi-touch gestures and drawings) and it has a proper keyboard (when used with the dock).

2. It has numerous ports to connect it to other devices.  HDMI, USB, etc. all come on the tablet or through the docking keyboard.

3. It has a screen which is as high resolution as most if not all ultra-portable laptops you might buy.  The screen is also touch enabled (which most laptops will not do) and is designed to be viewed from multiple angles since it is a tablet.

4. It has support for Flash.  It will run Flash websites and programs (although not all work well with touch interfaces).  Luckily the dock has a trackpad which when used gives you a mouse pointer and click functionality.

5. It supports removable storage.  While it will never have the capacity of a physical hard drive, you can use full size sd cards with it, and some high capacity versions of the sd cards can rival the SSDs in an ultraportable (although they are expensive).

6. It has amazing battery life.  You will get far more usable battery life out of this tablet than any laptop.  With the dock attached (the dock has a supplemental battery) it can go 16 hours on a charge.

I am not trying to sell you a tablet.  You should look into it yourself to get more information.  Check out sites like CNET and Free Technology for Teachers to learn more about it.



Apple put out the myth that Flash doesn't work properly with touch screens as part of their FUD campaign to sell more iPhones and iPads. If that were the case, regular web pages wouldn't work either. There are numerous demonstrations on the web of people using Flash apps with touch screens without any problems at all.

You can compare the same make ASUS (like with like), between a tablet and a similarly priced laptop:

Tablet: http://www.amazon.co.uk/Asus-Transformer-Android-docking-keyboard/d...

Latop: http://www.amazon.co.uk/Asus-Notebook-Pentium-2-10GHz-Windows/dp/te...

If you're going to spend $900, you're going to get a much faster, thinner, lighter, feature-rich laptop too.

The main difference between tablets and laptops is their intended use scenarios. Laptops are general purpose computers that have to be good at a wide range of possible uses, including education (schools and universities make up a significant proportion of laptop sales), while tablets are aimed at people who want to consume media, i.e. read online articles and blogs, watch videos, etc. basically fancy electronic books. This is how Apple can get away with blocking well-established and vital web technologies such as Flash and Java. I think if they tried it with their laptops, they'd lose a significant number of Mac users - a lot of Mac users dual boot Windows on their laptops anyway so that they can use the wider range of software available. Also Mac versions of some software doesn't include all the features of Windows versions, e.g. Adobe, and yet sell at the same price.

I'm wondering when all the hype about tablets will end. With what's available at the moment, if you try to use one as a personal computer, you'll be sorely disappointed. There really isn't much you can do beyond consuming media with only 1GB of CPU memory. Give it a few more years and the technology will catch up*, they'll add keyboards as standard, make them fold up neatly to protect the screen, and we'll have ultra-thin laptops.

* ARM architecture (mobile device) CPUs will be powerful enough to support fully functional operating systems (this was the problem with Atom CPUs on netbooks), they'll have dedicated graphics memory (shared graphics memory is a major slow-down), and 128GB and 256GB SSD drives will be affordable (not having a decent amount of storage is a major hassle).

I would agree with many of your points except a few.

Patti described that her grant was for a tablet, therefore I made a suggestion for that.  I think the ASUS Transformer Prime is more along the lines of what is needed than the iPad for example.

As far as performance, the quad core Tegra 3 in the Tranformer prime will outperform the laptop you suggested in both speed of loading apps, and graphics.  The Transformer will also get much longer battery life than the laptop.  The processor in the laptop you mentioned is 3 generations old and while clocked at a higher rate will not perform as well as the 1ghz Transformer.  However a true comparison is difficult since one is running a desktop OS and the other a mobile one.

 I have tested a variety of tablets using Adobe Flash, and while I mostly disagree with Apple in their position about Flash, I can say that on some Flash sites, the touch nature of the screen was incompatible.  For example, I struggled to get Bitstrips.com to work correctly with the touchscreen.

I agree with you completely that the hype about tablets is overblown.  The app selection for any student above the age of around 8 years old is paltry to say the least.  I strongly recommend that high school students and middle school students should consider a laptop/netbook instead.  However, there are some distinct advantages to the tablet that I cannot dismiss.  The cost of apps for tablets is significantly less, and while the functionality is also less, the balance of value is currently in tablets favor (in my opinion).  The battery life of the newest generations of tablets are much better than their laptop equivalents.  The Macbooks in my classroom are rated for 6hrs, and we regularly struggle to get 4 hrs out of them.  A tablet with a battery life of 12-16 hrs is superior.  Lastly, while the app selection is not as strong on a tablet, the move to web apps will only make this divide smaller and less meaningful.  I spend most of my day in the browser.  I compose letters, write papers, conduct research, organize my life, communicate all within the browser itself.  Soon most (if not all) functions which are done by dedicated software will be done online.  While this truth does not put a tablet ahead of a laptop, it does go to show that the need for an OS dedicated to running native apps is declining.

Those are my thoughts.  Thanks.

Thanks to all for your advice. 

I have a laptop and the grant was for a tablet with accessories. 

Jon, I have been looking at the Prime, but cannot find it except for the really high priced ones that are being resold. I heard the next Prime (this summer) will be even better, but more expensive.  I think you are right about the current Prime though. It should work well for me when I do find it available.

Any suggestions about the rest of the money. I think I listed money for speakers, a keyboard dock (Prime has one), necessary cables, protective covers/case with room for the dock, microphone, screen savers. So I think I have money left over.  Any suggestions?



Hi Patti,

Something to bear in mind when auditioning speakers is that what sounds very loud in the shop or your home, will sound fairly quite in a classroom full of people. People's bodies absorb a lot of sound and therefore speakers need to be much louder to get the same effect. The majority of portable PC speakers on the market just don't have the "oomf" to deliver reasonable quality sound that the whole class can hear easily.

Personally, I've been using Bose for the past few years: http://www.amazon.com/Bose-Companion-multimedia-speaker-system/dp/B... They're small, good quality and loud. AFAIK, the next best thing are Creative GigaWorks: http://www.amazon.com/Creative-GigaWorks-Multimedia-BasXPort-Techno... and there are larger versions too. However, the speaker cones aren't as well protected as the Bose units so they may not last as long.

In my opinion, spending more than $100 on a pair of speakers that you're going to carry around and use on classroom tables is a waste of money: they get knocked about a fair amount and maybe even dropped. They have to be affordable to replace easily.

I'd like to know if anyone has used any other portable ones.

Matt, I just looked at the Bose Companion 20 last night. I thought they would be good too.

One thing to consider is your school's/district's network and firewall. Do they use a proxy server?

The tablet's ability to connect to the internet via a proxy server isn't guaranteed. The iPad allows for proxy configurations but some tablets like the Amazon Kindle and the Nook do not.

We have some staff who wanted to use their own Kindles at work, and our librarian has considered Kindles or Nooks for the Library, but our network uses a proxy that, apparently, many flavors of Android can't be configured to.

Ok way over my head. What specific questions do I need to ask my tech dept?  I know the tablet has wi-fi and I have wi-fi in my classroom. I do not know about proxy servers, firewall, or networks.


The tablet has 1 micro=HDMI slot and I would like to connect it to the Smartboard. So I guess I need to find a VGA to Micro-HDMI cable. Do I have that right?  But, how long a cable?  Is there a problem when the cable is too long?

I am also thinking about a microphone. Tablet has a 2-in-1 headphone/microphone jack. I know it has a built in microphone, but I want one that will pick up from across the room.

Also, can anyone suggest a tablet/mobile virus protection?



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