The Learning Environment Has Evolved
Today’s teacher has a variety of learning environments to manage, from flipped classrooms to collaborative classrooms to remote and distance learning. As student needs shift, educators must not only pace but be prepared to lead and plan for the evolution of the teaching environment. Technology becomes the fulcrum that increases teacher capabilities for positively impacting students.
The right technology gives teachers more time with students to see and unlock their individual potential. At the same time, technology can increase student engagement for online learning. This expands students’ ability to be ready for creative thinking and innovation.
Why Choose Desktop PCs for Teaching?
Today’s hybrid classroom, where students work both virtually and in a physical classroom in personalized learning activities, drives high demand for teacher computing resources. Teachers need the right tools for today’s classroom; desktop PCs can help teachers more effectively teach their students.
A desktop tower has the power to support collaboration in learning and teaching while hardware-enhanced security helps protect students and their data. Cutting-edge performance supports multiple-monitor learning environments, enabling simultaneous activities like graphic design, computer-aided lab work, or streaming video lessons.
Without a desktop PC, a teacher needs to use a laptop and make sure it is charged up, online, and connected to all peripherals. Peripherals means additional devices like an audio/visual (AV) solution, speakers, large screens, document readers, wireless keyboards, digital pens, and others. Laptops in education need to be light and portable, while a desktop PC has more robust components that allow more memory and larger storage drives. Because a desktop is larger and stationary, it is easier to add specialized components, like a video card or larger storage devices.
It is important teachers focus on their students, so simpler implementation is a necessity. A stationary desktop PC means the technology is embedded, connected, and ready to deliver a rich student experience. The power-efficient design of a desktop PC for teachers also makes it ideal for any learning location, including classrooms, labs, libraries, and shared learning stations.
Desktops Vs. All-in-Ones
Desktops have an interchangeable tower and monitor, which means either can be connected to different devices over time. An all-in-one PC (AIO PC) offers the performance of a desktop PC without the need for a separate tower. Hence the name—it is a streamlined all-in-one computer with the monitor and tower in one device.
AIO PCs also have fewer wires and cables, a high-quality display that often includes touchscreen capability, and an integrated webcam. Clutter free and portable, the space-saving designs of AIOs are ideal for even the smallest classroom spaces.
“It is important [for districts and schools] to ensure that devices will work for both near and long-term needs such as the demands of skills for innovation: simulation, modeling, computational thinking, and visualization, as well as social and emotional learning and collaboration.”
Planning for Virtual Learning: How Connectivity, Operating System, and Device Selection Effects Teaching and Learning Outcomes for Virtual and Blended Environments.1
Desktop Feature Considerations
The goal for educators is to have the right fixed, or stationary, desktop PC for their classroom. The first consideration for investing in a desktop PC for teachers is performance; that is, what will the teacher need the desktop PC to do, and how much processing power will be needed? The higher the demand, the more important it is to invest in a faster processor, larger memory and storage, and a higher-resolution screen for an all-in-one PC.
To rightsize desktop PC performance across classroom uses, consider what the teacher does most often and where the current system bottleneck is to identify the critical features of their desktop PC for teaching. For example, if a teacher uses on-screen teaching techniques, it is important to have a good graphics card and webcam. Overall, the general factors that influence investing in a desktop PC include the following:
- Size and speed of performance (see CPU below)
- Connectivity and compatibility considerations with peripherals (see OS below)
- Manageability for daily use and maintenance over time (see FAQ below)
- Security for data and privacy protection (see FAQ below)
Other factors that influence investing in a desktop PC for teaching include the following hardware considerations.
Your computer’s central processing unit, or CPU, is the “brain” of your device. The power of your CPU drives core operations. As one example, the CPU determines how many programs you can have open successfully at one time. Most desktop PCs have a processor dedicated to the speed and performance of the device. The more processing power a CPU has, the faster the desktop PC will work.
Greater processing power also means your device can handle larger workloads and run more-complicated tasks. Conversely, if a processor is inadequate to run all the tasks a teacher may need in the classroom, programs may freeze or lock up. Most experts recommend a larger CPU to ensure the greatest efficiency and performance.
Desktop PCs offer multiple ports to support various accessories and peripherals to expand functionality. These ports are positioned for easy access either on the front or on the back to hide the cables.
The operating system, or OS, of your desktop PC is the “heart” of your computer. The operating system manages all the hardware and software, files, memory, and peripheral devices. It is also how you interact with your desktop PC because it runs the interface for installing and running programs. While there are different operating systems, Windows and macOS are two of the most familiar on the market.
A desktop PC monitor is the screen you use to operate your PC. Monitors are usually sold separately from the tower unless you buy an all-in-one PC where the internal components are housed within the main unit. When teachers need to run multiple windows, extra screen size will make a difference. Most educators choose 24-inch or larger monitors. Screen size is the diagonal width of the screen as measured in inches.
The monitor’s display resolution determines how sharp the screen will be visually. Resolution is the number of pixels horizontally and vertically (e.g., 1,920 by 1,080). The higher these numbers, the sharper the image on the screen.
The system memory of a desktop PC is also called random-access memory, or RAM. RAM is the short-term memory that helps your CPU process multiple tasks at once. The more RAM a desktop PC has, the more processing capability it has to run complex or multiple functions. Basic computing requires 4 GB or more; most desktop PCs come with 8 GB to 16 GB of RAM. It is possible to upgrade the RAM over time if budget is a factor.
Files, programs, photos, videos, and games stored on a desktop PC are kept on its hard drive, or long-term memory. The more storage available, the more items that can be stored. Storage is measured in gigabytes (GB) and terabytes (TB), with 1 TB equal to 1,000 GB. Desktop PC storage typically starts at 500 GB to 1 TB, which is adequate for the average user. Teachers today can use cloud storage services, external hard drives, and USB sticks for extra storage as needed.
The graphics processing unit (GPU), along with the CPU, has the greatest effect on your computer’s performance. This is because the GPU processes data from the CPU and shows it visually on your monitor. If your GPU doesn’t have enough power, it will show in low-quality graphics. This will impact visual tasks, including streaming, video editing, and graphic design.
An advantage that desktop PCs offer is that their housing is larger to fit more-powerful components. Additionally, the tower delivers the cooling needed to balance the power draw and heat that a robust GPU will generate.
A more-robust GPU delivers more bandwidth in memory, a higher pixel rate, and increased texture mapping. Texture mapping is the use of images or patterns converted to graphics so they have greater realism visually. Generally speaking, the more memory a GPU has, the more visual detail it can process.
Most desktop PCs include a built-in webcam as part of the system. All of the software and drivers are installed, so the webcam is ready to go as soon as the computer is powered on. Nearly every webcam can capture and stream basic video.
To see the quality of video a webcam can process, look at the megapixel count. The average resolution for standard video is at least 640 pixels by 480 pixels. High-definition (HD) video needs a webcam that handles 1,600 pixels by 1,200 pixels. The higher the megapixel count, the better the picture quality. Most webcams are HD capable but can adjust to record in a lower resolution or switch from widescreen to standard. Note: If the monitor does not handle HD images, even if your webcam does, the video will not display in HD.
Teachers should also consider the webcam design in terms of how they will take images. For videos, it is important to have pan, tilt, and zoom capabilities. It is also important to make sure the webcam comes with a headset or built-in microphone for audio. If lighting could be an issue when recording video, look to see that the webcam can handle low-light sensitivity.
Intel continues to power the technology that is enabling teachers to deliver a rich student experience.