November 21, 2017

The Advocate's Toolbox

Is 2015 the Year of the Desktop? | The Next Big Thing

Given the rapid proliferation of tablets, Chromebooks, and other 1:1 computing devices last year, 2015 should be the year of the desktop—even in this time of rapid shift towards 1:1.

For all of the power and potential of tablets and Chromebooks, they just can’t get some things right. Printing is finicky, and the larger screen of a desktop can really help with creative work. iPads are nice for video and audio editing, but neither goes very far on a Chromebook. More technical work like CAD designs for 3-D printing or higher-level programming also works better on a desktop, with its additional computing power and ability to run virtual machines.

Desktops, it can be argued, are becoming more important, rather than less. I don’t mean the old, broken-down variety. Libraries supporting 1:1 situations need the latest and greatest ones, powered up to support high-end creative and technical work by students. Many districts are also looking toward thin clients or virtual desktops to stretch tech budgets. Having dedicated machines for specific work is just as key.

Desktops’ peripheral hardware is equally important. Libraries can support informal learning and exploration by providing students access to special tools and software for art, music, video, and technology fields. These tools can be expensive, but you can take steps to introduce new possibilities, even on a tight budget.

With audio production, for instance, having a quality microphone greatly improves how the outcome sounds. If you are serious about audio and have money to create an audio station, consider the USB microphones from Blue, like the Yeti (about $120), which I love. To get started, you could also get the Blue Icicle ($35), providing USB input for any regular microphone. Free software, such as Audacity, or Apple’s GarageBand, makes recording and editing as easy as cut and paste.

Similarly, consider enhancing the art capabilities of your special library desktops with a graphical tablet. The basic Bamboo tablet from Wacom starts at about $55; the larger, more advanced Wacom Intuos ($200–$300) offers better precision and pressure sensitivity.

By seeing desktops as the next big thing, libraries can boost their tech capabilities while filling gaps opened by shifts away from desktops and laptops elsewhere in the school. High-end desktops with add-ons supporting creative, technical work and exploration help students develop new skills and abilities. That’s why  are still a critical part of libraries moving forward.

This article was published in School Library Journal's January 2015 issue. Subscribe today and save up to 35% off the regular subscription rate.

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