Student Device Program - Technology Resources - McDonogh School

Student Device Program

Device Requirements

McDonogh’s Student Device program, which began in the fall of 2013, requires that every student bring to school each day a portable digital computer for use as an organizational tool, a research portal, and a collaboration platform. This laptop computer must meet basic requirements:

The device must have a full-sized physical keyboard.

This requirement is critical for extended writing assignments (e.g. research papers, longer communications, etc.)  Smaller keyboards (e.g. netbooks) lead to cramped and tired hands, and on-screen keyboards (e.g. iPads, Android tablets) don’t facilitate rapid or extended writing. A full-sized keyboard with physical keys is a primary requirement.

The device must have wireless capability.

The laptop must have a WiFi card and be able to connect to the wireless network at McDonogh. Mobile data (i.e. 4G devices and plans from telecommunications providers like Verizon, AT&T, or T-Mobile) is not required, though students who spend long hours working away from campus or from home may find them useful.

The device must have a long-lasting battery.

Students will not be able to sit near power outlets during all of their classes. Devices must have a battery that lasts at least 60 minutes even after a year’s heavy use. This means a device should advertise at least four hours of time on battery power when brand new. Rechargeable batteries lose their effectiveness over time, so that a laptop that lasts for several hours when brand new may only last a fraction of that time after the battery has been recharged several hundred times. Proper care and treatment of the battery can delay but not fully prevent this. A student whose battery is continually dead may be required to purchase a new battery.

The device must have a full-sized screen.

In practice, it is almost impossible to find a laptop that has a full-sized keyboard but not a full-sized screen; however, this requirement is important enough to restate.  If this computing device is the student’s primary computer, then a bright and clear screen will help reduce eye-strain and fatigue from extended use. We require at least an 11.6" screen, and recommend at least a 13" screen.

The device must provide a first-class, modern, web browsing experience.

Moving many applications and services to the World Wide Web enables the school to remove a platform dependence for student devices, and also enables students to collaborate in real time, as well as access their information from any computer. By storing documents in Caelum or other cloud services, students can quickly access those materials even if their device is broken or missing, simply by borrowing a loaner computer. A modern web browser (e.g. Chrome, Firefox, Safari, Edge, or Opera) is a must-have, and is the foundation of all applications for student and classroom use. The browser must be a desktop browser; iOS and Android versions of any of the listed browsers do not meet the requirements.. Google Chrome is the school’s preferred browser.

The device should power on in less than 90 seconds, and should wake from sleep in under 30 seconds.

When the machine is fully powered off, it should boot up and be ready for full use in less than 90 seconds. When opening the lid in sleep mode, the device must be ready for operation within 30 seconds. This timer includes logging in and loading any initial applications.

We recommend minimum specifications for satisfactory performance.

There are no set specifications that are needed to meet the preceding requirements, but the following specifications on a new device are likely to meet the requirements for your child's time in an entire division (i.e. one purchased before 5th grade is likely to offer satisfactory performance through at least 8th grade; one purchased before 9th grade is likely to offer satisfactory performance through the end of your student's time at McDonogh):

  • Chromebooks: 4 GB RAM minimum, 8 GB recommended
  • Macs: 8 GB RAM minimum, 16 GB recommended; 256 GB or more storage recommended; new device, or used device less than 2 years old, recommended
  • Windows PCs: Intel Core or AMD Ryzen processor recommended; 8 GB RAM minimum, 16 GB recommended; 256 GB or more storage recommended; Solid State Drive (SSD) is recommended

Secondary Devices

iPads, Android tablet devices, and Windows RT tablets, as well as eReaders such as the Nook and Kindle, do not meet the school’s requirements. These are wonderful secondary devices, but they are not powerful enough to meet a student’s needs alone.  Each of these platforms lacks support for one of the critical requirements. No exceptions will be made. Students are permitted to bring to school and to use these secondary devices (at the discretion of the faculty), but they should be prepared to use their primary device at any time during the school day. Secondary devices are governed by the same Responsible Use Policies as the primary device.  

Brands, Models, and Platforms

There is no official requirement for any platform or brand.  Laptop computers, be they Apple, Toshiba, Lenovo, Dell, HP, Acer, Samsung, Sony, or others as long as they meet the general requirements, are all acceptable. However, McDonogh strongly recommends that families in the Middle School who are making a new computer purchase for their student select a Chromebook. Chromebooks are laptop computers made by many vendors (including Samsung, Acer, HP, & Lenovo) that meet all of the school’s requirements for a student device, and cost between $200 and $400.  These devices integrate very well with the school’s Caelum platform (Google Apps) and feature long-lasting batteries and large keyboards and screens.  Most importantly, these computers power on in seconds and are made of inexpensive but durable materials.  Most models contain no moving parts, and thus will last longer inside backpacks and bags.  Chromebooks require no antivirus, do not need to be backed up, and are essentially interchangeable. McDonogh will provide Chromebooks as loaner devices for students who need a temporary replacement device while servicing their own. Chromebooks are self-updating, and are automatically kept up to date.

Families in the Upper School making a new computer purchase should evaluate the comparisons of capabilities and limitations below to determine what kind of laptop best suits their child's needs.

Windows 10 Laptop


  • Broadest compatibility with software
  • Wide selection of vendors, price points
  • Familiarity for all students, teachers
  • Works well offline
  • Runs every application that is available through Citrix
  • Some models can include a pen feature allowing students to write on the screen with a special stylus.


  • Mid-High cost
  • Batteries often don’t last as long
  • Models vary in quality
  • Software susceptible to viruses, malware

Mac Laptop


  • Very high quality devices
  • Batteries usually last a long time
  • Adept at multimedia (e.g. photos, video)
  • Not usually susceptible to viruses, malware
  • Works well offline
  • Runs every application available through Citrix


  • Higher starting price than Windows PCs
  • Not all students, teachers may be familiar with operating system
  • Minor compatibility issues
  • Single vendor, single price point
  • Touchscreen/tablet models not available



  • Low cost
  • Very high reliability
  • No need for antivirus or security software
  • Variety of vendors, price points
  • Lightweight
  • No internal moving parts
  • Long battery life
  • Runs every application that is available through Citrix


  • Heavily dependent on a web connection
  • No hard drive
  • Dependent upon Cloud Print to print
  • Cannot download or install local applications like the freshman physics electronic textbook, or the software needed for the freshman physics STEM project, unless that application is available through Citrix or on the web
  • Cannot be used with probes to collect data in science classes
  • Only capable of browsing the web and using web applications (including Google Docs)
  • Can’t run Arduino IDEs, Java applets or applications (including some PHET simulations in physics)
  • Students planning to take robotics or computer science classes will not be able to use a Chromebook to complete all of their homework

Although there is no firm requirement for a certain brand or model of device, the Technology Department has partnered with Dell and local vendor DSR to provide a selection of models of Chromebook and Windows PC laptop across various price points that meet our recommended minimum specifications:

All MacBook devices currently available from Apple meet our recommended minimum specifications, although we do recommend AppleCare be purchased with any MacBook; Apple offers education discounts with a valid student ID.

Please note that, although these models meet our recommended specifications, McDonogh does not guarantee that any model of computer will meet the needs of McDonogh students or continue to meet future requirements of the Student Device Program; the above pages are offered only to make it easier to choose a device that currently meets our basic requirements.


McDonogh has never had a laptop stolen out of a secured student locker. Lockers are provided to students, as are locks to students who request them. It is up to the student to decide when to secure their device in their locker, and students who carelessly leave their devices out may return to find those devices missing. We believe strongly in the McDonogh compass which includes honesty and respect (for one’s self and for others) but also includes responsibility.

McDonogh will not warranty or repair any student-owned device.  Repair, replacement, or substitution is the responsibility of the student and his or her family. The school will, for a limited time only, provide students with a loaner device to make repairs or procure a replacement device, but extended loans will not be permitted.

For student devices in harsh environments (busses, etc.) we strongly recommend families investigate warranty and replacement programs.  Most vendors offer warranties on new devices, but families should be careful to select a warranty that covers accidental damage rather than simply mechanical failure due to defect.  Comprehensive warranties that include accidental damage (cracked screens, spilled liquids, shattered cases, missing keys) cost more, but enable the device to be replaced or repaired quickly, often without additional cost.

Students who are financially responsible for their own device will take more care to protect it from harm or damage.  That said, accidents can happen to even the most responsible device owner.


Although McDonogh does not guarantee that specific models meet all requirements of the Student Device Program, and does not provide support for student devices, families with questions about whether specific devices might meet the requirements of the Student Device Program, or the needs of their student, can email the Technology Department at with pre-purchase questions.  

The Technology Department has also created documentation for families to assist with device setup (please note that some of this documentation requires the device be on campus before it can be followed):