Every educator knows that once the summer is over, the classroom needs to be ready for the kids. While this involves gathering supplies such as art items, paper, and writing utensils, many educators find themselves searching for the best way to employ students’ knowledge and creativity in technology.
In an increasingly paperless world, most kids know how to write and draw on a computer, and many schools are employing one-on-one Chromebooks and iPads. Finding the right kid-friendly inkjet or laser jet printer and accessories for your classroom can make transferring students’ technological creativity onto paper much easier.
There are a variety of printers on the market, and a teacher should take the time to think before purchasing a printer. You should think about anticipated use, the pros and cons of inkjet versus a laser jet printer, and the overall cost that both the initial investment and upkeep will entail.
Laser vs. Inkjet Printers
The primary difference between a laser printer and an inkjet printer is the type of material that is used to create the images on paper. Laser printers use toner, which is a powder instead of liquid ink. The powder sets to the page through the use of a laser drum, which generates electrostatic heat to bond the powder to the paper. The drum and toner cartridge sometimes come as one unit, and in some models they are separate. Keep this in mind because, over time, the drum will wear down and need to be replaced about every 20,000 pages.
Ink vs. Toner
An inkjet printer uses liquid ink to create the images on a sheet of paper using microscopic drops. A dye-based ink will change the color of the page it touches, while pigment-based ink will sit on the surface of the paper. An inkjet printer does not require the use of a drum, but the ink does run out faster than toner.
Photographs vs. Documents
Inkjet printers are best for printing high-quality images and photographs. Laser jet printers, on the other hand, are great for printing documents. Depending on how much you plan to use your printer in the classroom, you’ll need to decide which style of printer is a better fit. Over time, ink can become a costly part of your budget. Toner is quite expensive up front, but it lasts through many pages of documents. If your students are printing lots of projects and pictures, an inkjet printer might be a better choice.
Inkjet printers are generally cheaper for their initial cost than laser jet printers. Inkjet printers take longer to print, while laser printers are quite fast. However, if you’re not going to print from your inkjet printer often, the ink can dry up. It’s important to make sure you’re using your inkjet printer at least once per week to keep the ink fresh and moving.
Black vs. Color
If you only want your students to print black-and-white documents, and not photographs, a monochrome laser printer would probably be the best choice for your classroom. This will allow them to print out their worksheets, notes, and other assignments without a lot of fuss. Your laser monochrome printer will also produce more sheets before the toner needs to be replaced. Some toners can print between 700 and 3,000 pages per month. They can also typically produce up to 30 pages per minute.
An inkjet printer, on the other hand, produces about 15 pages per minute and has a maximum output of between 250-500 pages before the ink needs to be replaced. If you’re utilizing color ink, this can also change when the colors need to be replaced. However, if you have students who are consistently utilizing the printer to create high-quality photo images for projects and assignments, an inkjet printer might be one of the most valuable investments you can make for your classroom.
There are alternatives to traditional ink printer cartridges. Both Epson and Brother have inkwells called a Continuous Ink Supply System, or CISS, which are essentially large tanks. You will purchase bottles of ink instead of cartridges, and you will pour the bottles into the CISS. While this ink lasts longer than traditional cartridges, if you want your students to replace the ink, bottles of ink might not be the best idea.
Consider Your Budget
All classroom teachers know that they don’t get paid enough, yet they’re constantly using their money to purchase classroom supplies. If your school or department is willing to contribute part of their budget toward printers and printing supplies, then you may have more options when it comes to finding the right printer for your students.
If you’re purchasing your own printer for your classroom, there are some things you’ll want to consider beyond the initial cost. These criteria should include:
- The cost of ink printer cartridges
- The frequency of ink printer cartridge replacement
- The complexity of the printer in case something breaks
- Maintenance costs and replacement parts
Teachers should first evaluate how much use their printer will get from the students and from their own printing tasks. This can help you estimate how much ink you’ll use and how much you’ll need to plan for ink replenishment in your budget.
If your school has an IT department, that may also cut costs on any repairs and maintenance tasks. If the IT department has a budget to replace printer parts, that is also an important factor in figuring out your own out-of-pocket costs.
Consider Student Autonomy
If your students will be printing their work from a classroom computer, personal Chromebook, or other digital means, consider how easy a printer will be for your students to use. If you want your students to print their own work without consulting you for permission or help, you’ll likely want a printer that is easy to use and simple to understand.
Think About the Features You Want
If you’re looking for a simple printer for black-and-white printing, laser jet printers are some of the most cost-effective choices on the market. However, if you want to be able to print in color, inkjet printers might be a better option.
If you’re tired of standing in line at the copy machine, an all-in-one printer, scanner, fax, and copier might be one of the best time-saving choices you’ll make for your classroom. This will also allow your students to scan in their work into a digital format and upload them to places such as Google Classroom, a class blog or website, or Moodle.
Most all-in-one printers come with a digital screen for selecting what task you want the printer to do, and most kids are tech-savvy and can figure these screens out quickly. However, if you are working with students with severe learning disabilities, who are extremely young, or who are ESL learners, a more simplistic all-in-one printer might be more beneficial for your classroom.
Wireless and Cloud Printing
It’s rare to have multiple hard-wired computers in a classroom. While the teacher may have access to a computer, most students are using laptops and iPads to take notes and complete assignments. Many modern printers have wireless capabilities, allowing students in your classroom to print directly from their Chromebook or iPad without having to hook their device up to the printer directly.
Some printers, such as HP, have their own HP Smart Apps, and can also be paired with Bluetooth. These printers make it even easier to print from any device, and the app allows you to stay in control of printing and ink or toner levels.
If you want students to be able to print from their desks, or just don’t want to deal with wires, consider investing in a printer with wireless capabilities. Students can print from the iCloud, Google Drive, and even from their phones. The ease of access with wireless printing will make getting students’ work into a hard copy much more simplified.
While many printers offer a variety of functions and capabilities, some can only print on standard 8.5”x11” paper and smaller. If you want a printer that can utilize larger sizes of paper, including legal, ledger, and tabloid sizes, especially if you’re doing newspaper printing or projects, that will narrow down your selection.
While you’ll likely be in charge of changing the ink or toner in your classroom printer, there are some accessories that students can use with the printer that won’t require your intervention. If you do want students to be able to change the ink as needed, consider investing in a printer that makes it easy and quick to switch out or replace the ink or toner. Ink and toner that can’t be spilled is another option to keep in mind, even for high school students.
If you are having students regularly print high-quality photographs for projects or portfolios, consider investing in some photo paper stock. You can offer both glossy and matte finish stock, depending on what kind of look students want to create.
Students can also benefit from multicolored printer paper to add to their portfolios and assignments. Paper stock comes in many bright and beautiful colors, with some printer paper, even sporting patterns and cartoon prints. This paper works well for color-coded portfolios, and large scrapbooking projects for history, English, and science classes.
USB Sticks and Cord
Some printers also have USB ports so students can print directly off their USB sticks or connect using a USB cord. This works well for students who have desktop computers at home with more complex programs than an iPad or Chromebook. Consider having USB sticks on hand, for students to borrow for digital projects, or a USB cord for students to hook up their MacBooks and personal laptops. This will also allow students to send scanned images directly to their computers or onto their USBs for use at home.
Staple cartridges are another time-saving accessory to consider adding to your printer arsenal. Many modern heavy-duty printers also have staple cartridges to keep large projects together. Students can also benefit from having a staple cartridge when they’re printing up book reports, research papers, and lab reports. The staple cartridge is also a time-saver for your own documents, especially if you’re utilizing your printer instead of a copy machine.
Wireless Print Server
If you are concerned about security over wireless printing, you can invest in a wireless print server which will encrypt any documents sent to the printer. This is especially helpful in schools where there may be multiple wireless printers or a Wi-Fi connection that isn’t very secure. This can keep students and teachers in other classrooms from accidentally printing to your printer and using up your supplies. It can also help keep students’ work confidential and private.
The final thing to consider when looking at printers to purchase for your classroom is how much space you have to offer a printer and all of its accessories. If you don’t have a lot of space, an inkjet printer might be the best option. They tend to be smaller and more lightweight, making them easy to move around quickly and fit into small corners of a desk. If you have plenty of space, a larger laser printer is a great option.
You may also have to consider things such as a place for a USB cord, a printer server, and paper storage, especially if you’re going to be offering colored paper, photo stock, or different sizes of paper. Another thing to think about is where the printer’s home will be: Do you want the printer to be nearby to your computer so you can monitor it or will this printer be out in the classroom strictly for student use? This decision will impact where you will keep the printer throughout the school year.
Choosing the right printer for your classroom involves some time and research. You want to select a printer that will work well for your printing needs, the needs of your students, and your budget.