There has been a great deal of conversation and debate regarding device choice in our schools throughout the state, over the last decade or so. I’ve participated in a number of these debates over “which device is best for students”. The more I discuss this with folks throughout the state, the more I am resorting to the grim reality that there truly isn’t an ideal device for a school corporation. What I DO believe is that there can be an ideal device for specific subsets of students. The challenges lie in choosing wisely, providing proper support, financial considerations, and infrastructure.
This quandary became very apparent to me in a conversation that I just had involving myself, our Director of Special Education, and our Superintendent. We were discussing technology moving forward for next year and specifically, the unique needs of some of our special education students. We are currently 1:1 with Chromebooks in K-12, but we have a hybrid environment in 9-12, as some programs necessitate Windows machines. I have always believed that iPads are great devices for Pre-K through maybe 2nd grade. I have also always been in favor of supporting a hybrid environment in each building based on the specific strengths of each device. For example, in a middle/high school setting, I love having Chromebooks as our student devices, but also offering curriculum that is Windows based. I also support mobile carts with iPads to provide exposure to some of the best creativity apps available.
Basically, I want all of the devices…everywhere!
Unfortunately, this is where idealism and logistics collide. This collision point is where most school corporations are forced to make tough decisions, that, in many cases, must be financial and logistic decisions, rather than learning decisions. The inconvenient truth is that most school corporations simply cannot afford the “ideal” setup, and can’t support it if they CAN afford it.
Another example of this technology conundrum recently came about when discussing with teachers what the best/preferred display would be in their rooms. Again, one size fits none! We can see the most value in a mobile touch display on an adjustable height cart in our K-5 grades, a similar setup in our middle grades, but less need for an interactive touch panel in our secondary levels. However, the ability to cast to a display could be helpful, if not completely frightening, at the high school level. Throw in the role of assistive technology and the benefits of practice with fine motor skills for some of our special education students, cost analysis of touchscreens versus other types of display panels, versus projectors, mobile versus mounted displays, replacement and maintenance costs, and we end up in a really tough spot to make a decision!
Overall, what I guess I’m getting at is this: A superficial conversation about device choices in schools can be interesting and can certainly spark allegiances on Twitter, but only with a deep analysis, outreach to teachers in all content areas and grade levels, intensive analysis of cost/maintenance/replacement/etc., and a clearly stated plan for both initial and ongoing professional development can we make what I would call the “most informed” decision we can make for our schools, teachers, and students.
Coordinator of Digital Learning
Twin Lakes School Corporation