Dr Page's Educational Tech Blog


Best Device for Students and Teachers; School-Wide Device Choice

Author: Posted: 2017-02-19

Bridging Devices

The best option for students and teachers in schools today is a device that is portable enough yet, powerful and functional in terms of getting work done. Today there are few devices that fit the bill, such as convertible laptops, traditional laptops, and to a lesser extent Chromebooks.

The beauty of a bridge device is that they incorporate multiple methods of input such as a touch interface, stylus, and a keyboard / trackpad. Typically, they are also lightweight. Having to carry around, or have available a few devices such as a table and a laptop or desktop, defeats the purpose of being mobile. Bridge devices have cameras, and can detach easily from their combo keyboard battery. In addition, they are powerful enough to take on any task or demanding video.

Soon we should all have a good selection of device to choose from that will free students to work anywhere anytime. By purchasing bridge devices schools can also save a good deal of funds by not having to buy multiple devices, allowing for funds to be allocated towards other needed devices for the classroom. Finally, both students and teachers can choose devices that fit their teaching and learning styles allowing for differentiated instruction in both directions.

Choosing a Multifunctional Bridging Device

As the famous television, Chef Alton Brown advocates concerning the purchase of cooking utensils, they must be multifunctional. As so must be computing devices. Their function and input methods should be flexible and multifunctional since not every teacher or student works the same way.

When initiating a device agnostic school environment, it is crucial that the teachers and students have access to device that add functionality. The goal is to teach content and skills, not to learn a specific device or operating system. Exposure to different software and devices helps students learn the intuitiveness across all systems. By implementing an agnostic school where students and teachers can use the devices they are already familiar with, there is less training needed, and the user will be comfortable and motivated to use their devices.

By using a variety of devices, students can extend their learning to outside school creating opportunity for real world connections with what they are learning as students can use web based programs across all devices which may be different in their homes.

We are doing a disservice to student and teachers by only using one type of device or platform. Technology rapidly changes and students should be learning on all devices and comparing and contrasting what they can do on their system with what their peers can do. 

Freedom of Choice & BYOD

One of the main arguments for the use of BYOD in schools is that all students get to use devices that they are comfortable using. This saves a great deal of time and effort, as faculty don’t have to teach the minutia of device use, which is a colossal waste of time. One major benefit to a device agnostic BYOD program is that schools don't have to pay for upkeep of devices that are bought and owned by the students.

The argument against BYOD that I hear in most schools is that students all need to use the same device. These same people argue it's hard to train students in the basic use of their devices if they all are different. This is a false argument, as teachers still must teach to different versions of software even if students all have the same device. Oftentimes if not always, software versions differ even on same devices due to minor device variations or outright user interface upgrades. How often students update their software determines whether all the devices are in sync. This almost never happens thereby forcing teachers to teach to different versions regardless.

Schools could force updates to maintain uniform operating systems and programs using specialized software, but that is a costly solution. Schools would balk if teachers requested new text books every year so why should electronic devices be any different? Devices typically needed upgrading every couple to few years depending on the upgrade cycle and forced upgrade path. The only company that guarantees backward compatibility is Microsoft. Allowing students to choose their own devices and to maintain them saves an incredible amount of resources. All major apps and software are platform agnostic, meaning they work on all systems. In addition, most functions today that are needed in schools have a web variant that will work on smartphones, tablets, and laptops. Funds can be better spent on teacher training and other aspects of the school environment that won't need replacing every few years and require our needing to purchase support services and follow expensive upgrade cycles placed upon us at the whim of companies whose sole purpose is to sell us more devices!

Benefits for Agnostic Approach
•	Wide exposure to new innovations in Hardware & Software
•	No OS platform training needed for converts 
•	All systems need patching regularly; No expensive MDM needed!
•	Virus infection is "dead", Symantec has given up on making virus software; Biggest threat is mal/spyware which affects all operating systems
•	Most computer functions can be done online; even tablet apps are having web based interface
•	Good for content creation

Chromebook Invasion

In the United States Chromebooks, have surpassed both Apple and Microsoft as the first choice for student use. Chromebooks are very in-expensive. They are essentially a tablet without the touch screen, but without the high cost. They use Google's Chrome browser as their operating system. They are light, have a keyboard, camera, and have a long battery life. They are ideal for students in a school that uses Google Apps environment, or primarily use online tools. They can only do what can be done in a web browser. So, movie making is out, unless a subscription to a movie making online site is purchased.

Limiting a student or a teacher’s choice to a one brand or device in today’s web centric world only limits the ability to use different teaching and learning styles and methods. By mandating only, the use of one particular device, essentially is tying the hands of both teachers and students by limiting them which is the exact opposite of differentiated instruction. 

By allowing a more open system environment in schools, the learning community will be able to adapt more quickly and easily to changes in the ever-changing world of technology innovations. Using the students as a source of potential new programs and devices will only help create a more dynamic learning environment. By encouraging a device agnostic environment is the best option for schools when looking to create an effective learning environment.