One Device to Rule Them All

We see posts all the time that tote one device’s superiority over another. Things like, “Why the _______ is the clear winner in K-12 education” or “The _____ is now in ___ percent of all classrooms in America”. You know what I’m talking about. It’s no secret that there’s competition among companies to have their device most widely adopted. Who wouldn’t want their device to be the device of choice for K-12 school districts? Do you have a favorite device nearby right now? Do I have my favorite device(s)? Sure I do. If you follow me on Twitter or heard me on the Two Guys Show or Dads in Ed recently, you know what a couple of my favorite devices are.

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There’s an array of reasons why a district might choose one device over another. Cost likely being the biggest factor. Sometimes it just comes down to what you can afford and what you can’t. School districts have to also look at things like infrastructure, device management, tech support, etc.  There’s a lot to take into consideration.

However, this poses the question: do we give students a say on which device(s) they’d prefer to use? Are we actively seeking their opinion and input on which device(s) should be made available to them? Too many times this does not happen. Perhaps we are purchasing too many of one particular device and not enough of another? Do devices need to vary along a student’s K-12 education years? I think they do. I raised this point during last night’s #edchat. Districts and schools must be ready, willing, and able to support multiple device types; whether that be school provided or through a BYOD plan.  I believe the more devices students have exposure to the better. Do they need to be using all of them all the time? Of course not. Should a district buy an exorbitant amount of devices? No. As students use different types of devices, however, they will know which is most suitable for the task at hand. This is, of course, going to happen over time. Through careful decision-making, increasing teacher comfort level, and changing pedagogy through models like SAMR (Kathy Schrock has great information here) and T-PACK (Steven Anderson put together some great information here).

Trying to find one device that will be THE device students will ever need is like saying the only tool a handyman will ever need is a screwdriver. If we want students to be creators, publishers, and global contributors we shouldn’t limit them to only one platform. Something suitable for a primary grade student isn’t necessarily suitable for an 8th grader. We must be ready; and okay with this.

Thanks for reading. I welcome your comments.

21 thoughts on “One Device to Rule Them All”

  1. Couldn’t agree more. Well said Kyle. These days we are really spoilt for choice. We might not think it, but we are. There really isn’t a bad device out there, just bad ways to use them in the classroom. Pick one that meets your criteria, and exploit it to its full potential.

    If you can give kids exposure to multiple platforms while you are it, you absolutely should, because that will better prepare them for the world they enter when they leave school. I like to think of it as moving beyond 1:1. I am a huge fan of putting technology in the hands of every student, but does it need to be the same device for the duration of their schooling. Of course not.

  2. Kyle,

    I agree completely. Too often district technology purchases are driven by cost – i.e. Let’s buy the greatest number of one type of device to get the best volume discount, especially in larger districts. It does a great disservice to kids (and adults) if they only use any single device or platform for all of their educational tasks. We know that part of using technology effectively is choosing which device will best suit the task at hand. I believe that a BYOD program supplemented by school purchase of varying devices is a great way to address this issue, but it does present a difficult task of management for schools and districts. Thanks for this thoughtful post.

    1. Hey Chris thanks so much for your comment! It is a big management task for sure. I think it’s great when a district can offer an infrastructure and an IT department that can support a variety of devices.

  3. I agree as well. When I first started getting tech for my classes I was worried that I got iMacs one year, Netbooks one year, and iPads another year. Add to that the PCs in our school’s computer lab and my students are experiencing using multiple platforms. It has been great! Sometimes kids go to the divide they are most comfortable with and sometimes they are using a new device and learning how to use it.

    1. Hey Alfonso great to hear from you! Thanks for your comment. I think we also need to remember that devices don’t have to necessarily be a desktop computer, laptop, or tablet. It could also mean giving students access to cameras, digital voice recorders, webcams, document cameras, etc.

  4. Hi Kyle,

    Well-written and thought-provoking. Because is generally the determinant in selecting a device, many conversations aren’t had. For example, Chromebooks are a wonderful piece of technology, but inherent limitations make them virtually unusable in certain settings. This doesn’t negate their contirbutions to a district, but as you assert, a solid BYOD with a focus on what each can provide/contribute may be a more proactive solution.

    1. Thanks so much for your comment Vinnie. I’m a huge fan of Chromebooks. That’s no secret. We have a lot of them in my district, I own one personally, and each of my own kids have one. I think they’re a great device; and yes they certainly have their limitations. Everything does to some degree. Something that has always been interesting to me was a couple years ago when a coworker and I met with some students to ask what they thought about iPads vs. Chromebooks. We had them do some “everyday tasks” on each and asked what they thought. They had reasons that they liked both, but for school use they favored the Chromebook. I’d be interested to see if the same holds true now.

  5. Kyle,

    Your post was tweeted by Eric Sheninger(@NMHS_Principal), which brought it to my attention.

    I’m a music teacher, and both by my profession and my professional interests (blogging about technology in music education on the side), I get concerned about technology initiatives that basically leave the arts and electives out of the equation.

    In addition to cost, infrastructure (generally pursuing bandwidth that allows 3 to 4 devices per person in the building), management of devices, initial set up of devices (not the same thing), and susceptibility to viruses, I would encourage schools/IT leaders/districts need to ask two additional questions:

    1) What is the purpose of these devices? How will they be transformational? If technology is used mainly for GAFE (regardless of device), you have just created a better typewriter (or notebook and pencil). If technology is used for access to web searches on the Internet, you have just created a better library. Don’t get me wrong; these are wonderful tools, and there are some wonderful collaborative aspects with GAFE (which are not necessarily supported on all devices, or even all GAFE tools). I personally love Google Forms for tests (thank you, Flubaroo) and writing prompts, but again, these are just substitutes of paper tests and/or assignments. Ultimately, we need to make sure that devices are being used in ways that teach students to think and how to learn; and we want them creating things beyond just “typing papers.” Typing papers is still important, as students will need that skill at the college level and to be able to communicate through the written word; but it certainly is not the only or even the major thing technology should be used for.

    2) Does the technology initiative offer benefits for every subject? I think Puentedura’s SAMR model is a great starting point for discussions about technology. In general, if teachers are able to start using technology (personally or with students) by substituting technology for an analog activity, they will be successful. In many classes–art, music, physical education, family and consumer science, tech ed (think shop), perhaps even math–if teachers have to begin by modifying their curriculum to use technology in a major way–there are going to be issues. Some devices allow for the SAMR model in all subjects, not just the traditional “core.” So what many technology initiatives do is they show teachers in non-core areas what subjects are “really” important.

    As a case in point, I was visited by a school that was adopting MacBooks, and their secondary level music teachers asked how they could integrate technology directly into their classes. Secondary music classes are generally performance-based, and great importance is placed on those performances; a large part of music is preparing music so it will be performed, and then bringing that music to life in performance. I asked those teachers if they would be willing to stop performing to spend time using MacBooks in class (in rooms, by the way, that don’t have desks), and that wasn’t (and won’t) be a reality–because again, music is one of those rare subjects that is overwhelmingly performance-based; which is ironically what other subjects want to become and dread at the same time.

    So…even though the MacBook is a wonderful device, it isn’t great for in-class integration. Sure, it can be used outside of class, but what we truly desire is to change instruction and learning in school. Interestingly, that school was considering iPads, and was going to go iPad until the Science teachers in that school grouped together, stating that their curriculum could not be used on iPads. So the whole school went MacBook. What message does that send to everyone in the school?

    Yes, I support iPads because of their usefulness in music education and their ability to be used in all fields. I see hope for other platforms as Chromebooks develop affordable touch screens (a precursor to hybrid/transformer Chomebooks?) and some great inexpensive Windows hybrids are on the market, such as the Asus T-100.

    So…my continual plea is…be mindful about how you want to transform education and how your choice of device affects all subjects. Then be honest about those decisions in the years to come.

    1. Chris,
      Thanks so much for such a thoughtful comment. You are absolutely right on all points that you make. I was a band and choir student all through middle school and high school. Music was a huge part of who I was in high school in particular. We cannot forget the arts! We should always put the focus on learning first, not the oohs and ahhs that a new type of device brings.

  6. You know, Kyle, that I agree with you for the most part on this matter. Where I believe we have to be careful, though, is not getting too far away from reality.

    Here has been my general philosophy – provide a device to students (whichever device you feel makes the most sense) and them have two additional pieces.

    The first is a BYOD on top of the 1:1. Provide students the opportunity to bring their own device, if they have one, that they prefer to use.

    Second, we must still have places in our schools where students have access to the right piece of technology for a particular purpose. For example, we have Macs in our journalism classrooms, powerful desktops in our engineering classrooms and probes in our science classrooms.

    And maybe that’s what you’re talking about. I believe there is an imperative on schools to provide the right tools for the right purpose. I’m not sure there is that same imperative to provide different devices to different kids.

    Great post Kyle. I like it when you make me think in the morning.

    1. Devin,
      Great to have your thoughts here. I absolutely agree with your point. We’re the same way here in my district. In the video production classes we have the high end Macs. Same goes for journalism, industrial tech, etc. Those classes have very specific technology needs for students to be successful in their learning. We certainly can’t forget that those will need upgrading over time for learning to stay current.

      I think the idea of BYOD on top of 1:1 is great. Or even if a school or district goes 3:1 but has a BYOD policy in place. While I wasn’t so much thinking about those specific curricular areas we mentioned above (however I’m glad you made me think of that now); I was really thinking more of 1:1/BYOD when I wrote the post. It’s fantastic when a district can support a variety of device types with the infrastructure to back it up. As students use technology to learn and create, I just want them to know different devices can have different purposes; and that they can be used together or separately. Hope that makes sense. 🙂

  7. I kind of said that the other day, but for other reasons. There is no “Silver Bullet” device, and it doesn’t matter if the district is next door with the same demographics and problems and issues, you cannot just drop a tool that is successful for a myriad of reasons in one district and expect the same results.

  8. Hi Kyle! Informative post with excellent thoughts. This is an issue I often discuss with the teachers and admins I work with among the 50 schools I support. Right now, the advantages of remaining with one choice of device is winning out because it is easier – for the school, it means one type of device to manage, store, charge, buy apps for, learn apps for, arrange PD for, etc. And it is not so much ‘one device over another’, it is more one device because that is more manageable. I think your argument of offering a choice of school-owned devices to students is compelling. Thankfully, my district is fully BYOD and welcomes/supports all types of mobile devices brought by students. It is probably a just matter of time before they take the next step and offer a variety of devices for students.

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