I need to start this post off with a disclaimer. I am not, and never have been, a technology director, nor do I have any sort of technology degree. My formal education has been in educational methodology, curriculum, and leadership. My career in K-12 education was spent as a teacher and then principal. Many of you who read this blog know lots more about the “nuts and bolts” of technology than I do.
My learning around technology has occurred through hands on tinkering, workshops, and learning through peers. In my current position, I often speak and write about technology integration, and how leaders need to use technology to move schools forward. Because much of my work now deals with technology, I do get the “nuts and bolts” types of questions. Frequently, I can’t answer those questions, but I can refer the question to one of the amazing technology contacts I have.
One question that I do get asked very regularly by schools considering one-to-one is, “What type of device should we purchase?”. The answer to this question can turn into a heated debate between many in the one-to-one world. Many educators swear by Macs while others believe laptop PCs are the answer. Netbooks and tablets have also entered into the debate about the best one-to-one device.
My answer to this question isn’t what many decision makers want to hear. I really believe that “it depends”. I have worked with enough one-to-one schools and talked with enough one-to-one educators to say that different schools have had success using various devices. It is extremely unlikely for the device to make or break a program (unless of course the device was a total lemon!).
When I’m talking or writing about technology tools, I often say that asking what tools we should teach educators is the wrong question. We need to start by asking what skills we want them to be able to teach, and then align tools with those skills. I feel the same way about one-to-one devices. The conversation should not start with deciding what device to purchase. The conversation instead needs to start by asking what YOUR school intends to accomplish with one-to-one. After you can clearly articulate that, you can find a device that best meets those needs. Obviously, there may be systems and infrastructure components that come into your decision. With that in mind, I would still much rather choose a device based on learning needs and goals than infrastructure and compatibility. That may certainly lead to additional costs upfront, but it will also ensure that technology serves your students needs rather than just the easiest or cheapest route to take.
Please feel free to leave your comments. I know that many of you are very passionate about a certain device, and I’m fine with that. You are passionate because the device has worked very well for you! Other schools in similar circumstances may certainly want to hear your views.