One District’s Search for the Next-Gen device

While reading Donna Teuber’s blog posting on Scaling Initiative for Positive Student Impact, I found her message to be a timely one. This message is especially relevant as we enter a critical time in our district to select a new device for our one-to-one initiative. In addition, we are investigating increasing the availability of technology at our middle school with the goal of extending the same experience of anytime, anywhere learning to seventh and eighth graders.

  • Our committee of students, teachers, administrators and the technology department has been formed. Our goals have been re-explored. The first question we pose is ‘WHY are we continuing on this path?’.  Should we continue? Donna’s question of ‘why’ was the reason we started down this path in 2006.  The answer to the ‘why’ question was - This is the way students and teachers learn and all users needed ubiquitous access to creating their learning. Enough said.
  • Another of Donna’s suggestions was to build a culture of innovation to encourage teachers to explore solutions together.  I reflected on this point as this is one of the reasons that our one to one is in its ninth year - Teachers, administrators and students have an open dialogue to try innovative approaches for teaching and learning in a 21st century classroom
  • Be mindful that the technology alone won’t improve teaching and learning - Focus on pedagogy.
  • Explore whether providing learners with everywhere learning opportunities allows students to personalize their education.

With that said, consider the choices of devices available to your students and teachers. Are the needs different between these users?

  1. Laptops have full keyboards, screens, and are fully loaded with resources for content creation such as student authored video. They provide a complete experience without network access for students in the classroom and offsite even at sporting events after school.  They provide a true college and career ready experience and are compliant with PARCC and SmartBalance specifications.
  2. Tablets have a broad spectrum of functionality so much testing is needed. Some are consumer-like devices and are not able to provide a college and career ready experience as might be needed such as multi-tasking with multiple windows. However, some are able to create content and provide full laptop functionality. However, when evaluating these devices, schools need to pay close attention to the high stakes assessment criteria such as screen size.
  3. Convertible devices or 2 in 1’s can provide both experiences.
  4. Chromebooks are making a quite a stir in the educational market and providing a low cost cloud-based productivity tool while keeping IT management at a minimum.

As you can see, the evaluations in our district have begun.

What devices are you evaluating? Why? Are you focusing your search on teaching and learning or on the device and cost? Why?

Marianthe Williams has been a district level administrator supporting teaching and learning with technology and professional learning for the past 15 years. Most recently, she has supported the River Dell Regional School District in the implementation of their one-to-one computing initiative which is about to enter its ninth year at the high school. In addition, she supports technology infusion into the middle school’s learner-centered environment. Williams created an elite team of technology turnkey teacher trainers within each discipline who provide ongoing, personalized options through face- to-face, on-demand and flipped professional learning opportunities to their colleagues. She is active in several state and local technology director associations and she currently serves on the technology committee for the New Jersey Association of School Administrators. 

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