Android, iPad, Chromebooks, Kindle Fire, Surface or laptops?
Computers have been in schools since the 1980s. Due to the restraints of the technology, it is only until very recently, that schools have been able to consider viable alternatives to the traditional desktop computer. Wireless, battery life, portability and camera capabilities are improving all the time, and this opens new opportunities that were simply not possible before.
At the moment, students have to stop the natural flow of a lesson to go to a computer room to, “do IT”, before returning to their normal classroom again in a subsequent lesson. Assuming of course their teacher was able to book a computer room. Laptop computers have to some extent addressed this, but they still lack the portability and hardware features that a tablet can provide.
We want to bring the technology to the learner, not take the learner to the technology. It is only when technology is used as a seamlessly integrated tool in the whole learning process that the best gains are made.
We spent 18 months researching technology in schools. The initiative started from an idea that we needed to increase our student:computer ratio. Teachers were asking to use more and more technology in their teaching, as they saw the benefits to learning. We introduced a greater number of laptop computers across the school, and some iPads. The laptop computers were welcomed, but the battery life after 12 months was not ideal. They also lacked the camera capability and some of the applications. It became apparent we were not going to be able to financially sustain the growth of technology in schools and began to look at other schools for viable solutions to the problem.
Having investigated other schools and attending many conferences from a range of providers, we considered Chromebooks and Google Education, but concluded they did not have the portability or range of apps we were looking for. Microsoft Surface was most compatible with existing school systems, but was too expensive. Android devices offered a real cost-effective solution, but the iPad appeared to be the better overall package. Not least because we could be supported by Apple distinguished educators: recognised teachers that had successfully introduced iPads into their classroom. Plus a full support training package for teachers, not just in the technology, but more importantly the pedagogy. Apple was the best fit for our philosophy of “learning first, technology second”. With Apple facilitating, we get the opportunity to regularly share experiences and learning ideas with other schools. Apple will also run iPad sessions for parents at school, completely free of charge, if you want a hands-on experience of how your child could benefit from using a tablet device. It was this commitment to our school that was not offered by other vendors.
Leading the school strategically, we felt it was better to focus on one platform for our purchase scheme, teacher training, deployment and support.