George Lucas Educational Foundation

1 to 1 Device ?

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Our middle school is in the process of selecting a device for 1 to 1 computing. Does anyone have any advice or suggestions as to the most useful device?
Thank you in advance!

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linda's picture
Life science teacher in northern California

William, what do you mean by more than necessary or wise? If used well the iPads are an awesome tool. The kids I worked with really enjoyed them and created some really cool stuff. A lot has to do with is the teacher comfortable enough to use them and make the most of the learning tool that they can be.

Whitney Hoffman's picture
Whitney Hoffman
Producer LD Podcast, Digital Media Consultant, Author

My experience has been as long as you have an external keyboard, google docs are fine on the iPad, and you can use pages as well. It's just a question of the amount of input you need, and typing on the screen is ok, but if I'm writing lengthy prose, an external keyboard definitely helps. But I suspect that's true with any flavor of tablet vs. netbook/chromebook

William Potash's picture

What I mean is that the iPad is a proprietary consumer-oriented product poorly suited to any meaningful education. We are using this technology merely as we would use a traditional computer, give or take a few features. The iPad is an expensive plaything for content consumption and the occasional creation of basic content, which, while potentially fun, is almost useless in any meaningful change in pedagogy.

Technology can be used as a resource, or it can be used at the core of education itself. The iPad does neither effectively.

linda's picture
Life science teacher in northern California

More than a plaything, the iPad can be used to do things that a lap top or chrome book can't. The learning potential of an iPad can best be realized when it is not treated like "a lap top with no keyboard". I sense that William and I must agree to respectfully disagree on this matter. More to the point is the question of what you hope to do/accomplish by going 1 to 1. There are advantages and disadvantages to all devices.

William Potash's picture

I see now that I oversimplified my answer somewhat.

How should I put it? The iPad is not a core part of pedagogy. It will not be one unless somebody invests the time and money to build an ecosystem specifically for K-12 education that better serves needs.

It has no more inherent learning potential than a computer with a web browser. It is not what device it is, it is what you do with said device. A $150 computer running software that allows it to teach, assess student needs, and deliver content is infinitely more valuable than an off-the-shelf $1500 iMac.

Unfortunately, most people seem to not be ready to invest the time to develop or use these purpose-built ecosystems. Because y'all have sadly confined yourselves to using it as a resource rather than as a part of school almost as essential as, say, the teacher, the only criteria you will be looking at is simple content consumption.

For content consumption, the most cost-effective solutions are affordable laptops (Chromebooks are merely an example) or affordable tablets (once again, the Nexus 7 is a representative example). Laptops provide more functionality although they are somewhat less intuitive. The iPad provides no more functionality than any of these and saying anything else besides go with the cheapest, simplest device is a poor decision in this context.

Whitney Hoffman's picture
Whitney Hoffman
Producer LD Podcast, Digital Media Consultant, Author

I love this discussion, because it hits at the heart of computing and education, and it feels like a discussion that we should be having with Gary stager and Seymour Papert.

You can make any device do amazing things or use it as a dumb screen. If we look back at the smartboard debate, some people used it simply as a projector, while other people used it to open up their classrooms to the outside world. The issue we all agree on is that we have to start with the learning goals and work backwards from there.
Personally, I think the bigger issue is one Dr. Papert, founder of the MIT media lab! talks about! which is agency and ownership of the device. For example, my son was really struggling with writing. We moved him to a laptop, provided by the district, and he started writing 80 page fan fiction stories on his own, on the bus, during study halls, etc. that's practice at a skill a student struggles with that was facilitated by a device he had ownership/ agency over, home and at school, that no required assignment would have achieved. We eventually transitioned him to an iPad for school because it was lighter, had programs like audio note where he could take notes and record the class at the same time, flash card apps, book apps, and organizational/time management tools that helped him stay on track and perform better in school. That was amazing for him, but it was the 1:1, perosonal device and responsibility that helped him become more independent and also meant less "accommodations" necessary for him. By this I mean a teacher could let him type an assignment and email it to them during class, there were date stamps on work as completed, less issues with power and charging, - many administrative issues disappeared once his work become more digital overall.
I think the agency issue is one of the most important, and that's part of the reason why BYOD with a basic level of device parameters works- it takes the device from toy to important tool, and that's really what we want kids to learn.

Anthony Amitrano's picture
Anthony Amitrano
Asst Principal in the Mendon-Upton RSD, Massachusetts, USA.

Whitney, I agree, this is a great discussion to have.

I'd like to add that no matter what platform anyone decides to go with, it needs to be supported adequately. A 1:1 initiative is not something that the tech teachers in your school or a district IT department can simply get setup and go in a short period of time. The less flashy, interesting, and educational aspect of a 1:1 program is the mundane, logistical part. Students need accounts set up. Students (and teachers) forget their passwords. Teachers need support in knowing what can be done with the device. The WiFi goes down. The list could continue.

If there is not a system already set up or a plan in place to address all of these issues (and the many, many more issues that will come up), BEFORE you even order the iPads or Nexuses or Chromebooks, get that plan in gear. Otherwise you will be scrambling to get things set up while the devices are being rolled out, and with that you will have frustrated students, teachers, and parents.

Whitney Hoffman's picture
Whitney Hoffman
Producer LD Podcast, Digital Media Consultant, Author

Anthony- YES.
There is nothing more important than having stable infrastructure- otherwise people get a bad taste in their mouth immediately, and the whole thing gets washed with the "debacle" label- we don;t have to look any farther than the website to understand that problem. Great point.

Dan Callahan's picture
Dan Callahan
Professional Learning Specialist, Edcamper, Graduate Professor

Hi Corinne,
Great question. My school district is currently moving towards 1:1 across all grade levels, and we chose the iPad.

that being said, however, while the iPad was the device for us, it doesn't mean it's the device for everybody! I think the number one question you should always ask before jumping into any new initiative is:

What do we want teaching and learning to look like in our school?

The answer to that question is going to determine the answers to almost every single answer that comes after it. You can dismiss a lot of ideas very quickly when they don't match up with your vision for teaching and learning.

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