I was recently asked, \”Why are you giving the teachers choice of a laptop? Why not just go all in with one device?\” My answer, simply stated, is that homogenization of any tool is never a good idea in a context that is intended to foster creativity.
The same argument is underway with the Common Core. Many fear that we are homogenizing educational standards and limiting opportunity for creativity, hacking and boundless exploration. That explains the viral popularity of Ethan Young, a Tennessee student who, at a school board meeting, provided an eloquent breakdown of what the Common Core really is and how it is affecting teachers. His points are valid, but the same points have been raised for years in education only to fall upon the deaf ears of bureaucrats.
However, this post is not about Common Core or educational politics. This is about devices that are entering school districts and classrooms at a consistent pace. I\’ve had the opportunity to play a role in two such deployments. The first was a 1:1 iPad launch in Burlington Public Schools in 2011, and the second is Chromebook and iPad deployment at Groton-Dunstable Regional School District. In both experiences, I\’ve seen students and teachers adapt to devices in a variety of ways. However, not all adaptations are positive.
Standardization vs. Real Life
A lot of schools make the mistake of trying to control every aspect of technology integration. Students want to choose their own device and not have something mandated and regulated. When you consider that 38 percent of U.S. children under age two have used an iPad, iPhone or iPod, there is an expectation that as these students move through school, they\’ll have some type of device in hand. What\’s more, students will want to use something that they\’re familiar with, that they own, and that they won\’t have to change out of once they leave school.
The best analogy is the case for school uniforms, which has always sparked a debate regardless of the decade or century. Schools tell students what they have to wear, and students do it. Research and data drive the decision, and it just happens. However, once students leave school, they want their identity back. The same can be said for technology in schools. Yes, homogenization of devices allows everyone the chance to start out on the same footing, but eventually schools need to open up and let students own the device and, inevitably, own their learning.
As schools plan large-scale technology rollouts, they should begin by considering what would be best for the student population. Standardization happens enough in school systems as it is, and this is an opportunity to provoke real change in education and provide tools that are familiar, linked and accessible. This move also frees schools from the \”what device works best?\” dilemma and moves the conversation toward \”what provides the best impact on teaching and learning?\” Brand or design no longer matters. Plus, technology use should not be the banner for any school — rather, it should be something that just happens every day.