Tuesday, December 16, 2008

Devices 4 Students

iPhone 3G vs HTC TYTN IIImage by Sarah Deforche via FlickrYou hear it more and more these days: One-to-One initiatives, mobile devices, mini devices, etc. - all ideas and ways to put devices in the hands of students. Is there a golden solution out there? I don't think so. But I do believe the industry has adapted and the idea of every student utilizing some sort of device to enhance their educational experience is becoming more of a reality.

I know of districts that have implemented full blown one-to-one initiatives with laptops. Obviously, the big hurdle for these districts was upfront cost and recurring costs. They found a way to clear these obstacles and make it a reality in their district. This is simply not the solution for everyone though. Too many districts will never have the upfront cash (especially in these economic times) and struggle to maintain their existing inventory.

So then the question turns to the "other" devices. Minis, PDAs and (gasp) cell phones.

Are the Mini devices the answer to putting a device in every students hand? I think it is too early to answer that question. It is obvious we have cut the price point by 60% and have a device that is designed for the "cloud computing" concept. Our district is in the final phase of evaluation. We have placed a Dell Mini Inspiron 9 in the hands of nearly 50 students, 20 faculty and several administrators. I have heard nothing but rave reviews and this is encouraging. However, to have the conversation of placing a Mini in the hands of every secondary student (at least for my district) you are still talking near 1 million dollars. Now we could have the argument that placing one in every students hand is wasted computing power and to some extent I do agree with that - so I am not looking to place a device in every students hand - merely make it accessible to them.

So if Mini devices are not quite the solution yet - what is? I have heard rumblings of districts working to find a solution to image iTouch devices. Wow...what a concept. Imagine a high school where every student has an iTouch device. (Obviously the school would need excellent wireless coverage - which fortunately ours does have.) Now your price point is $199. And for a school of 1,500 students that equals just under $300,000. Now we can have a conversation. Would an iTouch serve as a workable, usable device for high school students? Think of the possibilities within the App store!?! There are still some obvious limitations - you would want to somehow monitor/control the use of iTunes and ensure it was being utilized for educational purposes. But imagine if students could take notes, browse the web, post to their blog, communicate with peers and share content from their iTouch.

Is this a far fetched fantasy? I certainly do not believe so. The time is coming when all students will be connected and communicating via a device during the hours of 8am-3pm - and not relying on pencil and paper.


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Jody said...

I listened in on a conference call recently. I think they primarily mentioned the Enterprise Deployment Guide, which appears to indicate that iTunes connectivity is still required to initialize an iTouch.


John McMillen said...

The initial setup could be done via district personnel who have access to the iTunes store. Then the access can be managed via your network filtering methods.

The only thing that comes to mind here is how do we address special needs in a manner that does not identify a student as special needs?

All in all I seriously see this as a very viable and highly popular approach. Handing iPods to students would be an incredible hit with them. Handing a device to student at 1/4 the cost of a laptop will be incredibly popular with your district administration. The last question... how will the teachers receive this move? Are they ready to exist in this environment where every single student is connected all of the time?