I was tidying my office/study recently when I came across an HP PDA (Personal Digital Assistant) that was bought a few years ago. Curiosity got the better of me, so I charged it up and reminded myself what it could do. Well, it had a calendar, but only on the device, email facility, as long as you were near wireless, and….. not a lot else really. It had GPS, but you had to purchase expensive sotware for it.
I compared this to my new HTC Sensation which has all of the above plus access to thousands of apps to download, online access to my emails and calendar. I can take pictures and videos of reasonable quality. Twitter and social networking is easily available and I can use it to text and phone people!
This led me to consider the bewildering choices that schools now face when considering mobile devices for their staff and pupils. It used to be which laptop, but now the list includes: laptops (Mac, Windows or Linux?), Sony PSPs, Tablets (iPad or Android?), Netbooks, Chromebooks, mobile phones (Apple, Android, Windows), Nintendo DSs…. I’m sure I’ve missed some too.
I think that the simple answer is that there is no ‘right’ decision. Each device has its strengths and weaknesses and whilst I can manage a fair amount on my phone, I’d hate to rely on it for serious word processing. For that, I’d be looking at a laptop…. or tablet, or netbook. See!
Some decisions are quite easy. Even if it was possible, and I honestly don’t know if it is, video editing on a Nintendo DS screen would be a strain on the eyes. In the past, video editing was the preserve of the Mac user, but now less so as that task can be done on a range of devices and often the operating system is unimportant if you use online software, commercial or paid for.
If the thought of more mobile technology is appealing, then the first thing I’d suggest is invest in a decent wireless network. See this article on one solution that is now in use in 10 Hull primary schools. Without that, I feel that whatever decision is taken about mobile devices won’t really matter as they’re unlikely to work effectively in this web connected world we inhabit. Once you’ve got that in place, borrow some devices from Hull CLC to test.
My feeling is that you’ll end up with a range of devices and hopefully we’ll have pupils asking to use a particular piece of equipment as it’s the most suitable one for the task in hand and not just because it’s all the school has.
Sorry I can’t leave you with a definitive choice here, as I’m currently wrestling with what to purchase as my mobile device of choice. Ipad/Android Tablet/Netbook or Laptop. I’ll let you know, though I have been known to take a while coming to this sort of decision. Ask my daughter!