On the heels of today's exciting iBooks announcement from Apple, I would like to get your opinion about an important question in educational technology today. Namely, should schools and districts commit to a single technology manufacturer or should they attempt to be device agnostic?
To understand why I am posing the question, let me share a personal experience. I recently had a conversation over email with Fraser Speirs (noted iPad in education evangelist and school technology administrator blogging at speirs.org). I periodically read his posts and find them to be invaluable as I work to implement iPads in my district. I was scrolling through his blog and happened upon this post titled "Three Mantras from the First Year" (http://speirs.org/blog/2011/12/29/three-mantras-from-the-first-two-years.html ). In it he shares what he's learned from implementing iPads at his school. I was intrigued by Mantra #2 which he called "A Computing Platform for Everyone". To quote briefly, he says:
"One of the most pleasing aspects of our iPad deployment is that it works for everyone in the school. It works for five-year-olds in Primary 1, it works for 16-year-olds sitting exams and it works for teachers and school managers. One computing platform for everyone.
It's not just that the management costs are lower, although they are. It leads to educational benefits too: any teacher can cover any class and feel familiar with the computing infrastructure in that classroom. We have explored peer-tutoring both within classes and across various age ranges to substantial benefit. Not just benefit to the pupils' skills at whatever task they're working on but benefit to the social cohesion of the entire school: older and younger pupils who have worked and learned together are not strangers to one another.
We have one computing platform. We speak one technological language. Everyone understands it and everyone gets a voice."
I must say he makes an eloquent case for committing to a "mono-tech" environment. I do not disagree at all with his points, however, I do as a matter of principal, disagree with his general mantra. In fact, I believe just the opposite. If we are to truly prepare students for a 21st century world of work, I think we do them a disservice by exposing them to a single computing platform alone. I want my students to be comfortable working on a variety of devices, no matter what the hardware (PC or Mac), software (Windows, Mac OS, Linux) or input mechanism (Mouse, Touchscreen, Voice, etc.)
I would love to hear other perspectives on the matter. Please share your thoughts in the comments.
P.S. I wrote this post on an iPad, but sent my comments to Fraser from my Android phone.
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