Selecting a Learning Device: Maine’s Recommendation

As states or districts look at device options, please don’t stop with looking at the cost of the device.

I have talked to a couple districts recently who made a device choice within the last year or two, based on device cost only, who are now running into challenges that they wouldn’t necessarily be having now if they had made the considerations we recommend below.

Remember: our goal is to promote learning through technology, not simply to provide technology. So selecting a device should be based on how the teachers will use them for creating quality learning experiences, not simply on technical specifications, nor should it be based on any one-time purchase cost alone.

Learning Devices - laptops and tabletsWe believe the selection should be based on the following conversations with teaching staff, technology staff, curriculum and instruction leaders, and other school leaders:

  1. What kinds of learning experiences do you want for your students? How could technology help? How can we move beyond only word processing, presenting, and online research? (How does each of your device options support your desired approaches?)
  2. What software and extra equipment do you need to create those desired learning experiences with students? (And have you considered the cost in your financial considerations?)
  3. What training and support will you offer teachers, tech leads, and librarians (and school leaders!) so they can all help work toward creating those desired learning experiences for students? (And have you considered the cost of that support in your financial considerations?)
  4. What policies and procedures do you need to achieve your desired learning experiences (with the help of technology!)? Not just the Acceptable Use Policy, but also the procedures for deployment, managed software distribution, etc. (Are there cost or process considerations that would would impact your solution choice?)
  5. What is the cost of 4 years of productive use? Maintenance, repair, damaged beyond repair, replacements, lost/stolen. (Is the 4-year cost part of your financial considerations? – That could include, for example, the cost of replacing a device after 2 years, if you didn’t expect it to last for 4 years.)
Based on these conversations, which device best meets your learning, technical, and financial needs?