Sunday, January 22, 2012

Questions to Ponder - Perspectives Needed

So a teacher friend of mine posed two scenarios to me this week that really got me thinking.

Scenario #1 - I am teaching grades 3,4, and 5 abroad next year and the international school I am working for has asked what technology I would like to have in my restrictions!

My first reaction was WOW!.  Then we started talking about various hardware, configurations, etc. that would be best for allowing the widest range of learning activities for kids.  What we decided was that a classroom set of MacBook Airs and a classroom set of iPads would be ideal.  We figured that iPads would be great for running apps. They would also be the best tool for collecting images, recording video, and browsing the web for information, or interacting with others via video conference while moving about inside or out of the classroom. The Airs we thought would be best for producing projects which involved more in-depth editing, writing and data analysis and other tasks where more robust software was valued over mobility. The other question that came up was what teacher display tool to use.  My friend mentioned that at a site visit to a nearby school she had seen many teachers using large HDTV's for a display but we couldn't really see how the advantages of these, such as high definition display, made them a better choice for a classroom than an LCD projector which allows for a much larger display which we thought was important for a class of 20. 

2. Scenario #2 - I have 7k to spend on technology for 5 elementary classrooms at my current school. The only technology that these classrooms have currently are teacher computers and LCD projectors.

This started a really good conversation as we weighed the pros and cons of various devices.  In the end my recommendation was to get as many iPad's as possible.  My reasoning for this was that iPads can do almost everything that a netbook or Chromebook (Airs weren't even discussed due to their price) can do but can also do things that those devices cannot - like run tons of great apps with more being developed everyday.  Plus for an elementary classroom, robust software functionality is probably not as valuable as the mobility, interactivity, and ease of use that iPads allow. One caveat to this recommendation was that teachers who were unaccostomed to using iPads or those who viewed computers primarily as word processing and researching tools would need adequate training to get the most out of their iPads.  The major drawback to this plan is the amount of access you can get for your money. iPads are around $560 with protective coverings + $ for apps while a netbook can be purchased for around $350.  So for every two iPads you could have around 3 netbooks. However, given the benefits and reliability of the iPads, I feel the tradeoff is justified.

We would love to hear additional insights on this.  Please leave a comment and let us know your perspective.

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