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Lynne Crowe recently posed a discussion question on the VLN Chromebook Book Group.

“We are just starting with some Chromebooks and wondered which one is the most popular/reliable in schools. We would appreciate any advice. Thanks.”

This led to a conversation around whether you would want more than one device in your classroom.

This got me wanting to further explain my mantra of late- “Use the right tool for the job”.

I liken it to using my kitchen knives. Would you want to limit the use of your kitchen cutlery to only using one kind of knife? And if you were only allowed one knife in your kitchen what kind would you choose to have to do every thing?

Imagine you were trying to cut a loaf of bread with vegetable knife! It would turn out badly with nothing close to the desired result.

If you wanted to carve a roast you wouldn’t choose a bread knife.

Even having something like a Swiss Army Knife with lots of knives built in doesn’t really do the cutting job you want done done properly.

Liken this scenario to your classroom devices. As you are probably aware I am a big fan of using iPads and Google Apps in the classroom but I avoid using ‘the Google’ for anything apart from searching on my iPad ‘cos it is all a bit too fiddly and you loose a lot of the functionality that you get when you are using Chrome on a laptop. I have the choice of devices and I know which one is the best for which task because I have had experience in using them all.

I really need a mixture of devices so I can learn what is the right tool according to our needs. I want Chromebooks for Google, iPads for portability and diversity, Mac Book Airs for power, iPod Touches for portability on the move.

I also want a rich mixture of traditional classroom resources- pens, felts, chalk, pencils, paint, paper, cardboard etc…...

To find out what was best for my classroom I would heed more the advice of other teachers and practitioners about their experiences with devices rather than being swayed by the preferences of well meaning tech people who might be good with technology but have little idea of the complexity and challenges of classroom teaching. I get cross when I hear of tech support companies and commercial sellers advising schools of what they think would be the best solution for them. I would rather listen to the advice of someone without a vested interested in selling me something than a door-to-door snake knife salesperson.

I would visit other schools and learn of their experiences. I would join Twitter, attend Educamps and conferences like ULearn and learn from and with people who are on the same journey as me.


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Comment by Hazel Owen on July 29, 2014 at 13:32

Hi again, Allanah...saw the Tweet out :-) and one of the responses so far from @LaSampsonator "Great. Need student voice and choice".

Then at lunch today I was reading through Interface Magazine and came across some student reviews of a variety of devices (a New Era initiative). The student reviews I looked at considered some key usability functions and why they liked, or didn't like them, some recommendations for improvements, and an overall impression or recommendation.

While it's not quite as radical or far-reaching student voice and input as Charles Orgbon suggests, it is a step in the right direction...and most likely a valuable resource for schools, teacher, and facilitators who are thinking about the right tool for the job :-)

Comment by Hazel Owen on July 25, 2014 at 22:05

Thanks so much, Allanah, for sharing this post. 

It really resonated with me when you mentioned the "tech support companies and commercial sellers advising schools of what they think would be the best solution for them"...and the schools and other institutions who have cupboards full of expensive tech, sometimes still in their boxes, because the tool was not suitable for the learning purpose.

Something I feel comes through strongly in your post is, as well as your strong sense of curiosity, is a sense that you have spent a while figuring out what works (fit for purpose). Thanks too for your Twitter response during NetHui re: students: "No use asking students what they prefer if they have only experienced one platform, device or tool".

Which brings me to a wondering I have had for a while....How many schools are you aware of that include the students (of all ages) in the choice of the tool(s)? (I'd be really keen to find examples). As you say, unless students have the opportunity to unpack a range of learning 'purposes', and to then trial a variety of tools to see what works best for them, we can't really ask them.

I've just finished reading Adam Fletcher's post 5 EASY ways you can change the world. In it he mentions Greening Forward, which was set up by Charles Orgbon, who asks:

Why aren’t they [students] part of your evaluation committee? Why aren’t they designing the schools that we get to go to school in? Why aren’t we designing the curriculum that is taught to us? The school boards that are led by grey haired adults–where are the students in that process that they are making decisions that affect our lives?”

Would be awesome to be able to respond Aotearoa, New Zealand, here, here, and here :-)

Thoughts? :-)

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