In the type of learning environment needed to develop students ability to think, rather than what to think, there are many options of tools to assist them in this process. The tool that has shown to be very effective is a personal device. A 1:1 learning environment is becoming something all schools are striving to achieve, as equitable access has been shown to assist in the process of improving learning. It has also gone further than any other past effort to change education. A 1:1 program doesn’t change things on it’s own, however, but gives educators the greatest flexibility to create the type of learning environment needed in our current context.
Bring Your Own Device (BYOD) programs are popping up in many schools as a way to implement a 1:1 environment. This type of 1:1 can look differently depending on the school it is implemented in. One way is that the school dictates the type of device students need to bring. Basically it is a BYOD 1:1 program where the school says, “If you want to come to our school you need to have a ____________________(fill in the blank). In this way, choice is not an option accept maybe the screen size. The other type of BYOD is one where device requirements are shared and as well as what type of device cannot be used. In this way, students and their parents have to make a choice about what to buy. There are many options available and many times this choice comes down to cost. To assist parents and students who are in this type of BYOD, I will compare the three main contenders, Macbooks, Windows Laptops and Chromebooks. Before I do this I would like to clear some things up. Any device in a BYOD program needs to be able to do a few things in order to be effective. Below I outline these 4 main imperatives.
- Support Creative Communication (Students should be able to make things with their device, such as, presentations, videos, podcasts, webpages, image editing.)
- Support Computational Thinking (Students should be able to use their device to support activities that help them think logically, such as coding, data collection and analysis, represent data in various ways, develop descriptive models, flow charts, mind maps etc…)
- Support Knowledge Construction (Students should be able to plan and conduct effective research)
- Support Collaboration (Students should be able to collaborate with others in their own learning environment but also outside their school walls)
Platforms such a Google Suite for Education (GSFE) assist in creating a level playing field for students in a BYOD as they assist in supporting these 4 main learning methods. In my opinion, it is connection to the Internet and the implementation of GSFE or other online collaborative suite that makes a BYOD most effective.
All of the three contenders discussed below support the 4 main imperatives so I will discuss the pros and cons of each device based on other criteria.
Pros: Not only does the Macbook support the use of GSFE all other software (Pages, Numbers, Keynote, iMovie, GarageBand etc…) is included and is relatively easy to learn. The computer operating system works well and students should have small number of issues requiring fixes.
Cons: Price, these devices cost a lot! With the cheapest laptop running $999.00 and the most expensive $2399.00 these are not the best option for many people. Ability to get a virus or malware. While the chances are less on a Mac compared to a Windows machine there are more nasty things popping up all the time. Updates are sometimes not so easy and this can confuse kids. No convertible option. No touch screen. Back up of system is required and while relatively easy is one more thing students need to be mindful of. If you don’t back up your machine and something happens you could lose all of your data.
Windows Laptop or Convertible
Pros: Windows computers come in a variety of forms including hybrid models that perform as a tablet computer as well as a laptop. This can support many functions that help students with the 4 imperatives listed above. This also allows for greater collaboration in team work as the team members can all easily see the screen when working together. A laptop can’t be easily seen by everyone at the same time in a collaborative group setting. They also come in a variety of price ranges from $189 to $3299 or more depending on specifications. Supports the use of GSFE or other Suite such as Office 365.
Cons: Software is not bundled with most of these machines. What this means is that if you want extra software you will need to either find a free piece of software or pay for one. This also requires downloading and installing the software which can be cumbersome and can also open up possible vulnerabilities to getting a virus or malware. The Appstore has assisted with this issue but the problem still remains a possibility. Windows machines are vulnerable to getting viruses and malware more easily than other systems so you must ensure you have a good security software installed. Luckily it comes with Windows Defender. Back up is also required and the possibility of data loss is also very real. Windows is constantly needing updates which makes booting a very slow process. Things also don’t always work the way they should. For people who aren’t as technologically savvy Windows machines can sometimes be frustrating and lot’s of time can be wasted trying to fix it.
Pros: Made specifically for GSFE so works seamlessly. Chromebooks come in a variety of forms including hybrid models that perform as a tablet computer as well as a laptop. As mentioned above this is great for collaborative groups sharing one device. Super secure, you cannot get a virus or malware. Updates are as easy as clicking an icon and waiting about a minute for the the machine to shut down an start up again. Startup is always fast. Your data is stored in the cloud so even if your device is lost, stolen or broken your data is never gone. Never worry about backups. On the rare occasion that your Chromebook might crash, your work is automatically saved so you won’t lose a thing. Support both Chrome apps as well as Android apps (new models released in 2017 will all support Android apps).
Cons: While there are now hundreds of apps that support offline capabilities to get the most out of your Chromebook you need an Internet connection. Other than GSFE Chromebooks need third party apps to do things like photo editing, audio creation and video editing, however, finding apps and “installing” them on are super easy and most students who are familiar with app stores will have no problem finding what they need.
Based on many years experience in 1:1 programs supporting both teachers and students with the authentic use of personal devices in the learning environment I have my own favorite device. The device I recommend for most 1:1 BYOD programs is the Chromebook. I say this because it is easy to use and the price is right. There are no chances of loss of data and absolutely no viruses or malware. The Chromebook once a device limited in capabilities has grown into the most used device in education in the United States.
If you would like to learn more about why many schools are turning to the Chromebook have a look at this post.
Thanks for reading!