Sunday, September 25, 2011

Mobile Devices for Student Use

Last week I facilitated a two-day workshop on implementing electronic portfolios using Google Apps for the Richland Two School District in Columbia, SC. The participants were teachers, building-level technology specialists, and district-level curriculum supervisors. We explored how they could use their new Google Apps adoption to support their emerging 1TWO1 computing program. They have been very proactive in implementing technology in their schools, along with other educational initiatives, such as Schlechty's Working on the Work model of student engagement. We also worked on building a district-wide and school-based implementation plan for integrating electronic portfolios to support student learning.

One of the most interesting activities that I observed on my last morning, before flying home, was a meeting with high school and middle school administrators, to look at a variety of Mobile Device Options. They had the following devices on display: Apple iPad, Lenovo Android Tablet (with keyboard), Samsung and Asus Chromebooks, and Lenovo Laptop Thin Client (Windows Thin PC). A group of teachers identified the priorities for these devices (on a scale 1-5):
  • Internet research/browsing [4.8]
  • Long battery life [4.8]
  • Easy to set up (teacher) [4.7]
  • USB port and/or card reader [4.3]
  • Flash sites (videos, games, etc.) [4.2]
  • Google Docs collaboration [4.2]
  • Google Sites (e-portfolios) [4.2]
  • Web 2.0 sites (Glogster, Wordle, Prezi, Wall Wisher, Voice Thread...) [4.2]
  • Content management and creation (Blackboard, Edmodo, etc.) [4.2]
  • Apps [3.8]
  • Games/simulation [3.4]
  • Notetaking (word processing) [3.3]
  • Video editing [3.3]
  • Video conferencing (Skype, etc.) [3.3]
  • Podcasting [3.2]
  • Reading e-textbooks and e-books [2.8]
There were other requirements that they assessed, without ratings: Multimedia (video, audio, files); Notetaking (handwriting recognition); MAP testing possible using VDI;  Presentation design (Google Docs or free resources); Office productivity; Photo editing. As they looked at each of the four devices, and how well each one could meet those required features, the scores were very interesting: Chromebooks and Lenovo Laptop Thin Client were virtually tied in the lead, with Android tablet next and Apple iPad last. I borrowed an Asus Chromebook for an evening, and I was able to do everything I wanted to do on GoogleApps, or any Internet-based activity. I'm now trying to find a Chromebook to push to its limits! It was obvious that the iPad scored lower because of its challenges with both Flash and Google Sites.

(Written while watching MSNBC's Education Nation...very different from last year. We heard from teachers this year! Great dialogue about the issues, and a great story from a 4th grade teacher including a homebound student in his classroom using Skype...and his students blog!)

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