Laptops, iPads, or Some Other Device?

The other day I gave a brief overview of the school at which I currently teach, and now, since the ultimate purpose of this blog is to chronicle my experience in a 1:1 environment, I thought I’d write a little about the technology our school has adopted.  First and foremost, we are an Apple school.  When I began teaching here four years ago, we were a kind of mix.  There were some MacBook carts for classroom use, and a couple of computer labs with Mac desktops, but most teachers had Dells in their classrooms.  Now, however, all teachers and students use Macs, and most of the other staff members are in the process of converting.  If you’d asked me four years ago which I preferred, I wouldn’t have been able to tell you much.  Funny thing is I never thought I liked computers much, or maybe I thought they never much liked me.  But once I started using a MacBook, everything changed.  Macs, for me at least, are so completely intuitive.  I like technology that gets out of its own way, and Macs seem to do that for the average user.  Suffice it to say, I’m a convert, and Apple is my friend.

Of course, deciding to go with Apple is really the first and simplest decision.  The more difficult decision for a school is whether students will be furnished with laptops or tablets or some combination of both.  For my school, the decision came down to three possibilities – MacBooks, MacAirs, or iPads.  It’s my understanding that the older, white MacBooks are slowly going away as they are replaced with MacBook Pros.  MacAirs have fewer moveable parts and rely solely on “the cloud”, making them the safer choice for students who tend to be a bit rough on computers.  iPads have great uses in the classroom, wonderful apps and a great touch screen, but unless you get one of the small keyboards to go along with them, they are difficult to type on for any length of time.  There’s really no right answer to the debate, I think.  In fact, the device that is eventually adopted is really not the most important thing at all.  They all have their pros and cons.  To me, the debate about devices is akin to the debate about textbooks.  Sure, I may personally prefer one textbook over another because of the way it is written or because of the “extras” that come with it, but when it’s all said and done, a textbook is a textbook.  Ultimately, what matters most is how the teacher and students use the textbook to support instruction and learning.  It’s the same with computer devices.  There are differences to be sure, but they aren’t as important as it seems at first glance.  The important thing is to engage with the device once it’s been adopted and learn how to use it efficiently and effectively in the classroom.

In the end, my school decided to go with MacAirs, although teachers will continue to use their MacBook Pros.  (Actually, the 7th and 9th grade students were given MacBooks last year, so they’ll be the only two classes of 6th through 12th graders with MacBooks as opposed to Airs.  Again, it doesn’t much matter unless you’re the 7th or 9th grader who prefers an Air to a MacBook.  But that’s all just superficial since they do the same things.)  I understand that some of the younger grades (K4-5) will have access to iPads or perhaps iPods, which is I think great for little fingers.  And of course, we still have MacBook carts and Mac computer labs throughout the school.  Perhaps in the future, we’ll add some iPads throughout the upper grades for the use of certain apps and the touch screen aspect.  That remains to be seen.

So a brief recap of the technology I’ll have access to next year in my own classroom: I have a MacBook Pro and my own personal iPad.  All my students (10th, 11th, and 12th graders) will have MacAirs.  I also have a SmartBoard in my classroom with a remote clicker which makes it easy to teach from anywhere in the room, which is good for classroom management.  So that’s the technology side of this whole thing.  Now, how to use it all and use it well.

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