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The complete guide to picking the right device for every grade level

By Kathy Schrock
December 8th, 2015

Ed-tech expert Kathy Schrock weighs in on mixed platform solutions for all grade levels

mixed-devicesA few years ago, many school districts jumped on the iPad bandwagon, when they were still brand new. The fact is they were easy to justify for a purchase of a shared cart since the Apple app store had so many wonderful applications for remediation, practice, and extension. These districts purchased the first iPad, which did not mirror and, believe it or not, had no built-in camera. Other districts waited for the second version to be released, which did have a camera and could be mirrored via Apple TV or the Reflector app, but only purchased the model with 16GB of RAM.

After a while, it became evident that maintaining a shared cart of iPads was no small feat. Taking care of the installation of apps and maintenance of the devices, as well as providing a positive experience for each shared user, was not easy. The 16GB of RAM was quickly eaten up by graphic-intensive apps, i-books, and PDF files, and the use of the camera for taking photos and videos. Schools began to think twice.

Enter the Chromebook, a device which was much cheaper and required little maintenance. However, even here there were difficulties at first as students needed to be attached to the internet to use the online Google tools and many of popular Flash-based sites were simply incompatible.

Fast forward to today and most of those bugs have worked themselves out. Devices have more memory and there are new features for both platforms that make them viable for use in the classroom. I truly believe a mix of devices is the best solution for schools.

The Apple App Store is full of well-vetted and useful software. When you hear “there is an app for that,” it seems to be true! From content-based applications that can be used for everything from remediation to enrichment, and apps that let students create videos, audios, simulations, infographics and more, the use of the iPad to support teaching and learning is truly remarkable. But the iPad really shines as a one-to-one device. Personalization, choice of apps and work that lives locally on the device make students feel connected with their iPad.

I recommend the Google Chromebook for a shared cart of devices. In conjunction with becoming a Google Apps for Education school or district, the Chromebook allows easy access to each user’s content. Since each student’s work lives in the cloud, and the Chromebook makes it easy for anyone with an account to log on to the device, it is perfect for a shared environment. There are now many extensions and HTML5-based online tools for the Chrome browser that allow students to do everything from editing images to using a math equation editor. And, the Chrome operating system now lets the student work on their Google Drive files when not connected to the Internet and syncs them up the next time they connect.

I also believe students of all ages need access to a full-featured computer. Stand-alone software, especially at the secondary level, provides students with the full-featured tools they need to create. For instance, Adobe Clip is a powerful iPad app that easily allows a student to create a video. But, for students that have the passion for movie-making, they need  to have access to the full version of Adobe Premiere.  In addition, access to a scanner, MIDI keyboard, powerful CAD and game-making software, a 3D printer, and any other computer-based hardware and software need to be available at point of need.

Next page: Kathy’s device recommendations for every age