Everyone knows that education has been embracing digital technologies at an ever increasing pace. Placing that technology in the hands of Students has been a challenge however. In order to make sure all students are on an equal footing, public schools have to provide said technology to each pupil. Add in the cost of the required IT infrastructure and the obvious need for a high level of security and things get very expensive, very fast.
It’s also important to make sure you choose the right equipment. For some years now, schools have been fairly enamored of using Tablets, and in most cases made the choice to adopt the ubiquitous iPads. Now however, that is changing, very quickly.
In the US there have been a spate of recent announcements of Schools from Selinsgrove to St. Thomas’ choosing to adopt Windows Tablets and Laptops for their students. The same thing has been happening in the US, and now the nation’s second largest school district – L.A. County, which was previously planning to provide only iPads to their students, has switched to Microsoft Laptops and Tablets, and in a few cases, to Chromebooks.
The decision is a stunning reversal of their previous commitment to the iPad. As part of a $1B program to provide the technology and required infrastructure to all its students, the LA Unified School district last year, without a careful study (perhaps they were suffering from lingering after effects from a Reality Distortion Field Trip) voted to only provide iPads to their students. The results were not at all what they expected.
Students immediately deleted security filters so they could freely browse the Internet.
The district recalled the devices at several schools and some students never saw them again. Distribution of the devices quickly fell behind schedule. The IT administration of the iOS machines was also a difficult task, as were the necessary software licenses, which Staffers thought were owned outright, but in fact were only leased for three years, and were incomplete in year 1.
They also quickly found out that despite its popularity at home playing Fruit Ninja, the Apple Tablet form factor was not a big hit at school.
Carolyn McKnight, the principal at East Los Angeles Performing Arts Magnet, was not sold on the utility of a tablet only format for use in school, nor the unusual shape and size of the iPad, which was designed for media consumption, more than for a usable workspace.
“Students were more comfortable on the laptop because of the amount of writing and the size of the screen,” she said. “It was really hard to see the whole problem on the iPad.”
So now the Schools are choosing between an array of Windows Tablets, Laptops and Chromebooks, including the Surface line. Convertible notebook/tablets like the Yoga seem to be doing well, with concerns over the detachable Surface Keyboards getting lost being a bit of an issue.
This is not the first school district to decide that a media consumption tablet isn’t really the way to go for their students. Last year, the School District in Charlottesville Virginia chose Windows Laptops over the iPad, citing security, device management and durability as issues in their decision.
Both Apple and Microsoft have invested heavily in getting their devices into schools at all levels, with Apple seemingly having the upper hand due to the popularity of the iPad. But it seems now that the situation is changing in the eyes of educators. The lack of IT compatibility with the, for the most part, standard Microsoft backbone that runs most businesses and government agencies, along with the increasingly realized potential of Windows 8, and its availability in laptop, Tablet, Convertible and the Surface form factors making for a degree of flexibility that teachers and education IT Administrators find greatly desirable.
In making her decision, McKnight chose the Lenovo Yoga Touch for her school. She liked the flexibility of being able to flip the screen over so they could use the other side as a camera, as mentioned above. Having the ability to use both a keyboard and a stylus to write on the screen was also a definite plus for her students.
It looks like Microsoft’s long term vision of providing its software and services everywhere, on all devices, combined with the leverage of its legacy of enterprise dominance, is beginning to pay off as its more advanced versions of Windows and the devices to exploit its convenience and power are become part of the public and professional mindset.
Perhaps the days of Public administrators making Billion dollar bets on using Apple’s entertainment devices to get some learning done without looking into the alternatives are over. Good news for Students and Microsoft!
Sources: LA Times, IDG News Service, Fujitsu, Microsoft YouTube Channel