Diversifying the Fleet of School Computing Devices

School and technology leaders have interesting choices when purchasing devices for students and teachers that they did not have even a few years ago. Whereas they once purchased desktop or laptop computers, they can now choose from:

Internet-only notebooks (i.e. Chromebooks)—These are inexpensive devices that are easy to manage, but that provide the least capacity and can be used to create the least sophisticated products.

Tablets (i.e. iPads)—These are generally single-user devices that are very popular with some populations, but that have limitations, including the limited processing power and sophistication of the products that can be created with the installed apps.

Computers with a full operating system—Desktops and laptops are still available and provide the most capacity and can be used for the most sophisticated products. These are the most expensive and tend to require the most sophisticated management.

Despite the wild popularity of Chromebooks in schools, many teachers and school leaders find they do not provide the capacity that is needed for their courses. I am impressed by the increasing capacity of cloud-based productivity and apps to create educationally-relevant products, there are many cases in which students need a full operating system to create what they need.

This seems to be a rationale for diversifying the fleet of computing devices we have in schools. With Chromebooks we can put useful devices in students’ hands, but IT school and technology leaders need to avoid limiting students and teachers by the technology choices they make.