Negotiating #edtech Educational Usefulness versus Device Management

In the previous sections, an oversimplified version of technology decision-making has been presented. Cost (a very important consideration for reasonable decisions) and computing capacity (also important in consideration for ensuring sufficient computing is available) have been identified as the factors relevant to purchase decisions. While cost and capacity may be the dominant factors when deciding how to provide sufficient access, other characteristics of the devices will have implications for which devices are purchased and how they are deployed.

Boot speed, which determines then length of time it takes for a user to power a device on and have it ready for use, is an important factor in many educational situations. A slow boot speed can lead to students being distracted from the learning task or frustrated that he or she is falling behind others. A device with a full operating system is likely to have the slowest boot speed; especially older models of desktops and laptop computers that store the operating system on a mechanical hard drive which is slower to start than one that stores the operating system on a solid state hard drive. In most schools, devices that run a full operating system also connect to a server to authenticate users and to load permissions and other services. All of these factors can extend boot time to the point where it impedes some educational uses of the devices.

Further delaying boot time in some configurations of full operating systems is the need to install updates. If computers have been idle for an extended time (for example during a school break), then the first users may find the devices unusable until updates are installed. In some cases, a computer can be unusable for tens of minutes while updates are installed. To minimize the disruptions due to slow boot time, IT managers can purchase devices with solid state hard drives or they can purchase devices with mobile or Internet-only operating systems.

For several decades, enterprise networking has provided centralized control of user accounts. In the typical enterprise network configuration, users authenticate against a single directory, and the user is assigned to groups depending on his or her role in the organization. Access to network resources (such as file storage, printers, and applications installed on servers are all controlled by rules managed by the network operating system that manages those permissions on the device with full operating systems. Many of those permissions were set to control access to devices and to prevent unauthorized access to network resources. The arrival of mobile devices and Internet-only devices challenges the methods of network management and security that are well-established; these new devices cause IT system administrators to change their practices.

As teachers develop greater technological pedagogical knowledge (TPK) of the devices they have available, it is reasonable to expect they will discover and refine more sophisticated uses of the devices they use and that they will seek capacity beyond that provided by existing technology. For these reasons, efficacious IT managers avoid single-device fleets. Although these can provide easier management and consistent capacity, they can result in schools maintaining unused capacity and can limit access to devices or to devices with sufficient capacity. The pedagogical implications of sections may be unpredictable to IT professionals and the management implications may be unpredictable to educators.