When making purchase decisions, IT professionals must negotiate cost and capacity. In general, devices that have greater capacity are more expensive; this can be seen in comparing the cost and capacity of devices with full operating systems (most expensive and greatest capacity) with Internet-only devices (least expensive and least capacity). There is an inverse relationship between cost and capacity and the number of devices that can be obtained per unit of a budget. Using $1000 as the estimated price per unit of devices with full operating systems and $400 as the estimated process per unit of Internet-only notebooks, IT managers would budget $25,000 for a classroom full of computers, but only $10,000 for the same number of Internet-only devices.
While the lesser cost of the Internet-only devices may motivate IT managers to opt to purchase those devices, they are going to provide limited capacity on each device. The result is that IT manager must reconcile financial considerations with educational considerations. To avoid limiting educational options through their technology decisions while also minimizing the cost of purchasing devices with greater capacity than is necessary, IT managers can diversity the fleet of devices they manger. They can purchase a large number of inexpensive devices with minimal capacity, and small number of devices with greater capacity. This strategy makes the most devices available for the least demanding (but most frequent) information tasks (such as using word processors) while also making some devices available for the most demanding (but least frequent) information tasks.
Further, those devices will affect decisions about the network, and may result in changes to how technology personnel do their work. In all cases, it is the instructional users who must decide the sufficiency of access. School and technology leaders who reject decisions that emerge from instructional users must take responsibility and be transparent. If the devices are “too expensive,” then the school leaders must articulate that and defend the decision. If devices are “too complicated” to install and maintain with the current level of knowledge or staffing, then that rationale must be made clear, and school leaders must support IT professionals so they can manage the systems teachers need.
There are no heuristics that can be used to determine what is appropriate levels of and types of technology useful for students, and in many cases, a diverse fleet of devices affords the greatest pedagogical uses, but requires the greatest expertise for managing it. As a student proceeds through her day in a typical high school, she may encounter a variety of information tasks that each require a different type of device.