On Student Users

Students, of course, comprise the greatest number of IT users in schools. When considered together, k-12 students represent a group with a very wide range of skill sets and needs.

The youngest students have emerging literacy and numeracy skills, and their hands are too small to fit on full sized keyboards in the manner they are designed. Even if their hands could fit the keyboards, they are not yet typists, so their ability to use IT can be limited. But they tend to be curious technology users and anxious to learn to use the devices that they know are used by others.  These students’ use of IT tends to be highly prescribed by their teachers. They often use web sites intended to facilitate learning of academic skills, applications for artistic creation, and electronic books. Teachers often integrate computer devices into the centers in their classrooms. Many primary teachers are cautious about using IT in their classes, as there are many other valuable and necessary skills that students must learn especially at this age.  

While the youngest students in schools are just learning to read and write, the oldest students are adults (most students turn 18 during their senior year in high school) and are likely to be engaged in independent research and design projects, and they are likely to have the need to gain experience using the same software that professionals use. They tend to be creators of information with school IT as well as consumers of information. The specific resources they use depend on their plans for post-graduation as well as their course work.

Standardization has many advantages for those who manage IT. If all users have the same permissions, we need not configure and manage different organizations units. If all devices need the same software, we can use imaging to deploy changes. While standardization can ease the work of technology management, it may prevent students from being able to do what they need to do.

It is reasonable for school and technology leaders to consider the nature of the students and their learning needs (and well as the teachers’ needs that are grounded in their students’ needs) when making final configuration decisions. No, that is not correct. It is essential they consider these needs.