DAILY INSIGHT: Apple's iPad—Is This the End of Tech Standardization?

By Rob Mancabelli, CIO Advisor

If you’re in technology, there’s a question I can guarantee you’ve heard in the last 6 months.

“Can I have an iPad?”

And if your school is like most, I can also tell you your answer.


But I think that answer may change sometime soon—not just because of the iPad—but because the iPad’s rise coincides with the fall of the age-old practice of standardization. Now, I know that most technology folks are besieged by requests for every new tool and app that makes it to market, and the typical answer is no because standardization is seen as the cornerstone of a stable, reliable computing platform. But as Wayne Gretsky is fond of saying, to be successful you need to "skate where the puck's going, not where it's been." And right now, the puck is moving online, and in a Web 2.0 world everyone doesn’t need the same kind of stuff.

As I peer ahead, I see a decade in which teachers and students use personalized devices to collaborate across networks with thousands of people from around the world. Working with Singapore will be as common as working with the student in the next row, and that goes for your teachers’ learning as well. It’s low-cost, individualized machines in every shape and size (and a plethora of Web 2.0 applications) that have accelerated this online revolution. The face of computing in 2011 is a teacher on her netbook contacting a student on his iPhone connecting with a teacher on his iPad and so on and so on.

This has huge implications for the way we manage technology in our schools. Viewing the future through this lens, the ideal school technology platform in 2015 consists of a massive Internet connection, attached to a good firewall and a robust wireless network. Connected to that network will be a cornucopia of user-owned devices supplemented by some loaners when personal tech fails. The halls will be filled with teachers and students accessing resources from their favorite machines in cloud environments such as Google Apps for Education and Microsoft’s Live@Edu, while collaborating globally in free online spaces. Their feet will be on the path to innovative tech use.

I know that the shift to this world isn’t easy for all of us on the back end, but there are major upsides here for everyone. Personal machines and online applications can mean lower costs in hardware and software. Online collaboration can translate into less ink and paper for printing. And savvy users of online environments can go there for professional development and support. Most important, if done right, the use of these tools means that technology staff will have time to work on professional development—time to teach how these online space can change teaching and learning in meaningful ways.

Given all of that, is it time to say “yes” to the iPad?

To continue the conversation, go to http://www.mancabelli.com/ and click on the “blog” link.