By Trevor Hope, CIO Advisor
I grew up with Apple products. Our first “real” computer was a Macintosh SE. I remember the first day we got it. It was the coolest thing ever—it had a keyboard and this thing called a mouse! Way cooler than the Commodore 64 (Anyone in their 20s reading this has no idea what I’m talking about, but please, read on.) that we used before that and MUCH cooler than the electric typewriter. I was in the minority at school; most people were “PC users,” as we called them back then. They preferred Windows, but I stuck with Mac, even through the years without Steve Jobs. When I went away to college I was the only one at my small liberal arts college of 1,000 students with a Mac. It was hard getting on the network at first, but I figured it out. The next year I transferred to a larger school and was forced to buy a Dell since I was studying IT and it really was a requirement. I used both.
So, with all this in mind, you would be safe in assuming that I insist on using Mac products in school, that students learn more when using Apple products, right? Wrong. You would have been right a few years ago, but I have adapted and have become technology or device agnostic. At home I do, for the most part, have Mac products, though we do have a Windows machine or two and a Chromebook that we enjoy. In this day and age, school districts should not tie themselves to one device or platform.
Technology is a tool. It can enhance teaching, it can aid a teacher in delivering content. Technology can replace things such as paper textbooks, and it can allow us to do things we were not able to do before without it. Technology will not make a poor teacher into a good one; furthermore, it will not replace a teacher. Too often districts get focused on the device and what it can do, not what we want our teachers and students to do with the technology. We need to first define our objectives in learning, then decide how the technology tools fit in with the learning we want to achieve.
Transitioning your district to be device agnostic may mean that in some grades you have Chromebooks and in some grades you have iPads and in other grades you have Android tablets. I know it sounds like an IT department nightmare, but learning is the number-one outcome, not how much sleep the IT department gets at night. If everyday we walked into the same math teacher’s classroom and he used the same method to teach math, he would be looked down upon and his review would suffer. Technology should be looked upon with the same view.
A district that has such a wide array of devices will have a well-versed staff in different technologies and devices. When looking to purchase new hardware, one will not be pigeon-holed to one company—and one price!
Trevor Hope is coordinator of instructional technology at Hawthorn School District 73 in Illinois. Follow him on Twitter as @trevhope.