Open Thinkering


Why a ‘mixed economy’ of digital devices is best for your educational institution.

lisa's scissors

Earlier today, on Twitter, I mentioned that the 64GB version of the BlackBerry Playbook is now at the scandalously low price of £129. They’re practically giving it away.

I mentioned that for some educational institutions that would be a really good fit, especially given that you can side-load Android apps. Eventually, I should imagine, you’ll be able to dispose of the BlackBerry OS altogether and juse go with Android for the entire system.

Bill Lord, a Primary school headteacher, replied that he was looking at a ‘mixed economy’ of devices for his educational institution, adding that he had three main reasons for this approach:

  1. Pupil needs
  2. Staff needs (confidence/competence)
  3. Vagaries of the market

I’m with Bill. To my mind, being an ‘iPad-only’ school makes no sense. It’s replicating the Microsoft vendor lock-in all over again. Since when was school about teaching young people how to use particular types of devices?

Instead, it’s better to look at the affordances of each device. That doesn’t mean how much it costs, but rather what it allows you to do. The BlackBerry Playbook at £129, for example, has front and rear-facing cameras and a high-definition screen. Sounds like an opportunity.

It’s OK to build learning activities around specific devices some of the time, but I wouldn’t want to be doing it all of the time. Why not focus on building and using things that are device-agnostic? Surely that’s a more sustainable option? Use the Web, for goodness’ sake!

Finally, if you’re reading this in the UK you should really stop by HotUKDeals every now and again. I’m on there at least three times a day – and not just to find cheaper stuff than usual. I also find it really enlightening in terms of what people are interested in but, more importantly, the comments people leave and the context they give. There’s some serious expertise there.

Image CC BY-NC reebob

6 thoughts on “Why a ‘mixed economy’ of digital devices is best for your educational institution.

  1. I would just add to this the experience I had visiting a school local to me which predominantly uses laptops and iPads. They have just bought five Blackberry playbooks to use exclusively (at the moment) in the Foundation Stage and Key Stage One to support phonics and early maths work using flash driven games and to allow the children to film each other when working. This is the sort of sensible approach I looking to use and extend at our place.

  2. I agree about needing a mixed economy of devices in order to avoid lock-in however if one set of devices from one manufacturer is streets ahead of its competitors in quality, usability etc then it’s hard not to avoid that lock-in. However at our school although we are largely focussing on Apple devices we will certainly encourage staff and pupils who wish to work with android etc.

    1. Hi Brian, it depends what you mean by ‘streets ahead’ I suppose. I, for one, would always put pedagogic (and open principles) before technology considerations.

      I’m not saying that’s what *you’re* doing, I’m just saying that a ‘mixed economy’ is what you’ll end up anyway if you always go with the ‘best technology’. 😉

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