A friend of mine called this week to see what I thought about my new Nexus 7 tablet. My quick answer? “I love it!” When we started talking about the Nexus 7 in schools, I gave a little more thoughtful reply: “Would I trade my 200 iPads for 500 Nexus 7s? Yes, in a second.”
The problem with my enthusiasm is that I am always ready to trade my previous favorite for next year’s new and better idea. In fact, it may not even be a year before Apple makes their own 7-inch iPad. (They won’t dare call it an Ipad will they?) What if the next Kindle offers a student-friendly device at an even more attractive price? School leaders who make hardware purchases based solely on the “coolness” of the hardware may experience a severe case of buyer’s remorse.
When our fickle nature concerning educational technology hardware shows itself, I call it being “technologically unfaithful.” We have a relationship with an attractive device. We swear loyalty to. Yet our faithfulness lasts only until the next cool innovation turns our heads.
What does this mean for technology leaders—and those administrators who write the checks to buy the stuff those leaders recommend? It means that we have to refocus on student skills rather than hardware.
The Common Core Standards will require students to do what they know. The National Educational Technology Standards for Students place the emphasis squarely on skills. The new assessments we are so concerned about will not be device specific, nor require students to utilize a collection of apps to prove competence. The new core curriculum will ask students to collaborate, think critically, and be creative. Such skills are well served by technology, but not dependent on specific tools.
My new suggestion for the schools I work with is to adopt a “one-to-anything” approach. Utilizing Web 2.0 tools, cloud-based resources, and a varied selection of hardware solutions, we can help students learn and practice common technology skills on whatever hardware they encounter. For example, at Two Rivers School District we have wired labs, laptop labs, mobile netbook labs, Chromebook labs, and iPad labs. Next, we’ll add a Nexus 7 lab.
The point is to focus on student skills that will enable our students to create, evaluate, and collaborate, regardless of the hardware they encounter. Our goal is technology-skilled students who will be able to use technology tools to perform relevant tasks, not operate specific devices. After all, the next greatest thing is right around the corner.