Devices in education: it’s all about improving outcomes

Originally posted on the Teacher Network Blog as part of the Guardian’s Technology in Schools Week.

When looking at the use of technology in education, it's important to focus on improving outcomes.

When reviewing some of the recent projects across the sector, I often see decisions based on a single device, with teaching and learning wrapped around it, rather than first thinking about what actually needs to be done with that device. Sadly, it seems academic outcomes are not always the key objective with these decisions, regardless of how well intended the decision may be.

Surely outcomes, not necessarily the device, are what is important here? Achieving increased attainment, improved student engagement via personalised learning and immersive engagements, access to content anytime, anywhere and workforce readiness to increase employability, are all key and should help inform which device to embrace and deploy.

To complement this list of outcomes, factors beyond the device are also important to consider. For example, it's important to ask yourself what support programmes are in place to assist students, faculty and IT professionals to maximise their investments and meet their objectives, regardless of whether it's about saving money or improving academic attainment.

Plus, the presence of a robust partner ecosystem to assist with both solution deployment and development can often make the difference between success and failure when it comes to the roll out of a technical solution and should definitely be front and centre of any decision making process.

Additionally, access to apps that are critical to effective learning, such as virtual learning environments (VLEs) and content management systems, are a significant pillar and should, again, help inform any future buying decision. The ability to embrace legacy apps to leverage prior investments should also be considered.

In my view, it's only when these three considerations - outcomes, apps and support - are embraced should decisions around devices be made. This more holistic perspective gives institutions the best chance for success, regardless of chosen outcome(s), and allows for a more informed device choice to be made.



So with a strong foundation now in place, it's time to think devices. I am sure I will miss a few, but core requirements for devices within institutions would most likely include the following:

• Convenience and mobility - great battery life, for example
• Connected
• Engaging and fun
• Productivity and compatibility - offers a compelling content consumption and creation experience
• Security and safety
• Integration

With this in mind, solutions that tick all these boxes within a single device have the potential to offer better value for money, be both a companion and primary device and deliver a great content consumption and creation experience. If you can also add to the mix enhanced security, virtualisation and enterprise level management, you'll have a compelling offering for your institution and something that your IT team will feel confident about.

So the key takeaway here is to ensure that a strong foundation is in place, based around the three pillars of outcomes, apps and support, and base your device choices on what is most effective from both a content consumption and creation perspective. With budgets within institutions being tighter than ever, it's important to start thinking more holistically about your devices strategy and think beyond any single device. Food for thought.

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