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All of the Above: Is One Ecosystem Still Possible?

23 Sep 2014 by Scott Sterling

Back in the 80’s, you practically had only one choice for education technology resources: Apple and their distributors. Rows and rows of Apple IIgs carousels populated media centers around the world. Then things got a little more complicated as Windows made progress in the ed market.

But nowhere near as complicated as they are now.

PCs have a majority of the desktop market in schools, but districts can’t stop ordering iPads and other tablets. If a district is thinking about going BYOD, which many are, you might as well throw any dreams of a homogenous tech ecosystem out the window. Kids will be bringing in everything from MacBook Pros to burner phones that happen to run Android. You might even have kids bring in Blackberries.

Does homogeneity matter anymore? Let’s look at it from the perspective of each of the stakeholders.

Superintendent

BYOD probably appeals to the superintendent because it’s cheaper than buying thousands of PCs or tablets. If they made a bulk order like that, it would obviously be homogenous. But who has that kind of budget anymore? The district might be keeping around 5-10 year old PCs. The ecosystem worries simply don’t cross the superintendent’s desk; they don’t have to worry about administering the systems or making everything work with BYOD.

District-level IT

The IT people at the district level dream of one homogenous ecosystem. With everything uniform, maintenance and updating are streamlined. Things can just be blown down to the entire district. But let’s be honest: they’ve only seen an ecosystem like that if they were around in the 80’s. Or their career took a detour to North Korea.

Principals

When it comes to budgets, few IT decisions come down to the principals. If they have some spare Title I money, perhaps they have the ability to invest in some SMARTboards or other toys. Massive purchases are made at the district level. What the principal is concerned with is security. They don’t want their assistants flooded with inappropriate use referrals. They might choose homogeneity just for that reason, but the decision is probably out of their hands. Whether to go BYOD, on the other hand, could be up to them.

Teachers

They’re also concerned with security (who do you think writes all of those referrals?), but they also want all of those cool websites and apps they find on Pinterest to work for every student in the room, no matter what device they might be on. Unless they are under BYOD, chances are that the devices in the room are homogenous already. The only problem might come when they are trying a 1:1 lesson and some kids are using the iPad cart while others are on the room’s existing PCs, but the teacher would find a web-based solution for that before even writing the lesson plan.

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