on a 1:1 program can seem a bit like walking into a dark, tangled forest —
choosing the right mobile device from a dense thicket of options is enough to
make any educator feel lost. iPads and MacBooks and Chromebooks, oh my!
“We’re the first generation of teachers who in a widespread way have no clue
what our students’ futures will look like, so here we are trying to prepare
students for a future that none of us can envision all that accurately,” said
Rushton Hurley, founder of Next Vista for
It's important to start with a schoolwide or districtwide conversation when choosing a device for your mobile learning initiative.
“There needs to be a larger discussion that happens at school on the way to a
1:1 or BYOD environment," Hurley said. "I want to make sure that when schools go through that process, they’re talking about the things that are important.”
He proposed five questions to help guide the discussion about mobile learning
in your school or district:
1. What do we want to accomplish in the classroom?
Too often, technology discussions revolve around the strengths and weaknesses
of various devices. While that conversation has its place, keep in mind that
those strengths and weaknesses can rapidly change. A more important question is,
what do you hope to achieve with the technology at the classroom level?
“It’s easy, unfortunately, to talk about these things on the vendors’ terms,”
Hurley said. “We need to talk about these things on the learners’ terms. We’re
the ones who need to keep the conversation in that space.”
2. What can we do with free technology?
It makes sense to fully explore all of the available free tools and options
before making a large technology investment. Hurley encourages school leaders to
find out what tools are already working in the classroom and what teachers are
doing with them. At minimum, it will give you a starting point for deciding what
you need from the devices you purchase.
3. Do we have the infrastructure in place to support the
This is one of the biggest areas a school should focus on before embarking on
a mobile learning initiative. A wireless network with
sufficient bandwidth is critical. Additionally, teachers and IT staff must
be adequately prepared to deal with the challenges a 1:1 program can introduce.
Consider how much staff time will be required to support the device.
“Anytime infrastructure is holding up deployment of devices that have been
purchased, you are wasting money,” Hurley said. “Devices move from relevance to
irrelevance at some pace. If you’ve got a bunch of devices sitting in a
warehouse somewhere, the learning value per dollar spent is going down.”
4. How long will the device remain relevant?
When comparing devices, investigate each company’s track record for keeping
older devices relevant. If the track record is good, a large hardware purchase
is fairly safe. If not, the device will need to offer significant benefits to be
worth the investment.
5. Does it serve teachers and students to have only one
Educators like Mark Allen in the U.K. are advocating for “device
agnosticism,” which means rather than committing to a single device, the goal is
to “help students reach for the tool that matches their needs for the moment,”
“The question is, if a given device has some pretty important weaknesses and
you go to that as the 1:1 device, what possibilities have you cut off at your
school? It seems obvious once it’s said, yet most of the conversations don’t
seem to be taking that into account.”
This is an updated version of a post that originally published on Aug. 4, 2014.
Want to find out how to transform mobile technology into a powerful learning platform? Gather a team and apply for ISTE's free Verizon Mobile Learning Academy by Sept. 11, 2017, for the next cohort beginning Sept. 25, 2017.