We live in a great time as there are so many choices that exist for school districts when looking for devices to use with their students. There are a plethora of choices between Windows, Apple, Chrome OS, and Android devices and the first thing you need to determine is what do you want your students to do with these devices. This post is not getting into the question of allowing BYOD (bring your own device) or buying devices for all students, that will be discussed in another post.
The first thing that needs to be considered is what are you expecting your students to do on these devices. This is when you need to talk to the teachers in your district and find out what they want to do on the devices with students. Will students be doing a lot of original content creation by taking photos, videos, and other sources of multimedia or will they be just using them to write papers and enter information. The other piece of this question is does your district use a lot of software or is most or all of what you do web/app based?
Once you have collected all of your data you need to find out what OS’s support everything you need to do with the devices. The four main OS’s schools should be using is Windows, macOS, iOS, and Chrome OS. Evaluate the apps/software available for each device and see if any of the OS’s have the be ruled out due to not offering what you need.
The next piece is management of the device. How large is your technology staff as it can take time to manage the devices, some solutions are easier than others. Chrome OS uses the Google Admin Console which is very straight forward and user-friendly overall. The Apple side for macOS and iOS has a few options but the one many use is JAMF. The state of Maine under the MLTI project includes JAMF for schools so I do use it in our district. I was a bit resistant of it at first as I struggled getting it to do exactly what I wanted. It seems they had a few updates since our first year using and it has been working great since this past summer. JAMF offers a ton of controls and really allows for complete management of the devices. There are some other solutions out there but so far in my testing JAMF has been the most stable. Windows management is fairly standard as most do it through a Windows Server. Management really comes down to the amount of time you have, cost, and ease of use. Personally I prefer using Chromebooks and the Google Admin Console, it really allows me to quickly manage our entire fleet of Chromebooks on the go.
The last piece which for schools can be vastly different for each district is the price. This is one area there really can’t be any suggestions as it is so unique to each district. A short distance of forty miles can be the difference between going with a $350 device or a $1,000 device. The other piece that needs to be remembered is each device needs a case for transporting the device and if you are going to pay for extended warranties or better coverage.
When going through the first steps it can be just one or two people looking at the options so the process can move along quickly Once through the steps of talking to staff and administration about needs and what systems would fit those needs and pros and cons list should be made up and taken to a larger group for discussion. The final parts need to be discussed with a group as the final decision on a device should not be left to one or two people. There should be a cross-section of staff and administrators, not a huge amount of participants as that can bog down the process but at least a good representation.
The last piece which I will go into more detail on another post is don’t lock into just one device from the lowest grade to your seniors. Don’t be afraid of having multiple devices across multiple grade spans. We use iPads in the lower grades and the upper grades is when they move over to Chromebooks.
This is a big decision as this is one of the primary tools used among all learning environments so you want to make sure the best decision is made for your school.