In his recent post The "Car" Decision Metanoia, February 22, 2013, Ryan Bretag explains how choses the type of automobile he purchases. Thoughtful, but not radical considerations like reliability, safety and mileage factor in. My guess is that the size of Mr. Bretag's family and amount and frequency of stuff that gets hauled about are also at least unconsciously factored in. Bretag's my kind of pragmatist. And then interestingly he ends his short post, "Just thinking about devices a lot these days…"
As have I.
Once again I am going to propose that we try to reduce the number of laptop computers the district assigns to the staff. Two years ago, I made this pitch to our administrative team - see How to be unpopular: no teacher laptops, February 9, 2013 - and I was resoundingly rejected. (Luckily, my social life had prepared me for rejection.)
In the post, I observed that laptops:
- Have historically been more expensive to purchase than desktops even with less memory, speed, etc..
- Have higher incidences of repair and maintenance, with each machine requiring two new batteries during its life span and often a new power adaptor.
- Get lost, stolen, dropped.
- Grow obsolete more quickly (as teachers tell it), needing replacement every three years instead of every five.
A growing concern is that when teachers take them home and then call in sick the next day, there is no computer in the classroom for the substitute to use for running the IWB, doing attendance, etc. As the use of GoogleDocs grows in the district, the need to store, access and work with files on individual machines is declining.
And these conditions haven't really changed in the past two years. Except...
With the iPad and other tablets, we can now offer another mobile computing option and perhaps get the best of both worlds - the low-maintenance of the desktop and the portability if a laptop - for a reasonable cost.
Here's the plan. Instead of the desktop iMac for $1000, we purchase iMac Minis, monitors, keyboards, and mice ($700) and an iPad Mini ($300) for teachers. The desktop stays in the room connected to the projection system, sound system, and ethernet network while the iPad serves as the teacher's go-to-meeting, move-around-the-room, take-it-home device.
In going back to Mr. Bretag's analogy, we will be offering our teachers a Civic and a moped instead of a Suburban.
Wish me luck.