Report: Device Type Proliferation Poses Problems

Last year, when an MDR survey asked curriculum directors to rate the various factors that influenced their buying decisions for digital instruction, the one that surfaced above all others was compatibility with multiple computing devices, chosen by 62 percent of respondents. No wonder. A multiplicity of devices proliferates on the school campus, especially in an era of rising acceptance for bring-your-own-device.

As a new report from MDR points out, students may show up with "smartphones, iPads, tablets, laptops, desktops and Chromebooks." Those devices may be running iOS, Android, Chrome and Windows. Even district-provided devices can run the gamut depending on which grade they're being used in.

"Multiple Student Devices: Challenges Facing Providers" is intended to help education technology providers understand the issues they face in maintaining a hold in the market. But the report also lays out a shopping list of concerns for IT and school leaders to consider as they build out their student device usage, set BYOD policies and help educators learn how to work with tech effectively in the classroom.

As one example, screen size is a major consideration. Although many schools adhere to standards set by their online testing provider for display size, one user experience (UX) expert quoted in the report pointed out that "it is nearly impossible to create every product on every type of device." While phone usage may be allowed in a classroom, the small screen isn't necessarily designed for every application a teacher may want to try out.

As another example, schools have to address support. As author Rita Oates, stated, "What is sufficient support for teachers and students when introducing new technologies, new devices, new apps? Who else in a school or district needs to get professional development or ongoing support?" In many cases, she noted, "the media specialist, computer lab manager, classroom aide, or tech support person may need to go through some professional development with teachers and know how to get support afterward." Likewise, parents might want an introduction to programs in order to help their students at home. And school administrators need to know enough about the tech resources to be able to evaluate whether teachers are using them "effectively."

"Clearly technology for learning has radically shifted in the last few years," said Oates in a press release. "The multitude of digital devices has caused unsettling experiences for teachers who feel they don't have adequate professional development to make effective use of digital devices for learning in their classrooms. The shift has also created an enormous demand for educators, administrators, curriculum and technology personnel to manage and deliver differentiated and personalized learning through customization of instructional content."

The report is available for $249 on the MDR website.

About the Author

Dian Schaffhauser is a former senior contributing editor for 1105 Media's education publications THE Journal, Campus Technology and Spaces4Learning.