How Do Schools Make Sure They Pick the Right Mobile Device?

The number of smart devices on offer for schools has grown exponentially in the past year. This has paved way for fierce competition from device platforms, and ultimately the potential to capture the digital generation is fair game.

With so many options available, how can you really measure one against the other to ensure the investment made does make a difference to the teaching experience now and in the future?

Of course everybody’s criteria is different, so as a Market Analyst specializing in education technology, this post reflects my own point of view on the topic of device selection.

Eighteen months ago saw the advent of the Chromebook, which sent waves rippling through the device market. Its proposition took the market by storm, particularly in the US and from here other regions.

The main attraction was that the Chromebook provided a teaching experience that ticked many of the right boxes for IT teams within schools.

  • It satisfied the requirement for districts to buy devices en masse, which fast became core to the curriculum due to the introduction of online assessment within the U.S.
  • It boasted a simple manageability platform for the school environment.
  • And above all it was available at a lower price.

As a result, there started to be a shift away from iPads as strictly the first device of choice, and for its part, the Windows ecosystem began to suffer. Although known as feature-rich, the Windows device was not as simple to use or scale. When faced with the need to accommodate a growing need for devices on mass, scale and manageability are always going to be priorities.

But let’s not write these devices off just yet. Over the next twelve months, competition will begin to hot up as Apple and Windows ready themselves for a new round of competition.

Apple’s education offering has already geared itself up for a lot of education-related changes to the classroom with the launch of iOS 9.3 <We recently covered the education benefits in detail here>. iPads will now boast multiuser functionality and its desktop app will now address the need for better management that comes with scale. It’s a big step forward for Apple. However, price will always be a sticking point.

Windows has also made some key changes. Its release of a device with a lower spec means that it now has a device available at the same price as a Chromebook. Its partnership with Lightspeed announced last year in the U.S. has also meant that it is able to tout manageability as a competitive feature.

With so many options available, it is easy to capitulate to the device available at the lowest cost to accommodate the need to buy on mass. The fact is, the number of devices in schools will increase, and with it, so will the number of devices available on the market.

The main component that underpins this decision making process therefore needs to be manageability.

Cloud management

With rise of cloud-based management systems and their ability to deliver new and exciting learning experiences, IT teams in schools need to get comfortable with the cloud proposition. It will become the proposition that can easily accommodate the growing number of devices as well as the different types of content that will aid the teaching experience.

From a computing standpoint, a lot of these devices will be centred on cloud systems and cloud apps, so if the infrastructure to support this is not in place, the learning experience will suffer.

To ensure the right decision is made, it is essential to map up a plan from the start. Not just a technology plan that incorporates how many devices are needed and the infrastructure to support them, but also how these devices are going to improve the teaching experience.

This is where buy-in from teachers is essential and will provide a better evaluation as to which platform and device will deliver the teaching outcomes the faculty is striving to achieve. <To learn what tools are important to teachers and how they use them in the classroom, please listen to our podcast Teach for 2020.>

To hear more from me about what edutech trends are set to grow this year, listen to my interview with Reality Checks.

Phil Maddocks joined Futuresource Consulting's education technology team in the summer of 2013. Prior to this he spent three years as a market analyst at IHS, focusing on low-power wireless technologies and their uptake within a number of key vertical application areas. He is involved with researching and analysing data as well as working directly with clients to obtain information and provide detailed market analysis on the education industry. The majority of Phil’s work focuses primarily on Futuresource's Mobile Computing in Education Quarterly Market Track service, which analyses the markets for mobile computing devices within the compulsory education sector (K-12).

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