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Stop Making it Personal

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My son and daughter love Apple. They love our iPhones. They love their shared iPad. They love the ol’ family iMac. They love mom’s Macbook and dad’s work Macbook. They love the Apple Store. In fact, they will “ask” (beg, plead, cry) to visit the playground. Oh yes, the Apple store is equivalent to a playground in their minds.

Hand them a non-Apple product and they will scoff at such a travesty.

Yep… they are branded before they are even 5 and 3 respectfully. Mostly, this is because I love the Apple products and our family (immediate and extended) is a fan of Apple.

And this is perhaps why it seems odd to people that we are embarking upon a combine our devices pilot at my school that is not Apple-based. Friends and family are frustrated. Colleagues and students confused. All concerned for my health because something must be wrong :-)

The Ugly Part of the Device Decision Equation

No question, I hear daily “Why aren’t you be pushing Apple. I thought you loved Apple”. My response usually leaves them even worse off (yes, I’m responsible for the world’s confusion).

But here is the thing: my role is to not make this personal. In fact, I’ve said before that what device you prefer personally and what is best for all students is not synonymous.

And to be quite frank, it is every educator’s responsibility to remove personal device bias from the equation when considering the most appropriate device for the learning and teaching vision.

And I can’t help but wonder if educators are doing this especially school leaders.

It is hard. We want to believe our personal choice in device is best for everyone. We want to argue for what we personally believe to be true based upon our own experience.

It is the ugly part of the device discussion that is rarely discussed, but I’d argue needs to be put on the table. If not, we’ll continue making it personal. We’ll continue seeing the device decision a commendation or indictment of who you are as an educator.

 

  1. Patrick Larkin12-29-2012

    Hi Ryan,

    As someone in the midst of a K-12 iPad deployment, I am feeling a bit uncomfortable with your thoughts. I guess my feeling is that we see iPads as the best option right now given our mindset that we want all students to have the same device district-wide. In addition, we are in a model where the district is providing all of the devices and parents are not paying anything (aside from insurance if they choose).

    My biggest questions still surround the idea of BYOT or BYOD. Is this a good option now? I will feel better when we allow the end-users the ultimate choice in what device they utilize to do their work. I am not sure this is feasible now in our district, but I know that others are doing it. I have no preconceived notions here, but I appreciate your point of view.

    Thanks for all of your thoughtful posts! Happy New Year Ryan!

    • ryanbretag12-29-2012

      Hi Patrick:

      My thoughts had zero to do with whether iPads were the right choice. In fact, I’d say they are for many schools I’ve worked with and explored their learning vision.

      Reread my post and supplement Chromebooks for iPads. In other words, the device is irrelevant to the discussion.

      The reason I have iDevices in this is because it is my personal preference but not necessarily the best for our organizational direction.

      As a leader, I had to remove the personal side.

      Does that make sense? I really don’t want people thinking this is an antiipad post. I’ve long argued the device decision is hyper local so I don’t judge what others are doing.

      • ryanbretag12-29-2012

        Thanks for clarifying via Twitter, Patrick, your thoughts. I totally misread your comment – my fear that people would misread as an anti iPad post clouded my reading.

  2. Fred Mindlin12-29-2012

    I remember the moment when I realized that I had to stop acting like an Apple fanboy. Much as I like Apple’s products and still use them most of the time, it’s not appropriate to my role as an educator to be entering into platform advocacy for anything except open source. I know a little about Linux and am an avid follower of Sugar development, even though I’ve not had the opportunity to really use either. But the perspective of the open source world which most of the world inhabits out of economic necessity is crucial for assessing the stilted dialog which so often occurs around the Mac/Windows debate, not much changed by the presence of Chrome/Android, an equally corporate-controlled ecosystem.
    The important question is still, “Who’s telling the computer what to do?” If the use of a device facilitates student creation of original work and allows the students to learn how to understand, control, and manipulate the entire process, then we should support it.

    • ryanbretag12-29-2012

      Thanks for the thoughts, Fred. I love your question “Who’s telling the computer what to do?” – what would be different if we were asking that question more. I really like these sentiments and know that I’m not practicing them.

  3. John Case12-30-2012

    As someone who has been operating a traditional 1:1 laptop program for 8 years now, your idea of “combine our devices” is very interesting. In reflecting back upon my own school, where we buy (and dictate) the devices, I’m not sure how I could manage the logistics of so many different devices. I’m sure as we got into the program, we’d figure it out and make it work. We are planning to allow students to bring their own devices for second semester, as a supplement to what we already provide. I’m excited to see all of the different hardware floating around, and more importantly, how it is being used in the classroom.

    If you are providing the hardware, and making a truly hardware agnostic environment, how do you plan to handle the differences in software? For example, are you checking with all teachers to make sure the software and websites they use will work across all platforms?

    • ryanbretag12-31-2012

      Hi John:

      Talk to me more about “managing the logistics”.

      It sounds like you’ll be a combine our devices next semester, so I look forward to hearing the good and the opportunities – there will no doubt be both :-)

      As for your final questions, I think this is where being Internet focused is helpful. We don’t have to worry about different software AS MUCH. However, it is also about developing a mindset that is open to how students produce/showcase their learning. Instead of saying “we will all create a mini-documentary on iMovie regarding immigration”, we shift to “propose how you’ll showcase your understanding of immigration based upon the concepts we explored”.

      We aren’t there on that shift across the board. This will take time as it is quite a shift for many where the process becomes the focus and the product is open-ended. When you do, the students can use the standard device (in our case, a Nexus 7 or Chromebook) to produce the product of their learning or they could say “I’m going to build a mini-documentary using iMovie on my Macbook” or “I’m going to do a photostory using iPhoto on my iPhone/iPod/iPad.”

      • John Case01-01-2013

        Ryan,
        I didn’t elaborate in my original comment, but I will now. I work for Ohio Hi-Point Career Center and we have only HS juniors and seniors. We also have satellite locations which actually have more students than our main campus. Operating a 1:1 program in this kind of environment is quite challenging as our satellite locations all have different network configurations. For us, setting up a Windows machine is the easiest option for the IT department, and is universally accepted. We used MacBooks for a couple years but had some hardware problems that Apple refused to cover under warranty, and connecting to so many different networks (including Novell) was quite challenging. We order new machines each year around May, for our incoming junior class. We also sell the machines to our graduating students each June. If the school has a variety of different devices, I’m not sure how we would order machines unless we waited until school started, but then we have also lost our prep time.

        I think that our BYOD pilot this semester will give us some interesting information to work with. I would like to go with a tablet style device (iPad, Nexus 7, etc) because of the battery life and instant-on capabilities. I know it will be challenging to get our staff to accept the new devices, as they have grown so accustomed to using Windows.

  4. Steve Ransom12-30-2012

    This is an important post, Ryan. I also find myself pushing my own iOS preference because it IS what I prefer. However, it has also been my experience that IT departments have consistently pushed and supported Windows environments and hardware… because it is what they prefer and are most comfortable with supporting. They have “tolerated” MAC OS because they have had to but make it clear to all that it is a headache and they shouldn’t be in computer labs. This has moderated somewhat over the years as MAC OS has become more popular and desired. In the end, being platform agnostic is pretty tough, and, there is no denying that certain functions and applications are better suited to certain devices and platforms over others.

    Maybe just recognizing the influence of our own personal preferences (bias) is is a start.

    • ryanbretag12-31-2012

      The bias by certain departments is highly problematic – thanks for brining up that point. I tend to overlook it because I don’t believe IT should be making decisions like these – they should be making happen whatever the schools want to see happen that moves the vision forward.

      To your last line, that recognition shifts the bias to an opinion and that means we are close to thoughtful discussions than meaningless fights. I don’t believe one has to be platform agnostic in their belief system. I think leaders should enter a discussion without a preconceived direction on device platform. Sadly, I’m not sure that is occurring whether because of bias rooted in their personal beliefs or pressure from outside influences saying this is best.

      And I see this with all sorts of devices and platforms. It is the antithesis of what most schools say they are dedicating most their time: developing critical and thoughtful citizens.

      • Steve Ransom12-31-2012

        I completely agree that the sole responsibility of making such decisions shouldn’t rest on IT’s shoulders, yet the reality (especially in higher ed) is that those who SHOULD be making such decisions often know very little about technology and sadly have even less of a vision for what they would like to see technology facilitate beyond the basics. I have always believed that IT should be there to enable me to do whatever it is that I need to do, both on my own and with my students, but sadly if is often a political and ego power struggle that I simply cannot win due to the imbalance.

        • John Case01-01-2013

          I think that their needs to be a committee approach to these kind of decisions, certainly with the IT department involved. I think any time that you get one department making these decisions, you end up with everyone else being frustrated and feeling left out. In my school, I haven’t been able to get my educational leaders to step-up and make these decisions, they tend to fall back to the IT department because we are there to support the devices. Personally, any device that my edu leaders choose, I will make it work and support it to the best of my department’s abilities.

          If the decision was made to purchase XYZ computers, without IT input, I would probably start looking for a new job.

          • Steve Ransom01-01-2013

            John, no doubt a healthy balance is best. As you acknowledge as well, not enough education leaders are involved in shaping such decisions… at least that has been my experience.

  5. Leslie Healey12-31-2012

    This reply is late, I know, but just finished my annual “digital dossier” project with my World Lit seniors. We are a Mac school, but most of them have PCs at home. They always complain “I hate Apples” and I remind them (not so gently anymore) that they will spend their lives playing across devices–some of which are not even imagined yet–and the faster they decide to dominate the device, whatever its genesis, the happier they will be. And plus, if your 57-year-old teacher can do it, it must be time to stop complaining. “I can help now, but you won’t have me later.” A useful bit of perspective for them…

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