Device Choice

The choice of mobile learning devices must be heavily influenced by the learning goals that we have for our students. Although physical characteristics such as cost and battery life are considerations, the capabilities of devices to further the development of 21st Century Skills is paramount. We want all students to be engaged in the processes of curation, communication, collaboration, and creation. The device we choose should be the one that best supports these processes.  

Here are the devices that have been considered as we have moved to a more mobile learning environment:

Laptops- Mobility
- Screen size
- Peripherals
- Hardware connectivity
- Keyboard size
- Cost
- Virus issues
- Battery life
- Ease of use
- Security
- Student collaboration
- Mobility
- Camera limitations
- Damage resistance
Tablets- Mobility
- Size
- Cost
- Battery life
- Graphics capability
- Classroom integration
- Accessibility features
- Processing speed
- Security
- Durability
- Access to native and 3rd party apps
- Ergonomics (on screen keyboard)
Chromebooks- Mobility
- Size
- Price
- Expansion ports
- Requirement for wi-fi connectivity to do work
- Camera limitations
- Limited access to apps for learning

Table adapted from   

Our Device Choice – iPads

Effective  curation, communication, collaboration, and creation is influenced by a couple of factors. One of the the most important factors is mobility. We want our students to engage in meaningful learning experiences no matter where they are. A tablet device such as an iPad frees students from the constraints of a classroom. They are able to move throughout their environment much easier and really can do work anywhere. Another factor we considered was creative capacity. The capabilities of the iPad camera are much more robust than that of the laptop or Chromebook cameras. The ability to showcase learning in both a written and visual form is critically important in the 21st century, and the iPad offers students the opportunity to do this with relative ease. In addition to the camera, the opportunity to use several apps to create an original piece of work acts as sketchbook where students can go back and reflect upon the entire creative process. This encourages students to run through several iterations so that they can produce work that has meaning for them and that they are willing to share with the rest if the world.

Certainly, cost was a consideration in this endeavor. iPads fall in between Chromebooks and laptops in terms of price. We feel at this time, with the learning goals in mind, that the iPad allows us to do more of what we want to do. iPads have a better creative capacity than Chromebooks, and they are cheaper, more mobile, and more durable than laptops.

According to the website Teach Thought, there are nine Characteristics of 21st Century Learning.

  1. Learner-centered
  2. Media-driven (this doesn’t have to mean digital media)
  3. Personalized
  4. Transfer-by-Design
  5. Visibly Relevant
  6. Data-Rich
  7. Adaptable
  8. Interdependent
  9. Diverse

Each of these characteristics is greatly enhanced by the use of an iPad.  Our choice, the iPad Pro, is a portable device can help to fully integrate the characteristics into everyday learning and an excellent option for personalization.  

The iPad Pro is portable at less than 1 pound, has a forward facing camera to support video conferencing and a higher quality rear facing camera that can also be used for HD video.  The device has access to a suite of apps that can immediately be used to curate, create, share, research, analyze, synthesize and communicate in various ways. By choosing the most powerful model that Apple offers, students will have technology that will remain relevant for several years to come.

Additions to the iPad

The iPad by itself has many capabilities. One shortcoming of the device, noted by our pilot students and described when we have spoken with other schools, is the on-screen keyboard. Since writing is a major component of our curriculum, we need to make provisions for supporting this work being done on the iPad. Therefore, we are recommending that a bluetooth keyboard be included as part of the device package. For protection of the iPad, we also will include a cover and the AppleCare protection plan. These additions to the iPad will both limit the damage that could occur and cover the cost of repair or replacement.  

Apps for Learning

One of the strengths of the iPad is the robust ecology that surround the device in terms of the number and diversity of apps that are available. Although we do expect some subject specific apps to be used by students in their coursework, we really want to focus on a small number of apps that are used across all classes for curation, communication, collaboration, and creation. Most of these apps are free; some, however, do come with a cost. The apps that we require students to have for their coursework would be loaded onto the devices by the school, and the cost of the paid apps would also be supported by the school. 


One final piece of technology that is an important component of the program is AppleTV. AppleTV is a small device (the size of a coaster) that attaches to the televisions in all classrooms. The AppleTV then allows the teacher and students to wirelessly display what is on their iPads to the screen. The value here is that the students can share their work in class, and teachers can also use this feature as to support formative assessment.