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Multiple platforms in school – Why digital diversity is essential

July 5, 2021, 11:40 GMT+1
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  • Gary Spraklen says that young learners need to be versatile with devices...
Multiple platforms in school – Why digital diversity is essential

I have long been an advocate for the use of Google Chromebooks in the classroom.

It’s my belief that the Chromebook provides an excellent cost-effective solution for a range of learning tasks.

A Chromebook is a budget-friendly alternative to a Windows laptop or MacBook. Chromebooks run on the Google operating system Chrome OS, which means that Windows and macOS programs don’t work on these devices.

That doesn’t mean that Chromebooks don’t have advantages over other laptops.

Devices

Back in September 2013, I led the first large-scale 1:1 Google Chromebook deployment in the UK.

The scheme had a massive positive influence on learners’ enjoyment and attainment in learning and transformed teaching and learning in every classroom. However, the world is not monotone, nor can EVERY task that supports learning be completed on just a Chromebook (or any other one device for that matter).

We therefore must prepare our learners for this clear fact by using a range of devices. I myself use a MacBook Pro for the majority of my work-related tasks, however, sometimes I use a Windows device and I regularly use my Android Smartphone or even occasionally my Smartwatch to complete my work.

My point is… I need to be able to use more than one device on a regular basis, I need to be competent on multiple platforms, operating systems and interfaces.

If I need to be able to do this, what will our learners need to do in the future? Surely we need to prepare them to be more versatile and adaptive than I will ever be!

Cultural shift

With the above in mind, one could argue, 1:1 provision in any school is not enough. Across my school now we have a rich range of devices with multiple operating systems and platforms used to support learning with all learners benefiting from superfast fibre-optic broadband.

Moving forward, I am keen to develop infrastructure to support BYOD (Bring Your Own Device) and to build on the work we did in developing teacher’s skills during lockdown.

From my experiences, an effective approach to learners bringing in their own devices to support learning is about more than just technology though. It’s about a fundamental change in approach to learning and teaching, a cultural shift away from old pedagogy to an environment that embraces 21st century learning.

This culture is one in which learning can happen from anywhere, any time and on any device! Our use of Google Chromebooks has supported this change in culture, not only for teachers but also for learners.

Competent

I feel it’s important to remind everyone though what a Google Chromebook actually is… essentially it’s a web-browser, nothing more, nothing less. This therefore means, any device that has a web browser, can provide the same functionality for learning.

Yes, some may work better for mobile work (tablets), while others will work better for typing sustained pieces of work (clamshell devices with keyboard), the choice here is often a personal preference. However, for our learners who are already competent working in a browser, the digital device doesn’t need to be fancy!

This I believe is where the beauty in our approach lies, we have built an environment for learning which is truly ‘device agnostic’. Where any learner at any age, can access their personalised learning materials, anywhere, anytime and on any device!

This agnostic approach means that whether you are using a £400-£800 new iPad, a £200-£400 new Chromebook or a £20-£250 Android Tablet, the way that device supports your learning is still the same. In this way, all platforms have their value and can support learning.

We are now moving the language beyond BYOD, to UMOD (Using My Own Device). This is because it’s no good just bringing your own device to school, you need to use it!


Gary Spracklen is Headteacher at The Prince of Wales School: Dorchester, Former Digital Educator of the Year and a member of UK Government’s – Department for Education ‘ETAG’ (Educational Technology Action Group). He was recently named on the #Edtech50 – ‘People of 2020’ list by the Education Foundation. During the Covid-19 Lockdown Gary was named a BBC News ‘Lockdown Community Hero’ for his work supporting the #InspiredToLearn Community both physically and online with three live broadcasts every day.