Another dot in the blogosphere?

Mono or multifunction?

Posted on: January 31, 2013

eBesta Dictionary by djvu83, on Flickr
Creative Commons Attribution-Noncommercial 2.0 Generic License  by  djvu83 

I received a printed notification from my son’s school that he needs to buy an electronic dictionary.

On one hand, I am glad that the school has taken half a step forward in going paperless. On the other, I wonder if that step is worth the while.

We already have electronic dictionaries in his iPad. They are either free or cost very little compared to another electronic device.

The school authorities will argue that an iPad costs much more or that students might lose/steal the iPads and that it could be a source of disruption.

The iPad costs much more because it is a multifunction device. The electronic dictionary is a monofunction device.

An iPad has players and recorders (for audio, photo, video), at least one Web browser, communication tools, notebook, clock, reminder list, contacts list, calendar, etc.

Install apps and the device becomes a dictionary, thesaurus, QR code reader, feed collector, newspaper, e-book reader, white board, social media centre, gaming device, data collector, entertainment centre, presenter, media editor, remote control, map, travel planner, and more.

You can squeeze just about every and any textbook and assessment book into the iPad. The device can hold its charge the whole school day. The school does not have to provide every student with an iPad if they adopt a BYOD policy (you bring what you have, we provide only for those who do not have one).

The iPad then becomes like the school uniform. Everyone has one and is required to have one.

What schools then need to think about and act upon are access and usage policies, insurance, and technical support. Those are administrative disruptions that might be inconvenient but are necessary.

The better disruptions come in the form of learning how to teach with mobile devices. Do you deliver or do you facilitate? When do you focus on content or thinking skills? How do you manage classes differently?

I have other thoughts about telling kids to buy monofunction devices:

  • These officially approved devices benefit vendors or companies in the long run
  • They become yet another item to carry (or lose) in overloaded bags
  • These devices cannot be updated as quickly as apps and slates can
  • They are a means of maintaining old school habits instead of developing new and relevant ones

We will not have a choice but to get the electronic dictionary because not getting it means my son lacks a tool in his kit. That is like being forced to buy another old screwdriver when I already have a better set of screwdrivers, a Swiss Army knife, or an electronic screwdriver.

But that is not going to stop parents or educators like me who want to prepare our kids with multifunction devices in a multifacted world.

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