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Device Selection in Blended Learning: Factors & Tips

Instructor: Sharon Linde

Sharon has a Masters of Science in Mathematics

Blended classrooms require one basic tool - an electronic device. What kind is best? This lesson reviews factors to consider when selecting one and tips on how to make the best choice.

Blended Learning Basics

When you don't know something, where do you go to find out? These days the internet is the fastest way to find information, and access is ever increasing. Just take a look at all the smart phones and tablets you see around! The internet can be used for many things, but perhaps its most valuable use is gaining information and learning.

Schools have realized this and begun to utilize the great power of technological devices as a tool to teach their students. Blended learning is a method of educating students in classrooms part of the time and online the other part of the time. Unlike traditional education, which takes place fully in the classroom, or online education, which is strictly online, blended learning sees the student in the classroom for at least part of the day and working off campus online for the rest.

There are various ways blended learning can be organized. Sometimes students take some classes on campus and some online. Or students could take a class on campus that has online learning components. Blended learning is a growing trend for students of all ages, allowing a more personalized model of instruction.

Sarah is on a committee tasked with adopting new technology to support blended learning in her middle school. They're looking at different types of devices like tablets, laptops, or desktops. What will factor into their choice?

Learner Needs

One factor Sarah and her team will need to consider is the needs of the learners. They should think about:

  • What type of work students will perform
  • The age and maturity level of learners
  • The type of learning students engage in

For example, if students will primarily be reading electronic books, a small, lightweight, handheld device with touch screen capacity may be the best bet. Younger students may need devices that will hold up to wear and tear better. Students who will doing long projects and storing large amounts of data will need a device that can handle the workload, as opposed to devices that will be mainly used for word processing or research.

Cost

Sarah and her team will also consider the cost of devices. Though her administrators have let them know cost shouldn't be at the top of the list for determining factors, the team wants to be cost effective and get the most for their money. They will need to consider the cost of:

  • adapting the new system to the current functionality of the school - Wi-Fi hookups or electrical capacity, for example
  • a lease vs. purchase plan
  • warranties on the devices that cover dropping, broken screens, or lost devices
  • installation, training, and maintenance
  • ongoing use, like the amount of energy used or protection spyware needed
  • volume purchasing, where they may get a discount for buying multiple devices

One way schools generate money to help pay for the cost of devices are user fees. This requires students to pay a fee to use equipment, as well as sign an accountability waiver and policy that details acceptable usage. This way the school makes sure students are using the devices carefully and safely.

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