Should Schools Offer Device Choice To Students?

Increasingly, workers expect to have their own choice of devices when they go to the office. What would happen if the same approach was applied in schools?

Last week, I visited Debney Park Secondary College in Melbourne to check out its classroom PC implementation. Dell has donated $50,000 to the school to help it develop a full “connected classroom” system, and Victorian minister of education Martin Dixon was on hand to launch the facility.

One aspect that Dixon was keen to emphasise was that rather than having a set model of notebook to be used across the state education system, Victoria was largely leaving those kinds of decisions to individual schools. “The driver should come from the school and partnerships with local businesses and the local community,” he said.

The logical conclusion of such an approach would be one where pupils could use more or less any device provided it met basic requirements. I asked Dixon if he could see that happening, and he was open to the possibility:

I think that’s a natural progression. There are economies of scale in a large system being able to buy a job lot of computers of one sort so that’s something that we can do as a department, but if the school has a strong bent towards Mac or Dell or whatever it might be and they’ve got a good case for it, you’ve got to trust them to make that education decision. That would probably be the end result of that.

Obviously, the constraints which apply in schools are very different to commercial environments. In many areas, it would be unreasonable to assume that parents could afford devices for their children, and in that context having a single standard model has obvious financial and organisational benefits. However, if most content is being delivered via a browser, individual machine models might not matter so much.

How much flexibility do you think schools should have in computer selection? Share your thoughts in the comments.

Angus Kidman travelled to Melbourne as a guest of Dell.

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