Mimanifesto – Jaye’s weblog

Tablet Pecking Orders…but it’s now a battle of the Ecosystems.

Posted on: February 14, 2014

We often make big assumptions in education, as we do in everyday life I guess. When it comes to Tablet devices for Education, the assumption has been that the iPad is the ‘Gold Standard’ and all the others are somehow ranked in descending order beneath it. Another one of the current biggies is all to do with apps. It goes like this; Apple apps are the best, and Android have the numbers, but Windows is lagging behind. And of course, Apple had the head start and Android, with its looser system now has the numbers and multiple outlets. But does this longevity and volume really equate to choice? A closer look at some of the increasing number of Windows apps reveals some real quality products, especially when coupled with some of the Windows 8 system features. This is where the Windows ecosystem can really start to compete.  Android apps for education are really starting to come of age as well.

ImageNow, I have no particular affinity or real tie to any one of the three platforms. I’ve done work with Apple and Microsoft and used Android in education settings and am very keen that education institutions considering Tablet device projects should take independent expert advice and consider all the options benchmarked against their real needs and aspirations for eLearning. And increasingly I’m finding that the new Windows 8 tablets are a real option that schools should seriously consider in a way that hasn’t really happened before the last half of 2013.  Apple now has some serious competition in the education sector – competition which I think they’ve not yet fully considered yet alone acted upon. This competition is good for education as products get better and solutions become much more affordable for all schools. It is no longer the case that better off schools go with iPads and the poorer schools have to take Android. Windows 8 devices have come in like disruptive technology to completely shake up this paradigm.

Often when making  tablet purchases for education use, the apps question gets thrown into the ring, and the more mature IOS apps are often used as a justification for huge investments in iPads for schools but its not just about the apps – its how they actually get used. Many people in education are waking up to the inescapable fact that whilst they are really great pieces of IT kit, going down the iPad route does leave you very isolated and locked into a particular environment without much inter-connectivity with all the other things you might need to do in school and further afield. This is where the Windows 8 mobile platform really racks up the advantage points – its interoperability with almost everything that your school or education institution needs to do both inside and with outside connections and activity as well.  After all, whatever your views, Office productivity tools are pretty ubiquitous, whereas iWorks ( Keynote,Numbers and Pages) might be beloved of techies,  and geeks but their functionality is way down the scale when compared to the Microsoft tools. Just compare the powerful functions in Excel with Apple’s Numbers if you really want to compare. And Apple have nothing at all to compare with One Note. When it comes to education use, these productivity tools really come into their own in a way that Apple or even Google Apps  just cannot currently match.

This is a real and growing challenge for Apple – the isolationist working it can often encourage and the lack of real connectivity which can hamper workflow in a school or other education institution.  Windows devices with their ease of connectedness to your desktop systems and Office 365 for Education available for free to schools start to become a really attractive proposition if you give careful consideration to what it is  your institution really does need, rather than knee-jerk reactions based upon assumptions of ‘gold standard’ devices and a pecking order down from there.

Do we really need screen after screen of apps?   if we are really honest, the answer is most probably no. If you look around some of the pre-installed apps (and Tiles,in the case of Windows 8) you can often find many hidden gems which can be used very creatively for learning and teaching. One I particularly like is the ‘Send to QR’ app for Windows 8. It allows you to use the Windows 8 Share charm to share a web page you might be looking at or using as a QR code with others….

And there are many more if you put away the preconceptions and assumptions and just go and search for them- applying the creative subversion principle along the way… and remember, a jigsaw has many pieces and requires careful thought and planning

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