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Choosing the Right Digital Learning Device

Everyone always says it's not about the device, it's what you do with it. But the truth is, educators need a good device to accomplish their goals, and there's no shortage to choose from.

Still, getting to the point of purchase is far from easy.

"We talked about devices on and on and on and on. Everyone has an opinion," said Edi R. Cox, the executive director of online learning and instructional technology for South Carolina's 42,000-student Horry County school district, which uses a mix of iPads and tablets with detachable keyboards. That mix was chosen because in a perfect world, Ms. Cox pointed out, a student who has access to multiple devices will be more adaptable—and ultimately more employable—after graduation.

"We decided there's really no one device that's right for everything," she said.

But in the Baltimore County school system, "we literally and firmly believe the exact opposite," said Ryan Imbriale, the executive director of innovative learning for the Maryland district. The district's 110,000 students and 8,800 teachers will use the HP EliteBook Revolve 810 G3, a laptop-tablet hybrid, by the 2017-18 school year.

"With a single solution that is both a tablet and a laptop, we are giving students and teachers a choice and we're also standardizing the device, which assists us with costs, support, and professional learning," said Mr. Imbriale. "We are not stopping students from being flexible."

Districts must follow a systematic process of planning, communication, professional development, assessment, evaluation, and leadership support, noted Leslie A. Wilson, the CEO of the One-to-One Institute, a nonprofit based in Mason, Mich., that supports the effective use of 1-to-1 computing programs. "The 'spray and pray' approach gets you nowhere—spray every kid with a device and pray something miraculous happens in the education system for them," she said. "It's a process, and the vision upfront is what's primary."

Sometimes, that vision needs to narrow in on the smallest details.

One-to-One Institute is an international non-profit committed to igniting
21st century education through the implementation of one-to-one technology
in K-12 education environments.

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