The Return of the Format Wars

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BETA vs VHS. BETA had the better quality video, but VHS won and ruled the roost forever. Or at least that’s how the story goes. One ring to rule them all.

Which reminds me of the Windows Vs Apple computer days; and as Apple looked like going from being THE educational computer corporation to fading away, the growth of the Windows laptops. This is well before iPhones came along, and the educational push for ‘standardisation’, for ‘ease of use’ (whose use?) and for ‘consistency’.

I lived that, including teaching in schools which recognised the ‘personal’ in personal computer, but insisted on rolling out one-size-fits-all Windows PCs, typically Toshibas to all the students from Year 7 to Year 12 whatever their differences. High maintenance tools for the masses and, if you were good, you could put your own sticker on the back.

So, I’ve been pleased to see in recent years, more nuanced approaches to computers in schools, more subtlety, more variation and, especially with the growth of mobile, the responses of companies like Microsoft and Google of bringing their tools to a wide variety of platforms, cross-platform, VHS AND Beta. Microsoft’s software like Microsoft OneNote, Teams and Office 365 offers unprecedented collaborative power from your phone to your desktop. These tools are platform agnostic, hardware agnostic.

Since then, we haven’t seen as much of the corporation wars on hardware: Microsoft touted the drawing and handwriting of the Surface Pros, Chrome pushed the login and go of the Chromebook and Apple pushed the ‘industry standard’ for the creative arts of the MacBooks. My own students, in this border-less world, have tended to choose Macs, maybe because of the phone effect, or fashion, or because they seem simpler. But, there are some ACERs and HPs thrown in, though I’ve yet to see a Chromebook in the ‘wild’ of my classroom.

Interesting then, to see this latest foray from Microsoft, going back to the old days in this ‘case study’ of *Lowanna College* which fond that BYOD ‘can compromise, rather than support, classroom learning.’

‘BYOD programs they felt introduced too much complexity and fragmentation; if a teacher was to ask a student to create a presentation on their computers using PowerPoint, everything ground to a halt because only some had a device, only some had PowerPoint.

The circuit breaker is Lowanna’s new IT strategy which comes into play early next year which will see all Year 7s use the school recommended device which has both touch screen and digital inking capability along with access to school recommended software including Office 365.

Before settling on the Acer B118 device Lowanna surveyed teachers about how they would like to use technology to enhance learning and also gave deep consideration to the levels of support and insurance for the devices, to minimise any learning interruption should a device be damaged or lost.’

So, we come full circle, or at least we return to the old play that the adults know what’s best, that complexity is bad and that we can’t have ‘everything grinding to a halt’ because of a lack of PowerPoint. If we get the hardware right, it seems to assert, everything else will fall into place. That hasn’t been my experience.

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