Do you think students should have tablets in the classroom?

I was engaged in a conversation on the Facebook page “Waiting for Superman” ( which posed the question that is the title of this post. Wow! Where do I start? My initial response was to answer the question with another question…”Do you think students should have pencils in the classroom?” In my opinion, a tablet (which is just one form factor and the reason why I changed it to “device” in a later posting on that thread) or device is just another tool for a student to leverage.

It was interesting the responses I received. The initial one was, “…a pencil doesn’t have internet access…”. My quick witted response was something to the tune of why do you think a device needs to be connected? It seems like a lot of people make the leap that since someone has a device that it is connected and active at all times. This just isn’t the case. There’s another misconception that when a student gets bored that they’ll switch over to a game, social network / instant messenger, or work on something else. What’s the old school rule?? Ah yes, “…don’t run with scissors!”. We put boundaries or rules around the tools which we leverage. In the case of technology, there are ways to guide, limit, restrict, or block what’s going on given a certain device.

Now, working for Microsoft, I’m going to highlight some Microsoft technologies which can make classrooms more efficient. In the example above where students are working however a student might deviate from a given lesson or task, there are several paths which we may taken to get to this point:

  1. Is this a Bring Your Own Device (BYOD) or an institution asset?
  2. Does the task require internet access or an application (s) ?
  3. Is this self guided learning or direct instruction?

The list can go on however hopefully you can understand what I’m going after. There are a million things going on in a classroom at any given moment. As the Facebook thread proved, there are SO many “what if” scenarios to cover that it’d be impossible. My goal is to drive awareness of some features or capabilities which some might not be aware of, which Microsoft offers.

In the case of an “off task student”, there are a few ways to address that. There’s a nice video that goes into some of the variants which I described above that is addressed in Microsoft Windows Multipoint Server ( . The classroom educator has the ability to see what is happening on each students screen, redirect or modify their behavior, or even highlight a student’s work.

When lesson planning, there should always be a section of resources needed (i.e. Software application, computer equipment, video equipment, etc.). In fact, Microsoft has an entire host of resources for educators, students, and school leaders! For example, educators in the lesson planning phase can leverage resources found on this site: (Yes, Common Core is included on this site!)

Students (as well as educators because we’re all life long learners, right?) have access to a ton of resources as well. The student portal can be found here: However, that’s just the beginning! (In writing this blog entry, which has gone too long and off topic, I’ve found that I need to write separate blog entries on educator, student, and institution resources!) Students can sign up for Microsoft Dream Spark ( What is that, you ask? As taken from here, it’s all about giving students all of our developer and designer tools AT NO COST so they can go after their dreams and create the next big breakthrough in technology. Couple that with the Windows 8 app Programming Tutorials ( and they can start creating apps on Windows, iOS, Android, or whatever they want to go after!

Which brings me to my last thought and a glimpse into one of my experiences that I carry close to my heart and which drives me every single day. If you read the “A little about me…” post, you sort of have a sense of my background. However, I want to share an in between the lines story which happened to me one day while I working as the Director of Technology in a K-12 school district. This district is one of the poorest districts in the State of Illinois. I know this because I was able to leverage that statistic in order to write grants to fund the technology program there. I was a living case of being able to grow out of my childhood socioeconomic status to make a decent living by leveraging technology. Thus, I started a computer club in the high school in the district I was working.

My thought was that if I could expose students to technology which was in demand at that time in the marketplace; they too, could move out and beyond the community which they grew up in. As the year went on, I had a few students which were learning and growing. However, there was one conversation that I’ll never forget. I was speaking to one of the students, after school, about how much he had learned and how he could apply it to “life after high school”. From his perspective, the only way for him to move beyond his current situation was through sports. I told him that he could get a job after he graduates or even looking at college. He sat back in his chair and said, “…you just don’t get it, do you? I’ll either be dead or in prison by the time I’m 18.” I’ve carried those words with me for almost 20 years. I do it for him and other students like him…always.

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