Monday, October 29, 2012

Are the iPad Mini and other smaller tablets good for Education? Not if you are Budget Constrained

That may sound strange, after all many are proclaiming the opposite because smaller tablets cost less. With the announcement of the various devices - iPad Mini, Google Nexus 7, Samsung Galaxy Tab, and even the Kindle Fires - it seems like an excellent time to get more technology into the hands of students, cost effectively.

In reality, a budget constrained K–12 school district (in the U.S.) needs to keep in mind an important fact - small form factor tablets are not certified for the online testing that will be required in two budget cycles - the 2014–15 school year.

Currently, 25 states are part of SBAC, and 22 (plus the District of Columbia) are part of PARCC. These two organizations have chosen to release the same minimum hardware requirements. The minimum screen size? 9.5 inches for all devices.

I reached out last week to a state of CT official connected to SBAC asking about the smaller screen sizes, and received this as an answer (paraphrased since I did not ask if I could quote him): the smaller screen size technology was purposefully omitted when the new requirements document was written because of potential psychometric testing issues. This may change but for now the minimum screen size is 9.5 inches.

I did ask for the next requirements document to specifically address the smaller form factor. But the bottom line is, if your district is constrained in the amount of new technology it can purchase, don’t even consider it until and unless this sized device can be used for testing.