In January 2013, the Education Secretary, Michael Gove announced a major change to the national curriculum. In particular, increased focus will be placed on Computer Science as a cornerstone of IT teaching in education.
Will this actually make any difference to the IT Hardware in schools? Yes, of course it will!
For teachers to be able to teach programming and for pupils to be able to learn, the correct tools need to be provided to them. Without getting too technical, this will require the correct software and the correct hardware to run the software on.
Over the past 3 to 4 years, we have seen the rise in popularity of tablets in the education sector. This has revolutionised teaching IT in many ways, moving to a much more engaging, hands-on learning experience for pupils. This reflects the clear increase of sales in tablets in the wider world and the decrease of sales for desktop computers, in particular. In addition, statements such as the following are becoming far more commonplace in a number of schools: “we are getting rid of our IT suite/laptop trolley and replacing these with iPads” or “no-one uses computers anymore.”
So it’s as simple as tablets = good, desktops = bad then?
In a wider context, it is true that the sales of desktops appear to be in decline but one needs to make a very important distinction between the home user market and the business market. Yes, you may have swapped your laptop for a tablet but how many people use a tablet for their day to day job? Accountants, graphic designers, office workers and yes…computer programmers, how many of these use a tablet for their primary work tool? Perhaps some at a senior management level but not many others.
It is completely futile to predict the future of IT but current trends suggest that those who are claiming the death of the desktop computer are wide of the mark. It is more likely that desktops will move towards being primarily a business tool due to their greater processing power over their mobile counterparts.
Of course, with the advent of “hybrid” machines that can be converted from a laptop to a tablet by simply rotating or removing the screen, the argument appears even more unclear. This appears to be the logical direction that IT will head in, to mix the portability of a tablet and the power of a laptop. However, the fact is that this technology is still in its infancy and adoption of these type of devices has been slow – there is still no clear market leader in this field.
Bringing this back to the new curriculum, as it is clear that desktop computers (or laptops) are primarily used for programming in the real world, it is logical that these should also have a place in the classroom. At least until the next change in the curriculum comes around!
Deciding where a school should invest their IT budget is a daunting prospect but that’s what we are here for!
Rather than focusing on which devices your school would like to buy, first consider the programs that you wish to use (with the curriculum in mind) and then see if this is available on the device of your choice.
Some apps are ideally suited for a tablet device, such as the popular 2Build a profile. The portability of a tablet, along with the integrated camera means that monitoring pupil progress is far easier than with a laptop. In the same way, typing out an essay in Word or creating a computer program in Python is more suited to a desktop computer.
Age is also a factor as younger, primary age pupils will often find a touch device such as a tablet more intuitive and easier to use. This also needs to be considered.
To summarise: taking into account the changes in curriculum and the technology currently available, the most prudent approach for most schools is to have a mix of both desktops and/or laptops and tablet devices.
If you have any questions about planning your IT budget, please get in touch and we will be happy to help.