Microsoft warns against aimless digital education strategies

From the BBC website: An interview with Anthony Salcito, Microsoft’s VP of Education contains some choice tidbits:

Microsoft says schools are too often focusing on buying technology hardware and not thinking enough about how to use it.

Schools are particularly keen to buy tablet computers, as more and more digital books are available on them.

But Microsoft’s world wide vice president of education, Anthony Salcito, says there is too much focus on the device.

It’s tempting to view Salcito’s comments as sour grapes given Surface’s lacklustre market share, especially in the educational arena and the very transparent interest Microsoft has in maintaining the dominance of Microsoft desktop PCs in classrooms around the world.

However, consciously or not he has certainly hit upon a wider vein of truth that many in education are starting to understand, namely that the mere acquisition of technology for classroom usage isn’t enough, schools have been spurred, largely by state-level initiatives to adopt one-to-one tablet schemes as a way of advancing a rather seductively sounding “digital education policy” in both the United States and Western Europe.

Tablets sans appropriate software for a school environment quickly become expensive toys with no real practical use beyond doing what desktop PCs do, often with less efficiency (word processing being the classic example). The one area where they stand head and shoulders above desktop PCs is naturally as e-reading devices and conveniently it’s as e-reading devices that they can potentially bring about cost-savings when negotiating license agreements with textbook publishers. It should come as no surprise then that this is the area of digital educational policy that is by far gaining the most traction. With developments that combine easy to incorporate HTML5 interactivity and cloud-based data gathering, this trend is only set to continue.

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