Wednesday, November 30, 2016

The Device Question

I think I asked a version of this several years ago, but in device years, that was the paleolithic era.  

As regular readers and IRL colleagues know, I’m a big fan of Open Educational Resources.  Textbook cost is a real burden for many students, or would be, if they actually bought the books.  Instead, many students don’t buy the books, with corrosive effects on their academic performance and the caliber of class discussions.  OER hold(s?) the promise of taking cost off the table, so every student could have the “books” from the first day of class.  

Although most OER are printable, they’re mostly intended to be used in electronic form.  That means that in order to access them, students need devices capable of accessing them.  

I know there are people out there who have been using OER at scale for a while, so I’m hoping to learn from their experience.  

Which devices seem to work best for students using OER? When I say “best,” I have a few criteria in mind:

  • Readability
  • Accessibility (to students with disabilities)
  • Ability to annotate
  • Portability
  • Durability
  • Affordability

I know that some students will just use their phones, but I’m guessing that screens of that size are suboptimal for most academic uses.  That’s especially true for texts with a lot of diagrams, like many science classes.  

Ideally, a device should be able to serve multiple purposes.  For example, a hybrid laptop/tablet could be both an e-reader and a device on which to write papers.  

I’m hoping to find something both suitable and cheap, so we could look into using it at scale.  And I’m not on the payroll of any tech company, so I don’t care about whose device we use, as long as it meets the criteria.

Wise and worldly readers, I look to you.  What has worked for you?  Alternately, have you seen any apparently-good ideas end in tears?