Log in

Enabling e-Learning FORUM: Mobile digital devices: What's working, what's not?

Making good decisions around what digital devices to use in teaching and learning can be difficult.

There are so many different devices to choose from now from small mobile devices such as phones and tablets to laptop/tablet hybrids to laptops and of course desktop computers. We’ve also got digital cameras, video cameras, data projectors, interactive projectors, interactive whiteboards, TVs and more!

How can we keep up and how can we make the best decisions for our learners?

We know that different devices can be used for different purposes, so should schools have a range of different devices or just one or two?

There are no hard and fast rules around this and decisions around what devices you should select for your school should be based on your school's vision for learning.

The blog post by Warren Hall, Device choice in schools driven by the write thing compares laptops with tablets and questions whether we’re making the best decisions for our learners when choosing devices.

  • Is the use of a keyboard driving our decision making?

  • Are we always expecting our students to write?

  • Is it about the simplicity of managing devices?

The Enabling e-Learning Technical support and procurement page has a range of practical steps, school stories and other resources that can help you in your decision making.

So what does your school do? Join the discussion:

We would love to hear from you about the decisions your school has made in procuring digital devices. Some questions to consider:

  • What sorts of digital devices do you have in your school/classroom?

  • How have you used them effectively in teaching and learning?

  • Who makes the decision to purchase these devices (senior leadership, e-learning leaders, technician, teachers).

  • What was the rationale behind the decisions? Screen size? Mobile? Size of device? Keyboards? Storage? …

Further reading

Enabling e-Learning resources:

The Connected Learning Advisory has also published the following article:


    • Jason Cui (View all users posts) 05 Nov 2015 12:38pm ()
    • Monika Kern (View all users posts) 06 Nov 2015 4:12pm ()

      Hi Nathaniel,

      one of my favourite topics! As you know, I'm not currently in a school, but I have been working with many schools exactly around this. My first point is always the vision - what are we trying to achieve? To quote the NZC, our overall vision across NZ education is for young people to be confident, connected, actively involved, lifelong learners - this might look slightly different in individual schools, but the majority of schools will have a vision that incorporates most if not all these points.

      How we are going about this might differ, some schools have traditional classrooms, some have rearranged there learning and teaching within traditional classrooms, and some schools have MLEs. How we teach within the spaces also differs - might be a traditional 'look to the front and listen to the teacher' or independent study with the teacher as guide on the side type scenario - or anything in between. As Warren rightly points out in his post, not all devices are suitable in all physical environments, and the same applies to how we teach. If I am in an environment where my students rely on me as the teacher to have the answers to all questions, I might be more likely to prescribe a particular device so I can trouble shoot whereas in an inquiry dominant environment, students and I might trouble shoot problems together regardless of the device choice. However, there are other reasons why a school might want to stick to a particular device: Tech confidence of staff (when you are asked to revamp your pedagogy completely, dealing with multitudes of different devices in your classroom might simply be too much), bulk purchase attracts discounts etc. On the other hand many schools choose BYOanyD to allow for greater equity as families can choose which device is affordable for them.

      What  you are actually going to do with the devices follows out of the above, and while I admit essay writing is still important in a considerable number of schools and classes, it is encouraging to see teachers and students choose alternatives to demonstrate learning when appropriate. 

      Research I have studied this year has indicated that 'not all devices are equal', and that in fact allowing students to bring every and any device might be disadvantaging them - I presented about The Power of the Pen at Ulearn last month. However, I keep on coming back to a blog post Allanah King wrote last year "The Right Tool for the Job" where she compared the devices to your knifes in the kitchen - you need different knifes for different jobs.

      So my recommendation to any school is: What is your vision? How does Learning and Teaching take place at your school? What tools will be best to support this? How do you need to support your teachers and students to adopt the mindset and skills necessary to make this work? In my ideal classroom, I see a range of different tools, tablets, laptops etc. allowing my learners to choose the right tool for their job.

      Looking forward to reading what others think!

      Thanks, Monika

    • Nathaniel Louwrens (View all users posts) 11 Nov 2015 11:57am ()

      Thanks for sharing your thoughts and experiences, Monika. 

      You mentioned,

      In my ideal classroom, I see a range of different tools, tablets, laptops etc. allowing my learners to choose the right tool for their job.

      I wonder what sorts of learning experiences you have seen the different tools/devices used for? Could you give some examples? Eg. When is a tablet more suitable than a laptop? Do you also see differences in devices for different levels of schooling?


    • Linda (View all users posts) 11 Nov 2015 2:22pm ()

      Hi Monika and Nathaniel

      Our school too has been grappling with what devices our students have access to and how they are using these digital tools.  We are about to launch into a new round of discussion of what might be the most appropriate device for the future of our Middle School students.  Much of our decision making is drawn back to the WHY!  and this is why I really like the work of Simon Sinek.  As teachers, we need to be allowing the strong teaching pedagogy to drive our programmes of learning.  The tablet versus laptop debate is one robust discussion that is currently in progress at our school. Currently our year 7 & 8s have tablets and from year 9 our students use laptops. I am increasingly seeing more demand for the use of a keyboard as opposed a touch screen so next year, year 7&8 students have been advised to have a bluetooth keyboard for their tablets.  My question is do we go down the route of Chromebooks or Laptops? and abandon the tablets altogether?  I know apps on tablets have been a feature of some teaching programmes however we have also run into difficulty with web-based activities that require flash so tablets have been unhelpful.

    • Clive Francis (View all users posts) 16 Nov 2015 1:46pm ()

      Hi Linda

      You clearly have some decisions to make which will likely have big impacts on a large number of people. So, you need to ensure you follow a robust process to identify requirements, evaluate the options and reach a consensus about which way to go to ensure a good decision is made.

      I quite like some of the ideas expressed in this article which speaks to big business but has some good general tips and links to other information about the ‘science’ behind decision-making.


      One tool that you could use to help with your decision-making is called a Pugh Matrix. You can download a Pugh Matrix template here. It’s really just about giving particular criteria a weighting and coming up with a ‘best-fit’. You could list the relevant affordances of the devices you are comparing and give each a score to determine which comes out on top for you.

      I think you are right that determining the ‘why’ is indeed most important. If your decision about the tool turns out not to be the best one for whatever reason then having a sound ‘why’ will offset the effects of that decision - I’d rather have the ‘wrong’ tool in the ‘right’ learning environment than the ‘right’ tool in the ‘wrong’ learning environment. Obviously, you’ve got a good opportunity to get both ‘rights’ in place!

      If you’d like any further specific help here please don’t hesitate to contact the Connected Learning Advisory.


    • Nathaniel Louwrens (View all users posts) 16 Nov 2015 2:05pm ()

      The Connected Learning Advisory is running a webinar on Thursday 19 November at 3:45 pm,

      How do I make the right choice when procuring digital technology for learning.

      This webinar explores the challenges in procuring digital technologies for your school. Digital technologies are a significant part of the overall spending by schools, or, in the case of ‘Bring Your Own Device’ (BYOD), parents and caregivers. It is therefore, important to ensure that purchases clearly support the intended learning vision and approaches and have been well researched.

      Join Tim Harper and Trevor Storr, Connected Learning Advisors as they explore the pitfalls, promises and planning when procuring digital technologies.

      If you would like some advice on procuring digital devices, then register for the free webinar.

    • kim pewhairangi (View all users posts) 18 Jan 2016 2:53pm ()

      At our kura (decile 1b, dual medium) we have been using ICT as a 'hook' into learning. Boys (and writing) seem better engaged in writing using computers, and over the last 5 years, if the use of ICT has been fostered in the previous classes, overall engagement in writing with our boys has improved. We have a variety of devices, Macbooks, ipads, ipods, Desktops and IWB. 

      I totally agree with Monika' statement: In my ideal classroom, I see a range of different tools, tablets, laptops etc. allowing my learners to choose the right tool for their job. 

      In 2015 we trialled Google slides in place of Powerpoint for our Student Lead E-portfolios. Those akonga that had internet at home did go online and add to their e-ports in their own time. More development will take place over 2016 as we develop our ILE and pedagogy with our kura hapori.

      Also on the BYOD debate, I would love to have students, akonga, whanau, be able to engage on their own devices to be have ubiquitous engagement. Whanau engagement is also a focus for us, so using ICT to better communicate with and share our learning with them is a target for 2016. Look forward to following this post.

    • Nathaniel Louwrens (View all users posts) 16 Feb 2016 11:28am ()

      Kia ora Kim

      Thanks for sharing your experiences. It's great to hear of the improvement in boys writing.

      It would be interesting to hear of your continued progress this year, particularly around whānau engagement. What are you already doing/planning around engaging your community using technology?


    Join this group to contribute to discussions.

    e-Learning: Technologies

    e-Learning: Technologies

    Where we explore how different technologies can support learning.