As Avondale College weighs up its options for introducing BYOD, HP’s Pavilion x360 was put through not one but two trials for assessing their use, as David Farquhar explains.
Avondale College is currently considering the pathway to develop student use of devices in the classroom. An over-riding objective is to learn what actually works and what doesn’t and, most importantly, why it does or doesn’t work.
With this in mind, we recently had the opportunity to trial HP’s Pavilion x360, assessing it in relation to classroom structure, learning objectives and infrastructure. There were two trial groups: a Year 13 Business Studies class and an event involving 45 Year 10/11 students.
Year 13 Business Studies class
Comprising six students, the class has well-developed study skills based around textbook learning. The approach was to make available HP x360 laptops, to stimulate interest in developing the students approaches to learning in a more collaborative style. They were not configured with any software other than standard delivered software to replicate any student purchasing a device off the shelf.
The feature of the touchscreen laptops that appealed to the students was its 360-degree flexibility – from a standard laptop to folding the screen back so it became a tablet. The size of the devices was also convenient, and the machines performed to a high level.
Our school application environment is Google based, so the first test was to trial Google docs. Students were asked to summerise a two-page section of the text into notes and share the document. The expectation was that each would extract the key information and make it available to others more quickly than traditional note taking. So, our first goal was to increase productivity of the note gathering process without any decline in quality. In addition, the students were to search the internet for a key fact/video/case study to expand on it and to bring the textbook ‘alive’.
Assessing the outcome
As expected, the first few lessons using the devices were variable. The recent upgrade of the school’s ‘data pipeline’ meant that students could access video quickly and easily. Keeping them on task was the usual challenge, as they now had a great tool to access the enormous pool of data on the internet, and had the pipeline to supply it to their device. One student, however, preferred the hand-written approach to note taking as ’tried and true’. At the conclusion of the period, the students took stock. The resulting document that had been shared was of high quality and had been produced in a quarter of the time of handwritten notes.
How did the students feel? They recognised the gain in productivity, enjoyed the focus on specific areas of the unit being studies, and that a quality document had been produced collaboratively. However, they felt we’d not used the devices in an engaging manner – to stimulate a desire to use them again. So, as a group, the feeling was it worked … but what now.
Three-day mini business challenge
For the Year10/11 event, students were formed into teams of five and had to create a product or service concept that could be developed into a real product. With only three days, it was never expected to actually be produced but the business pitch was expected to be polished and well researched (as it was to be made in front of a ‘Dragons Den’ of business professionals!).
It required the students to work in groups, and research markets, competitors, patents, logos, logistics and packaging. The laptops allowed them to do this and allocate tasks based on skills and knowledge. The presentations usually incorporated PowerPoint slides and Excel spreadsheets for information, such as cash flow forecasts, budgets, and market research.
Learning a number of lessons
Overall, we learned a number of lessons from these trials. The devices worked brilliantly – especially with the charging station set up, so they were always fully charged. Using the same devices is also a huge advantage.
When you set up your new device programme, ensure your school has expanded the ‘data pipeline’ as much as possible as Avondale College did, so devices will automatically connect at the optimum speed to the network. Check all Wi-Fi connections to ensure full coverage wherever students will be involved with devices, and have staff trained in simple trouble-shooting on devices.
Above all, involve your IT people as early as possible – they will help! And don’t give up. By planning ahead and involving all the stakeholders in the process, you will be successful and the students will engage.
David Farquhar is Director of Commerce of Avondale College in Auckland.