Tom Starkey's world of ed tech

23rd January 2015 at 00:00

Ladies and gentlemen, tonight's main bout is for the hearts, minds and (most importantly) wallets of educational establishments up and down the country!

In the red corner, weighing in at a little over 3kg, he reigns as Lord of the Keyboard! The Raptor with the Power Adaptor! With more on-board memory than a pensioners' coach trip, it's the laptop!

And in the blue corner: he's mean, lean, with a capacitive screen! The power of the damned you can hold in one hand! Whatever you do, DON'T call him a mini interactive whiteboard - it's the tablet!

We'll have a clean fight, gentleman - no dropping each other from medium heights or hogging the plug sockets. Seconds out. Round one!

OK, so it may not play out exactly like this in your school, but the choice between tablets or laptops (especially if you are embarking on a "1-to-1" policy or similar) takes a huge amount of consideration. In this knock-down brawl there can be only one winner. So which gadget should emerge from the ring triumphant?

To be honest, I haven't the foggiest. And before you make me hand in my ed-tech credentials, hear me out. These are different machines that thrive in certain situations and dive in others. Portability, battery life, accessibility and price all need to be considered before you even think about what you'll be running on the little blighters. But I'll tell you my tip of the week: the winner's not really important.

Sure, they'll get their moment of glory, squinting through swollen eyelids and listening to the deafening chants of the crowd, but when the noise has died down and the arena staff are sweeping away the popcorn, the question of whether you're going to plump for a laptop, tablet, calculator watch or Etch A Sketch pales in comparison to this much more important enquiry: is your school ready?

Have you thought about the ways in which the kit is going to aid (rather than dictate) pedagogy? Have you thought about how you're going to help teachers and pupils get the best out of the machines they're given? Or how to integrate the tech into existing effective practice? Or how it's really going to assist you, your students and your school?

Because that's the real knock-out punch. That's what's going to get you off the ropes and into the history books. Thinking seriously about whether to opt for tablets or laptops is important, but it's not half as important as coming up with a plan for how to use whichever gadget you select. You don't want to get sucker-punched in the first round because you didn't prepare; preparation makes a champ. It's not whether you pick a laptop or a tablet that counts, it's what you do with it.

Tom Starkey is a teacher based in Leeds. Email or find him on Twitter at @tstarkey1212


Get TES online and delivered to your door – for less than the price of a coffee

Save 33% off the cover price with this great subscription offer. Every copy delivered to your door by first-class post, plus full access to TES online and the TES app for just £1.90 per week.
Subscribers also enjoy a range of fantastic offers and benefits worth over £270:

  • Discounts off TES Institute courses
  • Access over 200,000 articles in the TES online archive
  • Free Tastecard membership worth £79.99
  • Discounts with Zipcar,, Virgin Wines and other partners
Order your low-cost subscription today