Forget “one size fits all”, we need tech that flexes.
Anyone who knows me will know I am an advocate for the effective use of technology in schools. Often, the EdTech narrative focuses on the classroom space, but of course, the last 18 months have helped remove those physical constraints and encouraged us to think of EdTech playing a role irrespective of where the learner – or teacher, for that matter – may be.
One aspect I try to remind schools of is, just like themselves with their diverse cohort of students and staff, one size does not fit all – and the selection of technology needs similar consideration. As we reflect on the technology that has been successfully embedded and had an impact over the last 18 months, we all recognise that the more adaptable and flexible our platforms, the easier it is for technologies to be incorporated into effective teaching and learning across broader settings and scenarios.
I’m a lucky chap; I get to try all sorts of technology, some I like and some, well let’s just say it doesn’t stay out of the box for long. Sometimes it’s clearly a device meant for the workplace that has had no more than a cursory “dash” of child-appropriate enhancements in an effort to pitch it as an education solution. Others demonstrate the key ingredient that, for me, is always the measure of good technology: evidence of the vendor having listened to and understood schools’ and learners’ needs.
Taking my measure of a device that can be adapted for use in different scenarios and settings as being key for that “bang for your buck,” one that stood out on arrival was the new Asus BR 1100 laptop. OK, not the catchiest name, but then when are devices named with more exotic nomenclature? “So why,” I hear you ask, “did it stand out for you, Al?”
The easy bits don’t require a power-on to evaluate: good form factor, a sturdy rubber bumper built into the design for durability, a 360-degree rotatable touchscreen so it can be used as a laptop, tented for viewing media or held like a tablet. It also has a nice built-in stylus to unlock the inking functionality on Windows 10, and a spill-resistant keyboard. It ticks a lot of pre-power on boxes for me, especially when I wear my “MAT hat” and consider the longevity of the devices we purchase now for our students. After functionality, durability is key and, after flipping through some supporting paperwork, seeing that the BR 1100 is also designed for easy servicing and repairs (on site), I know it will bring a smile (OK, probably a softened scowl) from IT managers’ faces.
Power it on and it’s a quick boot-up, albeit it’s new and has an Intel Core processor, so that’s hardly unexpected! Going back to my original point about solutions designed with the customer in mind, one of the biggest changes during 2020 and 2021 has been the advent of remote learning (synchronous or asynchronous) and this has highlighted the need for school technology to be flexible.
The simple things that have been the building blocks of this adoption have been good connectivity options, alongside the right tools for communicating and collaborating online. And yes, the BR 1100 has a great camera (albeit my face probably isn’t the best test of picture quality), but the one that really helps is built-in noise cancelling on the microphone. That can only be a plus for the new dawn of a “You are muted” world.
To be honest, lots of the expected functionality on a laptop doesn’t really excite me and, in a way, that’s the best measure of effective EdTech; it should just do what it says on the tin – it shouldn’t be in the foreground, if it’s working well, it should be sitting quietly in the background, supporting and facilitating great teaching and learning.
I didn’t test it, but the BR 1100 is apparently good for 10 hours of battery life, which certainly helps alleviate some of the concerns around devices being fit for all-day learning. It’s got an antibacterial “Bac Guard” coating to limit the spread of germs on the touch surfaces and handy for those shared resources, but no I didn’t test that either. Nor did I validate it can survive a drop from over a metre, so, let’s be clear: technical reviewer, I’m really not. It feels way too nice to want to risk doing it any permanent damage, even if it does appear to be built to survive an earthquake!
What I will say is, reflecting on our lessons learnt with EdTech and recognising that the technology we invest in needs to be durable, adaptable and connected, that the Asus ticks all the boxes for me. In a landscape where there are many credible choices to consider, deciding where to start your search can often be the hardest part, so I’d definitely recommend adding the BR 1100 to your shortlist and taking a look for yourself.
Oh, and if you decide to drop it or undertake a PCR test on it, do let me know how you get on!
You can find out more about the Asus BR1100 here.
Al writes about all things EdTech and, with 30 years in the sector, he is the author of “My Secret #Edtech Diary”. Away from writing and speaking, he is chair of a Multi Academy Trust in the UK and is CEO of a leading international EdTech company. Find Al at www.AlKingsley.com or on Twitter at @AlKingsley_Edu.