Thursday, November 1, 2007

Software Applications vs. Web-Based Tools: How Do Schools Choose?

For the last two days, I've been working my way through a PDF document that Bruce emailed me. It was created by Ben Wilkoff of the Douglas County School District as a concrete list of useful web tools, software applications, online resources, and authentic learning environments. From his list of 101 tools, I pared down to a list of 30 that I'm going to explore further. But that's not exactly what I want to write about in this post.

This morning I attended a presentation of DyKnow, an online synchronous classroom tool for 1:1 tablet environments. The software allows for communication with student computers, screen control, private notetaking, session playback, document exchange, desktop sharing, anonymous polling, among other features. During the presentation, I kept saying to myself: almost all these features are available for free on the web (most documented in Ben's PDF).

Our school, being in the first year of a laptop program in the high school, but a program that's been in our junior school (a separate area of the campus and a different culture) for better than 5 years already, is trying to navigate through all the questions of privacy, security, and pedagogy on its way to policy. And I'm on the steering committee and planning a M.Ed. proposal around this process. So how does a school decide when to go with purchased software and when to go with web-based tools? Here's a quick comparison chart I sketched out during the meeting:

*I've been reading and listening in hopes of adding to this cursory list. I'm hoping edubloggers from schools that have been through this can offer some feedback.

Purchased Software:
-Managed and supported within school IT dept.
-Content is owned and archived on school server.
-Maybe this software is more powerful and reliable.
-Easier to drive initiatives.
-Universal tools across classrooms and grade levels.

Web-Based Tools:
-Take 'em or leave 'em.
-Exists outside school.

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