Wednesday, December 26, 2007

Transitions: How Soon?

Over the past few months, I have written here and read in many, many other places about some of the transitions that are inevitably going to take place in education and the role that technology will play in these transitions. While many of these discussions have been hazy and lacked clarity as to the precise direction these transitions will take, there are some very definite clues as to what the final result will look like. The four micro-laptops on the market now; The XO Laptop, the Asus Eee PC (Which I blogged on last week), the Zonbu, and the Classmate PC. Dean Takahashi of the San Jose Mercury did a review of these devices on Christmas Eve. 2007 has also seen the proliferation of cell phone technologies where the iPhone and the upcoming 'Android' platform from Google will allow cell phones to act more like computers than ever before. Amazon introduced the 'Kindle Reader' which provides a platform to read books.

The flip side to all of this is that I hear complaints annually from teachers, students and their parents about the size and weight of text books. There are some English Literature Anthologies I have seen over the past few years that are well over 10 pounds in weight. The cost of these text books are also rising significantly, with many of these books are now approaching the $100 a piece range. So, a student that is taking five 'academic classes' (English, Science, Social Science, Math and World Language) the school is investing close to $500 in text books and the students are looking at back packs that are approaching the 50 pound range. We can deliver the same content in a richer, more interactive way through one to one laptop initiatives, which several states are in the process of doing. (Another Mecrury News article on Prediticions for 2008 and 1 to 1 initiatives.)

So, when will we reach the 'Tipping Point?' The point in which schools nationally and internationally will provide mobile computing devices for students and allow them to connect wirelessly to the Internet at school. When will we allow students to take these devices home and connect to students around the corner and around the world? Increasing their personal voice and creating a truly interactive educational system.

Costs for schools and textbook publishers will drop significantly as economies of scale come into play for production. People bring the damage argument into play, where they talk about the cost of repairs and damage that students will place on the devices. I see students lose books every year and pay several hundred dollars in book bills, what's the difference whether it is a book or a small computer?

I don't think there is a question whether this transition is going to take place, the question is when? Is 2008, the year when this transition begins to take place? Stay Tuned.... I'll be doing my part from the electric pulpit!


Bernard said...
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Bernard said...

I remember the times during my college years, how much books cost and I would try my best to look for used books or from other fellow students selling their copies to help out other financially challenged students. Yes books are expensive and yes books are heavy to be lugging around campus.

Not too long ago, I've bought study guides and most study guides in regards to computers/Information Technology, most come with CDs. Most of these CDs have a copy of the text in PDF format, which you can just read on your laptop when on the go. I saw how easy that is for me to have my texts than having to carry two or three 2 1/2 inch books on the go.

Then things got more convenient when you can have your books and practice exams on your PDA, which in my case my Palm Treo 650. I can literally study and read my material on the fly. Especially this past Christmas season, my wife was mad searching for Christmas gifts, I would place myself in line which spans as far to the back of the department store so that by the time my wife was done shopping, we would be next to purchase our stuff. (It's a team effort.)

While in line I would pass the time reading and taking practice exams on my PDA on the fly. I see the real need for this type of technology in schools. The technology is there. I personally own a Amazon Kindle and its an awesome device. Once you establish an Amazon account, I can download my books off WiFi, no need for a computer to transfer your materials. I can have my subscriptions like The San Jose Mercury and The San Francisco Chronicle, which is $5.99/mo. automatically downloaded to my Kindle. Each morning I wake up I would have my newspapers ready for me to read. You can subscribe to periodicals too like Time Magazine. The list goes on and still growing in titles. And the cost of books is almost half the price than the actual books themselves. The cool thing about this device, is that if I happen to lose my Kindle or if it gets stolen, what happens to my books I have purchased over time? Well of course I have to buy a new Kindle and report my first Kindle lost, I can have all my books downloaded back into my new Kindle. I wouldn't loose anything. I would rather pay for the cost of a lost e-Book device than to have to re-buy the books I've lost. That really says a lot. This may seem like a Kindle fanboy comment, but its more of the concept. Having a mobile device that has access to text books and school materials. The possibilities are endless. I can see how this can grow to better education and have students keep in touch not only to other students and teachers but also the world.

Roy, Daryl, and Lauren, I hope those e-books I've shared with you helps.

Anonymous said...

I can't comment on the XO or the classmate but I've been using a Zonbu desktop for about five months, and now my wife is using a Zonbu laptop.

I also recently received my Asus EEE PC.

I've been blogging about the viability of the Zonbu as a desktop replacement for quite a a while, and also covering other low cost PCs in the sub-$500 market on my blog:

Stop by and let me know what you think. I haven't been following the education track in particular, but a lot of the issues are relevant.

-Mr. Zonbu