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!