Wednesday, October 26, 2011

Race To The Bottom: Tablet Wars

One of the Educational Technology issues that I have always felt very strongly about has been equity and access of technology for all students.  I was shocked to hear about the Aakash tablet that was being introduced in India.  The Indian Government is subsidizing the tablet for schools to purchase at $35 per unit.  The reports also have the tablet selling retail for $60.

Aakash Tablet from Venturebeat on Vimeo.

As the associated article states, this is a "leap frog" technology, which introduces a technology into a culture that has never seen a previous iteration of the technology in their lives. Think of the poorest people in the world who have never had a telephone in their lives, suddenly getting access to a cell phone, this is a "Leap Frog" technology.  The article is straight forward stating that the unit is slow in the way it processes some basic tasks, but they were very surprised when they watched a YouTube Video with no delay or buffering... WOW!

This is just the beginning of the Tablet Wars that will be played out in the market place over the next few months.  Yesterday; ViewSonic, a company best known for producing quality computer monitors, introduced the ViewPad 7e, which is a 7" tablet running Android version 2.3 and lots of extra features, including: SD Memory Card slots, HDMI output, front and back cameras and 4 GB of internal storage.  Retail Price.... $200.

About two months ago, Lenovo (the spin off of the IBM desktop and laptop computer line) introduced the  IdeaPad, a 7" Android tablet which boasts some of the same features as the ViewPad, like dual cameras and SD card slots.  The IdeaPad also has onboard GPS.

Not to be out done, Amazon has re-imagined the Kindle reader and introduced a new version called the "Kindle Fire."  It also retails for $199 and has some nifty features as well.  Amazon already has 95,000 pre-orders for the device, and with the Christmas rush, there will be plenty more sales to come.

What does all of this mean?  It means that there is a "race to the bottom" on the price of tablet devices.  Who benefits from this race to the bottom?  Our students do.  As teachers, we do.  Society does.  All of these Android devices have access to multimedia creation applications that are free and access to the Internet. With a variety of free and low cost standards based text books already available, school districts can purchase these devices with text book funds and still come out ahead. This also means that the only limitation on our teaching and our students learning is our own minds.  

So, the only question left is.... What are you and your students going to do with the world at your fingertips and a tool that will let you create anything you and your students can think of?

Saturday, October 15, 2011

Text Messaging: The Lost Tool In The Educators Tool Kit

One of the greatest tools that teachers never take advantage of is text messaging services, or Short Message Service, (SMS)  There are several tools available now to take even more advantage of this service that almost every student in your class has access to and if they have a cell phone this is the one thing they probably have unlimited access to, 

The first is one that was popular a few years ago, but most people don't even know it exists or completely forgot that it is still there.  Searching Google using a text message.  If you or your students have some basic knowledge of Google Search Strategies, they can get an answer anywhere, even with their "Dumb Phone." Check out Google's SMS Search Page. 

Google also has ways to interact with some of their more popular applications using SMS on their SMS Applications Page.  I think one of the best is the ability to post to a Blogger Blog from their phone using SMS.  That is something almost any kid can do and gets into the idea of authentic assessment that will definitely be part of the Common Core Standards.  Check out the demo of Blogger SMS below. 

Google Voice is another great ways to leverage SMS technologies in your classroom.  You can message your class by putting in their cell phone numbers in your Google Voice account and text them directly by sending a message through Google Voice.  The nice thing... All the students see is your Google Voice number, not your personal cell number or your personal e-mail address. 

Another cool way to interact with students via their cell phone, via SMS is a new free service called, Remind101.  Remind 101 allows teachers to create a class, the system issues a code to the teacher and then the teacher distributes the code to their class.  The best part of this is that the students never see the teacher's phone number and the teacher never sees the students cell phone number.  This gives us that level of privacy we need in education, while leveraging the tools available to teachers and students.  Check out a demo of Remind 101 below.  

Remind101 from remind101 on Vimeo.

The last tool is in private beta, but could be one that is a game changer and could put the "responder/clicker" producers out of business.  The service is called "Socrative."  What this service does is turn any connection a student has to mobile services, a laptop, smart phone, SMS, etc. and allows them to answer questions to a quiz, a true/false question in class, etc.  The other benefit is that you can see the student results come into the system in real time.  There are also some templates that you can automatically use, like "exit ticket" and more.  This is definitely worth checking out, if you are someone who has used responder systems or clickers in the past.  Check out the video below.

I have also added an infographic below that shows some of the ways that SMS or texting has changed the lives of people around the world in ways that many of us could never imagine.  Is there a way that you can change or improve your instructional practice by adding a text message every so often?