I spent time yesterday afternoon speaking with teachers who are a members of the Te Hikoi Hau ICT PD cluster in Christchurch, and referred again to the slide above which I’ve used in several presentations over recent years. It emphasises the general trend that can be seen when you look at what is common about the sorts of technologies that are being appropriated in education – with the move from analogue to digital to connected to ubiquity – the concept of “any time, any place, any device”.
The concept of each student having their own device has appealed to me for some time now, although early attempts at a 1-1 programme haven’t fully delivered on the promise. Seems to me that we’re seeing now a convergence in developments in the “cloud“, improvements in the capability of wireless, and the availability of low-cost netbooks and other web-enabled mobile devices – all working together to provide the essential elements for making a 1-1 programme more likely to succeed.
A key thing in the take up here is the cost of the devices. Traditional laptops have been prohibitively expensive for the individual student, but the emerging breed of netbooks is changing that. An article I read last night demonstrates this – titled Apple loses students to netbooks and Windows it is a report of a small survey conducted recently by consumer-electronics e-commerce website Retrevo. The survey reveals that student choice of netbook/laptop in the US as they prepare to return to school this year will be largely based on cost. With netbooks costing less than $US200 and an Apple laptop closer to $US1000 there’s no contest.
In the article Apple’s Tim Cook is quoted as saying “When I look at what is being sold in the netbook space today, I see cramped keyboards, terrible software, junky hardware, very small screens… not something that we would put the Mac brand on, quite frankly. It’s not a space as it exists today that we’re interested in.” While he may have a point in technical terms, I believe he’s missing the point about what is driving this – that is, the ability to use the device anywhere, at any time. And with the increasing number of web services becoming available there’s no shortage of applications to access once you’re connected which means the size of storage etc in the device itself isn’t as much an issue.
The issue of cost is also raising it’s head in one of the US’s longest running 1-1 laptop programmes. A recent article titled Maine Laptop Expansion Moves Forward reports on the impact of the economic crisis on the state of Maine’s ongoing programme of providing each student with a MacBook. In response to the economic challenges presented by the state program, Sharon Betts, the educational technology coordinator for the Maine School Administrative District #52, along with several other ed-tech coordinators from schools across the state, has created a grassroots consortium to identify cost-effective alternatives to the state-led laptop program. The group has decided to go with a more affordable alternative: 10-inch ASUS netbooks that support either a Windows or Linux operating system.
So – it looks like in the drive towards ubiquity, cost will be the significant factor affecting choice of device. It’s certainly difficult to argue from a total cost of ownership point of view.