Why can’t Alphasmart, Apple, Dell, Intel, or even Leapfrog, create a portable learning tool for students? Really. This does not strike me as terribly difficult. Surely there is a willing market of schools and students who would want such a device. So why did we not see the perfect device appear at Macworld yesterday?
If I have not made it clear in some of my previous posts, I believe ubiquitous computing is a must in schools today. Anytime anywhere learning is crucial for both students and teachers to truly integrate technology into their day. One of the main problems with one-to-one laptop programs is the question of cost-effectiveness: does it really make financial sense to give a student a $1000+ laptop? Some of the fallout from doing so is often a culture of fear of not using such an expensive device. If the school has paid so much for a computer, the students better be using it 24/7.
It would be preferable, in my opinion, to buy a $300 device that was smaller perhaps than a full laptop and yet did all the things a student might need to do. While several devices have emerged very recently I am still not convinced anyone is taking this very seriously. Apple would have been my bet, with their history of serving education, but they seem to be getting away from that. Switching to Intel processors and abandoning OS9 has rendered hundreds of excellent educational software titles in our school’s library completely useless. Now, I happen to think that OSX and the bundled iLife suite currently offer students the best learning tools for education today, but even a basic Macbook is around $1000. Why not, Apple?
The OLPC, Intel’s Classmate, the Asus EEE PC and the Everex Cloudbook are all entering this market, though the first two are for emerging markets and the latter seem more for cheapskates than students. I have nothing against emerging markets nor Linux but I do not see any of these as a perfect device. I guess I think we need to depart from the “laptop” idea. Something that is part iPhone, part tablet PC, part EEE PC, part OLPC and part Amazon Kindle. Touch display, pen interaction, built-in camera, webcam and video cam, web browser, small form factor, rugged and lightweight. All for $300. Is that too much to ask?
But someday soon. If not Apple, then maybe Alphasmart, or Leapfrog or some new company. I think perhaps the big guys are too married to the laptop form factor.
The Macbook Air is nice though. I wouldn’t say no to one myself.