Search this site
Other stuff

All banner artwork by Brady Johnson, college student and (semi-) starving artist.

My latest books:


        Available now

       Available Now

Available now 

My book Machines are the easy part; people are the hard part is now available as a free download at Lulu.

 The Blue Skunk Page on Facebook


EdTech Update




« So ugly it hurts | Main | A simple question to start the year »

Disappointed again this year…

This past weekend I looked for the following information:

  • Rules for playing the Barrel of Monkeys game.
  •  The name of the actor who played Pea Eye Parker in the TV miniseries Streets of Laredo.
  • A depiction of a yawk yawk in Australian Aboriginal folklore.
I found all this information quite handily without leaving the family room. Without leaving my recliner, to be honest. Having a laptop computer and wireless Internet access has changed the way I watch television and read books. It’s changed the conversations I have with the LWW. It’s changed the way I participate in meetings, workshops and classes. When any question or topic comes up, I can get information from the “datasphere” to which I am always connected.

And the datasphere is getting bigger all the time. Our school libraries, study halls areas and most classrooms now have wireless connectivity. Our district’s major meeting rooms are connected. At many conferences I attend, the entire convention center is, yes, wireless. Whole cities are talking about becoming wireless. On a rural golf course yesterday afternoon, I was able to use my Sprint-enabled Treo to check our local Kiwanis website for the name of guy who had just participated in the putting contest at our fundraiser. That’s connectivity.

So why call this blog entry “disappointed”? Because another damn school year is starting with my students not having immediate, continuous access to this same datasphere. And the simple reason is that there is still not a device available that is right for kids and schools. Where is the computing/communications hardware gizmo that:
  • Weighs less than two pounds?
  • Runs at least eight hours on a battery charge?
  • Is 802.11x compliant?
  • Can be dropped without breaking?
  • Comes only with a full featured web browser for software?
  • Has a screen that can be read for a long time without eyestrain?
  • And sells at a price point most parents can afford – let’s say under $200?

Come on Apple, Dell, HP, Gateway, Sony, etc. Make one of these devices and you will sell (and make) millions. As it stands, it will be a cold day in hell before I encourage my schools to participate in a one-to-one computer program given the current state of laptops and PDAs – way too expensive, too delicate, too complex, too short on battery life, too high maintenance, too hard to read. I don’t want a machine designed for a rich businessperson but for an active kid!

I want my students to have ready access to the datasphere – now! Increasingly, I’m convinced such connectivity is the only thing that will fundamentally change how education is done. Teachers will need to become process, not content, experts. Education will be radically individualized. Boredom will end. Information literacy will be the major basic skill set. Independent learning will be practiced on a daily, no, hourly basis. Learning will become 24/7 – with kids actually learning during the school day as well as outside of it.

Where is the iPage that meets my few modest requirements for a kid-friendly computing device?



EmailEmail Article to Friend

Reader Comments (8)

Hear! Hear!
August 19, 2006 | Unregistered CommenterTom Hoffman
Think EM Forster might applaud your identification of a real barrier to connectivity in education - we feign ict connectivity in schools but we fail to mimic in any way the immersion in technologies seen with mobile phones, mp3 players or in ebay, myspace, or internet dating

<i>"Only connect! That was the whole of her sermon. Only connect the prose and the passion, and both will be exalted, and human love will be seen at its height. Live in fragments no longer. Only connect, and the beast and the monk, robbed of the isolation that is life to either, will die."</i>
EM Forster Chapter 22. Howards End
August 20, 2006 | Unregistered CommenterArtichoke
I couldn't agree more. I will be looking at the Nova5000 systems, but am actually placing more hope in the iliad or some other e-book device that includes browsing.
August 21, 2006 | Unregistered CommenterChristopher Harris
This is my favorite blog!! You hit the nail on the head. This summer when blogging from Greece and Turkey I found that only having sporadic connectivity made a HUGE difference in how I did so many things!! Just like you I now THINK differently because of the "datasphere". The thought of going from home where I can access any information at ANY time to school where access is so difficult is shocking!


p.s. That is why I am so glad that you are representing many of us with NECC.
August 21, 2006 | Unregistered CommenterJanice Friesen
The Nokia 770 Internet Tablet, comes close to your requirements.

* Weighs less than two pounds? Yes
* Runs at least eight hours on a battery charge? Close... in stand by mode. Then again, how many people are in an 802.11x area for 8 hours and do not have access to power?
* Is 802.11x compliant? Yes
* Can be dropped without breaking? I would like to see ANY electronic device that isnt militarized meet this requirement. I'm tired of replacing my phones on a yearly basis.
* Comes only with a full featured web browser for software? Yes, but not Windows powered.
* Has a screen that can be read for a long time without eyestrain? Define long time? Books and newspapers, after 4 or 5 hours without a break can be annoying too.
* And sells at a price point most parents can afford – let’s say under $200? No...$350

I have high hopes for emerging technologies [virtual or projected screens, better battery or even fuel cell powered] to better meet your requirements. Not that they'll be allowed in schools if kids snap them up, like in the case of cell phones.
August 21, 2006 | Unregistered CommenterJym Brittain
It hasn't been done because there is not enough profit in it! Remember planned obsolescence? Fragility and short battery life keep the buyer returning. What a sad state of affairs for the school market.
August 21, 2006 | Unregistered CommenterElena
Thanks for sharing the information about both the Nova and Nokia products. I am tempted to buy both of them right now.

I am also intriqued that there is now a portable game device (P2P?) that included wirelss connectivity and a webbrowser.

August 22, 2006 | Unregistered CommenterDoug Johnson
The portable gaming device you're referring to is the Sony playstation portable or PSP. On a lighter note, I understand there are WiFi drivers for the Newton 2100. You can get one of those real cheap on ebay >grin< Slap a PCMCIA wifi card in one and you've met your requirements too.
August 22, 2006 | Unregistered CommenterJym Brittain

PostPost a New Comment

Enter your information below to add a new comment.

My response is on my own website »
Author Email (optional):
Author URL (optional):
Some HTML allowed: <a href="" title=""> <abbr title=""> <acronym title=""> <b> <blockquote cite=""> <code> <em> <i> <strike> <strong>