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BFTP: Disappointed again this year

A weekend Blue Skunk "feature" will be a revision of an old post. I'm calling this BFTP: Blast from the Past. Original post August 19, 2006. Here's the column based on the post. Five years has passed since I wrote this and our district is not one step closer to realizing a 1:1 initiative. I will be more actively advocating for BYOD encouragement, acceptance and guidelines in all our schools. It's time to get out the soapbox.

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 data enabled smartphone 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?
  • 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?

Are we now in 2011 any closer than in 2006? iPads? Too costly, too unmanageable and lacking Flash. Android tablets? Too costly, too clunky to operate. Or is the perfect device here and I just don't want to see it?

More importantly, has any classroom where kids do have devices and access actually changed as a result?

See you with the same post, same complaints, same hopes in 2016?

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