Thursday, August 27, 2009

What does "good enough" mean for a one-to-one program?

Pat Woessner, a middle-school instructional technologist at MICDS, which seems like a school with which we at D-E have some similarities, echoed an interesting idea from an article in Wired Magazine. (By the way, MICDS also has a one-to-one tablet computer program.)  In Pat's latest blog post, which you can read here, he said that the "crapification of everything IS an improvement" and schools should embrace that.  Before you get crazy by reading this idea out of context, note that he was talking about hardware and software technology tools and the point is that while many of the cheap or free online tools currently available might not be the "best of breed" they can still be powerfull with regard to educating students. In fact, simplicity may make them more valuable. (The post is short so you can read it yourself and not take my word on it.)

This is definite food for thought for schools with one-to-one programs, especially tablet PC programs since tablets are generally more expensive that standard laptops.  While we definitely have some classes where not having ink would be a loss, those courses might be in the minority at the moment.  Netbooks are worth some thought as the draw of an almost disposable computer is strong. It would be  easier to keep computing ubiquitous and reliable for every student in every classroom if the majority of hardware repairs required only a hard drive swap into a new replacement and we could quickly send students back out the door without dealing with insurance, parts ordering, and loaner pool management.

Many people who have used Netbooks say they don't run high-powered applications well. For example, is video editing and production viable on a Netbook? I don't yet have the Netbook experience to answer this question but my gut feeling is no (as the technology stands today).  Of course, hardware performance will increase faster than cost as it always does with computer technology so maybe this problem will be elminated sooner than we think.

The flip side of trading tablets for netbooks is that even if you think our current use of tablet ink by students is expendable, should we radically change a program only based on current use.  As with any program, it evolves over time.

Does pen input by students provide potential for improving student learning that still needs to be further developed?
Should efforts that might go toward making this hardware platform change instead go toward professional development and possibly obtaining better tools to make ink use more powerful?
If we shut the door on ink by eliminating pen input or causing it not to be umbiqutious, will we miss valuable opportunites?

I honestly don't know at this point but am interested in hearing from others on the topic so if you are reading this, please post a comment.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

It seems to me that replacing a hard drive in a netbook, is a rather expensive proposition. How much are you expecting students to pay for the netbook? At $400 avg, it's too expensive. Right now students' insurance deductible is half that and parents think that's too much! I wouldn't think of netbooks as disposable only a cheap alternative.

However, as Bill mentions, pen input is very valuable. Tablet programs have been developed in schools to allow for online textbooks, immediate access to scholarly information like databases and to give students the feel of independence and control over their education.