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Saturday, January 12, 2008

The paper is in your hand: Hard proof of paper's evolution

The vain attempt of education to restrict the use of handhelds will look quite shortsighted in a few years as paper continues to evolve.

If you don't look at me, take a look at Polymer Vision's Readius Handheld.

I think schoolchildren will be playing "Rock, Cell phone, Scissors, " much sooner than we think and with products like the Kindle: Amazon's New Wireless Reading Device emerging, electronic paper is going to be a more efficient way for us to do things. (Imagine subscribing to books each year per student-- it has its pros and cons for certain, however, it will change how we budget.)

Another interesting little gizmo is the Asus Eee 4G-Galaxy 7" PC Mobile Internet Device ( 512 MB RAM, 4 GB Hard Drive, Webcam, Linux Preloaded) Black ($399)which also comes in a less expensive version. (See Asus Eee 4G Surf 7" Micro Laptop PC (Intel Celeron Processor (800MHz), 512MB RAM, 4GB Hard Drive, Linux Preloaded) - Galaxy Black.) (It seems OLPC has gotten us smaller, less expensive notebooks if nothing else.)

I think experiences like that of Clarence Fisher will become more common. He said on Friday:

"My classroom is beginning to look more like a mish mash each day rather then a coherent arrangement of technology. I used to dream of the day when I would have 20 new white iBooks to work with. All of the students connected and sitting prettily behind their clean new boxes. Now I have two old desktops (2 others have died this year), the one tiny Asus laptop ( still waiting on my other 10), eight students who bring their own laptops from home in a rainbow of Dell, Gateway, Toshiba and Sony colours, as well as two students who now realize they can use their new iPods they got for Christmas as more then containers for music. We are still living in the days of no cell phone service here (although rumours abound of its impending arrival in the spring....) or I'm sure I would have them in class as well. The point is just that the kids and I are both realizing more each day that the technology is just a channel, a pipe, a point of access to what is really important; the connection, the information, the people out there."

And why are we buying full scale laptop labs when these little beauties have a word processor and preloaded linux operating system along with internet access. PC Magazine gave this 4 stars out of five. The screen has four tabs: Internet, Work, Learn, and Play with the learn tab full of things for students. So many cool things this could do for educators.

Kathy Schrock is looking at these devices and posted yesterday:

"I am looking to get a device of some type in as many students' hands as possible. Since many applications are moving to the Web, and there seems to be wireless Internet access in many places in our schools and communities, I am looking at the low-cost devices such as the Asus EeePC and the upcoming Everex Cloudbook."

And I agree totally with Tim:

"When it comes to instructional technology, we really do worry too much about this box or that one.

In most of our high schools, where there are too few computers for students to use, iPods, cell phones, and personal laptops are banned, thus eliminating many potential learning tools from the classroom.

Instead of narrowing our focus to specific boxes, we need to use whatever tools are available to give our kids connectivity, enhance learning and get the job done."

With these handheld devices proliferating our lives, our desire to restrict their use in the classroom will become more absurd. We must get at the BEHAVIOR -- we don't want kids calling or texting one another for non-classroom related purposes.

However, what if we use cell phones INSTEAD of those expensive voting devices that we're using now.

Trust me, textbook publishers and electronics vendors like the idea of educators ignoring the potential of cell phones in the classroom because it means longer for them to prepare.

We are entering a world of blurring lines between home and school. Teaching students internal controls and ethics is becoming more important than ever. The day is fast approaching where the illusion of total control will become glaringly apparent. (See my past post Spies Like Us.)

And when these devices come into the textbook price range (sub $100) I think the excuses of many will go by the wayside.

It is about:
  1. Finding devices to allow students ACCESS
  2. Using the best device to fit the CURRICULAR purpose (although in an ideal world, having cloned devices is ideal, it may become less possible)
  3. Controlling and restricting BEHAVIOR versus device
  4. Being willing to CHANGE
This is an incredible time to be in the classroom and in education. We are charged with leading the educational revolution that only comes around every 100 years.

Will you be known as a leader or naysayer? Will you wisely, safely, lead those in your charge? Will you be willing to change? Will you lead?

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