Archive for February, 2009
In my research on laptops in schools, I noted the great popularity of laptop programs, but also the challenges that were preventing these programs from expanding. First, laptops were too expensive — they needed to fall below $250 to have a shot at serious penetration of the K-12 market. Secondly, they were too heavy. Nobody wants a 10 year old to be carting around an 8 pound machine all day. Third, they needed longer battery life. Laptop programs are hampered if kids can’t get through a school day without recharging. And fourth, current laptops have far more power than children need.
The development of low-cost, small netbooks computers has thus been a great sign for educational computing. And now it appears that future developments may be underway in this market that will go a long way to addressing most of these challenges. Apparently, netbooks may soon be manufactured with the kind of ARM-based processors typically used in cellphones rather than the more expensive processing chips that have previously been used in desktop or laptop computers. These ARM-based chips won’t run the full version of Windows, but they are fine for running Linux, which is all a netbook really needs. They are also very cheap, and, importantly, consume only 10% of the power of a regular computer-processor, thus allowing much longer battery life. ARM-based netbooks will undoubtedly fall below $200, and probably drop well below that in the next few years.
These are the kinds of computers I would be looking toward if I were on a school board. Students could then use Google Docs, Open Office for Linux, Firefox, Gmail, online photo editors, etc., further saving the district money. You would be getting a much lighter, much cheaper machine with long battery life and 80% of the functionality of a full-fledged laptop at 30% of the cost.
In the U.S., the National Assessment of Educational Progress measures and compares students’ progress in reading, writing, science, and mathematics. Its one of the most important ways the U.S. relies on to know how its youth are progressing educationally.
It looks like the NAEP will be adding a test of technological literacy in 2012. I’ll take that as a good move.