What is the future of computers in the classroom?

17 04 2009

What is the future of computers in the classroom? Looking at the history of computers entering classrooms, we moved from punch cards to computer labs. Then the single computer classroom. The push then became what is often considered as the Holy Grail—1:1 or one computer per child (laptop). However, through all of that, what has been the outcome? What has changed in the classroom? How has the learning process been improved?

Now there is a new breed of laptop—the Netbook. This is a low priced laptop that is very small and usually has no moving parts. With minimal storage and processing power, they are designed to utilize the power of internet connectivity for storage and access to net apps. Most of these computers are priced at or below the $400 mark. This makes them very attractive to schools, especially with the downturn in the economy. Educator Lists are buzzing with talk of what are the best netbooks, how about battery life etc. This is all good stuff. However, I would love to see more talk about how we will change teaching and learning in the classroom with these devices? This is a discussion that must take place if we are to fully realize the power of being connected to the world in our learning environments.

I have also been wondering if the netbooks are only a passing phase and that the real Holy Grail will be the Smart Phone. I just purchased my first Apple product in almost 20 years—an iPhone. I LOVE it (with the exception that mine is still “in jail”. I can’t bring myself to “jail break” my new phone just yet). Now, think about this…If Apple would create a folding keyboard (like the HP or Targus folding keyboard) that would connect with the iPhone, you may have the a real breakthrough in educational computing access. As the number of Smartphones increase on campuses (students are purchasing these like hotcakes), you have a device that is already present and the focus of conversations can shift from school acquisition to best practices for teaching and learning with highly connected net devices. How can we use these as tools of cognition, collaboration and accessibility? This is the conversation I would like to join.

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