Friday, March 30, 2012

From One Laptop Per Child to One Tablet

The issue of computers in schools is an old one (I'm aware of research going back to the 1970s), and a while back, the declining cost curve in computing led to the rise of the One Laptop Per Child (OLPC) program - to develop a cheap basic laptop that would be usable in primary schools throughout the world, and then to distribute those laptops throughout the Third World.  A few years ago, several manufacturers collaborated to develop a basic, rugged, low-power laptop that could be mass produced for under $200.  More than 1.8 million OLPC laptops have been distributed so far, and a tablet model is being developed and tested.
  Yesterday, the FCC and Dept. of Education hosted a roundtable with technology executives and leaders of education groups about creating a similar program in the U.S. Only in this case, the discussion was not on the importance of computing, or the ability to access knowledge and information from around the world, or of being creative and contributing to that content and knowledge base.  Rather, it was focused on the potential savings of using digital textbooks.
"Other nations like South Korea and Turkey are racing to seize the opportunities of digital textbooks," FCC Chair Genachowski said. "We need to step up our efforts to realize the promise of this new technology in the U.S."
  While there are significant advantages to digital textbooks from both a content perspective (easier, more rapid updating, ability to incorporate multimedia, integration with references, etc.) and on the cost end (savings in printing, distribution, storage, replacing damaged copies, etc.) - what will make American children globally competitive is not cheaper textbooks, but being digitally literate and innovative.  Tablets (or laptops) can be so much more than a textbook display device, and that's what the push to get them in students' hands should be about. Instead of focusing merely on stripped-down low-cost e-Readers for digital textbooks, we should aim higher and try to get more flexible and powerful devices (laptops, netbooks, or full-feature tablets) to students, and encourage their use across the board in schools and elsewhere - for reading textbooks, watching educational videos, accessing information, doing papers and projects, and even for recreation and ripping and mixing their own mash-ups.

Sources -  FCC pushes for tablet computers in schoolsThe Hill


  1. This is an interesting concept. I would have to agree with you, Dr. Bates, in that I don't think it's the newest and best technology that we need, but the literacy and ability to work and create and reinvent the technologies that we are already have. How can we learn how to work an Ipad if we barely know how to work a laptop?

  2. Laptop is very useful electronic thing for every one. You give nice information about one laptop per child in school. Its great activity for child to learn new things.

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  3. I agree with you as well, Dr. Bates.

    I was at the ICONN (intercollegiate online news network) conference last week and one of the speakers talked about how nobody explores and nobody wonders about things anymore. It's true. School is really making kids kind of stupid. An iPad with their textbook on it doesn't solve the problem of how they are taught to the test. I seriously think that sometimes you could teach school with no textbooks and kids would have a better education than they can get right now. New technology doesn't amount to anything against the ability to think critically and solve problems. That's what people need to be able to do.

  4. I completely agree. The use of a computer is now essential to almost every work environment around the world, and if a computer or internet is not being used it will be in a very short time. To start getting kids use to using computers and laptops at a young age is essential to giving them what they need to help them be successful in this day of age. A computer that is capable of being hooked up to the internet is crucial to almost any job or company in the world. The laptop can give them the experience as well as many different options with software and textbooks that can be loaded onto the computer.

  5. I also agree that we should not "dumb-down" resources for the next generation. In these times, it is vital for children to be familiar with technology because our society revolves heavily around its capabilities. Being computer savy is no longer an added bonus, it's a neccesity. We can't just expect the next generation to be computer literate if we do not properly train and equip them. Also, for education purposes, there are also educational tools other than the basic e-Readers. There are wonderful eduational programs available on CDs and flash drives. Laptops would allow these to be practiced, as well.

  6. I think it's a great idea to get tablets or laptops in the hands of kids. In fact, the younger the better. I think it boils down to what the above commenter said: "Being computer savy is no longer an added bonus, it's a necessity."

    Ten years ago, it may have been true that computer literacy was a bonus to put on your resume. However, there have been significant shifts in the rate of technological advancements and the rate at which people are being exposed to these advancements. My four-year-old nephew was showing me how to log into iTunes on his iPad the other day and it blew my mind that someone that young was able to operate such an advanced device. However, this is becoming the norm with kids who were born in the digital age.

    If these kids who are receiving laptops or tablets are not able to truly explore these devices and are only using them as e-readers, I feel that is doing a disservice to them. In order to keep this country at the forefront of innovation, we must not stifle creativity or innovation in schools. If children are going to be given access to these devices, surely there is a way that school administrators can take advantage of this and make all students tech savvy at an early age. It seems like a waste to only use the devices for digital textbooks only.