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Doug Johnson's Tech Proof

Disappointed Again
This Year...

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familiar: a spirit held to attend and serve or guard a person. Merriam-Webster Online

This past weekend, I looked for the following information:

  • Rules for playing the "Barrel of Monkeys" game.
  • The name of the actor who played Pea Eye Parker in the TV miniseries Streets of Laredo.
  • A depiction of a yawk yawk in Australian Aboriginal folklore.

I found all that information quite handily without leaving the family room -- without leaving my recliner, to be honest. Having a laptop computer and wireless Internet access has changed the way I watch television and read books. It's changed the conversations I have with my wife and kids. It's changed the way I participate in meetings, workshops and classes. When any question or topic comes up, I can get information from the "datasphere" to which I am always connected. It has become my familiar, my genii, my Ariel -- a nearly mystical servant I can send out to find the information I need at any time.

The datasphere is getting bigger all the time. Our school libraries, study halls areas, and most classrooms now have wireless connectivity. Our district's major meeting rooms are connected. At many conferences I attend, the entire convention center is a wireless environment. Whole cities are creating such clouds of connectivity. On a rural golf course recently, I was able to use my cellphone/PDA Treo to check our local Kiwanis Web site for the name of a guy who had just participated in the putting contest at our fundraiser. That's connectivity.

So why call this article entry "disappointed"? Because another dang school year started with my students not having immediate, continuous access to that same datasphere. And the simple reason is that there still isn't a device available that's right for kids and schools. Where is the computing/communications hardware gizmo that

  • weighs less than two pounds?
  • runs at least eight hours on a battery charge?
  • is 802.11x compliant?
  • can be dropped without breaking?
  • comes only with a full-featured Web browser for software?
  • has a screen that can be read for a long time without eyestrain?
  • sells at a price point most parents can afford -- let's say under $200?


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Want to read more about Doug and his thoughts on library media and technology? Visit his Web site or browse his new blog. Got a compliment, a complaint, or just a comment to share? E-mail Doug at [email protected]

Come on Apple, Dell, HP, Gateway, Sony. Make one of those devices and you will sell (and make) millions. As it stands, it will be a cold day in Hades before I encourage my schools to participate in a one-to-one computer program given the current state of laptops and PDAs -- way too expensive, too delicate, too complex, too short on battery life, too high maintenance, too hard to read. I don't want a machine designed for a rich businessperson, I want one designed for an active kid! I want my students to have ready access to the datasphere -- now!

Increasingly, I'm convinced such connectivity is the only thing that will fundamentally change how education is done. Teachers will need to become process -- not content -- experts. Education will be radically individualized. Boredom will end. Information literacy will be the major basic skill set. Independent learning will be practiced on a dailyno, hourlybasis. Learning will become 24/7 -- with kids actually learning during the school day as well as outside of it. Where is the "iPage" device that meets my few modest requirements for a kid-friendly computing device?

Author's note: After I posted this rant to my blog, some readers' suggestions about such a device that resembles my "iPage" were:

Getting closer!

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10/03/2006