Some of the first devices from the One Laptop Per Child (OLPC), formerly known as the $100 laptop project, are starting to roll out.

Some are dismayed that there may not be plans to commercialize this product or make it available in the US. Stay tuned also to the Classmate PC project, another inexpensive laptop initiative, this one from Intel. The first of these devices are becoming available as well. Rumors are that these will be priced under $200, making them very affordable.

A lot of school ask me the question “If laptops cost the same as handhelds, which would you choose?” It’s really not as easy to answer as it might seem. Laptops definitely have features that handhelds don’t (screen size, software availability). On the other hand, handhelds have some benefits over laptops too (easy integration, less tech support, battery life). I think that battery life is a very critical issue — schools really need a device that can get through the day without charging. I work with many schools who use laptops and have power cords running everywhere, making it very difficult to integrate effectively.
Also, as with any technology, I always suggest starting with your learning goals. Then see which hardware and available/affordable software best supports that.

What do you think? At the same cost, would you opt for laptops or handhelds?
[Image credit: Fuse Project, Creative Commons, Attribution ShareAlike 2.5 license]
Affordable laptops

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