Happy New Year! I haven’t been blogging as much as usual the last month or two because I am up to my ears in a ton of curriculum we’re developing for mobile devices. (THE Journal ran a nice article about using mobile devices for delivering content if you haven’t seen it.) We have been developing everything from mini-movies on subjects like sight words and how to skip count for little kids to interactive ebooks on topics from world history to percents, decimals, and fractions for secondary and adult learners.

This had gotten me thinking a lot about a couple topics:

1. How electronic resources can be more effective than textbooks to engage kids and especially to differentiate instruction

2. How the future of 1-to-1 computing for schools is shaping up

I think that both of these are critical if we’re going to be successful in engaging kids. I’ll write more about the first topic in another post. Regarding the second topic, there are a lot of new devices shipping, including things like the XO computer, the Eee, the Kindle, the iPod Touch, etc.

I think the keys to a solid device for education are:

– Low cost (under $300 seems to be a key price point for schools)
– Long battery life (at least 6 hours)
– Multimedia capability (audio and video)
– Capacity for “real” computing (word processing, spreadsheets, presentation — could be via Web 2.0)

There are other features that I’d rate as nice-to-have but not essential like wireless, color, durability, etc.

None of the devices above quite hits all of my “must-have” features, but they are all pretty close. The second-generation releases are likely to be there. Right now, the Eee is probably the closest, though the Kindle is the one that has my attention (in part because I think it may have the longest staying power, which is really critical to schools.) Interestingly, handhelds from Palm and HP — which have been around for years — already have all these features. Alas, though, they are no longer the latest and greatest. (Don’t get me started venting my frustration on how trend-driven technology is, even in schools.)

Some people have said that these devices are too limited for schools because there isn’t textbook content available for them. The more I think about the idea of textbook publishers putting their content on mobile devices though (something I used to look forward to, though it’s probably still a long ways off), the more I don’t think it’s the road to a better future. It’s easy to list reasons textbooks don’t work for most kids — they are huge; they are boring; there is no differentiation; there is little interactivity; the content isn’t comprehensible; etc. etc.

So why would we want that same content in an electronic format?

New ways to look at content and 1:1
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