Another dot in the blogosphere?

Two trends

Posted on: October 2, 2008

I thought I’d highlight two trends: One not so new (OpenID) and another more recent (Netbooks).

Don’t know what OpenID is? Too afraid to ask? Read this wiki on OpenID. Here’s an introduction:

Imagine a web where you never have to log in again… OpenID uses a URL as your identity. The URL defines you. Whenever a site needs to authenticate you are who you say you are, it goes to the URL for that information.

Where possible, I use OpenID (this blog’s verified URL) to identify myself when I respond to my trainees’ blog entries.

On to the next trend. Mobile computing can come in different forms, e.g., notebooks, laptops, and ultramobile personal computers (UMPCs). My trainees would have handled UMPCs in the Classroom of the Future (COTF).

Anyway, some gaming-grade laptop computers have become so large they need to be hauled around in rollerbags, while others have shrunk to the size of UMPCs.

And now there are netbooks. Their use may be inspired by the “troubled economy”, but their low cost is a good way of putting technology into the hands of more users. But I think their rapid adoption is also inspired by the low cost computers offered by the OLPC programme and the Classmate PC. Both were created by the need to put technology in the hands of under privileged children around the world.

I’d like to see Singapore schools getting netbooks for every student. Each school has at least S$500,000 to spend over three years. Imagine each school getting 1000 netbooks at an educational price of S$400 each*. That would cost S$400,000* with S$100,000 left over for training, upkeep, outsourcing, sharing at conferences, etc. There is next to no need for software because of open source software and freeware, and there is a greater use of Web 2.0 tools too!

*Alternatively, consider a co-payment programme: Schools pay 50% or 75% of the cost while students/schools use their Edusave Pupils Fund or Grants to pay for the rest.

2 Responses to "Two trends"

Thanks for the OpenID recommendation, Dr. Tan! Will definitely get an account soon.

I’ve been very interested ever since you mentioned the $500,000 that schools receive to find out how the schools actually make use of that money. Given the possibilities that could be generated with that money, the schools that I’ve been to do not seem to be maximizing it that much for the students.

Other than the provision of more computer labs and computers in each classrooms or buying more software, I think it is more effective when we use that money to put more technology in the hands of the students – i.e. actually using that money to get them something, like what u suggested a Netbook or perhaps even just on a basic level to provide subsidized internet access plans for students who might not be able to afford it.

I have not been able to check up and do not have the statistics on that, but there are many families in neighbourhood schools who do not have the money to buy for their kids computers and even have internet connection.

Would indeed be interested to find out how schools actually allocate that $500,000 budget …

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@Andrew: Most schools are stuck in a conservative mindset or are not aware of the possibilities. When told by MOE to spread their wings or start their own initiatives, some schools don’t know where to start. That is why some more forward thinking principals look for partners in industry and higher education.

As a teacher, I used to be a technology coordinator (now a job handled by the HOD IT). Most of the money used to be spent on getting new hardware for labs and replacing them. Items included desktop computers and projectors. (Often schools would have excess funds at the end of three years and they would have to write in to MOE to extend the spending.) But desktop computers are quite pointless in a day of mobile access.

As countries all over the world are discovering, it is critical to put the tools in the hands of students. Now that handheld computers are so cheap, I see no reason why we shouldn’t.

The predominant teacher/HOD mindset is about control, not about exploration. They worry about what students will do WRONG with mobile computers. They want control filters and learning management systems. They do not realise that the “control” is more social than technological.

Yes, there are hard realities out there in schools. But there are hard realities in places like Libya and Nigeria too (see photos at http://laptop.org/children/learning/). These harsher realities have not stopped them, so why should ours stop us? 🙂

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