Get smarter about education: Support one computer per child concept, here and abroad

Let's get behind this one-computer-per-child idea, here in the United States. While we're at it, it would smart to include the teachers.

A few weeks ago, I attended a Hewlett-Packard briefing that I personally think will represent a turning point for the way that schools and school districts view technology as a part of the education process.

Yes, I know computers have been in the classroom a long, long time. But the ratio of PCs to students remains utterly abyssmal, not just in developing nations but, yes, right here on home turf. The HP executives at the aforementioned briefing cite "average" figures of 3:1, but anecdotally I hear that number is better than reality, especially depending on the part of the country you're in.

For this and a whole bunch of reasons, HP is making a big push into education with a number of specific products including something called HP School Cloud and with HP MultiSeat. School Cloud is a private cloud platform that lets schools offer up applications and such through virtual desktops, while MultiSeat devices connect a host computer with up to 10 monitors and keyboards. The product is made possible by Microsoft MultiPoint Server 2010, and it is due out in early 2010.

OK, so you're thinking, none of this is really innovative, people have done this before. Hmm, yes, but with MultiSeat, HP is essentially promising to double the number of computers that a school can put into a given classroom for the same price. Plus, this is HP we're talking about here, not a start-up company, so people are bound to pay attention.

Do I think thin clients are the answer for the classroom? Actually, I really don't because kids are mobile and love gadgets that they can take home and work on. So while I am really excited that HP is going to get school districts talking, I'm also VERY excited about what's going on in the netbook space right now, especially with systems integrators that are distributing versions of the Intel Classmate design.

I've spoken with several of these companies for another story I'm writing over the past two week, and all of them are reporting burgeoning interest in the form factor in their education accounts. They've modified the keyboards, to withstand child-like coordination and ruggedized them to accommodate lugging. Here are three examples of products serving K-12 accounts:

Of course, we have a long, long way to go to reach the goal aspired to in the headline. One of the biggest factors, of course, is the fact that our teachers aren't being taught to teach using technology. That is a sad, sad thing. I'm not suggesting we rewrite education. Actually, maybe I am.

Someone pass me the slate and some chalk.

I'm just saying.

This post was originally published on Smartplanet.com

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