Google has been on something of a roll this week making announcements about everything from their new Boutiques fashion retail site to expanded integration of consumer products in Google Apps to mobile editing of Google Docs.
At the same time, I attended a great webcast the other night using the Android mobile client for Adobe Connect. Not surprisingly, the webcast was on e-learning software and platforms from Adobe, but the point is that, on my Droid Incredible, I was able to watch screen casts, slide shows, and chat with the presenter. Multitouch support enabled me to easily zoom on the small screen and see everything I needed to see while the Connect compression algorithms compensated for a spotty 3G connection.
What does this mean? It means that small devices running updated versions of Android and iOS can access productivity applications and a powerful e-learning platform from something as inexpensive as an iPod Touch or as easily shoved in a backpack as an iPad (which is still, given the technology, not a bad value). It means that more and more frequently, we can co-opt student's phones to easily achieve 1:1 environments.
It also means that as devices like the Color Nook or inexpensive tablets come up to Android 2.2, the cost of access and utility for students gets more and more affordable. Suddenly, the onus of equity for schools becomes much easier to achieve and educational institutions can devote resources to instructional tools (like Connect licensing or training on Google Apps) rather than expensive and far less disposable hardware for students.
I'm not saying that the idea of a laptop for every student can go out the window just because they can edit documents on their phones. Clearly even the largest of phones isn't an ideal platform for creating content. However, for schools struggling to bring many of the advantages of 1:1 to their students or to provide resources for students who cannot afford a computer at home, the advent of some powerful mobile learning technologies out of Google and Adobe means that a significant barrier to 1:1 is crumbling.
The other key message here is that 1:1 truly must be accompanied by collaborative, Internet based software solutions. Whether those come from Adobe, WizIQ (check back tomorrow for a Connect vs. WizIQ shootout), Google, Microsoft, ePals, or open source efforts like Moodle matters little. The tools are maturing fast; the devices with which those tools can be accessed are increasingly portable, cheap, and ubiquitous; and students will find themselves connected and collaborating in ways that define what "21st Century Skills" are really all about.