As most of my readers know, my interest in affordable, highly mobile laptops for education has really taken off lately. It's very clear that, whether under the guise of the Eee, the XO, or another slick little cheap laptop, 1:1 computing is becoming both realistic and sustainable, since these machines meet the needs of most students.
That is not to say, however, that we all should be swinging Classmates through the halls by their little vinyl handles. While these, as well as thin clients, low-cost desktops, and even mainstream inexpensive laptops work very well for the vast majority of students, teachers, and staff, parallel development in educational multimedia means that there is a lot of room in Ed Tech for some pretty serious computing horsepower.
Every night of my classes at WPI, we all get a 10 minute break halfway through class as the professor processes the video and audio recordings from his tablet PC to post on Blackboard. Students in our marketing class put together a great presentation for the community on recent renovations in our school, but spent far too much time struggling with lagging video editing and chugging laptops instead of polishing the product or working on their public speaking skills.
We encourage kids to create videos for class projects, develop websites, and integrate a variety of media to engage them and their classmates using "21st Century Skills." However, as Paul Otellini noted Monday night in his CES keynote, there is a "need for exponentially more powerful processors and exponentially lower power processors, capable of performing real-time translation and augmented reality on mobile devices" (paraphrasing courtesy of Dan Farber).
What does that mean right now for Ed Tech? Huge amounts of computing horsepower are available as we speak for content creation. Even as we push to get more computers into more kids' hands, we need to ensure that they at least have access to much more powerful tools. Only with these tools can we teach them to create the engaging content they can access from their Classmates and XOs.