I know that Intel has great plans for seeding markets in developing nations (err, I mean, bridging the Digital Divide), but their newly announced Eduwise laptop sounds like a darn fine idea for a lot of schools in the states (mine included). Although the details on the laptop are still sketchy, it looks to meet virtually every one of my requirements for new computer deployments:
- It's cheap (designed to sell for $400 when available)
- It's portable (it even has a handle, old-school iBook style)
- It has built-in wireless capabilities
- It can run Windows or Linux
- It will feature built-in e-teaching software to allow student-teacher interaction
Unfortunately, according to Intel:
"...while the company has no current plans to market the device in the U.S., 'there is interest that we will explore over time.'"
Now I'm all for bridging the Digital Divide, but a Digital Divide exists here in the states as well. If I drive 40 miles east to the wealthy suburban community of Wellsley, Massachusetts, I'm going to find a very different array of computer hardware than I do in my own poor, rural town. My colleage, Marc Wagner, and I have been talking quite a bit about sustainable lifecycle funding. How much easier would it be to purchase and replace on a regular basis a few mobile labs worth of $400 laptops? My budget generally runs $5-10,000 per year (assuming we don't need to buy extra heating oil). For $8000 a year, I could replace an entire 20-seat lab.
Given that most of my labs are using dinosaur technology as it is, I hardly need high-end laptops (say with backlit keyboards and dual-core processors from a company that rhymes with Snapple). I also don't want to give every kid a laptop, whether for $100 (with a hand crank), $400 with a spiffy handle, or $3000 with iTunes included. On the other hand, being able to purchase a few new portable labs every 3-4 years would be as much of a boon for my district as it would be for kids in Bangladesh.
Help us out, Intel. I know that Intel has provided a great deal of training and free equipment here in the states. Now I'm asking for access to some great technology that might actually put reasonable, lifecycle-funded computers in the hands of some very poor schools here, too. At $400 a pop, even I can snag quite a few of these little guys.