Last week, we were fortunate enough to allocate some grant funds to purchase a couple of Amazon Kindles and Sony Readers to evaluate for assistive technology. They aren't in yet, but our goal is to determine where these early readers might make the most sense for students with disabilities as well as to evaluate their potential in mainstream classrooms.
Right now, I'm not holding my breath for use with most of our students since all the same issues I've been blogging about for awhile still apply: lack of textbook content, lack of color, DRM, etc. The Sony Reader has a bit more promise because of its use of EPUB and its Google partnership, but the whole industry, at least as it relates to Ed Tech, is still very much in its infancy. However, I'm hopeful that some students can benefit from the assistive tech aspects, while others might actually see them as motivation to read, take notes, and engage in new ways with books.
However, no sooner were the orders for these pilot units placed than Asus announced its upcoming dual touchscreen e-reader. At half the price. According to ZDNet's Jason Hiner,
ASUS popularized the netbook phenomenon with its Eee PC, after OLPC had created the category. Now, the company wants to do the same thing with ebook readers, a category that Amazon and Sony have pioneered and turned into a niche market in recent years.
As CNET reports,
One screen could also act as a virtual keypad, according to the Times report, which would move the device into laptop territory.
The Asus e-reader would have a full color screen, and it may also feature speakers, a Webcam, and a mic for Skype, enabling cheap phone calls over the Internet, the Times reports.
Interestingly, this sounds an awful lot like OLPC 2.0, doesn't it? Since Asus whipped into the netbook market following in the XO's footsteps, that's hardly surprising.
Whether it's a slick new e-reader or a cheap netbook redux, it's clear that Asus will be once again ushering in a new class of devices at unheard of pricepoints that can have major implications for education.