Towards the Perfect Classroom

In our elementary schools, as a District, we have embraced the concept of laptops instead of desktops.  From a pedagogy point of view, there’s a lot of really good reasons for this approach.

When you had a lab of desktop computers, there are a number of challenges.  First, the tables that the computers sit on have often been an interesting collection of furniture that doesn’t fit anywhere else.  Even then, when a table is needed elsewhere, these are often prime pickings for a different placement.  Then, there’s the ergonomic reason — the same table and chair that would allow a 13 year old is made to accommodate a 5 year old.  Have you ever tried to type when your feet can’t touch the floor?  From a curriculum point of view, it makes sense to bring the technology to the point of instruction so that it can be used to complement other teaching strategies instead of the other way around.  There is no elementary computer curriculum, per se, so this avoids carving a “computer class” into the middle of the other required subjects.  Finally, there’s the economics of access.  When you build a computer lab for the biggest possible class, that’s great, but there are empty seats for classes that have less than standing room only numbers.

That’s not to say that mobile technology is perfect either.  With entire schools being wireless, it’s so nice to be able to take 1, 2, 10, or 30 laptop computers to any location so that they’re used when it’s appropriate in the curriculum.  The catch though, is that these things still require electricity in order to run!  In a perfect world, the computers are plugged in between use so that they’re fully charged for the next user.  As you can imagine, that doesn’t always happen.  With some planning and some innovative thinking, it can be made to happen.

But, wouldn’t it be nice to not to have to worry about that?

This morning, there’s some interesting news from Gizmodo. The new Dell Latitude Z series features wireless recharging of batteries.  The story was confirmed in this blog entry from Direct2Dell.  A quick search of the Dell online store indicates that there is some provision for the Z series but it doesn’t appear to be for sale just yet.  From the reading, it appears that this functionality will be on a very high end model.  That will prohibit its immediate adoption in the classroom where dollars remain a determining factor. 

However, this ground breaking announcement is intriguing.  Yes, early adoption will be in models that you pay a great deal of money for.  But, as the technology gets better, it typically gets to be more affordable.  In a Perfect Classroom, wouldn’t it be nice to be envision laptops that are charged without the step of plugging them into chargers? 

There’s got to be an engineer out there looking at this type of solution.  It seems to be a perfect match for education.

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