How much do we really need?

I read this article with a great deal of interest today.  

Vodafone and Canonical Release a Webbook in South Africa

The combination is interesting.  The hardware is based on ARM architecture and the operating system, Ubuntu, is free.  Imagine what you could do with your class, armed with that power.  Imagine just how many units could be purchased with the same amount of dollars that are spent on what you’re buying today.

http://www.canonical.com/vodafone

In many ways technology has got away from some of the uses that education needs.  Do we honestly and truthfully need to have every machine in a school on the high end of power and performance for the tasks that we do.  You can’t blame the vendors; they’re providing what the market thinks that consumers want.  And, perhaps for the ultimate home hacker, they can find a use for it.

But, in an educational world where we’re talking about building conversations, making electronic projects, using the power of the internet, immersing ourselves in a world of web applications, are we bankrupting the process by not looking for alternatives that are a better fit?

Yes, there will be times where you need a local machine or a “mother ship” to sync your portable devices (thanks, Becky and Mark) but just how much is enough?  How much empty hard drive space is wasted globally?  It’s kind of scary when you think of it.

That’s why initiatives like Chromebooks and now this device are so intriguing to me.  There is so much available on the web; we all know that.  Configure a good browser and tie in appropriate web applications and you’re off to a good start.  What’s interesting about the Vodafone/Canonical deal is that potentially it could go even further.  You’ll need an operating system and Edubuntu (the educational branch of Ubuntu) is a great start.  In addition to the standard Ubuntu software, Edubuntu packages a very nice collection of educational software.  Check out the offerings at the Edubuntu wiki.  If you have already installed Ubuntu, you can pick and choose packages depending upon student age.

But, do we have what it takes to stand up and say let’s give it a go?  Can we sit back and take an honest analysis and ask just how much we really need to spend to do what needs to be done?  I wonder.

A previous posting to this blog had someone ask if I knew of a school district that had tried a switch?  I’m not aware of one.  Are you?  

I think this is an exciting announcement and I know that I’m going to be following it with great interest.

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