So last week I discussed how hardware gets slower with time, and how operating systems get larger over time. What my point was in all of that discussion is the value in smaller-scale computing.
What do I mean about smaller scale? Does anyone remember the netbook revolution?
Netbooks failed miserably, and rightfully so. They were low-cost, low-power, and low processing power. In 2010, Apple delivered the iPad, it was fast, nimble, and could harness the power of an ARM processor. ARM processors are low-power processors (the “brain” of a computer) that use advanced instruction sets to do more on a smaller scale. With the iPad, users found they could do more with less; for instance they could browse the Internet sans laptop. They could use Facebook and Instagram with the power of a specifically-written application, instead of a web browser like Safari.
Low-power computing means a lot for education. By abandoning traditional COWS (laptops on carts models) teachers could utilize this power to keep more organized classrooms, easy maintenance, and more educated teachers. Teachers don’t want to maintain the technology, and they are in dire need of a set it and forget it model of instructional technology.
Why do you think learning management systems are so popular? Teachers don’t maintain them. Administrators don’t maintain them. Developers maintain them.
IT staff don’t maintain those carts full of laptops. The poor souls that boot them up at the start of class restart them for updates and repair their broken keys and such.
Tablets and other low cost/power options such as iPad minis and Chromebooks can serve a tremendous role in classroom. This is due to their power and cost-effective use. They do most things in the background, update automatically, and boot up quickly. Teachers and students alike can appreciate this. Also, if things happen (such as drops or spills) risks are minimal. Cloud storage (iCloud, OneDrive, Google Drive) usually back up user files. Costs of devices are usually in the $200-$300 dollar range, which means after they pay for themselves the can be broken and it’s not a tremendous amount of harm.
This is part two of my guide on hardware and education. This series is made to educate a novice on the basics of computer hardware and how it applies to education. I’m actually sure the audience for this post isn’t actually novices…let’s face it…you’re probably a power user-you’re reading my blog.
So what I was addressing earlier was what major components are in a computer (smartphone, tablet, laptop), and how they play a part in education. I’ve worked in many schools where the laptops were just really slow, and that was due to the fact that the hardware was just incredibly old. 2010 was one of those years.
In 2010 laptops came standard with about 4 gigabytes of RAM (random-access memory). The operating system and many programs that system administrators install on school laptops slow them down. For instance, many schools have tight security protocols, which require a couple of antivirus programs and data “sniffers.”
These programs, along with office and graphic design applications can really suck the life out of a laptop.
Fast forward to 2014, and those once-fancy laptops that were slow to begin with now take five minutes to boot up. They have now reached “end of life.” That means that from an average user standpoint…they’re practically unusable.
This is attributed to the former blog post, which described how the CPU, GPU, RAM, and other hardware components are simply overwhelmed by the sheer size of what’s going on inside it.