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.