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Going Mobile

It’s about democracy and freedom. Freedom for EVERY individual to have a chance to realize his or her dreams and aspirations, is what America was built on. And school is one place—home is another—where we learn how to practice freedom and democracy. Yes, we learn stuff there too; the War of 1812 occurred in 1812. However, that sort of stuff is static. And, democracy and freedom are anything but. Just as doctors practice medicine, individuals in a democratic country need to practice democracy and freedom 24/7; they need to practice realizing their dreams and aspirations 24/7.

We predict that within five years, Eastern Michigan University, Western Michigan University, Central Michigan University and Northern Michigan University will all be closed down—or at least they won’t be doing business as they are now. Maybe some of their special programs, such as Western Michigan’s eCommerce Technology program and Eastern Michigan’s Judaica program, may continue to exist in some format, but the costs involved in getting a degree from such institutions simply do not justify the benefits.

Education and medicine have seen significant increases in costs, but limited increases in benefits. Interestingly, computerization has been brought to the “back office” (record keeping, accounting, etc.) in both areas, but the front office, where doctors meet patients and where teachers meet students, has seen precious little computerization.

Apple reports that 1.5 million iPads are used in K12. Given that there are approximately 55 million students in K12, the iPad has penetrated K12 faster than any other computing technology. And the tech tsunami doesn’t seem to be slowing down. We have seen this type of excitement before with desktops and then again with laptops, although their rates of growth in K12 were slower. Each time the expectations for what the computing device would do for education were sky high, and each time there was disappointment.

Nicholas Negroponte

In his call for a $100 LAPTOP for education in 2005, Nicholas Negroponte changed the course of computer history. In the face of many naysayers, Taiwan-based Asus announced the EeePC 701 subnotebook in June 2007 for a price of $199. While the actual price in November 2007 was about double that, Asus still sold 300,000 units in the first four months of its release and ultimately sold four million units in its first year of availability.

Without question, America’s greatest social experiment—it’s greatest social contribution—is public education. Educate all children until the age of 18 for free? It was an unprecedented idea, but the system it led to is now broken.

If we want children to memorize the capital of each state or the presidents of the United States, then 3x5 flashcards, at $0.99 for 25, is a time-tested technology.

Let’s be honest. Flipping the classroom and using clickers and other new products can only have a modest impact on student achievement. Why? Because the underlying pedagogy of such innovations is still direct instruction, with a teacher telling students stuff and then students working to remember that stuff.

Technology demonstrates its significant value time and time again, from improving productivity in the workplace, to providing a huge range of personalized entertainment opportunities, to making the slogan “Reach out and touch someone” an essentially frictionless reality. Unfortunately, in K12, technology has been a bust. In contrast to the communications industry, the music industry, the accounting industry, K12 has failed to see improvement in student achievement attributable to the use of technology.

Computing technologies have profoundly transformed just about every major organization and field of human endeavor. To take just two examples, Apple is the largest distributor of music in the world, and manufacturing and surgery are the province of robots, not humans.

But K12 still relies on textbooks and pencil pouches. Why have computing technologies failed to transform K12? Here are our 10 barriers to technology adoption.