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A new tablet, just for schools, comes to life

The story behind CDI’s new Android Unobook
Erez Pikar
Erez Pikar

This spring, CDI will roll out the first tablet designed specifically for the educational market. The company expects the 10-inch Android-based Unobook to one day be in the hands of every student in North America. Erez Pikar, COO of CDI, talks about how the company developed the Unobook. 

When did you start to think about developing an education-based tablet?

At the end of 2010 we started having conversations with educators and seeing studies that showed how technology could be most effectively used in classrooms. What we sensed was that conversation had switched from ‘is technology good for education?’ to how to use it most effectively. Just throwing technology at students didn’t help and seemed to hurt in some cases by distracting the kids and taking away from their ability to learn. We realized that the idea of one-to-one computing—providing technology access to every student throughout the day—was starting to gain momentum. 

How did you decide to address that new thinking?

We talked to superintendents, principals, teachers, technology support people. We asked them how they envisioned technology to be the most effective. 

What did they say?

Three points rose to the top. The first was that the technology must be accessible all day long. So we knew we had to deliver a device per student. The second was that the device had to be

 “Our goal is to produce a device at a price point of $100 per student per year.”
Erez Pikar, CDI COO

mobile, so students could use it in school, at home, at bus stops or practice fields. The third point we heard was there had to be platform thinking, not just device thinking. They wanted ways for the teachers to communicate with the students, for example.

Is that all they wanted?

Also, all of that had to be more than affordable. It had to be available without increasing their budgets whatsoever 

Why a tablet?

It had to be a notebook or a tablet. PCs weren’t mobile enough and smaller devices don’t have the functionality we needed. A tablet is kind of like a book, which meant a soft mental transition from an educational point of view. 

What was the next step?

We sent one hundred generic test tablets to educators for a few weeks, then we called them and sent them surveys. We asked what would turn this into the perfect device. We came up with 12 points that would make educators and students happy. 

Some of those points are what distinguish Unobook from a traditional tablet. Can you describe the differences?

The quality of the screen and the multi-touch functionality is better so it can be used for more time per day. We designed it to be more rugged, too. The software, student response system and classroom management tools will be integrated into Unobook so school districts won’t have to spend more money on applications. 

When will Unobook be available? 

We’re launching Version 1 in May. It addresses a few of the 12 points. Version 2 will add more, and by 2013 we will have a tablet with all the elements educators requested.

Will it meet those budgetary constraints?

Now, we’re aiming for a price point of $250 to $300—less than what schools are spending on new and refurbished PCs. But our goal is to produce a device at a price point of $100 per student per year, which is what schools now spend on books, PCs and existing technology.