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A new type of laptop computer from Google, Chromebooks offer thousands of apps, integrate seamlessly with Google Apps, include built-in virus protection, automatically update and back up data in the cloud, and boot up in just eight seconds.

Administrators in the Richland School District Two in Columbia, S.C., made the decision to pursue a 1:1 computing environment in 2011. But with a target of over 19,000 district students in grades 3-12, and a wide variety of devices on the market to choose from, putting a computing device in the hands of every student was no easy task.

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.

With over 200,000 applications available for Apple’s iPad and thousands more for Android devices, educators and students must sift through a lot of apps to find effective learning tools. An app is software that allows users to perform specific tasks on a mobile device.

A Pew Internet study released in April, “The Rise of e-Reading,” notes a gathering American trend of embracing digital content. The report found that 43 percent of Americans age 16 or older have read an e-book or other long-form digital material, such as a magazine article, over the past year. Of those in this age group who read every day or almost every day for work or school, 54 percent use tablets or other e-book readers. The report also says that those who read with e-book devices read more than others, and that portability and speedy access are major drivers of this trend.

Cameron Evans, Microsoft’s education chief information officer, doesn’t so much see the future holding a single device for one-to-one connections in classrooms, but what he terms “a richly connected ecosystem of learning devices, apps and services that are smart and aware of each other.”

The increasing number, affordability and practicality of apps, such as iBooks Author, is beginning to drive the choice of hardware devices for both schools and mainstream users, says Gail Palumbo, lead faculty and area chair for curriculum, instruction and teacher leadership for the University of Phoenix. “People are demanding more powerful apps that no longer work on older computers or even many newer ones,” she says.

Sixth-graders from the Wayland-Cohocton Middle School in New York train on Toshiba tablets, which the school won in a 2010 Win a Wireless Lab Sweepstakes.

Tablets have come a long way since Apple launched its pioneering Newton MessagePad in 1993, the first Internet-connected flat-screen device pairing a stylus with handwriting-recognition software. Since then, computer hardware companies have been refining and experimenting with the concept of Internet-connected tablet computing devices. The personal digital assistant (PDA), convertible laptop/tablets, dual-screen booklet tablets, e-book readers and other designs have been among the many iterations of tablet computers, sometimes known as slates or media tablets.

“Ninety-one percent of teachers reported having access to computers in their classrooms, but only 22 percent said they have the right level of technology.” – Source: PBS Learning Media (2012)

 

Mooresville (N.C.) Graded School District

Scott Smith once led efforts for North Carolina’s technology educators, when he served as president of the N.C. Technology in Education Society (NCTIES), the state’s affiliate of the International Society for Technology in Education. Now, he is chief technology officer for the Mooresville (N.C.) Graded School District—a suburban town located 20 miles north of Charlotte. It’s one of the only public school districts in the country to issue laptops to every student in grades 3-12.

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