The world of public education is always money hungry. Even starving. Sadly enough, necessary funds are often lacking even in times of grandeur. During economic hardships, mandatory education needs are cut down to the bone. Classrooms are sometimes makeshift and stuffy portables, perhaps shared by a couple of teachers. Parents and other people in the community grumble about how their taxes go up to fund public education, then complain that their sons or daughters do not have adequate resources available once taxes are kept at a reasonable rate. I am often reminded of the adage: You cannot have your cake and eat it too.
But perhaps in one aspect, having ones cake and eating it too can happen. No, a magical troll will not ride down on a puffy cloud and sprinkle money all over the neighborhood (if this was the case, I would be currently outside with a bucket or ten, greedy nose pointed skyward). India (home of the ultra-affordable if not dangerous Nano mini-mobile) has created a proto-type computer that will retail for a pittance: $35. This wallet-friendly I-pad look-a-like will be available to higher education starting as early as 2011.
I can hear the collective moans already: Is this some sort of joke? Will it do more than play solitaire? Is it secretly a Commodore 64 in disguise? With education shaving its budget on not only a yearly basis, but some states operating on a month to month wing and a prayer, beggars can certainly not afford to be choosers. But fear not! Internet connectivity will be standard on this computer, as will a PDF reader, video conferencing, and other add-ons as they become available. With memory becoming less and less expensive, the storage capacity will be far more impressive than one might imagine.
So what exactly does this mean for public education? Where do we go (and grow) from here? One may envision a not-too-distant future student holding one of these tablets at their desk. Row by row, students are entranced by a lesson being led by a tech-savvy teacher, perhaps using one of these miracle machines connected to an overhead projector. Students can use the word processor already installed to type out a paper, then save it to the computer’s sufficient memory or e-mail it immediately to the teacher. To say the possibilities are endless would be an understatement. I, for one, rejoice at the opportunity this can and will present to my future students, my career, and public education in general. It is easy to see that for students to be successful in today’s society, growing up with technology and attaining tech wisdom is indispensable to being globally competitive. And a $35 price tag for these entry level tablets should not be asking much for students faced with a tech-advanced existence.
And if this is not enough good news on the education front to make teachers rejoice? Reports add that the touch screen computer will eventually fall in price to as low as $10 a piece. Barring any unforeseen issues (overheating?) Once the local Staples has these available, I will be one of the first in line.