Guest Post By Daniel Cawrey
Many of us think about technology as something that we sit behind: maybe a desktop computer or a laptop that we type away on. But the reality is that technology is becoming more about what is in our hands, or in our pockets, and that significantly changes the way that we interact with each other, especially in the classroom.
I'm not just talking about smartphones and iPads. Witness this device that I came across during a technology conference held in Taiwan, where many of the computers that we use are planned and conceived before reaching the stores.
This device, made by a Taiwanese company called Viiliv, is the size of a smartphone and has a full keyboard. What is most remarkable about this “palmtop,” as you might call it, is that it runs Windows 7. This is the same up-to-date version of Windows that netbooks and larger computers run on, and it can be put into your pocket. This is being designed to cost just a few hundred dollars.
This is significant in many ways. Right now, most people walk around with cell phones, but there will soon be gadgets that are actually full-blown computers that can be slipped into a pocket. As an example, a student using this device would be able to compose complete term papers. In a world where everything is increasingly abbreviated to the point that grammar is becoming a lost art, this is important.
Let’s also not forget about the educational value of another emerging mobile technology, the tablet. Right now they are too expensive for every student, but that will change over time. India, for example, has thrown significant resources into creating a tablet that costs $35 to make. The sole purpose of this tablet is for educational purposes.
While no one can discredit the intrinsic value of books, devices like the palmtop and the tablet are increasingly going to be a part of the educators’ and students’ arsenals in the future. But the question remains: when does a technology become something that is a valuable resource in education, and when is it a distraction? Does that palmtop or tablet represent something that will be a help or a hindrance? What do you think?