Chaplain’s versus Laptops
The Digital Education Revolution is dead; its death will take place sometime in December 2011 when Kevin Rudd’s original promise is reached and all that will be left is 20 million dollars of support for infrastructure for a two year period. At the same budget reading we heard about a nation wide drive for Chaplains in schools. Where did we as educators go wrong? I have strong memories from 1985 at high school of scripture class as it was called at the time and the issues that caused for those students who did or did not attend. Why is it back and Federal supported and funded at what blatantly appears to be at the cost of future proofing the nation and my retirement?
The death of the revolution will hurt me and teachers who, like me teach Computer Science based subjects. We teach the students how to use the trucks (thanks to Steve Jobs for that gem) that drive the worlds computing. The revolution in NSW brought equity to schools and their students. In NSW the revolution saved me from having to win a fight with my English faculty over spending $20,000 on the full Adobe Creative Suite which I was never going to win. It provided my students with a computer that was not restrained by what is now a 10 year old operating system which is XP, which by the way still has a massive strangle hold on my region which I cannot explain when other regions in NSW already are running the same hardware on Windows 7 and they could take them home and continue to work and learn through complex problems. What makes it even more painful is that this years cohort where the most excited since the revolution began and realised from the start of the limitations of their new learning tool.
These fore mentioned trucks (destop PC’s) have continued funding under T4L and wont be disappearing anytime soon, the only question mark over the T4L is the extra software contracts NSW picked up as part of the revolution and what is their expiry date.
With the basics covered it is time to start looking to the future. Which is quite bizarre given that the revolution is not cold yet. As it happens, on the Thursday after the budget there was this little show going on in the US for developers. You may have heard of it? Google I/O? At this developer conference the world got its first look at the Google Chromebook, most people in the world probably only heard the Angry Birds announcement and rushed to the Chrome Store to install app.
If you have not seen a Chromebook here it is http://www.google.com/chromebook/ Now this is not a revolutionary computer, all it has is a web browser! What it does have is affordability. Google announced that Schools would only pay $20 a month per user. This whole Chromebook army can be external managed similar to how the current laptops are and are updated just like the current Chrome web browser, without the user ever knowing. Now I hear you saying what about all the applications. Well it turns out that there are the Google docs services, Microsoft Office Online services and Office 365 all in the cloud. and thanks to Google and its push for everything in the browser there are more and more applications growing in the cloud. Take a look at http://tinkercad.com/ awesome web tool for simple cad work which can be exported and printed in modern 3D printers used at school.
Now its no truck, but a Chromebook meets the needs of most educators and not just the few. Given we have only just started the true revolution surely we need to move quickly and get on board with this new mode of computing.
Its not Windows! well no its not. Microsoft and its partners (ours being Lenovo) do not offer anything like this, they have us using old technology as new and stuck in self managed servers even though Microsoft could have NSW all cloud bound. Microsoft’s own small machines similar to those found in libraries across the state would not be capable of the same work as the Google Chromebook’s. So given we are one of Microsoft’s largest worldwide partners can they come up with a similar alternative for the same cost? I doubt it though I have been known to be wrong.
Another plus for the Chromebook is that it can also have 3G connectivity built in, therefore closing the equity gap even more if they were offered with a small allowance of bandwidth.
So there you have it Chaplains or Laptops. I choose Chromebooks, you?