Sony Reader – WOW!!!

My wife, kids, and I treked up to Providence this past rainy weekend to catch an IMAX movie and do some early xmas window shopping. I had never been in a Sony Style store before and as luck would have it my first time just happened to be the same day that the store received their first batch of the new Sony Reader.

From the Sony website:

The Sony® Reader provides a new way to experience reading. It boasts an impressive display1, utilizing breakthrough technology that’s almost paper-like. In addition, the text can be magnified for sight-impaired readers. Daylight readable, high contrast, high resolution, near 180º viewing angle.”

All this is true and more!!

When I first picked up the device I thought for sure I was looking at a stick on decal that often is used for display items. Much to my surprise when I hit the menu button, the text changed and I was greeted with a new screen, looking equally like a decal, but actually was the real thing. The E-INK technology is amazing!

Again from the Sony site:

What is e Ink® Technology?
The Sony® Reader’s display uses e Ink® – a significant improvement over CRT and LCD technology. Instead of rows of glowing cells, e Ink® microcapsules actually appear as either black or white depending on a positive or negative charge determined by the content. The result is a reading experience that’s similar to paper – high contrast, high resolution, viewable in direct sunlight and at a nearly 180-degree angle, and requiring no power to maintain the image. In other words, it’s a screen that, like you, is well read.

I want this device very much. I am still debating on whether the $350 is worth it especially for a 1st generation device!?!?

Additional features that make this device even more exciting are many. It has an SD card slot for increased storage capacity. It plays unprotected MP3 and AAC files. It will display PDF files and other personal documents (I believe MS Word but not sure about ODF?).

The idea of being able to carry one small device for all of my media needs…electronic books, PDFs, classical music to listen to while I read, podcasts, etc…..is a game changer in my book. What if every student was issued this device on the first day of school????

NOTE: I am not typically a fan of SONY (search “SONY” and “rootkit”) and I have no relationship with the company other than being a consumer of their products. In this case I am very excited about this offering.

Last question: will the syncing software work on Mac OS X and Linux in addition to Windows????

50% is easy…. 100% is hard

Teaching in an educational system where the expectation or goal is to educate the top 50% of students is easy.  When the goal is 100% it gets much harder.  What was the expected percent in this country 20 years ago? What is the expected percent in the rest of the world now?

A laptop for every student….one way

It would appear that the budget for new and replacement desktops and laptops for Stonington Public Schools next year is going to be around $80,000. Forget the fact we have students needs K-12. Forget the fact that we don't know what we will get next year. Forget the fact that we have many, many, many other needs (including the need for more tech support.)

There are approx. 800 students at Stonington High. $80,000 divided by 800 students is $100. Lets assume we get that for 3 years (and there are no toher district needs). So we can theoretically apply $100 per year for three years to student technology.

Lets also say that students/parents are able to kick in $20 per month.  This could be earned thru service learning work, raised via fundrasiers, or simply from parent pocketbooks.  Over the ten month school year that is $200.

So we are talking 3 year, $100 + $200 = $300 for student technology.  This could be done every year.  Students get a laptop freshman year.  They use it for 3 years.  Get a new one Senior year and are prepared with a laptop for college or an underclassman could purchase and take over payments for 2 years.

Financing could be done thru vendors or posisbly thru larger salary accounts of the BOE.

$900 for a digital device (laptop)….free, open source, and web2.0 software….minimal but solid wireless infrastructure to support the laptops with mobile printing and projection kiosks.  Then we can actually get to teaching and learning……….

What if we threw it all away? (K12 tech infrastructure)

I have been having an especially frustrating day with my district's technology infrastructure so take all of this with a grain of salt…

What if we threw it all out and started over? What if we relied on students buying their own laptops (subsidized with built in scholarship by the district) and thus outsource the maintenance headaches? What if we gave a basic description of what students should have/need to be prepared for school (like many colleges)? What if we leveraged the many free and open source technologies to replace what we are trying to re-create/buy for our schools? Hang some wifi access points connected to fiber connected to leased lines and let students have at it. Setup printing kiosks (main terminals connected to a dedicated printer) and provide multimedia projectors. What would the total cost be for this alternative as opposed to what we are doing now? Outsource the purchasing decisions to families. Outsource the support of the end user devices to the computer companies. Outsource the software and services to the companies making them. Use your existing staff to provide a bare-bones infrastructure and have them help integrate and suggest solutions that students can go find (and of course admin and teacher machines). Isn't this the constructivists approach to educational technology???  How would we do it?  I think this would be a great unconference topic….

Boot Camp….no more Dells!

I read with great interest  this morning the Apple move to allow dual booting of OS X and Windows on Mac hardware.  The technology is freely available in Beta now but will be a standard part of OS X 10.5 Leopard.

If I am a decison maker for purchasing hardware for school systems (and I am) why would I not want to standardize on Apple hardware and then dual boot or runs Windows or OS X as needed/desired?  Currently we deal with Apple and Dell and the lines are not clearly defined what machines go where.  If Apple can support their hardware in as timely a manner as Dell, I see no reason why I wouldn;t go all Apple.

Also, if there are any people still hanging on to the Mac v PC OS debate…problem solved…use what you want!!! 

Elementary Teachers and PDAs

I just finished a 2 hour training session with 10 elementary school teachers in a small grades 3 and 4 school.  They were given the PDAs 24 hours prior to the session.  I was shocked at how interested they all were and very willing to explore and take time to learn.

Every once in awhile I break out of my pessimism about public school educators and really enjoy their enthusiasm.  Tonight was ne of those times.

Not sure how this all plays in but this particular school is small (7 classrooms), has a large percentage of younger teachers (at least 50%), and has all ready been initiated intot he personal tech world (they were all issued iBooks 2.5 years ago).

The issuing of iBooks to all Elementary teachers is still, in my mind, the best thing we have done to move the ICT literacy of staff forward…now if we coudl just do that for/with students!?!?!