$10 laptop - India leads the way
At Learning Technologies I talked about the stupidity of the table-top computer in schools and their fondness for DIY IT, whereby every school gets a budget and they all reinvent the wheel by doing the same thing, slowly, expensively and often badly. The well intentioned IT person in every school is struggling to get the website, VLE, security and resources for their schools in order. BETT is the showcase for this amateurism. It’s madness.
That’s why I mentioned the possibility, first mooted by Bill Joy the co-founder of Sun, of the $10 laptop. He saw this as a simple extension of Moore’s Law (exponential processor power) and others have added Metcalfe’s Law (exponential network power) and Reed’s Law (exponential utility of networks). This was reported last week as happening in India, but turns out to have been lazy reporting by the press. It is in fact a $100 laptop, something we’ve heard of before, through the one laptop per child initiative. It is clear that the cheap netbook or laptop is now about the same price as a games console and therefore within the reach of most parents. If we want personalised learning we must use personalise technology. In short, netbook/laptop/mobile technology will get more powerful, smarter, easier to use, wireless and cheaper. There will also be great leaps forward in screen technology that reduces battery power. The $10 laptop will, I believe, come in time.
But there’s more to this story than meets the eye, as it has another important component, the supply of content through the Sakshat portal. The vision is to link schools via broadband to resources that will be available to every child with a laptop. This is precisely what we should be doing in the UK. We must also remember that good content must be created centrally and distributed at low cost to all schools. You can’t rely on rapid development tools and teachers doing it for themselves, as they have neither the time nor skills to get the job done. God knows we’ve been punting this idea around for nearly 25 years with no progress reported so far.