27 January 2009

What is the Role of the Netbook in Education?

An article in this morning's NYT ("$200 Laptop Breaks a Business Model") got me thinking about technology and education, especially within the frame of the recession. With the economic climate as it is, school systems are going to have to get creative with technology, especially as they continue to strive to prepare learners who can engage in "multiple literacies, including digital, visual, textual, and technological, [which] have now joined information literacy as crucial skills for this century" (ALA, 2007). The netbook, a stripped-down version of the laptop utilizing solid-state hard drives, is usually equipped with Linux, a free operating system, and open-source software, such as Open Office. Some netbooks take advantage of email and online document services from the likes of Google, computing done "in the cloud." The key element here is price: you can buy a netbook for $200 and have the basic productivity software (word processor, presentation software, spreadsheets) for next to nothing. What makes this so interesting is the speed with which schools will adopt and utilize these technologies, if they will will at all. With shrinking technology budgets, will funding be allotted to existing machines or to these new, smaller versions? Who will provide training for educators to engage in these technologies and how will they be incorporated into teacher preparation programs?

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