A new sort of digital divide is arriving: hoards of school age kids with no room for many of them in a school, yet they have mobile internet access. For that reason, India will provide $10 – $20 low power laptops for practically every student across the country. India Express and The Wired Campus have articles today about the India initiative. Mobile phones are increasingly giving internet access to youngsters in more and more countries – places where there are school shortages and where portions of the population have never gone to school.
There is a choice you may never even have thought about that 21st century people must make very soon.
- Do we spend billions on brick and mortar schools and classrooms to accommodate the swelling global youth population? OR
- Do we organize what is known online and provide tutorials there that deliver much of the knowledge to the new generations?
Perhaps we can do some of both, but doing only the first choice is no longer an option. There is not the wealth available to do the physical building, nor the time
The fellows in the image are from a blog called The Art and Craft of Toy Design here. If you go to their webpage and play the YouTube video you can watch them interact with a laptop in a game for small children. The blog is based at the Parsons New School for Design. I found the link on the website I had just posted about Harry Potter’s toothbrush. Open educational resources online link to each other and form weblets of learning. Very cool stuff, especially when you run into Harry and plus lions and monkeys.
An article here in today’s New York Times discussions the investigations by reporters of duplications in text among competitive school textbooks. As we know from our own schooldays, when a student takes a course, a textbook has been selected for that course. The result is that what you are assigned learn as a student is essentially what is in that one selected textbook. Delivering study stuff that way made a lot of sense when I was in school back in the 1940s-50s. But today, if a student has access to the Internet, he or she has multiple sources for virtually any study topic.
Although the Times essay is about other questionable aspects of limiting 21st century kids to learning from textbooks at school, I think the math is the thundering flaw that roars out of the article:
Just how similar passages showed up in two books is a tale of how the largely obscure $4 billion a year world of elementary and high school textbook publishing often works, for these passages were not written by the named authors but by one or more uncredited writers.
$4 billion a year! Let’s do some math. There are upwards of 40 million students in elementary and high school in the United States (if you include homeschoolers). At $4 billion a year, every one of those kids could have a new $100 laptop every year! When the day comes that the mobile phone fully accesses the Internet, spending billions on textbooks will not add up at all.