Tuesday, April 18, 2006

Commentary: Sotir: New Horizons in Educational Technology

Ultra Mobile PC/Samsung Posted by Picasa

Look behind you...the latest and greatest new technologies are already creeping up! Check out the Ultra Mobile PC (UMPC) that will be available this summer. As with any new technology, the first versions of the products need some tweaking, such as extending the battery life. However, it is compact and much smaller than a laptop, which is a big draw for portability and storage. It comes pre-loaded with Microsoft's Touch Pack for Windows XP and weighs in under 2 pounds. It has a 7 inch LCD (bigger than a cell phone or Blackberry, but smaller than a laptop), has a 30-60GB hard drive and an average battery life of of about 2 hours per charge (THAT won't set well with the mobile techies!) Prices will range from $599 - 1000, and could include GPS features, Webcams, and digital TV tuners. You can use it by a touch screen, a stylus or a dedicated onscreen thumb keyboard. If you need more flexibility, you can hook up a regular keyboard and mouse via USB or BlueTooth.
So how could this be used by Adult Educators? In the soon to be new world (at least in Aurora) of free Wi-Fi, these can be used in our classrooms. Since they are small and light, they can be easily stored in a lockable cabinet in the classroom. They are more affordable, and therefore can fit more easily into budgets. This is a new direction in computing, and one that should seriously be considered. Rather than the current configuration of dedicated 'labs' which limit the amount of classroom space, any room could become a lab by bringing in a cart on wheels with portable computers inside. If you have a three hour class period, three classes can each be a 'lab' for an hour of that time. One set of these per department can be all that is needed to bring computers into the classrooms. It's a new world, but one worth exploring.