Schools are doing the calculus. With the growing prevalence and lower cost of digital textbooks and the myriad options for tablet displays, it almost makes financial sense to go digital. Almost, but not yet.
In middle and high school the tablet has cachet, but it’s just not quite a laptop. Tweens and teens need to write, and writing on a tablet is awkward at best. The Chromebook is gaining traction because, as it is marketed, it solves many problems. You can read the digital texts on the Chromebook, it is small, but performs better than the first miserable wave of netbooks, and it can be purchased with a 3G wireless access plan for educational settings where wireless is not yet achievable.
As if getting to the One to One tipping point weren’t exciting enough, Google is now adding fuel to the silicon and PCB fire with rumors of a forthcoming heads up display (HUD). No, that’s not a scantily clad teacher dancing in front of the room. An HUD is the Kurzweilian display that utilizes fancy optics to project images that are visually accessible straight from your glasses.
I know nothing about what the price point might be on such a device, but suspend disbelief with me for a moment and imagine what the education world might look like two years from now if cheap HUD’s became a reality. Students sit in their desks or cubicles or tables or whatever, wearing HUD’s that are connected to smartphones or iPod Touches in their pockets. The smartphone serves as CPU so that all the glasses need to do is be the virtual screen for the learner.
Add to this scenario a wireless keyboard that communicates with the phone like this logitech with track pad for $31, and you have a one to one solution for the cost of the HUD (say $100 for my fantasy here), the keyboard, and the few iPod Touches that must be loaned to students who do not have a smartphone plan (much like we do with graphing calculators already). My back of the envelope calculation for a typical US school with 26% of the student body below the poverty line needing CPU loaners still gets us to One to One for under $200 per kid – and that’s if everything in that equation only lasts one year!
Let’s hope that Google elects not to make these HUD’s with tinted lenses. Can you imagine the parodies of Corey Heart lyrics?!