Then this week, my wife told me I had received a package. I knew it couldn't be anything for our FRC Robot because everything is sent to the school. I opened it up and saw the playful packaging I had seen hundreds of times on Slashdot and Twitter. I received a Cr-48! I could offer my thoughts on it, but you can find the specs online as well as many great reviews about what is and isn't amazing about it. So I thought I would talk about it from an Educator's perspective.
My Dad is the quintessential early adopter. He used Betamax and Laserdisk to watch movies, wrote notes on his Apple Newton, and played games on an Intellivision. His house could have served as a museum of technology. Yet, I learned to never be an early adopter for hardware because:
1) The first iteration is never that great and there are a lot of bugs or few features.
2) The initial cost is insane but drops dramatically after a year or so.
It is these two points that make me excited not for the Cr-48 or its future versions, but for what will happen because of it. Look at the impact that Apple has had on the design of technology. Everything has a touchscreen now and user interfaces are easy and visually appealing to encourage wide adoption. With Google I expect there to be similar changes to our culture with the Cr-48. Keep in mind it is just a prototype, the Chrome OS has not even reached 1.0 so we are at the Alpha Stage. It should not be judged by what it is but what it could be. This is why it was sent out to us for testing.
The Cr-48 has no hard drive because it is expected that you can do much of your work in the cloud. This along with other features dramatically reduces the cost. The race is on to create a laptop in which one can be productive for $100 or less. We have smartphones but they are too small to effectively create, we have laptops but they run through batteries too quickly and their startup time takes too long.
Cr-48 has a 7-10 second boot and approximately an 8+ hour battery charge (with Wifi enabled)! This means that one could be on a transatlantic flight and be productive for almost the entire flight (but I would hope they would take a nap or read a book). Even closer to my heart, a student could carry it around and effectively use it in class, on the bus, and at home. Not that we should be on our laptops all day but the ability to have quick access is certainly appealing.
What I am most interested in is seeing how data providers are able to subsidize the laptops. It used to be that only the CEOs of the world were able to own a smartphones but now anyone can get them and there are many available for free if you are signing up for a new data contract. We have all seen how ubiquitous the iPhone, Blackberries, and Android phones are getting and a huge percentage of our students use one now. Imagine only a few years from now (probably less than 3) everyone having a laptop that can instantly turn on and start working.
Even in my school where we have a 2:1 ratio, the laptops take a few minutes to boot and can be slow so many have all but abandoned their use in the classroom. What would you do if everyone had a laptop in your classroom that was easy and quick to use all day? Would you tell them to put it away like we do with their phones or would you provide meaningful ways for them to use that powerful technology to learn and explore?
It is a question we will all need to answer soon. What will you say?
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