Reading this NYT article, it certainly seems that the day will be shortly upon us when one might expect to hear that, desktop PCs, at least in the home will be antiques that a few know how to build and a few more know how to setup. The rest of us will see them as connections to another era. But is this really going to happen? Well I can see the day coming in homes – where there is one static machine handling mass storage, networking and other utility like functions, while netbooks connect into it and the ‘net to get resources, dock to larger displays to edit photos and video and generally do everything that the “desktop” used to do. I can also see it happening in the office, where dumb clients will connect to Terminal Servers, saving space and support time. But what about the classroom?
This is the one place that I don’t hold up much hope. Schools have invested in large spaces to become labs, these spaces could host thin clients, but then they would bear little resemblance to what students see at home, even though it might be what they will one day see in the office. Schools are unlikely to hand out even the cheapest ‘netbook for fears of loss or some other computer related missive (perhaps as much an accounting issue as an admin/policy one), so kids are stuck again with old technology that is neither here nor there.
Granted, this is very pessimistic and there are many teachers and instructors out there who are already making use of laptops, netbooks and handsets, but the majority are not. Between lack of time, interest and training, it will take quite a bit to get teachers to adopt technology en mass.
But … and hold on to your hats for this one… maybe the Smart Board or some similar touch/pen input technology that is a computer but not a computer is what is needed (considering what a doubter I am of current smartboard technology, this is quite the admission for me). If a touch display can take the place of the classroom computer, allowing students and teachers to interact physically with the content that is stored locally or in the cloud, schools may just have a chance. It would be great if teachers, used to using a black/white board could “migrate” to using this touchboard to write out notes by hand, or to display notes that are already prepared without having to use a special pen. It would be even better if the teacher could then send this information out to the students by dragging and dropping, with the materials landing on some personal device.
If something like that could happen, then the classroom has a chance, otherwise, it will end up as the museaum bar none for the grandfather computer.