The XO Tablet – first impressions

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Its not often one gets to brag about owning the only gadget in a whole country – but as the XO Tablet is only available from the USA, and the Australia arm of OLPC aren’t touching it, right now this is the case. Thanks to the generosity of fellow EdTech experimenters Wayan Vota and John Hunt, my 6 year old daughter has now logged about 10 hours on this latest iteration of what a ‘green machine’ can be and I’m ready to report some first impressions.

I’ll get to her thoughts shortly – but first, given the at times highly charged nature of all-things OLPC, some context. I have written for OLPC News before, am the Dad of a child in the target audience for the XO Tablet, and am a long-time OLPC supporter (with nearly 4 years of being employed by a state education department to support XO deployments). I’m also a well-known exponent of that other transformative mobile platform, the iPad, of which I’ve owned every model and even co-founded the Slide2learn.net community to support. I’ve also owned a Nexus7 Android tablet since its launch. What I’m trying to say is that I couldn’t have been more excited to get an XO tablet that sits right at the convergence of all these interests.

So, first impressions: I love the green case. Its chunky and grip-able and …

- Read the whole article at OLPC News here: http://www.olpcnews.com/tablets/xo_tablet/the_xo_tablet_-_a_first_impression_in_750_words.html

 

 

 

Response to a PC-era’s review of the XO Tablet

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At OLPC News there are a few good articles overviewing the XO Tablet and what it means for learners and well as One Laptop per Child’s overall program. The most recent one gives a more negative view than some which is good for balance but seems to be coming from someone still thinking that PC and PostPC devices can’t both have a place.

Go here to read it.

(http://www.olpcnews.com/tablets/xo_tablet/the_xo_tablet_violates_fundame.html)

Here FYI was my response :)

Nice to see a balanced overview here thanks Edward. For my part tho – and I’ve worked with XOs for over three years, and tablets as well – the one thing (something Wayan alluded to in his articles) that has me interested in the XO Tablet is the bundled software – I don’t think anyone could seriously think that part time volunteer coders writing in Python for Sugar can now ever compete with the quality of apps available for Android and especially iOS – there is no comparison in capability. So whatever hardware design one prefers (and lets face it, cheap but decent bluetooth keyboards can be used with the XO tablet very easily – some even combine with a case) IF the software is lacking then you can do very little with them, or at least very little in comparison to what’s in the Play Store and App Store. Am I right? And isn’t a sugar port headed to the XO tablet anyways?

 

The Nexus 7: first thoughts for Education

So Google has now personally joined the other big PostPC device makers (Amazon, Microsoft and of course Apple) in creating a dedicated tablet device designed to serve those consumers who choose their particular operating and media eco-systems. But what will it mean for education?

I’ve already seen ICT Works comment on FaceBook that its price will be great for developing nations. As it seems to strike a better balance between being a media consumption platform and a productive #PostPC device than the Kindle Fire and Nook devices do for the same price, this may turn out to be true for education worldwide. By all reports it has better components and build quality than those devices also (important when used by kids) – and is actually available outside to more than just one country, so thats an obvious advantage right there!

It might also inspire developers to actually make some android tablet apps as currently schools really have no choice by the $399 iPad2 because why buy a device at all if there is very little you can do with it (I’m saying there is much more that teachers need than just having the basic email/notes etc apps available). It does lack a 3G internet option though (like the Microsoft Surface), an 8 or even 16gb is a little small nowadays – so where is the SD card slot that has been the subject of so much Android marketing claims up until now?

I am seriously thinking of getting one as my first Android device to learn the platform a little better for the purposes of ‘translating’ such a consumer device into the education arena – how about you educators?

https://play.google.com/store/devices/details?id=nexus_7_8gb

Some new info on OLPC ‘dropped by helicopter’ project

OLPC News has managed to dig up some more info via ITProPortal.com – its worth reading in terms of the wider debate about how ICT deployments should be executed, and where the balance between trusting the serendipitous nature of human curiosity and responsible planning for long term success lies…

My comment:

So they are not even XO’s? I guess the 3.0 is not available – begs the next question of what version of Android they are running – not perhaps something the villagers themselves would be concerned about I suppose.

Actually if its a motorola, it could very well be the ET1: http://www.engadget.com/2011/10/10/motorola-unveils-rugged-et1-android-tablet-for-enterprise-types/

or the Xoom 2 which is at least water resistant (but larger at 10 inches) – neither of which are low cost devices by any means.

- Actually the photo if genuine on the original ITProPortal.com site shows a 10 inch Xoom.

More to the point is the reports on the pilots progress – learning to turn it on or rote repeat alphabet may seem massive if in fact the starting point was zero – but now they know these things, what is the benefit to the village? Was an environmental impact study done first or is the only benefit to the researcher?


#LWF11 Festival of Learning & Technology: My Best Of

I recently had the great opportunity to attend the Learning Without Frontiers ‘festival of learning and technology’ in the UK in January of this year. The conference itself had three streams of Handheld learning, Game based learning, and digital safety. I of course had been interested mostly in attending the handheld learning sessions, but it was in fact the lineup of amazing short talks (what we used to call ‘Keynote’s in a pre-TED talks world) that ended up having the most impact on my thinking.

(Collage created in Moxier Collage on iPad)
So, I’d like to share here which of these talks I found the most inspiring, and hope they may provide the great start to your year that they did to mine: (I’ll include direct viewing links as well as links to download the podcasts via iTunes).
Iris Lapinski – Apps for Good, a problem solving program for young people that leads to their apps being created using Android. Features students themselves talking about the project.
Theo Gray – Creator of the Elements App; Co-founder of Wolfram Alpha; spoke eBooks, creating media, and about the disruption caused by technology.
Bill Rankin – ACU mobile connected initiative. ACU in Texas, USA was the first university to deploy iPhones and iPod touches to all students and faculty, and they now have three years of data showing the initiative to be a success. Bill talked also about eBooks and the future of books and textbooks.
Abdul Chohan – ESSA Academy school UK – this schools was a failing school, until a re-boot saw iPod touches widely and smartly deployed.
Tony Vincent – Learning in Hand – Tony expertly goes through just what’s possible with mobile movie making.
Stephen Heppell ‘Education is the next cartel that people and technology will break’. Inspiring and disruptive as ever, Stephen was great at cutting through to inspire thoughts about what education should look like.
Jimmy Wales, co-founder, Wikipedia – A great opportunity to hear directly from the founder of such a central plank of the digital revolution share his thoughts on the power of information.
David McCandless – Infographics – informationisbeautiful.net
Just wanted to take this opportunity to say a huge thanks also to everyone who SMS’d and TXT’d in to support my shortlisting in the Primary Innovator Award category – the win was a  great surprise, and just goes to show the strength of the great networks I’m privileged to be a part of.

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So what are these super popular tablet computers capable of anyway?

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Its hard to deny that in the book that tells how computing has become more and more mobile such that its already almost ubiquitous, the current chapter would be titled ‘tablets’. While they have been around for some years in various forms, the recent maturation of mobile operating systems such as Android and iOS to match the slate style has seen an explosion in the adoption rates of tablet computers. The iPad is selling over 1 million devices a month, and it seems that conversely, about a million different Android tablets get announced each week. The Dell Streak, Asus EePad and Samsung Galaxy are all examples of high profile Android tablet computers that will be released in the next 4 months. There are also education specific initiatives around Android tablets in the shape of the Marvel/OLPC $99 project, and India’s $35 slate. Of interest also is what HP releases in the way of a ‘PalmPad’ tablet that will run the WebOS they bought along with Palm.

Ok, so enough about the hype of devices. What can they do? And specifically, what can they do for learning? Not having access to an Android tablet yet myself, my observations are based on the using the iPad. For a list of Android education apps though, go here.

I’m aiming then to post semi-regular articles on what these tablets can do, starting today with this example: iBrainstorm (free from the appstore). This app (an others like it) allow you to map out ideas, plans and thoughts visually. Where it really provides a new experience is that, being available on a tablet, all the work is done by direct touch, just as we would have once done pre-PCs. So we get to arrange notes and draw in a paper-like way, but with all the advantages that working digitally brings – such as instant sharing and storage of the brainstorm session. And, you also get to instantly collaborate. iBrainstorm allows other devices (iPhones or iPod touches as you’d expect from this platform) to connect via bluetooth and create their own sticky-notes which can be passed to the main iPad with a flick of the finger.

In a classroom, I can just see the group work possibilities. You could have four – five students summarising a topic, with up to four students creating sticky-notes of key points and flicking to a fifth student with the iPad tablet who then arranges them. I am really hoping that in near future the developers will add a video-out capability so the work could be projected to a big screen to show the brainstorm taking place live – that way the whole class could contribute.

If this is any indication of the kind of applications that tablet computers of any platform are capable, I for one am excited about the the kind of learning they will help enable. Of course it all depends on teachers facilitating their use – would love to hear from other teachers attempting to do so.

iPhone 4 – not much for educators? (updated)

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While I wait for a decent Android tablet to ship (be it iPod touch or iPad sized), I’ll instead post here about the just released info on the iPhone 4 and its OS (iOS4). Why? Well because in my state alone there are many many schools using the iPod touch to enhance learning. Here are some thoughts:

iPhone 4 new wiz-bang features:

  • 960x 640 ‘retina’ IPS display, antenna’s integrated into the case, front facing video camera, all glass casing thats much thinner than the 3GS, noise-canceling mic, Apple A4 processor, LED flash, fast 802.11N wifi, gyroscope, 5 megapixel camera with 5x digital zoom, 720p HD video recording, iMovie for iPhone and ‘Facetime’ wifi video calling.

I can’t see much there that will actually help me do my job as a teacher any better than what the 3GS does, perhaps except that it’ll be a bit faster at switching from say reading a pdf to showing a picture etc. UPDATE: Looks like from the tech specs on the iPhone 4 site that it will support VGA out to projectors like the iPad – NICE!

Perhaps of more interest from a school perspective is what the iOS 4 update will bring on June 21:

  • iBooks – plenty of free books AND will soon be able to act as a standard PDF reader and bookshelf
  • Multi-tasking – this is why I say iOS4 – not much for schools, because the vast majority of us are using 2nd gen iPod touches in our schools, and these won’t support mulit-tasking. Will have to see what price the 3rd gen iPod touch drops down to around september when the 4th gen iPod touch should be released, but when the 2nd gen is now available for under AU$200, its hard not to be getting these for schools
  • Spellchecking is listed as one of the new features – didn’t we have that before?
  • bluetooth keyboard support – now this might be a big one for students – what does everyone think? Screen still too small to type with a full keyboard?
  • The update will at least be free for iPod touches now!

Android mLearning project- in Brisbane, Queensland (in today’s courier mail)

In a sign that mobile computing in schools is becoming slowly ubiquitous, at least as far as entering the ‘experimental’ phase of the Innovation cycle (see http://ceit.uq.edu.au/pages/content/ceit-approach for more info on this cycle), a school in my own backyard (Brisbane, Australia) has become the first in the world to give its students an Android phone.

While there are many such trials occurring with PDAs and non-connected devices, I know of only one other k-12 trial where the students actually have fully connectable smartphones. Very interesting…

via tweetie

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