Computers are so … last year!

Saturday, October 2nd, 2010 | Computer Usage

The rapid progression of technology was brought home to me when I read the following on a blog posting about free e-books this morning:

These books can be downloaded in multiple digital formats, including sometimes ePub and Kindle formats. This gives you the ability to read the works on the Kindle, iPad and other mainstream e-book readers. But the old fashioned computer will also do the job.

The part that jolted me was the implication of the last sentence!.

The days of viewing computers as high-tech are over!  Portable devices are now the rage and many of them are as powerful – or even more powerful – than a PC or laptop.  Some of them serve a specialised purpose such as e-readers; others are versatile, combining a cell phone, camera and all the normal computer functionality in one device.

Scores of learners on the African continent are walking with cell phones in their bags and the number of things they can do with them increase by the day.  Sadly, many of their teachers are still in the BC (before computers) era, and some of them have started just recently using old-fashioned computers.

Teachers … do you read a lesson in this?

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9 Comments to Computers are so … last year!

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Linda Aragoni
Sunday, 3 October, 2010

There’s another implication for education that I don’t often see addressed. In the US, small businesses with under 10 employees provide most of the jobs. Those businesses cannot afford to keep up with the latest technology. I’ve yet to see a small business in my part of New York that has a computer with software later than Windows XP. (One former client uses a TRS80, quite possibly the only one left outside a museum.)

I suspect that this lag is not just a US phenomemon. The rest of the world may get today’s current tech before US small business owners do, but I doubt that their businesses will be able to afford annual technology upgrades either.

As a result of this lag, students leaving schools for not only have to know how to use current technology but how to use both and emerging technology and old technology. In that environment, teachers who are not using any technology except their microwave ovens pose an educational and economic hazard.

Mark C
Sunday, 3 October, 2010

I don’t agree that educators do not have PCs or don’t use them. There are much more educators interested in having their own PCs, particularly laptops. Many inquire about the Teacher Laptop Initiative with great interest (which I advise them not to take but rather to bite the bullet and invest in their own laptop on a budget facility of a credit card. have some discipline). Almost every educator has a mobile phone, but not all of them have the SMART phone features. In any case, research shows that most users use an average of about three features on a phone. Advanced users use about four. This basically brings me to a point I want to make and that is that we don’t use most of the features on our mobile devices. Mobiles are used for basic things but they don’t think about using it the way we may want them to use it.
The problem with mobile phone are that they become an intrusion, which some American universities have already banned. Students are not buckling down and concentrating on their work at hand, but rather fiddling around with messages, tweets,facebook and music. I can see that there are many educational uses for social networking, but the risks seem to be too great. The crime element is a major deterrant to using mobiles e.g gangsterism, drug-dealing, porn and theft. Unless we can use it in a controlled environment at school, I can foresee problems. Using it outside of school where the onus of risk is not so much on the school but the learner and parent seems to be ok. It can be a good thing, but…..

Brian Weaver
Monday, 4 October, 2010

Why would having a new windows OS be crucial? There is plenty of Open Source/Web Based stuff out there that would keep a small company’s costs down.

Monday, 4 October, 2010

I agree with Brian. I have Ubuntu 10 on my machine and I can’t see why most of my colleagues bother with anything else.

Mark C
Tuesday, 5 October, 2010

Glad to see some other FLOSS persons also read this blog and suggest Open Source Software. Despite working for the Khanya Project I strongly support Ubuntu and OSS. Maybe I’m a lone ranger or as a colleague of mine said, “idiosyncratic”. For most propriety software there is an Open Source equivalent. The problem is that our software vendors “supporting” the schools are not platform agnostic.

One my side all my machines except one run Ubuntu 10.04 or a variant of it. The other one runs Xandros I think. All this is free. The only reason my one child uses Vista is to DVD play games. The other plays online games with Linux. Some of my work I unfortunately have to do use Windows 7. I turned down mobile phones which are Windows-based. My BB is much better and if I can afford an Android phone…that is where my heart lies.

Sorry for the rant and rave. I have to push OSS every opportunity I get.

Kobus van Wyk
Tuesday, 5 October, 2010

Mark, you may find it hard to believe, but for many years I have been a great supporter of open source software. You touch on one of the reasons why Khanya has not fully embraced OSS – the unavailability of suitable educational software for the level of teachers we are dealing with. Another problem is that of expertise and support – you know what happened to the Shuttleworth Foundation’s TUX labs: the machines were gathering dust because there was nobody to make them work. I will go out of my way to assist schools that take the initiative to venture onto the OSS route … provided they take full responsibility for their technology.

Mark C
Wednesday, 6 October, 2010

Thanks Kobus. I asked some people to show me a workable Tux lab. Thus far nobody could. My wife’s school had one which they used, but you know issues surrounding old equipment. Now they have no lab. One “Khanya” school had an OSS lab and it was recently change to Windows (which I think was a mistake).

I think we can score on getting most of the virus problems sorted out that plague Windows. The other problem is that of learning. One must grow with the lab. That is the intention of the OSS community.

A good, reliable internet connection is a must.

The other thing is that schools can find free software on the internet which runs on Linux, MacOS and Windows. Not so long ago I spoke to one of the ADESSA software vendors and they are making their product platform agnostic. This is a good sign.

Suffice to say that all of us use OSS when we venture onto the internet to Google, blog, tweet or even mail, etc. Some of these products are not OSS but people are using OSS and don t know about it.

Expertise. I think we can build this make cape Town an OSS hub.

Dwayne Bailey
Tuesday, 12 October, 2010

@kobus I have to disagree with this statement “one of the reasons why Khanya has not fully embraced OSS – the unavailability of suitable educational software for the level of teachers we are dealing with.” for two reasons

1) The software doesn’t exist because you chose not to create the market. By chosing not to deploy Linux the lack of educational software becomes a self fullfilling prophesy. A simple strategic statement that all software must be cross-platform would eliminate that issue completely, like Spain did by requiring hardware supplied to government be certified to run on Windows AND Linux.

2) There is a serious misunderstanding about the role of consumers of OSS, here I mean the education departments themselves. Why is there no drive to write this software ourselves? Did we drink the koolaid that writing our own software is bad? To be honest most educational software that I’ve seen underwelms me and could be very easily replicated. It’s not like we’re the only country that uses educational software is it?

The great thing is that certainly point 1) is really easy to change and doesn’t even require deploying any open source.

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