PC World published an article about Raspberry Pi‘s device, a credit-card-sized mini-computer that can run Linux for basic computing or be used for simple tasks like streaming video. The basic version will be sell for $25, and the ethernet-enabled version will be priced at $35.
Designed with education in mind, this Cambridge University’s initiative was intended for kids to be able to program.
[We] felt that we could try to do something about the situation where computers had become so expensive and arcane that programming experimentation on them had to be forbidden by parents; and to find a platform that, like those old home computers, could boot into a programming environment.
This story is not unlike India government’s affordable tablet initiative. A Canadian company won the bid last year to produce affordable tablet devices to be sold for $20 to$35 all across India.
More than 800 million people in India have mobile phones and more than 10 million are signing up each month. Yet the number of Indians with regular access to the Internet is shockingly low: about 10%. The Indian government is banking on a nationally subsidized mobile tablet to help pull millions of its disconnected citizens online and into the modern economy.
Can you imagine how transformative this could be for education? If you could put one (or two) of these devices in the hands of all your students, what would this mean?
For the sake of scale comparison, the following table roughly demonstrates the number of devices you could get for the price of current portable products.
|Kindle Fire||Acer AC700-1099 Chromebook (Wi-Fi)||iPad 2
(16GB, no 3G)
|India’s tablet (low price)||$20||10 devices||15 devices||25 devices|
|Raspberry Pi||$25||8 devices||12 devices||20 devices|
|Raspberry Pi with Ethernet or India’s tablet (high price)||$35||5 devices||8 devices||14 devices|
Although these devices are not equivalent, you get the idea. As the hardware becomes affordable, it becomes possible to standardize it and make sure everyone has access to it. If all your files are in the cloud, you can swap one device for another, and hit the ground running without breaking the bank if you lose or break the device. It would be like buying earbuds from the bookstore.
Do you see applications for ultracheap devices like these in your classroom? At what cost could your department afford them for all students in your programs?