Elliot Soloway and Cathleen Norris of Universiy of Michigan talk about the opportunities cell phone computing has for one-to-one computing in schools. While this is a conversation you've likely had over the past decade with some frequency - perhaps its time has finally come.
Due to some advances in technology, the state of the economy, and some significant pedagogical changes in schools, cell phones may actually be at a point where districts can explore their use in classes.
You may remember the NY Times article "Seeing No Progress, Some Schools Drop Laptops" several years back. The article cited three basic reason why: the devices didn't have educational software; lacking adequate professional development; and the cost of sustaining the hardware was prohibitive or impossible.
Soloway and Norris suggest that it is for these very reasons that the cell phones or maybe even netbooks can be successful and point out how schools can ensure that they are.
Educational Software - Establish the device as an Essential Tool
It is critical for success to create a device that is an essential tool. A tool that students and teachers can't live without to do their jobs. To do this we must provide operating systems and software that is job specific. In the private sector essential knowledge workers have devices that do just that. Real estate agents, accountants, doctors and engineers all have software that is specific and "essential" to their jobs. Education need to create portals and dashboards that deliver information and tools to our knowledge workers; students, teachers and even administrators that is essential so they can be successful knowledge workers in the 21st century and beyond.
Create professional development that is Sustained and Virtual
Professional development programs need to be "just in time" , relevant and continous for teachers. Bring online courses in to the mix of options for teachers with Learning Management Systems such as Blackboard, Angel and Epsilon.
Cost of Sustaining - Outsource device and connectivity costs to telco
Schools have learned that while they are experts in the education business they need out outsource services such as food services and transportation - why not technology. In this mobile market why not pay the telephone provider a monthly fee and get the device and the connectivity - making the entire thing eRateable. If you have a device that costs $300 divide by 10 months that is $30 per month. Cell companies can create plans that do not provide phone service - data only is all we need to provide students.
While they recognize we are in the infancy of this converged technology for schools, the presenters believe now is the time to get started in our district school with pilot projects. Start small with a target group, find a teleco company that will support your the effort.
Redfly - cell phone device that has full size keyboard and larger screen. http://www.celiocorp.com/
mobi Controller for controlling cell phone devices - http://www.soti.net/default.asp?Cmd=Products&SubCmd=MC