The Next Great Disruptive Technology?

We are now just over half way through the Connect School Project and in the process of procuring the hardware for Yr 4. This time round it will be 10" Netbooks running Edubuntu Linux. In yr 1 it was 15" Laptops running Windows - would anyone like to do quick figures on the price difference?

St Aidan's has been named as one of the 78 post-primary Schools to be included in a new broadband for Schools program that will see our pipe grow from 4Mbps to 100 Mbps in the coming year! The significance of this cannot be underestimated - our Teachers have been getting to grips with creating and uploading multi-media content to the Schools Virtual Learning Environment, the new pipe will mean access to this content in-class will be seamless.

Google announced this week that they're working on an open-source operating system that will initially be available for Netbooks by mid 2010 It will integrate with their browser, Chrome, which is increasingly becoming the platform of choice for developing web applications.

And there is now a test version of Moodle available that incorporates single-sign-on for Moodle and Google Apps. Since we use both here in St Aidan's this is good news for our administrators - no more need to create 2 spreadsheets of usernames/passwords for each system.

Things have changed so dramatically in the past few years in the world of ICT in Education it is difficult to see where we'll end up. In yr 1 we rolled out 15" Laptops, will be be rolling out phone/netbook hybrids in yr 5? At one point in this project we were seriously considering linux thin-clients but these looked like they'd only really prove useful in dedicated classrooms on wired connections. It just didn't seem like a throw-switch solution.

It seems that progress in this sphere will continue to a large extent to be driven by "disruptive" technologies such as the iphone or the netbook. What will the next great disruptive technology look like? Why did the Netbook, which looks like such a market staple now, take so long to appear? I suggest that the development of the Netbook was not really in the interest of the industry, it said Moores law has gone far enough and I dont need massive storage since storage can now be online.

Cobble a few of the above ideas together and what do you get? Ideally Students needs seriously inexpensive devices to access the internet. With gigabit wireless, 100 Mbps broadband and online applications how much processing power need reside in the local device? Wouldn't a shell with screen, keyboard, graphics card and network card accomplish most of what's required in the modern school? As Sun said a long time ago - "The Network is the Computer". But what manufacturer would dream of selling such low-end access devices? Granted these devices would be practically useless without an internet connection (unless of course you included a firmware-installed skinny linux) , but then again the device I'm typing this on, a Dell XPS M1710 would never be turned on either were it not connected to the internet.

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