Will The Tech Industry Allow Desktops And Laptops To Survive?

Windows 8 Metro

Windows 8 Metro Start Screen

About a week ago, Apple introduces, to the surprise of many if not all, the new OS Mountain Lion. Microsoft this past week introduces a consumer preview of Windows 8. This week Apple will introduce the iPad 3 and more. Apple introduced a significant textbook deal with major publishers last month that has no desktop or laptop viewing solution. What is the significance of all of this? What does it mean for K-12 computing? What are the tea leaves saying?

Each one of the above mentioned products and announcements is definitely a move towards a dominance of mobile computing. Apple started the journey with Lion and a reliance on trackpad swiping, Launchpad, and full screen mode just to call out a few. Mountain Lion is rumored not even to have a file system accessible to the “normal” user. Windows 8 is a tribute to Windows Phone 7 and the Metro tile interface. It abondons long held traditions such as the famed Start button. Heck, you can even have an Android-style experience where signing into your Microsoft Live account brings all your personal information and preferences local in addition to syncing them back to the cloud. The iPad 3 and what some speculate iOS 6 will also strengthen the mobile computing position from Apple. The iBooks deal with publishers that has no desktop or laptop viewing solution is also an indicator of where the industry is moving.

Are desktops and laptops with traditional OS’s knocking at death’s door? Will mobile computing with tiled interfaces, sandboxed applications, and limited multitasking become the norm? More importantly, can K-12 schools really function in a tablet environment and abandon the long held traditions in this area?

The portability and flexibility of a tablet like the iPad is simply amazing. Finally, the whenever, wherever, whatever solution for anytime learning is here. When Apple said that iPad gets out of the way of user and lets the magic begin, they really weren’t kidding. I have witnessed many of these inspiring events in my own professional and personal life. Young children just use these devices. Long tutorials and lots of trials before productive experiences occur are not necessary.

Is it all magic? Do we all glow in the face of this game changing device? Sort of…well…except when a school has iPads deployed in a non-one-to-one initiative and wants an easy, system-wide method of getting files off the device, or wants to use iBook textbooks and not give students ownership, or wants to easily backup devices without using the minimal control, iCloud server located and controlled by someone other than the district, add multiple Apple accounts within a short period of time, etc. Yes, the kinks are not really worked out by any stretch except when you dive in so hard that you hit your head on the bottom. Then you are so enamored with you decision that you fail to see it clearly. So why are we as educational institutions so willing to overlook the shortcomings and dive right in?

That’s a question not easily answered and has perplexed boards of education and administrations across the country. What is known is that districts will divert large amounts of money towards these devices in upcoming budgets in an attempt to meet state and federal standards for the integration of technology into instruction. The question remains will they put the money in the other two areas that will substantially effect their implementations? Districts cannot forget about on-demand support in the form of both electronic and humans for the times when a solution is desperately needed. They cannot afford to forget about professional development in the area of instructional evolution. The rule of thirds is not only a photography construct, but I also like to apply it here. One third product. One third technical support. One third professional development.

Moving towards these highly efficient and effective educational settings isn’t easy or an overnight affair. Districts have seen in the past large expenditures in the area of educational technology have little effect on student achievement. When I say student achievement, I don’t only mean state testing. I reference the greater skill sets…critical thinking, creativity, problem solving, etc. The ones that will matter when students enter the “real” world.

Is mobile computing the significant evolution in technology that will finally bring one-to-one’s to prominence? Will one-to-one’s live up to everyone’s expectations? Time will tell.

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