In the mid 1990’s the issue of connecting schools to Internet was the hot topic. Now almost all schools in Europe are connected. What happened? Not much. The problem is that the schools are connected but teachers or pupils are not.
When providing ICT solutions for education we should again focus on connectivity. This time, however, we should think about how do we connect people. If people and their devices are connected I am sure the rest will follow (slowly, but anyway): good practices of using ICT in education, free/libre software designed for meaningful learning processes and free/libre learning content.
Students and teachers in schools need many different kind of connectivity:
- Connections between students and with their teachers. This means audio (phone), text messages, e-mails.
- Connections to digital artefacts. You should have a right to author, read/watch/listen, comment and remix them. This requires home pages, blogs, services for finding, authoring and sharing learning resources – all this with RSS feeds.
- Connections to simple but collaborative digital tools, such as collaborative writing software, collaborative spreadsheets, and collaborative knowledge building tools.
- Connections to existing broadcasting networks (TV, Radio).
All this requires much different kind of connectivity than what the PC-based desktop computers in the school’s computer labs are offering.
WiFi is good. Fon kind of social network initiatives and open free WiFi cities (e.g. in Tallin and Oulu) are even better. Even Ethernet is good. USB slots are good.
But what about GSM, GPRS and Bluetooth?
Why laptop devices designed for schools do not include GSM and phone unit for making phone call and sending SMS-messages when there is no WiFi around? And why not to have in them an intergraded FM-radio/TV signal receiver unit? The possibility to record radio/TV to the hard disk of the device would be even better.
Should we in Europe just wait for the Koreans to make this school device / laptop and then only buy it from there? Or should we do it by ourselves for the European (and the world) markets?