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Netbooks Will Have No Clothes, Too: The Lack of Social Computing Tools for the Classroom

Reading about NetBooks in EdWeek, I found it odd that laptop manufacturers are still talking about the quantity of computers and the glory of the 1:1 computer/child ratio.  Studies and anecdotal evidence demonstrate that there is no positive influence on learning outcomes, a la The Laptop Revolution Has No Clothes.  You can find videos of college students confessing they “facebook through every class.”  In public education, the measure of success is often the purchase of new technology even as schools sink.  Principals show off shiny new computers and computer labs as if this is a proxy for increased performance.

In addition, the education zeitgeist seems to be pushing relevant and targeted “content.”  Instead of looking at a boring old textbook, the student can get their learning materials in the form of cocoa puff commercials.  However, changing the content’s entertainment value does not address the lack of interaction and educational social computing.  People don’t want to just use the internet to look up articles and watch videos, they want to interact and publish.  In this vein, schools are not just behind – they are a non-start, they’re not even in the race.

The discussion needs to move from the quantity of computers, to the quality of programs written specifically for educational interactions.  Social Computing needs to happen to facilitate asynchronous communication and collaboration, as well as real-time classroom tools to address information asymmetries, differentiation, and data insights and reporting.

We’re working on these problems at Inigral, so if you have any ideas let us know!

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