NECC 2006: Ubiquitous Computing Session


I’m going to try it, I’m blogging during a session. It’s not that easy, you’ve got to really multitask and be fast, esp. if you are looking at related resources in multiple windows.

The session I’m blogging is called Ubiquitous Computing: Near Future and Far Horizons (Talbot Bielefeldt, ISTE with Tom Greaves, Jeanne Hayes, Don Knezek, Bette Manchester and Alice Owen) . Some background research (including some of RCET’s work)

Here is what they discussed. 

Findings (executive summary from the ADS study):

  1. schools are moving toward mobile. Mobile is defined by the study as laptops, tablets, student appliances. They excluded cell phones.
  2. UC is growing rapidly (UC= each student and teacher has one internet-connected device to use both at school and home).
  3. UC practitioners report substantial academic improvement (measured how: 87% of districts reported moderate to significant results. The question is, what does that really mean?).
  4. Bandwidth crisis is looming. In schools yes, in the world, no, we actually have excess bandwidth and will for a long time (need to find the resource for this).
  5. Online learning is growing.
  6. Professional development is key
  7. Total cost of ownership is increasingly important
  8. Fastest growing products over the next five years

The presenters seem to really focus on laptops and 1:1 as ubiquitous computing, which I don’t necessarily agree with. I think it’s too narrow a focus. Ubiquitous computing does not equal 1:1, especially when the main focus is laptops. Ubiquitous computing for teaching and learning as I see it can be found on our ubicomp site:

We define ubiquitous computing environments as learning environments in which all students have access to a variety of digital devices and services, including computers connected to the Internet and mobile computing devices, whenever and wherever they need them. Our notion of ubiquitous computing, then, is more focused on many-to-many than one-to-one or one-to-many, and includes the idea of technology being always available but not itself the focus of learning.

Keys for ubiquitous computing for teachingand learning are:

  • the variety of devices available (they really didn’t do this, and I don’t know how much this was part of the study. The overwhelming emphasis was on laptops)
  • many-to-many as opposed to one-to-one
  • anywhere, anytime, anyone access (the presenters did touch on this)

Alice Owen from Irving ISD talked about their laptop project. She talked about

  • bridging the digital divide for her students and families, not necessarily raising test scores. Students are training their siblings and parents. She emphasized that the main goal of the Irving project was NOT to increase test scores, and I really commend her for saying that;
  • getting away from labs (yes!);
  • change takes time (2/3 years);
  • teachers need a lot of support;
  • collecting and reimaging laptops over the summer (not sure why they do, this seems to counter their goals to some extent);
  • bandwidth issues, Irving does have a shortage of Internet bandwidth, even when adding continually;
  • use of Blackboard for online supplements (3-400,000 hits daily). Some experimentation with online courses for courses with few students across the district;
  • importance of investing in people;
  • think about technology as we do about utilities!! Network should be up 24/7. Also hardware is a consumable (but what about the environmental impact of replacing hardware every few years?).

Don Knezek talked about the shift from desktop to laptop, but that this is not necessarily the case outside of the US (where they may not have desktops!). ISTE wants to focus on global developments, and what is happening in the US will not necessarily happen elsewhere.

Don also mentioned that wiring schools for internet access is not enough. There needs to be enough bandwidth, especially with increases in online and blended learning.

Devices need to become affordable. Negroponte’s $100 laptop project was mentioned several times. There was also mention of the need for some action research/case studies. RCET has done some which can be found in RCETJ


Somebody asked about sustainability, along the lines of kids bringing in their own devices such as laptops.  According to the presenters, lots of places don’t support this type of model because of legal implications (i.e. schools can’t force people to buy their kids laptops) and cost, but that it would be possible in the future.

Question: Battery life for laptops? The schools in Irving give kids laptops with two batteries, they take the CD-Rom drives out! Other projects have bought power supplies: problem, you are tethered!! This is why smaller mobile devices should be considered more, I think. Battery life isn’t as much of an issue. In addition, as Cathie Norris and I talked about earlier this morning, do we really need all the bells and whistles that laptops have? A simple mobile device doesn’t do as much, but the batteries last longer, they have a lower total cost of ownership, and have most of the functions a laptop.

Comment: there is a need to think about changes for teaching and learning!!! Teachers need time for this.

Question: what’s happening to textbooks in 1:1 environments. Irving: science and social studies are digital. Math and LA are not. Irving uses a textbook server and kids can download digital books. However, they are still using classroom sets of textbooks. Digital content: districts want more flexible prices, infrastructure for this has to be bullet proof, must be easy to integrate in the curriculum.

Technorati tags: NECC, NECC 2006, ubiquitous computing


0 responses to “NECC 2006: Ubiquitous Computing Session

  1. Pingback: Ubiquitous Thoughts » Blog Archive » NECC 2006: Second Day

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