Wednesday, August 04, 2010

1 Chron 12:32 report, 63: The Indian $35 (subsidised) tablet for College students


Pardon the recent inactivity here. 

Over the past several weeks, I have been busy elsewhere, as I have developed a test online course, IOSE: an independent origins science education course. It was implemented as a simple beta test, nominally at general (and high school) survey level, in blog and wiki formats. [The reference and College level information will be attached, DV, as a PDF, once I am satisfied with the beta testing results.] As a part of that testing I have introduced the materials in several discussion threads at the Intelligent Design blog, Uncommon Descent, and have tweaked especially the blog form of the Introduction and Summary page as a result. 

In any case, we now have a proof of concept on online presentation of content, with text, visual and multimedia elements integrated using both blog and wiki technologies. The key lesson has been that the technologies are workable, but setting up such materials is not as easy as is sometimes advertised [a very familiar experience, that], so actually doing it and learning the tricks and workarounds is important. 

At one stage, I pretty much felt like walking away from TikiWiki, but in the end it works and between integration of Kaltura collaborative video editing software and BigBlueButton educational teleconferenceing software, I am contemplating the step of moving on to TikiWiki 5.0 and figuring out the headaches for that version. (Techies out there, HELP!)

But, as the headline above points out, there has been a highly significant recent development in India . . .


Recent headlines have announced that based on developments at Indian Institute of Technology, the Indian Government intends to produce a first run of one million touchscreen tablet PCs at the subsidised price of US$35, which is comparable to the market price of cheap cell phones in India.

From various observations, it seems that the materials costs are actually about $47, making the low margin or not for profit price point OLPC has targetted for its tablet, US$ 75, seem a fairly credible target.

According to the July 23rd CSM report linked above, by Anuj Chopra , the Linux operating system tablet: "includes an Internet browser, a multimedia player, a PDF reader, and video conferencing ability." Elaborating on its goals, the Indian Human Resources Ministry announced that “[t]he aim is to reach such devices to the students of colleges and universities, and to provide these institutions a host of choices of low-cost access devices around $35 or less in near future.”

Anand Nandkumar, a professor at the Indian School of business suggests that not only is this a significant prospect for College education, but it also signals India's ambition "to tap into a new market."

The significance of this is that we are not just looking at a showroom concept by OLPC or a pre-product by Marvell that OLPC is hoping to capitalise on as an interim solution, but that we are seeing an emerging market for touchscreen tablet PCs that integrate the functions of an e-Book reader similar to the Amazon Kindle, with general computer and wireless network features of a tablet or slate PC similar to the Apple iPad.

So, it is credible that over the next several years, there will be a cluster of tablet PC choices for students at or about US$ 100, or maybe as low as US$75. (NB: Sizeable textbooks for College or even High School now routinely match or exceed that price range.)

Such PCs, in e-Book reader mode, and loaded with electronic books or course readers in any one of several possible formats, e.g. EPUB or PDF, could become a key delivery platform for textbooks. The touchscreen would be useful for light typing and general interaction on the go, but a USB port or wireless keyboard and a mouse or touch pad would make sense for major typing, e.g. to produce a term paper. Wireless network capability enables instant access to local network resources, and through broadband access [e.g. DSL, or Cable TV Modem], to wider Internet facilities.

So, we can see a second key technology brick falling into place for the envisioned regional web- and micro-campus- based education initiative. Therefore, we can now lay out an outline textbook/course reader and related resources technology strategy:
1 --> Web based delivery of key course resources and reference materials using blog, Wiki and Content Management Systems, e.g. Moodle Educational Content Management System.

2 --> The use of locally based, Internet wired microcampus centres staffed by facilitators and integrated with regional tertiary level and second chance High School completion systems. (The emerging Caribbean Christian University is especially in view.)

3 --> The use of low cost Tablet PCs similar to the above and the previously announced as a platform of choice for access to education and network resources, combining e-book reader and wireless-access PC capabilities.

4 --> Use of collaborative, preferably open source multimedia and video production resources to produce rich media content.

5 --> Use of open source teleconferencing systems to regionally access seminars, workshops and presentations or panels by leading thinkers, academics, educators and opinion leaders in an interactive way. (This would be similar to several recent trends with UWI's Open Campus initiative.)

6 --> Development of an integrated framework for education based on first addressing the needs of the 80% of regional secondary intake who struggle to achieve a good High School completion profile, through second chance secondary completion and bridging studies preparatory to full tertiary studies.

7 --> This should be joined to a flagship Associate Degree programme -- the Associate in Arts, with concentration in Caribbean Christian Service -- designed to either complement other studies or to provide a Discipleship, theology, leadership and community service core with technical areas targetting key and marketable skills in areas such as multimedia technologies, business and commerce, C21 agriculture, and the like.

8 --> Through the envisioned networking with regional tertiary systems, access to full first degree studies and higher studies.

9 -->  Across time, as the system develops, incorporation of targetted degree completion based in microcampus centres and possibly graduate/ professional studies in areas such as Business Management or ["Applied"] Theology.

10 --> Also accessing studies in key fields such as multimedia technology, agriculture, education, energy studies etc through networking with existing schools and new initiatives.

11 --> The hosting of more or less standalone practical and technical or "professional" courses and workshops in specific areas would also be helpful, especially where some of these could be suitably accredited and incorporated into the general qualification framework.
Thus, slowly, we can see a transformational vision for regional reformation through education, discipleship development and capacity building for leadership -- all driven by the general Biblical worldview and the positive impact of the gospel -- looming out of the mists.

The challenge is to now move from vision to on the ground, networked reality, which will require significant commitment of time, talent, funds, material resources, agreement with institutions and more. And so, comments, thoughts, suggestions and practical inputs are welcome.

For, we must now ask, again: why not now? Why not here? Why not us? END

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