Thursday, February 21, 2008

UK Educational Laptop for $200

 Elonex ONE £100 educational laptopUK company Elonex have announced they will launch the Elonex ONE, a £99 laptop (less than $US200) at the UK Education Show 2008 on 28 February 2008. There are few details of the product, apart from it using Linux and having WiFi. Other reports indicate it has 1Gb of Flash memory and a seven-inch screen.

From the photo, the processor board appears to be built in behind the screen, as with the OLPC, rather than under the keyboard, as with the ASUS Eee PC. The screen would appear to be the same type of low cost 7 inch wide screen LCD used for DVD players, as on the Eee PC.

Having only 1 Gb of flash memory will limit the usefulness of the unit, but it is likely that uses will supplement this with a USB flash drive (assuming the unit has a USB socket).

The media release for the unit has a lot of rhetoric about commitment to improving learning for children with one-to-one access to laptops, with quotes from UK government sources. The danger with this is that government authorities, teachers and parents may get the false impression that they need to spend just £99 per student to get all these benefits. Even if the Elonex One is made available for the announced price and works as claimed, infrastructure and training costs for the education system would be at least twice the cost of the laptop per student, not including ongoing support costs and the cost of developing course ware.

Elonex claims to have conducted research and development to produce their laptop. It seems more likely that Elonex have simply selected one of the many sub-notebook PCs made and sold in Asia. These units have been made and sold for decades, but not proved popular in western countries. The success of the Eee PC has seen some of these now being offered more widely. Also the availability of Linux, low cost flash memory, low power processors and low cost LCD screens made for DVD players has made these more feasible. OLPC have tried to incorporate R&D in their computer, but this is proving problematic. It is more likely that generic computers using off the shelf components will be more successful.

The claims for education using computers made by Elonex may well prove true, but they will cost more than £99 per student.

The use of quotes in the Elonex media release is interesting. The one on "Technology has revolutionised the way we work and is now set to transform education. ..." is quoted from a Department for Education and Skills, report in 1997, Connecting the Learning Society. What Elonex don't mention is that the quote is from then UK PM Tony Blair and he went on to talk about the information superhighway and a National Grid for Learning.

The quote on "One-to-one access to a laptop computer promoted independence and had positively influenced other aspects of their work and their learning." is from a teacher, Danny Doyle: Perspectives of One-to-One Laptop Access (2004).
The vision of the ONE project is to help develop computer literacy in children in order to cultivate skills for the 21st century and enable them to make a more valued contribution to the future economy and society. Proficiency at ICT has never been so important, and fluency and familiarity with computers is essential to nurture the future digital generation. The importance of IT in education has been recognized right from the early days of the internet and personal computers:
Technology has revolutionised the way we work and is now set to transform education. Children cannot be effective in tomorrow’s world if they are trained in yesterday’s skills.
(Department for Education and Skills, 1997)

One-to-one access to a laptop computer promoted independence and had positively influenced other aspects of their work and their learning. The children were aware of their expertise and believed their current skills were transferable to new hardware and software, future education and employment.
(National Teacher Research Panel, 2004)
Computer based technology is at the heart of the DCSF's (Department for Children, Schools and Families) commitment to improving learning for all children. One-to-one access to a laptop has been a dream that until now has been cost-prohibitive. The research and development by Elonex that has lead to the ONE has allowed this dream to become a reality.

Government Strategy for Digital Technology

The significance of ICT can be seen in the DCSF e-Strategy, the government’s current strategy towards the use of digital technologies within the Education System:
“Teaching institutions ought to be advancing beyond the traditional formats that are still so prevalent. Independent research has shown that children using ICT effectively in lessons get better results, and Ofsted has confirmed that “Pupils respond very positively to the use of ICT, they engage well with lessons, their behaviour is good and their attitudes to learning are very good”

“With more flexible e-learning resources available online, teachers can adapt the curriculum to their learners’ needs and interests. Technology is the key to personalised learning and we must make sure that everyone has access to this technology. As we continue to embed e-learning across the whole learning process, it will blend more easily with life and work, bridging the boundaries between formal and informal learning.” “It is our goal to work towards ICT as a universal utility, creating more flexible learning opportunities for everyone.”

(Secretary of State for Children Schools and Families)
Prime Minister Gordon Brown has announced the plan to raise spending on IT in education, and to this end Jim Knight MP recently announced on 9 Jan 2008 a £30 million investment to provide the education system with improved ICT equipment and a safe internet connection. Jim Knight commented “we know from the research the difference that Information Technology can make.” “ICT has the power to transform young people's learning — both at school and beyond the school gate.”

Benefits Benefits of the ONE for Children:
  • Improved ICT literacy and fluency
  • Increased empowerment and motivation
  • More engaging way of learning – learning can be fun!
  • More flexible study
  • Access to a wider range of resources
  • Provides a link between learning at home and learning at school
  • Improved contact between the child and their school, family and friends Stimulates creativity and greater scope for problem solving
  • Opens up potential for blogging, podcasting, social networking, online clubs & societies and pupil support groups.
Benefits of the ONE for Teachers:

  • The majority of teachers feel that the use of ICT in the classroom positively impacts on the engagement, motivation and achievement of their learners.
  • Teachers' ICT skills have developed significantly over the years, as well as their acceptance to utilise the technology, leading to better lessons and a reduction in teachers' workloads.
  • Makes available a wider range teaching methods, including assigning web based research, increased interactivity, paperless homework and use of the child’s online personal webspace.
  • Opens the option for digital teaching materials, increased autonomy and improved out of classroom activities.
From: Elone One Press Release, Elonex , 2008

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Blogger Tom Worthington said...

The Elonex One will not be available until June 2008. It has a 7in, 800 x 480 pixel screen, 300MHz LNX Code 8 processor, 128MB RAM, and only 1GB of Flash memory, Wi-FI, Ethernet, 2 USB, running Linos Linux.

The slow processor, limited RAM and Flash make it a very much less capable machine than the ASUS Eee PC.

February 29, 2008 8:17 AM  

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