The history of technology in education is one of schools running to catch up with technology developments outside of school. Learning from our past follies in this area, perhaps now it is time we anticipate how ubiquitous computer access can be achieved and then exploited to benefit all children.
Computers have been used in schools since the early 1970s, and today there are at least a few in virtually every school, and most students now have access at home. But, the fact that not all students have their own computers at home limits instructional uses of computers in as well as out of school. A teacher cannot, for example, assign homework requiring a computer if only 20 out of her 25 students have working computers at home.
A number of developments are about to change this. One is the rapid adoption of smart phones and tablet computers, which are making electronic access more common and less expensive at home. The second is the impending extinction of the paper textbook, which may soon create an enormous economic incentive for school districts or states to give away inexpensive computers to students, so that they can replace paper textbooks with cheaper e-texts.
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