Saturday, October 20, 2012


The Revolution No One Saw Coming

Today I read about how there are now 1 billion smartphones in use across the planet. This was actually great news for education. We rapidly went from one laptop per child to one tablet per child. Now we are headed to one smartphone per child.

I simply had to respond.

The Revolution No One Saw Coming

On January 9, 2007, Steve Jobs and Apple introduce the iPhone. Companies had attempted to create a PDA-phone. But the PDA-phone never caught on. Now 5 1/2 years later over 1 billion people on the planet are using a smartphone. 500,000 have an Android smartphone and 400,000 have an iPhone. The smartphone has been the fastest adopted technology in human history. This September when Apple came out with the iPhone 5, Apple sold out of its preorder stock in one hour.

Why are smartphones so popular? The reason is that a smartphone is not simply a phone. The smartphone is a telecommunications computer. What makes it best is this telecommunications computer easily fits in your pocket. Nowadays, this smartphone has more computing power than the majority of laptops or desktops that you could buy back in 2007. Additionally the smartphone is a multipurpose computer. You can make phone calls, listen to music, interact with your friends on Facebook, read books, listen to audiobooks, get driving instructions, and play a wide variety of games. The best aspect is that this little gem fits in your pocket and goes with you wherever you go. Easy portability and multi-functionality are why 1 billion people want one.

Where do we go from here? Perhaps you are thinking the tablet world. Tablets certainly have multi-functionality. But what they lack is true portability. The lack of portability is what is killing the standard computer market today. Companies tried to make computers portable with a bunch of laptops. But in reality laptops were simply clunky computers that you wrenchingly lugged around with you when you didn't have a choice. Unfortunately, tablets suffer from some of the same issues. Tablets just don't fit in your pocket or purse and don't go with you everywhere. The proof that is the plethora of cheap Android tablets which nobody wants to buy. Why buy an Android tablet when you get the same functionality in an Android smartphone which goes everywhere.

Where are we going? I think the key is with easy portability and multi-functionality. I believe smartphones are simply an interim step on this path. The real winner will be something more along the line of the new Google Glass. Google Glass is a pair of eyeglasses that you wear. Google Glass has the functionality of a smartphone. The big advantage of Google Glass is that you do not have to use your hands to interact with this specialized smartphone. You simply interact with the system with your voice and eye-gaze. Since the image of the screen is projected on your retina the screen appears to be clear and large. Here is the ultimate in portability. A device that you no longer have to carry around or even get out of your pocket. A device that simply sits there whenever you need it.

What about education? Imagine a world with no hardcopy textbooks, no pencils or pens, or notebooks of paper. Everything a student needs is literally sitting right next to his or her eye. You say. "Oh wait, this is too fantastic to believe." Here is an example of how fast our world is changing. Just a short five years ago e-books were marginal. E-books were hard to find and buy. Congress passed a special section of the Individuals with Disability Act which said school districts could get digital copies of textbooks for print Impaired students.

Then Amazon came out with the e-ink Kindle. No one thought that this device could shake up the entire publishing industry. But now five years later Newsweek has announced that it will stop publishing a print edition of their magazine. I believe within the next five years you won't even be able to find a print magazine anywhere.

People are now reading e-books, magazines and news on a billion pocket-sized portable smartphones. Our future will be even more radically changed when a simple blink of an eye will bring you any book that you want to read. Another blink will bring you an educational documentaries or video tutorials.

One thing I believe we will still need are talented teachers to guide learning. Already several California universities expect students to watch lectures on line or from iTunesU. Class time is now spent in discussions and answer sessions with professors instead of lectures.

How long will this take? Remember we have gone from zero to one billion smartphones in five years. Google wants to make Google Glass commercially available in five years. So, I think we may see these radical changes within 10 years. I don't know about you but I'm really excited.

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