Tuesday, March 3, 2009

Netbooks, Black Holes, and VHS.

I've complained before about the ill-designed school budgets, but looking around the Web these past couple days gives me some hope for the possibility of widespread integrated technology in even the poorest schools. 

Obviously, we're in the midst of a major economic crisis (words which don't seem sufficient descriptors), and it's hitting the schools.  But I tend to think of times like these as often being the springboards for innovation.  We have a chance here, through the combination of the recession [depression], the stimulus, and the moment in time we're living in, technologically speaking.

Netbooks.  Cloud computing.  Open source.  E-textbooks.  

It's a pretty exciting time.  I have a few thoughts, questions, and concerns.  

One, who are the major players in the Netbook market?  What are the operating systems?  Windows and Linux, yes?  Can we expect Mac to work on Netbooks, or do we expect them to stay in the high-end market?  

Two, I wonder about the level of resistance to this type of movement.  In the schools I've observed in and heard about, the level of Web confinement is extremely high - i.e. Web 2.0 is virtually barred.  

My last thought is the old traditionalist in me coming out.  

On 9/11, no one could get through on cell phones.  I was in college.  But everyone, everywhere on campus got the same message: "All circuits are busy."  And like most college kids, most (all?) of my friends were using their cell phones as their only phone.  I was the only one who had the old-fashioned phone line, having inherited my mother's skeptical trust of technology.  Anyway, I ended up being the messenger that day, using my good old-fashioned phone to get in touch with everyone's relatives, etc.  

I've suffered the agony of losing digital photos because your computer crashed in the middle of backing them up.  

And reading about the potential black hole of history created by an increasingly digital world hasn't helped lessen my skepticism.  

Sometimes, "forward movement" in technology is not always better.  I came to the conclusion yesterday that VHS is markedly better than DVDs.  Snowed in, we watched two movies yesterday.  Monsters, Inc, which I love.  Just bought it, maybe six months ago.  Parts of the movies just freeze, skip, and get stuck.  And yes, I'm nice to my DVDs.  Second movie?  The classic Ducktales the Movie: Treasure of the Lost Lamp.  The movie was made in 1990.  I suspect that's around the time we bought the VHS.  It still works.  Just fine.  No scratches.  No skipping.  19 years vs. 6 months.  Come on.  We can do better than that.  But I digress.

So.  Back to netbooks and web apps.  If everything we do is increasingly contained within the web, are we safer or more vulnerable to losing all our work, our data, our information?

**UPDATED: Missed this relevant piece.***

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