How the CrunchPad Could Fit into the Education Market

cbd2_smallOver a year ago, Michael Arrington expressed a desire that many of us have, a simple tablet for “consuming” information on the Web. The device would be able to access your email, browse web sites, and watch videos online. It would be a simple, low-cost, and highly portable consumer device. It will be different from a tablet PC and netbooks as it will not have a hard drive and thus not be able to store data per se, or run applications for word processing and such. Its “operating system” would be the browser, a unique and powerful way of breaking away from the confines of Windows, OS X,  and Linux if one only wanted to interact with web-based resources.

Mr. Arrington told the NY Times that he would hold an event at the end of July or the beginning of August to make a big announcement about the CrunchPad, and the tablet would be for sale “as soon as possible.” What we know at this point the CrunchPad

  • will have a 16 mm thick enclosure
  • use a 12 inch screen mounted flush with the aluminum case.
  • will run on an Intel Atom chip
  • will have a soft keyboard
  • will include USB ports for Keyboard/Mouse/Whatever
  • use a Webkit based browser
  • will be Flash-enabled
  • and have a target price of around $300.

The education market needs a low-cost, highly portable device that will lighten the burden (both physically and financially) on students and replace plethora of single-use devices with one multi-use device. As I continue to read about the CrunchPad  I am struck with its potential as a light-weight device for students and learning. What potential you might ask? It doesn’t have a hard drive. So what! The trend in computing is to move more of our work (and education) off our devices and into the cloud. The CrunchPad could not only let students consume information, but presumably interact with web resources and their fellow students. Students could view course web sites and take notes using online word processing programs like Google Docs. In laboratory classes students students could have an digital “clipboard” to enter and share data with Google Spreadsheets or similar online applications. Online polling and testing of students could occur during class via a learning management system or a web-based class room response system, eliminating the cost of a “clicker”.  Class discussions using social networking sites are increasingly being used by instructors and should be accessible through the CrunchPad.

The ability to run flash is especially important for the education community who uses many resources that are programmed with it. Flash-based instructional media produced by textbook publishers and distributed on CD-ROM could be placed in a learning management system and then accessed with the CrunchPad. CrunchPad could serve as an eBook reader as well. eTextbooks in Flash would benefit by having a device that accesses them without the need to download the book to a hard drive, protecting publisher’s intellectual property rights (a contentious issue, but one that I won’t get into here). These books often use an interface that permits highlighting text and tagging passages with notes and stored online. Yes, there is the Kindle DX, but it has rather limited capabilities, especially for the science textbook market that requires color.

The possibilities for CrunchPad in education are potentially endless, but we won’t know for sure until the widely anticipated availability announcement is made in a few short weeks. I am anxious to get a hold of one to test its possibilities for use in my courses. It could be a revolutionary device for instructors to deliver educational content and activities to new generation of learners.

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