(Photo by Spencer Platt/Getty Images) Although I had originally believed that the iPad would do this, the price point (and the high-end computational specifications) has probably hampered it’s ability to gain traction in elementary, Jr. high, and high-schools. Sure, there are outlier educational institutions willing to pay for this but for the most part, I would say they shy away because of the price sticker.
But the Amazon Kindle Fire might be able to accomplish what Apple has not.
First, the Kindle Fire’s price point is much lower. At $199 per device, it might be easily subsidized through Amazon pro-education programs.
Second, Amazon has other ancillary services that the iPad does not, most notably their textbook lending/note-taking system. This is critical for enabling schools to replace heavy, out-dated textbooks with more interactive replacements. Not only do kids get the same material but they also get the ability to take and share notes so learning can become collaborative. No longer are you asking to borrow your friend’s notes. Now you are part of his online study group and you are all sharing the burden of textual analysis and critical thinkig.
Third, the Fire includes more content consumption modalities than just text books. This provides a far richer learning environment. Students could not only access video lectures from other classes but e-books could link directly to video within the device (or pull from the cloud) providing supporting material (which, tied into the cloud-based note system, could be annotated as well).
Finally, the device is cloud enabled. One of the drawbacks of the iPad (and iOS) had been that it wasn’t connected to the cloud. There was no way to share information as it was being created or captured (which students can do in a classroom). And although Apple has launched iCloud, it’s not necessarily the same until they enable other third-party applications to take advantage of the OTA synchronization capabilities. That will require a distributed web-services infrastructure that Amazon has already enabled through their AWS (for the note-taking, text-book lending service).
Of course, the lack of a camera and a microphone are drawbacks to the Fire especially for educational purposes. These are important content creation and content interaction modalities but that’s not to say someone couldn’t create after-market items and, who knows, maybe a next generation Fire includes them.
Regardless, it’s clear that Amazon’s Kindle Fire has a path forward as a powerful educational tool.
Amazon just announced the availability of Whispercast which, according to the website,
Whether you’re looking to distribute literature for class or use Kindle for your corporate training or incentive program, Whispercast helps you reduce the administrative cost and complexity of sending Kindle content and managing your Kindles.
This is one of the missing pieces to massive adoption of tablets within education. I just hope that Whispercast will evolve to enable the sharing of video as well. Digital education requires multi-media, multi-modal content. It’s transmedia storytelling at its finest!
Originally posted 2011-09-28 10:55:11.