The 3 coming changes in netbook technology which will make them mainstream in education by 2010
To wrap up this week in which we have have been talking about the use of netbooks in education I thought I would look forward over the next two years to how these machines might change. In all of this I am predicting that netbooks will start to become mainstream in education by 2010. From 2012 onwards I believe they will be in the majority of students hands in UK education. You might sniff at this suggestion as ridiculous but I would strongly disagree. When I started teaching nearly 9 years ago in September 2000 I vividly remember making an appointment to see my then Headteacher at Brookfield School in Hampshire. My meeting was to discuss using the only laptop (his!) in the school and the only data projector which was held in reprographics. This was a forward thinking school and within 5 years every room had a projector and interactive whiteboard with every teacher using a laptop. Change happens quickly in ICT education!
So over the week we have talked about all the different types of netbook and the trials we are running. We hope to roll out to a whole year group in Sept 2010 and here are the 3 main changes I think will happen by then to make netbooks a genuinely robust and powerful tool for learning in the classroom.
Change 1- Battery life and charging speed is changing very fast.
At present all laptop manufacturers are looking for the Holy Grail of a whole day working on one charge of battery. Our Samsung NC20s are currently providing 5-6 hours on one charge and we are arriving at the full day of 8 hours very quickly. Our 5-6 hours is achieved with users not restricting their settings whereas careful tuning seems to get the machines towards the full day. Given we are unlikely to get 1500 students doing this I think we need to get a full day our of them at full usage. Of course the biggest issue then is those students who haven’t turned up with a full battery- what do you do then?
Perhaps the most exciting news on this front emerged this week in the media. It appears that technology allowing laptop batteries to charge in just a few minutes is just 2 years away. This will potentially eliminate the single biggest headache for e-learning leaders when considering a roll out of netbooks.
Change 2- The move to SSD over HD
Alongside this change will be the wholesale move to Solid State Drives from Hard Drives. Whilst I have been touting this for 6 months with colleagues I am sure it will happen in the next 18 months. At present price is still the bug bear here (I am paying £200 more for a 128GB of SSD over 320GB of HD on my new DELL!) but the technology is developing so that larger drives and cheaper prices per GB are coming through. Expect SSD only netbooks as standard by the summer of 2010. If you don’t think SSDs are important in the development of faster and more efficient machines check out this great video but be warned it is geeky!
Change 3- Improved processors and Graphics
This is an area which much less certainty in terms of where the market will be in 2010. Intel have recently brought our the N280 Atom over the N270 which sees the clock speed move up from 1.6GHz to 1.66GHz. Our students will increasingly live in an HD world and the N280 has HD capability whilst at the same time graphics performance looks set to improve with NVIDIA releasing the 9400M chip. Whilst it is less clear where this market will be in 2010 you only have to look at how laptops have improved in the last 3 years through processor and graphics development to realise we will see major advances in the next 18 months.