Thursday, January 20, 2011

ISTE Connects, by David Morris

Of all the privileges that life brings, to me nothing is more exciting than the privilege to be at the scene of an idea whose time has come.

There is a force in the momentum of the idea that draws out the best in all who participate: the idealism, the enthusiasm, the creativity. An idea whose time has come is not without foundation or prophets. Many work hard, unsung and unheralded to create the conditions that will let the idea flourish. Then, in a perfect burst of converging forces, the idea materializes. Perfect ignition. 

This particular idea that I am witnessing, and being able to play a part in the materialization, is that of mass connection with the world from the bottom of the pyramid for the students and teachers of India. For all history, those at the bottom of the world’s pyramids shared the consequences of being voiceless. Unheard, if not unseen.

Over the past several centuries, print allowed voices to emerge where all had been silent. These voices, in books and pamphlets and newspapers, helped change the shape of the world, bringing “on-line” millions of people who learned to read and write and share thoughts with their peers. The emergence of the countries now known as the “emerging markets” has a great deal to do with being able to communicate with each other and the world.

What’s the thing that has this potential? The killer platform? To my mind, it’s the India Slate. Last month, the opportunity to experiment with pilot use of the India Slate igot a major boost through the award of a HP Catalyst Initiative grant to Project Ringtones. The purpose of Project Ringtones is to develop “student based applications for mobile learning” Read more about it at

With the HP Catalyst Initiative Award,  developing Apps for the India Slate is approaching the state of “perfect ignition”. Developing Apps needs equipment: servers, mobile laptops, Tablets, variant O/S, and connectivity to the global App developing world. Being able to videoconference rather than do physical travel through HP’s Virtual Room, build a project server net with HP Proliant servers, Elitebooks, Tablets and HP Elitebook mobile workstations while tapping into other global initiatives. All this moves the idea forward in warp drive.

Meanwhile, the production of the India Slate is also moving forward, with initial beta testing of the India Slate going on now. The reception is going to be on the scale of the introduction of the IPhone or IPad. But then the question of Apps will be next. The goal of Project Ringtones is to have Apps ready to run when the India Slate is ready to be used. Student generated where possible. Student tested for sure. Teacher approved. Teacher usable. Teacher modifiable. Products of perfect ignition.

That’s the Big Idea right now. Move with the momentum of the India Slate. Link globally to those now working with Sugar and Open Source and Android and Google Apps and the One Laptop Per Child folks. Concentrate the resources to materialize in sandboxes located in village and urban slum schools. 

Build concentric circles of infrastructure to make possible the highest level of combustion in those sandboxes, with the infrastructure real but out of sight to the children playing with their new learning toy. Experiment. Fail. Do Again. Succeed. Replicate. Codify. Share. Perfect ignition in motion.