2.2.1 Mobile devices for e-learning

Examples of low-cost tablets and e-readers include:

  • xo-3 – OLPC’s follow-up to the xo-1 is the planned xo-3 tablet computer. The xo-3 features an all-plastic design that is semi-flexible and extremely durable. It has a display that can be optimized in both transmitting and reflective modes for indoor and outdoor lighting conditions. The xo-3 also can be recharged in several ways, including by solar power or a hand crank. Working prototypes were unveiled in January 2012, and the company expected to begin shipping xo-3 tablets that year for a price below USD 100. The xo-3 can run either OLPC’s Sugar operating system or Android.
  • Studybook – Intel followed up its Classmate laptop with the Studybook tablet design. 38 The Studybook is a ruggedized, purpose-built tablet specifically intended for educational use, as indicated by inclusion of Intel’s Learning Series Software Suite. The 7-inch tablets can run Windows 7 or Android, and may be updated to use Windows 8. As a reference design, Studybook will not be manufactured or sold by Intel, but the design will be licensed at no cost to any company interested in producing the device. Intel believes Studybooks can be produced at a cost of less than USD 200.
  • I-slate – This tablet was developed by the I-slate Consortium, which includes hardware and software experts at Rice University in the United States, Nanyang Technological University (NTU) in Singapore, social outreach partners from the Indian non-profit Villages for Development and Learning Foundation (ViDAL), and a Los Angeles-based design team. The I-slate is billed as a “low-cost learning tool designed for classrooms with no electricity and too few teachers.” 39 The I-slate was first introduced in 2011, using custom-designed hardware and software intended to focus on usability and energy efficiency. It is meant to serve as an electronic notepad to replace the manual slates and chalk used by many rural Indian schoolchildren. The current I-slate is targeted as a self-education tool for fifth and sixth grade students in rural communities. 40
  • Aakash/Ubislate – The Indian government, through the Ministry of Human Resource Development (MHRD), spearheaded a project to develop a computer specifically for college students. Initially envisioned as a laptop, over the course of its development the Aakash evolved into a tablet computer running the Android operating system. At its release in October 2011, the 7-inch Aakash tablet for Indian university students cost approximately USD 35 and featured Wi-Fi connectivity. 41 A commercial version intended for wider distribution was known as the UbiSlate 7 and priced at approximately USD 50. In March 2012, MHRD reassigned responsibility for procuring and testing the device to the Indian Institute of Technology, Bombay. IIT Bombay has selected a vendor and is in the process of developing the Aakash 2 tablet, which will remain at a subsidized price of approximately USD 35 and was expected to be deployed before the end of 2012.
  • Kindle – First introduced in 2007, Amazon’s Kindle family of e-readers comprises models with either an e-ink or LCD display and options for Wi-Fi or mobile network connectivity. The e-ink models run on a purpose-built operating system, while the LCD models use a modified version of the Android operating system. All Kindles are designed to provide easy access to electronic books and other content from Amazon’s own ecosystem, but they can also display content obtained from third parties, including textbook publishers. Kindle Fire devices can run compatible Android applications and can easily access the Internet. There have been several pilot projects in the developing world involving distribution of Kindles to individual students or to classrooms. These include projects by Worldreader, a non-profit organization devoted to expanding access to digital books in developing countries. 42 Kindle’s prices currently range from USD 69 to USD 499. These projects have provided devices preloaded with a selection of local and international reading material, as well as the ability to download additional material (as discussed in the case study on a Worldreader project in Kenya in Section 5.8 of the Module).
  • iPod Touch – Introduced in September 2007, the iPod Touch is a device with the same form factor as many smartphones. It runs the iOS operating system that is shared by the iPhone and the iPad. In general, the iPod Touch has most of the functionality of an iPhone with Wi-Fi connectivity, but without mobile network connectivity and associated communication applications. The Touch has access to all compatible applications in Apple’s App Store, including applications intended for educational use. Apple notes that the App Store has more than 20,000 educational applications, including iTunes U, which is a platform for teachers to distribute classroom material directly to students’ devices. 43

Figure 2-2: Low-cost tablets/e-readers used in schools

Manufacturer and Model

OLPC xo-3

Intel Studybook

I-Slate

Representative Image

Representative Deployments for Education

Expected availability in 2012

None known 44

India

Manufacturer and Model

Aakash/Ubislate

Kindle

iPod Touch

Representative Image

Representative Deployments for Education

India

Ghana, Kenya, Tanzania, Uganda

None known

Note: The list of countries where the devices are used in schools excludes developed nations.

39 “Indian district plans to adopt 50,000 I-slate tablets,” (March 19, 2012), available at http://www.vidal.org.in/sites/default/files/jb-ISLATE-March19-Full-Press-Release.pdf .

40 “I-slate educational tablet: optimizing tech-brain interface,” (March 19, 2012), available at http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=DBFNyGwlCQw&feature=youtu.be.

41 Tripti Lahiri, India Announces World’s Cheapest Tablet, Wall Street Journal, October 5, 2011 http://blogs.wsj.com/digits/2011/10/05/india-announces-worlds-cheapest-tablet/?KEYWORDS=datawind

44 Reference design released in mid-2012.

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