The saga of India’s “$35 tablet” is long and slightly disappointing. While the idea of low-cost, standard hardware to be distributed in needful communities is a great one, the fact is that the device itself is more or less junk. Poorly built, with a small battery, outdated OS, and low-quality touchscreen, the Aakash has not had a good reception among people who care about such things.
But it’s only the beginning of the road for this type of device, and DataWind, the company that made the Aakash, has already announced the follow-up — and now they’re considering expanding the market to the US. A pilot study may be in the works for under-served schools in Philadelphia.
This could be the start of something big, or it could fizzle out. A dozen or so of these per 30-kid class makes for a lot of opportunities, but troubles as well. The hardware is cheap, but probably more useful at large than graphing calculators, which cost twice as much. And as one can’t expect every kid to have their own PC or laptop just yet, something like an Aakash tablet could be a nice compromise.
It can show video, administer quizzes, mirror class resources, and so on. A tool any teacher would love to have… if it isn’t more trouble than it’s worth. And there are many practical considerations. Charging the devices, keeping them clean, secure, and updated, preventing inappropriate usage, creating class-administration software… the list goes on and on. But that is, of course, part of what pilot programs are meant to explore.
Right now, it’s all still in the planning stages; Philadelphia-based Wilco Electronics is hoping to set up a procurement deal for schools there and will be meeting with DataWind and presumably Philadelphia officials over the next month.