[AISWorld] Technology and education in the USA.

Kappelman, Leon Leon.Kappelman at unt.edu
Wed May 30 00:55:57 EDT 2012

"Our Nation is at risk.  Our once unchallenged preeminence in commerce, industry, science, and technological innovation is being overtaken by competitors throughout the world.  This report is concerned with only one of the many causes and dimensions of the problem, but it is the one that undergirds American prosperity, security, and civility.  We report to the American people that while we can take justifiable pride in what our schools and colleges have historically accomplished and contributed to the United States and the well-being of its people, the educational foundations of our society are presently being eroded by a rising tide of mediocrity that threatens our very future as a Nation and a people.  What was unimaginable a generation ago has begun to occur -- others are matching and surpassing our educational attainments.

"If an unfriendly foreign power had attempted to impose on America the mediocre educational performance that exists today, we might well have viewed it as an act of war.  As it stands, we have allowed this to happen to ourselves.  We have even squandered the gains in student achievement made in the wake of the Sputnik challenge.  Moreover, we have dismantled essential support systems which helped make those gains possible. We have, in effect, been committing an act of unthinking, unilateral educational disarmament.

>From "A Nation at Risk: The Imperative for Educational Reform - A Report to the Nation and the Secretary of Education United States Department of Education by The National Commission on Excellence in Education (April 1983)

The US education system has only gotten worse and more expensive since then.  A recent "International Comparison of Math, Reading, and Science Skills Among 15-Year-Olds" (http://www.infoplease.com/ipa/A0923110.html#ixzz1wKCQg8CM) places the USA, at best, 25th in math (behind China, Poland, Hungary, Spain, and Latvia to name a few), 12th in reading (behind Finland, Ireland, France, and China among others), and 20th in science (behind China, South Korea, Slovak Republic, and Germany among others). Worst case rankings for the USA were 28, 23, and 27 respectively.  41 countries participated.

Below is a small example of what one of our so-called "3rd world" competitors (who did not happen to participate in the above study) is doing today to improve their education system ...
Government of India launches the elusive $35 tablet, retail availability in November

By Manan Kakkar<http://www.zdnet.com/search?q=manan+kakkar> | October 5, 2011, 8:47am PDT

Summary: The government of India has finally launched the much talked about $35 tablet targeted at students and institutes. The tablet will also be commercially available at retail stores starting November.

When Tata Motors unveiled the Tata Nano-the $2500 car, the automative world was taken by storm. The engineering minds behind the cheapest family car pulled off something no other company could. The Government of India had similar plans for computers. The OLPC project showed promise but did not catch up. They (the organization behind OLPC) have however been able to attract some state governments to join them.

Union Minister for Human Resourced Development in India, Kapil Sibal, talked about introducing a low cost tablet device for students. Everyone was skeptical. A $35 tablet that's usable? Nobody had their hopes high. The project ran into troubles when HCL decided to pull out of the project. (They were going to manufacture the device.) Engineers at IIT Rajasthan were tasked with developing the device and a prototype was shown on national television<http://www.engadget.com/2010/08/11/35-tablet-makes-an-appearance-on-indian-tv-video/>.

A few days ago reports of the government finally launching the tablet on 5th October emerged. I wasn't sure about the story; lo and behold, the rumors were true. Kapil Sibal officially launched the tablet. The device is called "Aakash" (Hindi for "Sky") and is manufactured by British firm-DataWind-at their Hyderabad facility. Device specifications for the Aakash UbiSlate 7 are:


  *   7" Resistive touch screen (800×480)
  *   Processor: 366 Mhz with Graphics accelerator and HD Video processor
  *   Memory (RAM): 256MB RAM
  *   Storage (Internal): 2GB Flash
  *   microSD card slot
  *   1 USB port
  *   3.5mm Audio in & out
  *   WiFi IEEE 802.11 a/b/g
  *   Up to 180 minutes on battery


  *   Android 2.2 Froyo
  *   Document formats supported: DOC, DOCX, PPT, PPTX, XLS, XLSX, ODT, ODP
  *   PDF viewer, Text editor
  *   Supported audio formats: MP3, AAC, AC3, WAV, WMA
  *   Supported video formats: MPEG2, MPEG4, AVI, FLV

The specifics of the program are:

  *   500 students were handed the tablet on launch
  *   100,000 more devices will be procured as part of the pilot
  *   10 Million tablets at a per unit of price $36.6 to be purchased (via MediaNama<http://www.medianama.com/2011/10/223-indian-govts-35-tablet-finally-launches-as-aakash-costs-rs-2250/>)

Seamless connectivity to provide Internet connection on the devices for institutes was talked about. The government hopes to connect 416 universities and 20,000 colleges using BSNL as the service provider. The government claims 80% of the target connectivity has been achieved. The government has outlined details around content creation meant for the tablet's use in education. Some of the guidelines to be followed are:

  *   It should be related to education delivery
  *   It should involve faculty from different institutions
  *   All IP (Intellectual Property) created under projects funded by this Mission will vest with MHRD
  *   All content should be created using open-source software
  *   All content created under this Mission is for open access by all and cannot be charged for in any way

One of the key announcements at the tablet launch was the commercial availability of Aakash. The government plans to make this tablet available through retail channels at an anticipated price of $60. The device will be called DataWind Ubislate.
Best wishes,
Leon Kappelman

"Owing to past neglect, in the face of the plainest warnings, we have now entered upon a period of danger.  The era of procrastination, of half measures,... of delays, is coming to its close.  In its place we are entering a period of consequences....  We cannot avoid this period; we are in it now."  Winston Churchill, 1936.

Leon A. Kappelman, Ph.D.
  Professor of Information Systems
  Director Emeritus, Information Systems Research Center
  Fellow, Texas Center for Digital Knowledge
    College of Business, University of North Texas
    Voice: 940-565-4698   Email: kapp at unt.edu<mailto:kapp at unt.edu>
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