Teachers unite to influence computer manufacturing

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Doodles of the word open


Open source enthusiasts firmly believe that much is possible when people band together. After all, the core underpinning of open source doctrine is social. So I recently decided it's time that teachers band together to specify the computers we want manufacturers to make. Open source thinking gives me the boldness to think this is possible.

I explain my ideas briefly in the following YouTube video:

If you feel further moved to action, write a blog post or create a YouTube video sharing your ideas on this topic. Use the Twitter hashtag #20000teachers to tell the world (and me) about your blog post or YouTube video. I'll link to some of these from the official website.

My threshold for linking is fairly low. If you've got something constructive to say, in a coherent manner, I'll be linking to your ideas.

Phil Shapiro shows Dottie Brown, 97, how to play TetraVex

Phil Shapiro shows Dottie Brown, 97, how to play TetraVex

Yes, if 20,000 teachers assemble, the next step may be a crowdfunding campaign of some sort. The computer manufacturing business is very competitive. Computer manufacturers could not ignore the wishes of an organized large group, especially if a sizable bounty were offered to the manufacturer who is most responsive to our specified wishes. A sizable bounty becomes ever more feasible the larger the number of people assembled.

Lastly, the annoying expense of computer purchase shipping costs can be dramatically reduced if very lightweight computers were sold in packages of 5 or 10-as a group purchase-for delivery to a school, college, library, nonprofit organization, etc. This would save fuel costs in shipping, too. Wouldn't it be a relief to pay $2 in shipping costs for a computer, rather than $10 or $20?

If these ideas resonate, join this low-volume announcements-only Yahoo! group and spread the word to other teachers, librarians and community organizers. Step right up and be counted. There is always strength in numbers.

Note: this is a teachers-focused initiative, but the computers being manufactured for the needs of teachers would also be for sale to the general public. And homeschooling parents are very much welcomed, as are school counselors, social workers, principals, assistant principals, superintendents, and other school support staff. All higher education educators are included, too. If you're a non-educator penguin, waddle onto this Yahoo! group, too.

This particular project is not affiliated with Phil's employer, MAKE magazine, or Opensource.com.

Phil Shapiro has been an educator, teaching students from pre-school to graduate school for the past 30 years. He currently works at a public library in the Washington, DC area, helping youth and adults use 27 Linux stations.


Great idea. I'll be sharing it with friends in education.

Phil Shapiro (no relation except in ideas and Soul) is one of the best teachers I've ever met! Not only to those who are directly his "students" but his gentle, generous, superbrain style always comes with and creates smiles.

Yet another great idea Phil! Rock on!

I like the idea very much. Chromebook proves that a lightweight Linux operating system is all that is really necessary to effectively use the internet and leverage technology resources. I too have an Acer C720 and it's my preferred platform. In fact I'm using it now to comment. I wonder if we could crowd-fund such an initiative. Do you suppose Acer, Lenovo, etc. would go along with such a venture?

Thanks for your ideas, Don. Manufacturers would have no choice but to respond to an organized group of consumers. Computer manufacturing is very competitive and you can't stay in business if you ignore the wishes of an organized, large group of consumers. When I wrote the above blog post, I was also thinking empathetically towards the point of view of computer manufacturers. An organized group of consumers can reduce their sales risks, assuring them of sales of a given quantity of sales of particular product. Also, by selling a slight variant of a particular Chromebook (without the screen, battery and speakers), we are giving manufacturers the option to earn more money from a product design with very little additional cost to them. All we ask in return is some input on design choices. For example, I'd love to see a "desktop Chromebook" with a VGA as well as HDMI port. Chromeboxes just haven't dropped to the right price yet.

He doesn't do well selling it. His plan is to strip it down to it's processor and keyboard and use an external monitor and purely plug-in dependent. He also makes a lackluster hashtag call to action for other educators to get on board.

He's a teacher, not a marketer, so I forgive him.

Minus the strip down fail, I like the idea enough to toss it hand-to-hand and get a feel for it.

I would not strip it down because doing so requires not one monitor, but two: one for the class and one for home. While stripping it down might make it cheaper, and perhaps less likely to be damaged in the daily double school/home transit, other solutions exist--ruggedization, for example.

The cost of a single chromebook is roughly $200 retail. Perhaps much of that cost can be offset in other ways. Perhaps the end cost would even be much less than the current cost.

Besides, the graphing calculators I paid for out of pocket (three times, thank you) for my kids' math classes were about $75 each, iirc. The were decidedly not rugged.

I understand that school systems are already doing things like this in a haphazard sort of way with varying higher-end equipment. It is very unorganized. There's little structure to it.

I'm not sure how it would be implemented though. There are lots of devils in those details. Education is a process with tons of dependencies and feeds and culture and and politics and stovepipes and minutia.

So the question is not how a teacher would implement it. The question is how a school system would implement it, from each individual student to the supervisor of education, from grade X up to a graduating class, from spelling and grammar to sex ed and physics.

There needs to be a pretty thorough use case analysis; that's the hard part because it would inevitably become political and ugly.

I see a more rugged version which would not increase cost significantly over a million units.

I see a keyed and serialized firmware version to dissuade theft.

I see a fairly strong, fairly specific policy agent.

I see a potential for cellular on <i>some</i> versions; more like whispernet as a data plan.

Take me up.

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