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CES 2011, Motorola Atrix, and Higher Ed
January 13, 2011 - 9:00pm

Dean Dad mostly covered the CES 2011 landscape.

For my part, I've been spending some enjoyable time on the web trying to figure out the big EDU story from CES 2011.

Mostly I've failed.

Education doesn't seem to enter much into the the CES universe. This is strange, because a major theme of ed tech life on campus is the tension between the consumer devices and platforms that students (and faculty) bring to campus and want to use, and the enterprise applications and platforms that we want them to use.

The one new device that has caught my eye (and David Pogue's) is the Motorola Atrix.

The Atrix is a powerful Android phone that can be bundled with a laptop like docking station. The laptop has no processor, disk or networking - rather it serves as a keyboard, screen and battery. The operating system, memory, and networking come from the Atrix. There is no syncing or moving data, as all the computing takes place on the Atrix.

This combination of Atrix and laptop dock is cool for a few reasons. First, the laptop dock can be very thin and light (as it does not need any hardware components). The Atrix is truly a portable computer, with a full web browser, lots of memory and a fast processor. The laptop dock allows for a good typing and viewing experience.

The Atrix is a step closer to the dream of a full computer in a mobile device. An external keyboard and screen accomplishes what Moore's Law cannot. No matter how powerful mobile computer gets, the form factor makes producing a difficult proposition.

Why could the Atrix be great for Higher Ed?

Design-to-Mobile: We all think that the future of computing is mobile. We all think that the future of education is in emerging economies. We all think that education in the emerging world will be primarily mediated by mobile devices over the next 25 years. (Okay…maybe I think these things). The Atrix gets us closer to this reality, as all of a sudden the mobile device become both a consumption and production tool. Apps and browsers!

Thin Clients: Finally, the dream of the thin client can be realized. If the Atrix interface becomes a standard (a big if), the university could supply monitors, keyboards and docking stations throughout the campus, and let students and faculty plug in.

Portable and Ubiquitous Learning: Portable learning becomes possible if we can both consume and easily switch to a production mode. Avoiding the friction of synching devices can result in a greater focus on the learning. The tools and technology should get out of the way. Being able to always have our learning device with us makes learning, and with the Atrix contributing and collaborating, closer to a ubiquitous activity

Social Learning: We primarily use our mobile devices for social purposes. Learning (or at least courses) may be touching mobile devices, but currently we need computers to really do the work. If we can get rid of the computer, then we can combine the tools in which we live our social life and do our course work.

I'm excited by this Motorola Android Atrix phone and docking system. Might even convince me to not buy an iPhone.

What do you think was the biggest higher ed news to come out of CES 2011?


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