Monday, February 15, 2010

The Bookpad, or Something Just Like It, Approaches Reality

A few years ago I wondered what students would need in a paperless classroom. I imagined that students would have very thin but rugged laptop-like devices that would be equipped with detachable cameras and microphones, two giant "super touchscreens," wireless internet and LAN access, and a pen that students would use to draw and write on the touch-screens.

At the time I had just read about how a touchscreen on a cell phone in China gave "haptic feedback." That is, when this particular cell phone's users touched a command or executable icon on the screen, the screen sent a signal to the users' fingers that made it feel as though a physical button had been pressed.

Obviously, I wanted my device to have that, too.

So I then wondered what educational life would be like in an institution that had adopted such devices. Paper in the form of tests, passes, or notes would be a memory. A lot of things that take away valuable class time, like attendance and the passing of papers, would be done automatically. Instead of teachers spending so many hours grading tests, most classroom assessments would be automatically graded, and the students would not only receive tests that had been individually tailored to be a challenging but engaging experience, but that had also been designed to provide instantaneous feedback. If each of the tests were different, students could finally talk about their experiences taking tests with a clear conscience (and thereby unknowingly participate in the process of learning).

Having a system like this would finally empower teachers in every subject area to get students, as a whole, into the art of masterful writing. Imagine that a student collaborated with teachers, classmates, and even "mentors" from upper grade levels in order to produce a final draft of a digital project. Then imagine that the student is at home on her couch, video-chatting through the bookpad with a classmate, when a her graded writing assignment comes in from her English teacher. The English teacher had just finished critiquing this project a few seconds ago. When the student brings up the critique, the teacher's voice and written, digital feed-back appears on the screen in real time, that is, as the teacher made them. This provides an experience not unlike that of sitting at the teacher's desk as the teacher is going over your work.

Perhaps this would enable students to turn in a further "corrected" draft for digital publication. Regardless, this system would empower teach-ers, students, and faculty in a manner currently unparalleled.

I called this dual-screened dream machine a bookpad. Since I dreamed it, I've added a host of features to it. When the iPhone came out, I knew I was on the right track.

Now we have the iPad. Basi-cally, if you take the iPad, turn it into something that can be both a dual-screen laptop and a super-tablet PC, write the software for educational purposes, and you have my idea.

I wonder who will develop this first. Whoever does it, the release of the iPad makes it clear that it's only a matter of time before the bookpad concept becomes a reality.

To prove my point, just look at the images above. They were turned in as a response to Engadget’s "What Would (Steve) Jobs Do?" question and posted on February 27, 2006. Sadly, I just saw them when I was doing a picture search for the iPad. A few of these pictures accurately predicted where Apple would eventually move. I wonder if these images below will be seized upon by Apple, or someone else, with the wherewithal to provide the software, infrastructure, and overall technology to empower schools to be paperless.


  1. I think the day of the type of lassroom you envision is closer than you think. Already in a class i teach here at USA (EDM 310). We have gone totally paperless. I have not passed out one paper this semester and the students have not turned in one peice of paper. It is all digital. We are bloging with students all over the world. Tourth graders in Newzland, third graders in Aulstralia, and eleventh graders in Canada. I'm telling you, the change is on and i think thats pretty exciting. SS

  2. I think so, too! I just feel that I'm twenty years in the past!

  3. (And by that, I'm referring to my current professional climate!)

  4. Even a small school like LHS that is PreK-12 has gotten quite computer friendly. The kids do not have to bring most of their books home as they can access them online which makes it nice for me when they forget something. I have access to all their grades, homework assignments etc. With my children being in the 3rd and 4th grades, I can only imagine that as each year passes we will get closer to the paperless environment you have spoken of. Our little community may not be the first to experiment with this digital learning but we will definitely jump on the wagon when it comes rolling by!