Friday, February 13, 2009

tt4t_074 NQTY, the evolution continues

It’s Friday, February 13th, 2009 and welcome to episode 74 of TechTalk4Teachers, I’m Tom Grissom. This week the big news in tech was about the release of the new Kindle 2, the next generation wireless reading device by Amazon. The new Kindle device offers some improvements over the previous generation, however the device still remains relatively expensive, with a current advertised cost of $359 on the Amazon website.

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The Kindle reading device hopes to do for books what the iPod has done for music. Some say we are living in revolutionary times where technologies are offering possibilities that were previously impossible. I take a bit longer view having lived through several so-called technology revolutions and consider the recent advancements evolutionary rather than revolutionary. After all, I am still waiting for my flying car.

As educators we are pitched new products and services all the time that promise a better way of doing things. Often the hype does not live up to the promise and a lot of money is wasted chasing windmills. When educators do resist change (even if for good reason) we are criticized for being stuck in the 19th and 20th Century way of doing business. I really want to like the Kindle after all that I have read about it, but in my opinion it is still a NQTY technology, Not Quite There Yet, but it is getting closer.

Despite the rhetoric that our schools are stuck in the past there is plenty of evidence all around us for daily use of innovative technologies being used by teachers all across the country. I want the Kindle to succeed but the price must come down, way down before it can be adopted on a large scale by our schools. There are additional costs above and beyond the device itself that include the purchase of the electronic copy of the book you want to read. There are also hidden wireless infrastructure costs that will have to be scaled up if the Kindle becomes wildly successful.

Make no doubt that the Kindle 2 is an amazing device offering the user the ability to receive new content in less than 60 seconds wirelessly from a selection of over 230,000 books! The new Kindle 2 can store up to 1500 books at a time and weighs in at just 10.2 ounces. One of the biggest surprises in the new device is the new read-to-me capability that can read text to you in a synthesized voice. The screen resolution is improved moving from 4 shades of gray on the old version to 16 shades of gray on the new. It is still missing a color screen and that is a deal-breaker for many educators, so for me the evolution continues, I am looking forward to seeing what the Kindle 3 offers next year.

Kindle 2

All of these advancements are truly amazing technological achievements; however the Kindle is also combating centuries of paper-based publications that have a tactile feel and still offer many practical advantages even over the mightiest technologies. Those advantages are however narrowing as the technological evolution continues at both the device level as well as the digital infrastructure level.

I have provided links in the show notes to information about the new Kindle 2 and a link to an article that appeared this week about the economies of the old way of doing business versus the future that the Kindle 2 now makes possible.

I will be the first to admit that $359 is a lot of money to be spending on a book reader but an article I read this week stated that the New York Times could give every subscriber of the Times a FREE Kindle and it would still be cheaper than printing and delivering the hard-copy edition of the paper to its subscribers. I won’t bore you with the math details here but I have a link to this article in the show notes that walks you through the current costs of printing and delivering the NYT newspaper. So looking at it this way is $359 a bargain? If it could save the New York Times that much how much could it save schools in textbook cost?

Printing the New York Times Costs Twice as Much as Sending Every Subscriber a Free Kindle

I am optimistic about the path that the Kindle is on and do see it or similar devices being used in schools that can replace traditional textbooks and deliver content wirelessly to students in the near future. It is just a matter of time for the technology to improve and for the costs to come down.

Technology Pick of the Week

Besides the Kindle 2 my Technology Pick of the Week this week is from a fellow teacher in New Jersey who has developed some interactive Flash programming. I have provided a link in the show notes to the Tech Fortress blog with three random name generator Flash programs.

Tech Fortress Blog

I tried out the random Seat Chart Maker, Group Maker, and the Random Name Generator and all are very quick and easy to use. Many times we teachers have a need to break students up into groups. If we let students decide they will most likely self-select into their preferred group. Using the random group maker you can randomly assign students using the easy to use Flash tool available at the Tech Fortress blog.

To use the Group Maker you go to the Flash application at the link provided in the show notes and then select the RED folder where you can type in a list of your student first names, I advise only using first names as I am not sure if any information is being permanently saved at the website.

Once you have your students first names entered scroll down to the bottom of the page and click create list. You will be given a number to remember for your class list. Next you select what you want to do, create a Seating Chart, use Group Maker, or use the Random Name Generator that will allow you to call on students randomly in class. The three Flash applications are easy to use and can offer some variety in your daily lessons. Give them a try and let me know if you find them helpful.

That wraps it up for episode 74 of TechTalk4Teachers. Show notes for this episode and archived episodes are available on the web at the EIU Instructional Technology Center website at just click on the Techtalk4Teachers Podcast link. If you have a comment of suggestion please send an email to or leave a comment on the TechTalk4Teachers blog. Until next time, this is Tom Grissom, keep on learning.

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