Calculator prices

Yesterday, I did some quick back-of-the-envelope and claimed that Flip cameras are similar in relative cost to pocket calculators in the mid-late 1970s. That is: around the time when pocket calculators became ubiquitous, and changed the way we did arithmetic forever.

Poking around the Bank of England’s inflation calculator, and the ONS’s earnings data, it looks to me like the relative cost of the iPad is more like that of calculators circa 1973. That is: the iPad is the Sinclair Cambridge of ubiquitous mobile personal computing. We’ve gone from ‘no decent tablets at any price’ to ‘good enough and a week’s wages’ in a single step.

This is the context in which one should assess Fraser Speirs school’s iPad project. By the early 80s, schools were buying calculators for every class, and by the mid-80s we were mandating specific models for exams. With that precedent set, I suspect tablet adoption will be faster.

Is the iPad the Casio fx82 of 2015?


Day two of the Media and Learning conference in Brussels. Yesterday’s opening plenary was reserved for the politicians and policy-makers, and as a practitioner I frankly didn’t understand very much. This morning we kicked off with Paul Ashton talking his habitual sense. Today: dragging us through a precaffeinated morning to think about assessment, which is much more like the sort of worry we should be having as a community.

Here’s another one: scale.

We’re seeing lots of presentations which are pimping specific projects. Mine was one of them, though to be fair I did try (perhaps not very successfully) to draw out some general lessons from four years of SciCast. But mostly we’re glimpsing inspiring and exciting projects from classrooms and lecture theatres across Europe.

We’re grappling with what we think represents a ‘good’ project, and shuffling our way along to think about best practice. Along the way, lots of learners are having enriched experiences, or whatever it is we’re offering them.

What I find interesting is how many projects represent personal practice – how many rely on a key individual to enable the media experience. We’re seeing lots of inspirational individuals, and it’s easy to imagine their students’ excitement.

OK, so: how do we extend these opportunities to every learner?

There are a few scalable ideas here, notably the overall Medea winner, BBC News’ wonderful School Report project. Of course I’d be remiss not to mention SciCast, and the FIS BookClub is a cracking third example. But in general, we’re looking at small-scale projects that are probing and proving techniques. They’re not even designed to scale – they’re not at that point in the development of their concept, nor of the sector.

Time to change that, folks. Let’s not be timid – if we’re confident we have a good project, let’s work out how to roll it out across the region, the country, all of Europe. Let’s put the opportunity in front of every learner, not just the lucky minority.

Turns out I should have paid more attention to the politicians yesterday.