Yesterday I posted a photo of ExoPC’s new virtual desktop, placed in the context of a classroom. The reaction of most people to whom I spoke was the same: “Why would you take such a powerful innovation and put it to such a traditional use?” The comments added to my initial post expressed similar sentiments.
But we tend to do that, don’t we? Innovation is very often put to use doing traditional things. I suspect that this is mainly due to the inspiration behind innovation. Most often, new inventiveness comes from an attempt to make existing practice (and life) easier, more efficient or more enjoyable. Seldom do we find advertising campaigns keyed to the idea that a particular innovation is going to force us to rethink our view of the world.
So, it’s really no surprise that the ExoPC images of how their new tablet desks might fit into a classroom were based on a very traditional image of what school looked and felt like. A traditional “front-facing” arrangement of student desks. An identical image on each students desk. The teacher’s desk being the center of control and surveillance. A controlled view of students’ “outlook” on the world.
I agree that there is a whole novelty factor here. It’s new; it’s fresh and it’s clean. And it will be interesting to see how much of that initial engagement with the technology can be translated into that deep engagement with learning for which many are looking. It will be interesting to see if new technologies like this will actually transform the learning space or hold us to our traditional ways of imagining classrooms and schools.
So here’s the challenge that I’ve given myself today—and I extend that same challenge to you. Imagine that you have been hired by ExoPC to help them promote their new tablet desks to the K-12 market. What design changes could you suggest that might provide more impetus to think differently about the way that classrooms were organized and operated? How might the technology that makes this product possible be leveraged to create a classroom environment that better supports your values and vision for this place we call school? How might you change the imagery presented in ads like this to plant a different view of education in the minds of teachers, parents and administrators?
This might be an interesting task for teachers—a way, perhaps, to get to those conversations about practice that many of us are longing to have. It might also be an interesting task for students as we look for ways of engaging them in conversations about their own learning.
Let me know what you come up with! I’ll do the same!