Home > Big Ideas > The Dynabook – How the Iphone/Itouch can Realize the Dream and Unlock Learning for Kids

The Dynabook – How the Iphone/Itouch can Realize the Dream and Unlock Learning for Kids


Way back in 1968, a brilliant computer scientist by the name of Alan Kay envisioned the Dynabook, a tablet like PC with nearly eternal battery life and software aimed at giving children access to digital media and facilitating education and learning.

We’ll about 40 some odd years have passed, and PC’s have flourished and powerful laptops now go for well under $1000. Although this has had a tremendous impact and kids a learning, I would argue that this has only been a partial realization of Alan Kay’s original vision.

Don’t get me wrong, personal computers and laptops are great but when it comes to kids, neither are optimal. The problem with desktop personal computers is that they tie you down to having to sit in a particular place and are for the most part not easily made mobile. Laptops improve on the situation, giving kids a powerful computer that can more easily go where they go. While laptops are indeed more portable, kids are not always going to feel comfortable carrying around a laptop on the bus, or when they are out and about with friends. Further more, most laptops do not have touch sensitive screens and are still a tad on the bulky side.

Enter the Iphone/ITouch. You may be surprised to know that this little device packs quite a wallop, much more than most portable game systems, and almost as much in not more then some current game consoles. While it is not as powerful as the current generation of laptop and desktop computers, it is surprisingly capable for a lot of things. Further more, you couldn’t ask for much more when it comes to portability, easily stowing away in just about any kind of pocket.

What this means is that kids can pretty much take this device anywhere, and won’t be shy about doing so. Couple this with a relatively large, high resolution, touch sensitive screen and you really start to have something qualitatively different than anything that has existed before. A touch sensitive screen means no need for a mouse or bulking accessories, and it means just about any kid can instantly pick up and use the device.

I think the Iphone/Itouch have the potential to realize the potential of Kay’s Dynabook and I think parents could really benefit from knowing about the possibilities it opens up for their children.

Being a parent of two little one’s myself, I have first hand experience seeing how easily my kids interact and play with the IPhone/Itouch. I am also aware that $200 is not a small drop in the bucket, but here are some reasons not to dismiss this device on initial price alone.

For one thing, most current hand held game consoles are just about, if not more expensive and for the most part are not nearly as powerful. Furthermore most of them can only play games. What you have to consider with the IPhone/ITouch is that it is essentially a full fledged computer that can do just about anything with. Once the initial cost is out of the way, parents will be interested to know that unlike typical console games which can get quite pricey, content for the Iphone/Itouch is relatively dirt cheap, and in some circumstances even free! You just download it to the device and you’re ready to go, no cartridges or disks to work about damaging or losing.

Make no mistake, this device is not a toy, but rather a sophisticated portable learning system. Kids can listen to music from around the world, watch podcasts, learning new languages and play games that are both fun and informative.

I am truly excited about unlocking the learning and educational potential of this device for kids. If you are too, stay tuned for future discussions on this topic.

Categories: Big Ideas
  1. July 20, 2009 at 5:06 pm

    Thanks for great posting

    Will back to read your other useful post šŸ˜‰

  2. thdrummer
    September 28, 2009 at 12:11 am

    I’m using your blog in a classroom discussion. I’m a student in a new media class and find your insight very useful; thanks for the ideas.

  1. October 5, 2009 at 7:50 pm

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