October 21, 2013

The Tablet Context (4)

In our concluding post in this four-part series, I want to focus on where a tool like the NEO3DO fits in the grand scheme of education.

The Educational Context. In schools, mobility tools like tablets and iPads are clearly the most popular kids on the block. Educational conferences assign an inordinate amount of importance and mindshare time to these devices. In fact, all traditional educational computing has largely become ho-hum in the face of these eye-catching new arrivals. It seems everyone in education wants a piece of the mlearning revolution (mlearning = mobility learning). Although they have not yet replaced laptops and desktops in most schools, tablets and iPads are gaining ground in schools, making their way into pilot projects, shared classroom sets, the welcoming arms of innovative teachers and principals, and the desks of 1:1 schools that can afford them. The context is simple: in today’s educational environments, mobility tools matter.

The Content Context. Although there’s nothing wrong with the NEO3DO tool itself, I was discouraged by the content posture it poses. The company loaded some nice demos and loops for me to explore. That was appreciated. Thanks. But what the company doesn’t yet understand (yet soon will) is that schools have little respect for video, aka movies, flicks, cinema, film, entertainment, Hollywood, features. (A positive exception would be the short, focused video vignettes, like the well-known DesignMate resources.)
Within educational circles, the train has long since left the station in that regard. You will never widely sell a tool to schools on the basis of being able to see videos. Educators today want less passive and more active (interactive) experiences with mobility devices. They want students to be able to create, construct, design, or experience learning with mobility devices. Loops, movies and running demos just don’t cut it for demonstration purposes to educators. Anachronistic artifacts from the past century won’t do this device justice. Instead, we need to see 3D simulations and micro-simulations, 3D serious games, tethered and tightly focused 3D visualizations, and avenues for 3D content creation. (I am speaking specifically of stills, animation, shorts, and narrated machinimas.)  Now, the NEO3DO can do all the right things—but they are not yet loaded on it.

The Competitive Context. I am worried about NEO3DO’s competition. How will this tiny company fair against the likes of Apple, Microsoft, and Asus in school sales? Is autostereoscopic 3D enough to give them an edge? I believe this tool must be bundled with stellar content and steered by brilliant marketing strategy in order to carve a presence into the stubbornly resistant educational market.

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