Tuesday, May 20, 2008
I can imagine so many instructional situations in which some kind of electronic paper would be really useful. Just plug in a USB e-paper screen and pull up a tutorial beside your laptop while you follow its directions on your main screen; pull your e-paper scroll out of your pocket during a field trip in the park and jot down some notes around the picture of what you're identifying; plug several into an "e-paper hub" and load a document on all of them at once. I have students who don't want to refer to the tutorials I'm spending hours making for them because it's too hard or confusing for them to switch screens to do what it tells them to. Last week, a student said she couldn't work on her computer because her neighbor was watching the tutorial on her computer so she could follow the steps on her own. I could give them paper to avoid this difficulty, and sometimes I do, but the screen allows for a much richer multimedia experience.
E-paper will be in schools eventually, but it will take a while. Just today, Wacom and E Ink announced development of an electronic paper product that you can write on with a Wacom pen. It's going to be really expensive when it hits the consumer market but at some point it will be feasible for students to carry around flexible plastic displays that they can view any document in and write on it. Until that day, I'll just keep following the story and keeping track of it on delicious.