M-Learning… How do Netbooks Fit In?

My fiance just purchased a netbook and before she even got it, I started thinking about how netbooks fit into our ongoing discussions on mobile learning. Traditionally, I’ve kept notebook computers out of my personal definition of mobile learning because they don’t really fit into the mobile culture. I think the way people behave with mobile devices and how they interact with others is really what defines mobile. Those behaviors are different than the behaviors we have with desktop and laptop computers. There are things we do with our mobile devices that we don’t do with their desktop and laptop cousins and vise versa. For instance, we don’t usually pull out our laptop when on a 10 minute train or taxi ride, we don’t bring our desktop or laptops with us everywhere we go (restaurant, bar, movie theartre, grandma’s house for the holiday or place of worship), we don’t ping the Internet from our laptop when we are bored at a stop light, etc.

But I can see some people starting to adopt some “mobile” behaviors with their netbooks. This is made possible by the size of the netbook. If you are wondering if you might need the web and you are going to a family members house for an event, you might bring the netbook because it’s a more powerful experience and it doesn’t take much to throw a 2 lb (or less) device in your backback or a bag . For education and even enterprise, these devices are enticing because of their cost savings compared to a high end notebook and their portability, especially for transient employees like sales reps.

As traditional computers get smaller and mobile devices get more powerful (and sometimes larger), it will be interesting to see what form factor our converged devices take. Will we have some sort of modular mobile device where we can plug pieces in for more power or more mobility depending on our current situation? We can already see this with devices such as the Red Fly which allows you to use your Windows Mobile powered smartphone as a netbook, by giving it a larger screen and full keyboard. We shall see how it all plays out, but I love the fact that costs are coming down for schools and businesses who choose to use netbooks and mobile devices to replace laptops and desktops. I think many have come to the realization that especially with netbooks, you can do most key tasks a learner typically does now that so much resides in the cloud.

Your thoughts?


5 comments so far

  1. Rebecca on

    I’ve purchased a netbook, an iPhone and a desktop all in the same two months. The netbook came first and I brought it to work (w/ wireless card) so I could access blocked social networking sites. They’ve unblocked those sites and I’ve stopped bring it to work.

    However, I take the netbook with me on the road to use for social networking, keeping up with email and very importantly ….accessing Google maps (so no need for a separate navigation instrument). A lot of people seem to use them at conferences.

    Like you said, I’m finding that the netbook is too much hassle for quick access (iPhone is great for this), but it is small enough to fit in a woman/man purse to take places that a regular laptop would be too cumbersome to carry and set up.

    It should be interesting to see how these play out over the next year or so. I’d like something sized somewhere between the netbook and the cell phone that has the fast start up/simple interface/touch screen of the iPhone with a little more screen size/keyboard ease of the netbook.

    Oh, and I’ve adjusted to the iPhone quickly, but I’m finding that I forget I have the netbook…and that’s an important indication for my future with it.

  2. mobileben on

    I think you’re probably not alone in thinking that most of your needs can be accomplished with a high-end smartphone like the iPhone.

    “Even so, roughly 52% of respondents to the In-Stat survey said they could envision using a smart phone in the future as their sole computing device, provided handset companies make improvements like better keyboards, expandable screens and applications that work as well as they do on PCs.” – http://online.wsj.com/article/SB122477763884262815.html

  3. mrod on

    Hey Ben! Nice write up. After being a lifelong mac-er, I’m awaiting arrival (hopefully today) of this netbook.


  4. Noob Book on

    OMG ! Cool Information. Somebody know why people love netbook more than notebook?

  5. Megan "Best Netbook 2009" on

    Hi, cool post. I have been pondering this topic,so thanks for blogging. I’ll certainly be subscribing to your blog. Keep up the good work

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