I posted yesterday about Mike Knutson’s discussion of the importance of broadband for rural economic development. I juxtaposes this with a new analysis showing the U.S. is 23rd globally in getting broadband to all of its citizens. My neighbor the Displaced Plainsman adds that we are 27th in average download speeds.

Our laggardly broadband deployment is not simply a product of our big wide open spaces and all the cable we have to lay. Only 12 U.S. cities make the list of the 100 fastest wired cities in the world. More than half of the cities on that list are in Japan.

Check out Akamai’s cool map to visualize how far behind the United States is on broadband.

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Imagine a mobile computing device that puts word processing, Web browsing, and videoconferencing in your hands for less than what you’d spend on one family dinner at Perkins. Think that might have an impact on the market?

If the Indian government has its way, we’ll find out next year. Human Resource Development Minister Kapil Sabil just unveiled a prototype touchscreen tablet that could market for 1500 rupees — $35 — or less. The minister says Indian tech students and professors designed it. They cut cost by using open-source software and, of course, Linux. The device runs on a memory card instead of a hard drive (remember the advantages of solid state). For a few rupees more, you can add a solar panle, boosting appeal for remote users (and for me when I’m camping!).

Steve Jobs might not need to start quivering yet: this same ministry made a splash last year with announcement of a $10 laptop that has yet to materialize. But Minister Sibal says this new gadget is ready for production: “We have reached a (developmental) stage that today, the motherboard, its chip, the processing, connectivity, all of them cumulatively cost around $35, including memory, display, everything.”

India envisions this tablet primarily as an educatinoal tool. If this thing works, we could equip an entire classroom of kids with Web-capable devices for the cost of one good laptop. Textbooks and graphing calculators cost more than this. I’d feel a lot more comfortable requiring students to haul around a $35 piece of equipment than an electronic device so expensive the school has to require parents to buy insurance.

Robert Hawkins, senior education specialist at the World Bank, sees the following Top 10 Trends in ICT and Education for 2010. DSU majors in tech and ed, pay attention!

  1. mobile learning: walk and chew gum? piece of cake.
  2. cloud computing: smaller terminals, bigger world
  3. one-to-one computing: everyone will be packing!
  4. ubiquitous learning: does that render the term homework obsolete?
  5. gaming: how better to learn teamwork?
  6. personalized learning: tech helps us figure out where each student should start and deliver what each student is ready for
  7. redefinition of learning spaces: fewer big-box classrooms… more windows!
  8. teacher-generated open content: the lesson plan revolution will be wiki’d and blogged…
  9. smart portfolio assessment: …and so will student work, constantly updated and reviewed
  10. teacher managers/mentors: teachers move from font of knowledge to learning partner (Toby! this is it!). In other words, less “Here’s what you need to know” and more “Let’s figure out what we should know… and how we should find it!”

I dropped by campus yesterday and found I couldn’t access the DSU wireless network. Let me guess: someone upgraded the system.

Sure enough! I brought my troubles to the DSU Help Desk this morning and learned that DSU has upgraded to the 802.11n wireless standard. I’ll keep it simple: this means your campus wireless connection will go really really fast.

…assuming you can connect. The campus upgrade also moved the security protocol up to WPA2, which means you’ll probably need to change a setting to connect. For most folks, this shouldn’t be a problem: you just go to your Wireless Network Properties and change the Network Authentication setting. Click, click, and you’re off to the Web races!

Alas, for me and my “old” HP Pavilion dv5000 running Windows XP Service Pack 2, it wasn’t that simple. My list of authentications didn’t include WPA2-PSK. Stacy at the Help Desk suggested I download Service Pack 3 from the wired connection in my office (a 1.5 hour download, she estimated)… but then discovered that the wired network won’t talk to my old XP.

Google to the rescue! I get online, find Windows HotfixKB917021, get it onto my computer, run it, restart, and presto! There’s WPA2-PSK in my authentication options! I still needed to get the network key from the Help Desk, but now I’m back in business.

So if you see frazzled looking faculty walking purposefully westward across campus toward Lowry Hall, laptops in hand, it’s a fair bet they have the same problem. But be patient: it’s not hard to turn the big new n from “nuts!” to “nifty!” Check those authentication settings, download if you’re driving an “antique” like mine, and we should all be connected and grooving by orientation!

If you’re searching for the download, the hotfix file you want is WindowsXP-KB917021-v3-x86-ENU.exe.

[submitted via D2L to Dr. Moran, 2009.01.22]

So tell me if this will be a sufficiently meaty and relevant topic for class: I’d like to investigate municipal/community wireless networks. Aberdeen initiated a program last year to make their downtown one big public-access hotspot; it might be interesting to e-mail them (or even take a roadtrip!) to learn about their network and their experience with it. I could also add some background on the projects in San Francisco and Philadelphia, though I’d love to keep my focus on the feasiblity and advantages/disadvantages of such programs for rural South Dakota communities.

Municipal Wireless is my first choice, but if that doesn’t fulfill the requirements for the assignment, I do have a couple back-ups (rural broadband, impact of infrastructure stimulus; replacement of in-house networks with virtual/WiMAX). Let me know what works! Thanks!