The Netbook Revolution

I have a netbook myself (Lenovo S10e) and I have to say that (a) I understand why they’ve taken off, and (b) I really love mine, despite being a complete Mac addict (Mac tablet…where are you???). Netbooks have become pervasive in education for a number of reasons, but primarily being the confluence of web 2.0 and cloud computing, and the affordability–now going to a 1:1 student-to-computer ratio is more of a reality for many schools. Here’s a recent workshop created for Emma Lazarus High School in NYC.

Netbooks have become very popular in education. Why?
-Inexpensive, easier to create a 1:1 student-to-computer ratio
-Greater access to student hands-on use
-Apps are moving to the web, cloud computing, Google/power of computer matters less
-Platform matters less
-Software matters less/open source
-Very portable, manageable
-Usually long battery life

Some Downsides:
-Limitations: not great for large software programs, SMART Boards, Google Earth, Second Life
-Theft more tempting, easier to tuck away
-Often not as sturdy as a regular laptop
-Keyboards can pose a challenge for students with large hands

Managing a Classroom with Laptops:
-“Lids down” as a signal to pay attention
-Sign-out process that is clear and efficient
-OR always assign 1 laptop per student & keep a record
-Students directed to report tech issues immediately/setup an online form to report problems/class chart
-Desks/room arranged so teacher can see screens easily
-Timer projected for independent work
-Build in time for distribution and putting netbooks away
-Remember to recharge/plug in netbooks, leave cart in good order
-Have a check-in, check-out process for all classrooms
-Keep a print binder on the cart to report problems, as well as an online form to report tech issues
-Assign a student tech leader (which can rotate) who can assist students, facilitate the process
-Remove and secure cart keys–keep in a safe place with a check-in/check-out process as well
-Agree upon a management and sharing system for laptop carts if equipment is much in demand

Recommended Open Source Software:
Open Office (complete Office suite)
Audacity (audio editing)
Gimp (photo editing)
Firefox (web browser)
Google Earth (mapping, but not always compatible with netbooks)
Picasa (photo management)
Skype (VOIP, communication, conferencing)
Moodle (e-learning)
Linux or Ubuntu operating system…if you’re ready

Recommended Web 2.0 Sites:
Gmail (email)
Google Apps (complete array of apps)
Flickr (photo sharing)
Google Maps (mapping, location)
Animoto (video editing, presentation)
Ning (social networking)
Blogger or WordPress (blogging)
Weebly (web site creation)
Google Sites (wiki & web site)
Wikispaces (wikis)
VoiceThread (storytelling, presentations)
Vimeo (video sharing)
Evernote (note-taking, web clipping)
Diigo (social bookmarking, research, web clipping)

Google Docs (docs.google.com)
-Complete replacement for Microsoft…and goes one better. Able to collaborate on a single document and has form creation.
-Online and offline access, will sync up when offline to update your work.
-Can achieve a paperless classroom: good method for students to submit assignments, presentations, quizzes and worksheets
-Great for group work (no lazy group members–revision history)
-Peer editing and collaboration truly possible, no longer artificial process
-Teacher to student feedback is terrific
-Students able to see and compare drafts, revision process made clear
-Have access to documents anywhere, anytime, from Mac to PC–no more compatibility issues
-Completely compatible with Microsoft & Open Office in both directions (can upload from and download to)
-Great for students who do NOT have a computer at home or may be jumping on when they can–keeps a central place for their work
-Completely free, education edition nearly same as corporate
-Have to work up your own classroom process with students/how to title documents/sharing with the teacher=what works best for you

Resources to Learn More:
Netbook classroom experiences (ISTE Connects)
Peer editing using Google Docs (Teachers Network)
Classroom 2.0 (Ning social network)
Web 2.0 for the Classroom Teacher (links)
CoolCat Teacher (blog)
Google Docs for Educators (Google)

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