Bringing Netbooks into the Classroom (part three of several)

Like most teachers, I’m constantly driven by the need to be as productive as possible, as much of the time as possible (is it little wonder that we so often compare ourselves to machines?) So, when I look at the end of the holidays back on the last two weeks, I have to ask myself: have I used my time productively? This time round, I’m glad the answer is ‘yes.’

One of the big achievements of this holiday has been getting my little school netbook project off the ground. It’s been great to read about all the other projects like this happening all around the world as schools gear up to make the most of these ultra-portable, ultra-cheap devices with so much potential. In case you haven’t been following the trends in this area, here are a few:

I think this has to be the closest we’ve come so far to the goal of one-one laptops in schools and it’s exciting to see so much unfolding – not just in our own backyards, but in developing economies too.

As of a couple of days ago, I’ve set up a few Acer Aspires and EeePC 701s with some customisation of the default Linux distros. The goal was to have machines that could boot up quickly, access the net and provide basic office and multimedia functionality. What amazes me is that for less than AU$300, you can set up such a powerful, tiny machine. What I’ve discovered is that aside from editing slabs of audio and/or video (for which you do need some processor ‘beef’), there’s very little that these things can’t do. Here are just a few examples:

  • Basic audio recording, mixing and editing for podcasts with Audacity

  • VoIP with Skype

  • Office-based editing with OpenOffice 3

  • Google Earth and Second Life

  • Any thing that a web browser lets you do

And with the focus now squarely on the ‘cloud,’ a decent browser and a few web tools goes a long way. So now I have a strong case to get a full trolley of these – watch this space!

About Michael

Cellist, singer/songwriter, school teacher, nerd, recent scooter enthusiast and failed philosopher.
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