Archive for the ‘Netbook’ Category

The following is an article I posted on our district website detailing our recent netbook deployment.  North Platte Public Schools in North Platte, Nebraska has roughly 4200 students:  1 high school, 2 middle schools, and 10 elementary schools.

Netbooks: A Cost Effective Digital Learning Solution

by Neil Hokanson, Educational Technology Director North Platte Public Schools

December 21, 2009

During the fall of 2008, the North Platte Public School Technology Department began to evaluate netbooks as a digital device solution. Netbooks are small laptop computers (with 10 inch screens) that have all the computing power of a regular laptop without a DVD or CD drive. The cost is roughly 1/3 that of a regular laptop and much cheaper than a desktop computer. Best of all the devices are portable opening up use anywhere, anytime. Pilot projects were tried in the North Platte High School Science Department and at Adams Middle School to see how the devices held up and met the needs of teachers and students.

In the spring it was determined, from building level technology plans developed by teaching staff and administrators, that a netbook would be a priority solution to increasing the number of digital devices throughout the school district. Plans were made to identify the number of devices that the district could purchase within the parameters of the technology budget, along with identifying stimulus funding as an additional source, to get devices in the hands of students. Three deployments were developed and the technology department has been facilitating that process since the summer months.

The first deployment brought 150 HP mini devices to Madison Middle School in August. Staff and especially students have been using these learning tools in a variety of ways to provide students new methods and experiences in practice, research, notes, developing presentations, creating art, for communication via email, creating brochures, and photo editing. Furthermore, the initial deployment at Madison has enabled the sharing of a wealth of information concerning the deployment, maintenance, use, and overall value of netbook computing that now spans many schools in the district and benefits other schools as netbooks are deployed elsewhere.

After the Madison deployment, and following budget approval in September 2009 and a meeting with the school board technology subcommittee, the second deployment was started and has been recently completed. 300 netbooks were placed in North Platte High School, 150 at Adams Middle School, and 30 each were deployed to Eisenhower, Hall, Lake, and Osgood elementary schools. Older computers from the high school were redeployed to McDonald, Washington, Eisenhower, Hall, and Osgood to provide equity with a thin client classroom solution that was done in most of the other elementary schools last school year. Since the middle of December 2009, including existing digital devices (laptops and desktops), computing has gone from as much as 12:1 to at least 3:1 digital devices per student in many schools.

The third deployment is well under way and will bring 120 netbooks to Jefferson, 90 each to Lincoln, Washington, and Cody, and 60 of the devices will arrive at Buffalo in the coming weeks. By the end of the 2009-2010 school year there will be at least 3:1 computing, with Web 2.0 capable devices in every school in the district. Schools that are at 3:1 will be identified as “next in line” to receive any new devices in the future and a replacement cycle is now in place to keep digital devices updated and renewed over the coming years.

Netbooks have facilitated a cost effective solution for the North Platte Public Schools in getting as many updated digital devices in the hands of students that we can in an equitable, wise, and fiscally responsible manner. Along with an updated network and server backbone over the past couple of years, teachers and students are reaping the rewards of 21st Century digital learning right now in the North Platte Public Schools, and the future will build upon the use of these devices to increase learning, facilitate collaboration, break down walls by opening up connections to others outside the classroom, and by developing a thinking culture that will prepare our students to be successful in an ever changing world and global economy.

NPPSD Netbooks Slideshow!!!

The following video presents the current model of netbook (or mini) that we are embedding in our classrooms:

g5There are times in life when you realize time has passed you by.  This does not become apparent until you reach an age where you realize your favorite music is now part of the “classics” channel on the radio.  As human beings we sometimes get caught in time and don’t realize, because of the day to day grind, that things have changed or are changing before our very eyes and we somehow miss it.

I have had discussions lately about the “new” Macintosh G5.  Yes, I said the new G5!  Somewhere, somehow, someone missed something.  In 2005, Macintosh began the shift away from the PowerPC processor to the Intel chip.  You can run Windows on a Mac.  I know most who visit here will know this, but I want you to know that some do not, and it is a shocking moment for these people to realize that, just like hearing Jump by Van Halen on the classics station for the first time, some important things happened as time marched on.

My purpose in this post is not to cast blame, figure out why this happens, to make fun of anyone, or to cry out to the developed world to pay closer attention.  I also am not posting to start a debate over Mac versus PC or the virtues of legacy equipment.  I am, however, here to say that what once was great, isn’t anymore.  If you are waiting for G5’s to make it to your classroom, you are too late.  Nevertheless, you are not too late for AMDs, Intel Core Duos or even Atom processors in tiny little laptops (they are called netbooks).  If you want a new PowerPC processor you can get one in an Xbox 360!

Change is constant, and we can hope to get the last drop of use out of an iMac, or IBM ThinkPad.  I’m all for that, and for being cost conscious, but there comes a time when the cost of maintenance and repair is not cost effective. I type this, mind you, on a PowerBook G3 Lombard from the 20th century, but I can maintain this at my own cost and not at the cost to the taxpayer.  When new is cheaper, faster, and better it is best, and that is what we are looking for:  what is best for students.

I know the G5 was great, shoot I had an awesome IBM AT with a 286 processor.  It found its way to computer heaven just a year and a half ago!  I read LowEndMac everyday, and I think my PowerBook G4 first generation 400 MHz laptop was the best ever, but I refuse to put one in the hands of today’s students.  They deserve the best not what was once the best.

Some things get better with age.  Cheese, Van Halen (I think so), and they say wine.  Digital devices do not get better with age:  they can’t.  As devices get faster, smaller, more portable, and cheaper it makes sense that we move on wisely.  Granted we should get all the life that we reasonably can out of digital devices and plan for the future.  That is the responsible thing to do.

If anyone wants to discuss the G5 I am there for you, but we will discuss its merits in a time that has passed.  As we visit hopefully we will be listening to “Where Have All the Good Times Gone?” from Van Halen’s Diver Down album, but we’ll listen to it as an mp3 on an iPod Touch.

Several netbooks (ASUS Eee PC 904HA) have entered some of the classrooms in our district.  I mentioned this particular make and model earlier as I treated myself to one of these small wonders for my birthday in November. It is a nice little machine and can hold its own for many projects that students can be doing.  The key words in my previous statement are “that students can be doing.”  With these tools in teacher’s and student’s hands they should be doing.  We can’t wait forever to get what we think we need to educate students because forever never comes and time and resources are wasted.  In 1997 I had one computer in my classroom and a school wide, shared, dial up Internet connection.  I didn’t wait for a lab of computers in my classroom.  I didn’t think about what I could do if I had the right equipment, I just did with what I had.  I really, honestly did!  

Waiting for something to happen is a terrible thing, and I hope that if any educator reads this and you have been waiting, please STOP!  That is your first step in doing! You cannot wait.  There has to be something that you can do and someone if you need help to get started or restarted.  There are many like myself that are willing to help you; so, please let us help you help the students.  I have five young souls in my home that walk the halls of public schools each day.  They ALL want you to help them, to teach them, to utilize tools that they are familiar with.  They have technology in their hands whenever they need it at home, and they expect you to utilize it at school.  Many of their teachers do, but these students can do so much more.  Even little Heather, a kindergartner, is ready more that many will ever know if she never gets the chance to share what she can do and create at home using technology.  I’m glad there are some netbooks in a couple of schools now (there needs to be more portable, digital devices and that shall come to pass) but how sad will be the day if these devices aren’t in young hands. Please put them there and let them show you what they know.  They can!

The following article, 5 Things to Consider Before  Buying a Netbook, found at Gigaom makes some good points and is a concise overview for those considering purchasing a netbook.  Enjoy!