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March 26, 2010

It's hard to believe it's only been about 4 months since I did my last netbook review - so much has changed! It seems as though every vendor has upgraded their netbooks to the Intel Atom N450/470 "Pine View" chipset and significantly redesigned their line of netbooks. We've been tracking this very carefully, as we are within weeks of purchasing several hundred units, with more than 1000 to follow by summer (assuming the state releases the federal money we've been waiting on - but that's another story). 

One of the biggest issues we are facing, at present, is the lack of availability of netbooks with solid state (memory-based) storage. This was an important feature for us, as you will you recall from my prior review, as we want as few moving parts as possible, since moving parts are the ones that fail most often, especially in an environment where there is a high likelihood that they will experience deceleration-trauma/cement poisoning/etc. (ie get dropped.) Vendors, however, face competitive pressures from a rapidly growing market and therefore find themselves competing on specifications, for which hard drives are an inexpensive way to drive up their numbers. As such, none of the vendors who once offered solid-state storage appear to be offering it now, which has forced us to rethink our strategy. More ...

Keywords: Asus, Dell, EeePC, HP, Mini, Netbooks

Posted by Jim Klein | 6 comment(s) | Share This

March 22, 2009

We've added some great new applications and updates to the EeePCs and community sites that we'd like to make you aware of. EeePC programs will automatically install on your EeePCs the next time they connect to the network.

  • Google Earth: Google Earth lets you fly anywhere on Earth to view satellite imagery, maps, terrain, 3D buildings, from galaxies in outer space to the canyons of the ocean. You can explore rich geographical content, save your toured places, and share with others. Great for all sorts of classroom activities across a variety of disciplines. For a great example and lesson materials on erosion, see David Lindsay's Post here.
  • Pencil: Pencil is an animation/drawing software that lets you create traditional hand-drawn animation (cartoon) using both bitmap and vector graphics. Saves files in Flash format (swf) which is easy to embed in a Student Community blog. Could be used for a number of creative activities and demonstrations in the classroom.
  • Multimedia support for StarOffice: Software to support a variety of audio/visual media within StarOffice documents and presentations, including a number of video and audio formats. All media types kids can create on their EeePCs using the Sound Recorder (Audacity) and Webcam are supported.
  • Scratch support in the Student Community: The Student Community now supports playback of Scratch projects directly in a student blog. A number of students have already posted their projects. For an example of a Scratch project in the blog, click here.
If there are any other things you would like to do with either the EeePCs or the Student/Teacher Communities, be sure to let us know. Feel free to comment here with your ideas/suggestions.

Posted by Jim Klein @ SWATTEC | 10 comment(s) | Share This

February 11, 2009

Well, after planning for the week, I remembered that I would be out on Wed. Changing my plans to accommodate a substitute was quite eye-opening. Since I had to 86 anything involving the EeePCs, I quickly found myself having to rewrite almost all of my plans. Just a few weeks with these things and they're already an integral part of the classroom.

On another note, today we made good use of a program called Exploratree. It is a web 2.0 "cloud computing" app that allows you to bring up several different organizer tools. Each one is totally customizable. You can also make your own. You can use them for KWL charts, Venn diagrams, etc. The students can fill them out, save them if they have an account, print them, or take a screenshot of them to save/put on the student blogs. As a teaching tool, project it and fill the chart in as part of a lesson. It makes me wonder how much a wireless keyboard would cost- you could just pass it around the room for students to take turns adding info to the diagram. One really important tip: at the top of the program's toolbar, there's a wrench, a pencil, and a presentation screen. When you open a diagram, it defaults to the wrench. This is create mode, where you get to customize the elements of the organizer. To fill in information, you have to click the pencil icon. I suggest you play with the program before employing it. I hope to get busy soon and add a Techbyte tutorial about the program.

On another note, the computers offer a lot as a portal to specialized assignments as well as extra credit activities. If teachers collaborated, we could probably come up with a decent webhunt for nearly every major topic in science and social studies, let alone literature based webhunts as well. They could be compiled onto a master wiki page and students could access them from the blogs, following the links, and writing their answers to the questions in a blog post. No paper required and you have an instant free time activity or perhaps an extension assignment for a GATE student. Here's an example of a really basic webhunt for volcanoes (I'm a 6th grade teacher btw).

Keywords: eeepc, exploratree, gate, integration, swattec, webhunt

Posted by David Lindsay @ SWATTEC | 1 comment(s) | Share This

February 05, 2009

I am so impressed with how my students have taken the EeePC use very seriously.  They realize that they are borrowing an expensive piece of equipment and so far (knock on wood) are handling them carefully.  When they've asked me about whether we can use certain websites and I have said no, they have accepted that without complaint.  I've also seen some otherwise squirrelly students settle down and focus when using the laptops.  They realize how much it is a privilege.

 We started out with the students tinkering with the EeePCs, which proved to be a learning experience for all of us.  Of course, we encountered minor roadblocks, such as how to exit certain games or programs.  It was neat to see students figuring it out and helping me, even, with the correct procedure.  In the past few weeks, we've been exploring the features on each tab.  Next week I am excited to get them all on the MyAccess writing program.  

 

 

Keywords: EeePC, SWATTEC

Posted by Monica Tatlock @ SWATTEC | 1 comment(s) | Share This

January 23, 2009

Today was Donut for Dads/Muffins for Mom's day. The parents (about 20 extra bodies in the classroom) enjoyed seeing the new computers. The fourth grade teachers at Rosedell had come up with the great idea to have students show their parents the units. I wanted the students to show their parents some of the tasks that they've been working on over the last few days. Needless to say, parents were impressed. I was a little worried that they would perceive that the focus of our classroom had shifted from learning to "toys" so it was a huge point for me to stress where we were at on the continuum of tool vs. distraction. Things went well.

The earthquake brochures are going well. I'm using a new project management model called scrum (no it's not an acronym- it's a rugby term). The students met for about 15 minutes to discuss some of the research they did yesterday, discuss how they could break their project down into components, and decided who was going to do what. We used a web 2.0 app called Scrumy (www.scrumy.com) to manage their tasks. Each student in the group could see how the other students in their group were progressing on their tasks. So could I. They used a list of 4 or 5 websites that I previewed yesterday.

Observations- for project based learning, I was amazed at the productivity bump. With students who often don't participate, they were given specific tasks and the delineation of duties and visual element of accountability made a huge difference. I will do this again. I'll be following up with a screenshot or two of what one of their scrum pages looks like. The phone just rang- the student who gets to go home early just slumped her shoulders and left noticeably displeased to have to stop working. I don't think I've ever seen that on a Friday afternoon. Wow.

Here's the project workspace that one group created: <click pic to enlarge>

scrumy.jpg

Keywords: eeepc, integration, project, scrumy, web 2.0

Posted by David Lindsay @ SWATTEC | 2 comment(s) | Share This

Well it was a rainy day today. We bring our kids in early (8:00) on rainy days. School hadn't officially started and I thought it would be a good time to show the kids the Tuxtyping program. Many of them brought "earbud" style headphones to school today because I suggested to them that they'd have to go sans sound on their programs otherwise. They liked the program but many of them were having a hard time keeping their fingers based on the "home rows." I told them that typing could be a free time activity if they met the requirement of keeping their fingers on the home rows. Despite trying, it was clear they needed more instruction. So I sent them to BBC Dance Mat Typing. This website has leveled lessons in typing with animations showing finger placement and everything. It was just what the doctor ordered.

After that, the bell rang. I had planned their quickwrite for later but since the computers were open, I swapped lessons. I had them post their response to a prompt asking them for their opinion about the President's retaking of the Oath of Office. I didn't bother having them go to MyAccess because it tends to slow down journal writing by adding another layer to the process. Straight to the blogs they went.

Later in the day they tackled algebraic patterns again. This time I used an easier tool- the stamping tools in Tuxpaint. Tuxpaint is a bit tough to find on the EeePCs. You have to go to "learn"..."kidsgames"...and choose the lowest button that has a beachball on it. Tuxpaint is a very easy to use painting program. The stamps are great for math counters. I had them create visual input output tables. Personalizing their tables using their favorite stamps (there are tons of stamps to choose from) added extra interest to the activity.

I also decided to be a bit brave today and see how they would handle a less structured activity. We just finished a unit on earthquakes and I wanted to spend the last two days this week doing a little more on earthquake safety. I brought up the concept of mining for information vs. surfing. Mining goes deeper, you start with a plan, and you have an idea where to look. We started as a class brainstorming what kind of information they thought they'd be looking for. It boiled down to: What to do before a quake, during a quake, and after a quake. I listed 4 or 5 internet sites that I had already found concerning the topic. They worked as a group to take hard copy notes for each site. They broke this task up among their groupmates. I prefer doing hardcopy rather than internet scrapbooks (at least initially) because it encourages writing true notes- not plagarizing. Tomorrow, we'll tackle turning the info into an earthquake safety awareness brochure for people moving to seismically active areas.

They keep asking me about some of the enticing looking games on the EeePC. I really need to put a poster together that details appropriate free time activities on the computer. Also, if you're using the internet, you might want to spot check histories in firefox. Just tap the arrow next to the address bar to see where a student has been. I've already had to reiterate that we aren't going to "YouTube." If I want them to watch a clip, I'll embed it in the blog- YouTube is as bad as Google images if you're just browsing.

Keywords: activity, EeePC, integration

Posted by David Lindsay @ SWATTEC | 0 comment(s) | Share This

January 21, 2009

In the interest of sharing ideas for integrating the EeePCs into the curriculum, please share any ideas you might have or lessons that worked well for you.

One thing we did today is discuss what an oath is, relating to the inauguration. My principal forwarded some lesson ideas to us a few days ago. One of them was to have the students create a student oath. I created a teacher prompt in MyAccess called "Student Oath." I used the "narrative" category. I only enabled scoring of the mechanics of their writing so they could fix mistakes that popped up. We used the graphic organizer planner as a prewriting strategy. The third planner has 4 bubbles on it connected to one in the middle. They also have 2 bubbles connected to each of the 4 main bubbles. I put responsibility in the middle and the four bubbles were people who the students had a responsibility to as students. They decided: themselves, their classmates, their teacher, and their parents. For each of these, they had two bubbles that stated actions they would take, keeping those responsibilities in mind, such as "be supportive" in the classmates category or "share assignments" in the parent category. They then wrote a student oath as a promise to uphold those responsibilities. This was a nice writing activity that tied into current events and also helped them to focus on some classroom issues that often crop up as we head into early Spring.

Another thing that we've been doing is trying to create patterns with blocks that represent a function of some kind. We used the spreadsheet program to create block patterns, but that turned out to be about 80% learning how to use the tools and 20% learning the algebraic concepts. I'm going to use Tuxpaint tomorrow, and its stamps, to create visual input/output tables. The stamps are easy enough in Tuxpaint that the learning of concepts should equal or outpace the learning of the tool.

As a follow up, we'll probably put the completed work (writing and patterns) on the blog. Students could try and guess what function is shown by the input/output table.

Keywords: eeepc, idea, integration, lesson, share, sharing, swattec

Posted by David Lindsay @ SWATTEC | 2 comment(s) | Share This

I find it handy to display one of the actual units during a demo because the interface is the same as the students' interface.

I'll either borrow a unit from a student or, better yet, use a unit that belongs to an absent student.

In order for your projector to detect the EeePC, you'll have to change the display settings. Choose the settings tab, then click on the "desktop mode" button. A dialog box opens up. Choose the top option to display the screen in both places. The automatic resolution setting worked just fine for me.

display2.png 

Keywords: display, eeepc, projector

Posted by David Lindsay @ SWATTEC | 2 comment(s) | Share This

December 29, 2008

Well, the last of the 1700 EeePCs have been set up and placed in the carts, with spares boxed up and ready to go. Next step: wiring the carts. Hopefully, we'll be able to get that done in the next couple of days. Would be nice to head into January only worrying about delivery. Our out-of-the-box fail rate has been pretty good, with only 7 machines with issues to contend with. That puts our fail rate at 0.4% - not too shabby!

laptops41.jpg
53 Carts, loaded with 30 EeePCs each

Keywords: EeePC, mini-laptops, swattec

Posted by Jim Klein @ SWATTEC | 1 comment(s) | Share This

December 24, 2008

Day 2 was a very productive, with an additional 712 laptops completed at a pace of 1.75 per minute, for a pre-Christmas, 2 day total of 1,116.  The pile of boxes and packing grew to astonishing heights, as you can see below, creating a variety of recreational opportunities never before seen at the district office! 37 carts were loaded, with 16 to go. One more day should complete the laptop setup, with time-consuming wiring still to be done. My back hurts already!

laptops34.jpg laptops35.jpg

laptops31.jpg laptops36.jpg

Keywords: eeepc, mini-laptop, swattec

Posted by Jim Klein @ SWATTEC | 4 comment(s) | Share This

December 23, 2008

After getting a late start due to bootable USB key madness, we were still able to complete 404 laptops. Once we found our rhythm, we set a pace of nearly 2 per minute. As you can see below, we had quite a pile of boxes when we were done for the day.

laptops21.jpg
"The pile" after a frantic day of setup

laptops22.jpg
Loaded carts (still need to be wired)

Keywords: EeePC, Laptops, swattec

Posted by Jim Klein @ SWATTEC | 2 comment(s) | Share This

December 22, 2008

We're off to a great start on the SWATTEC initiative! Teachers and mentor/coaches have taken part in numerous trainings over the past few months and have received their laptops for use in the classroom. Next up is the really hard part - getting all the rest of the tech into the classrooms!

We have all the projectors, which will begin to appear in rooms starting December 29. The wireless access points have been ordered (but aren't here yet - ouch) and the mini laptops have arrived. The team is now hard at work setting the machines up and getting them in the carts.

Laptops1.jpg
Laptops being setup at a pace of ~1 per minute - isn't Linux grand!

Laptops2.jpg
Unboxing takes forever and generates lots of trash!

One of the nice things about the EeePC is that we can set them up incredibly quickly, thanks to their highly script-able Linux based operating system. Right now we're averaging 1 per minute. Another great benefit is that we can customize them to our hearts content, then save the settings as a system "default". This allows us to restore one to our custom setup in less than 20 seconds, should there be a software problem. 

We expect to begin delivering carts the first week of January. We look forward to getting them in the hands of our 4th grade students!

Keywords: EeePC, mini-laptops, swattec

Posted by Jim Klein @ SWATTEC | 31 comment(s) | Share This

July 22, 2008

We are pleased to announce that our 21st century learning project, Student Writing Achievement Through Technology Enhanced Collaboration (SWATTEC), has been fully funded and will commence this fall. Through this project, 1,700 fourth grade students at the Saugus Union School District will receive what we are referring to as an Ultra Mobile Device (Asus EeePC), and will engage in collaborative learning through the use of Web 2.0 evaluation, assessment, and social media tools.

The SWATTEC project has been carefully conceived, backed by tremendous research, and will be comprehensively supported through extensive staff development, evaluation, and district-wide support. We embark on this journey with great anticipation and high expectation that the development of a sustainable, one-to-one environment, coupled with the power of Web 2.0 tools will create a culture of transparent technology integration and generate academic, personal, and social gains never before realized in elementary education. We look forward to sharing the results with you.

Rather than post a number of blog entries on the project, I will instead post the details on my wiki pages at http://community.saugususd.org/jklein/page/SWATTEC+Project. Be sure to check back often for updates.

More ...

Keywords: 21st Century Learning, EeePC, Social Media, swatttec, Ultra Mobile Device, Web 2.0, Writing

Posted by Jim Klein | 13 comment(s) | Share This

May 02, 2008

There are constantly new tools available for teachers and students.  With teachers moving away from the front of the room with the use of slates - Interwrite Pads, Wacom Pads and Airliners, one of the newer tools being piloted in various school districts across the United States is the eeePC.  This Ultra Mobile Device (UMD) looks like a shrunken laptop.  It is Linux based, boots in 20 seconds, is wireless and contains all the Internet access and productivity tools a student needs in a one to one computing environment.  One of the great things is that with no moving parts (example: CD drive) it is very durable.  A good thing around students.

They are even selling them at Costco.  The more memory, the higher the cost, but the basic version, which is quite sufficient is $300. 

Below is a picture. 

eeePC

 

 

Posted by Arlene Anderson | 3 comment(s) | Share This


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