It is 6:30 in the morning, the school is very quiet, so I started this post.
The first action plan item in my technology goal was to learn about the netbook computer. So I have decided to take one home to play with it. I am not a “hardware guy.” I am a teacher and school principal. Consequently, this “review” of a computer will probably seem naive to anyone who knows his way around a motherboard. That being said, I can professionally comment that, upon first inspection, this new little computer is uber-cool!
That was my first reaction when I opened the laptop cart and saw 25 of these canary-yellow and black netbooks staring back at me. They are very enticing. That was the students’ reaction when they first saw the machines, too. The kids were calling them bumble bee computers.
Our school district leaders chose the Dell after looking at and playing with most of the models on the market. At first glance, it appears as if the Dell was a good choice. It is covered in a colorful, protective rubber coating that seems perfect for younger children.
Later this day…
I have spent about an hour using the Dell at home, and I have created a list of Pros and Cons about this mini-machine. I have tried to look at the netbook through the eyes of a teacher and a 5th grade student. Here is what I think so far:
- The computer was very easy to transport home in my briefcase. I think it would commute home with 10 and 11 year olds in a backpack without a problem. I am not planning on sending these home with kids yet, but maybe one day…
- I had no problem connecting to my home wireless system. With some simple directions, we could teach students how to connect to the wireless.
- I first went to my district email system and pounded out a few emails. This was simple to do.
- The MS Windows xp Professional software feels and works exactly the same as any other PC (I am not sure why that surprises me, but I was expecting a different look and feel).
- I like the touch pad and buttons. You can easily scroll up and down on the right side of the touch pad.
- I took a couple of digital pictures with my camera. Then, I connected the camera to the Dell with the camera’s USB wire. A window immediately popped up and I was able to download the pics without a problem. There was no need for any software. This is great for students, and we plan on doing a lot with digital photography and these machines in the classrooms.
- I also took a still picture with the built-in web-cam, and I saved it to the desktop. That was simple, but earlier in the week I took a picture with the web-cam and was unable to upload it to a blog post. That could be problematic, and I will need to work on that.
- I closed the cover with the battery power at 64%. (It was dinner time!) I opened it an hour later and the battery power still registered at 64%. Is it possible that the computer slept so soundly that it used no power? Is that how all laptops are?
- It does appear as if we will get about 6 hours of use which is fine in an elementary school.
In most areas of use, the Dell mini performed just like a regular laptop computer. There are some areas, however, where I have some concerns.
- When I walked into the house with the bumble bee computer, my 12 year old was immediately attracted to it like a bee to a daisy. But, she had just finished her math homework, and her hands were dirty from the pencil. She left marks all over the yellow cover from her hands. These marks were not so easy to clean off. I wonder if we should have purchased solid black machines, and not bright, colorful computers.
- The screen is just too small for my 47 year old eyes. I tried typing this post on the Dell mini, but the WordPress post template is too small on this screen, and I could not read the words. Will this be a problem for kids? Maybe. I had to switch over to my desktop to finish this post. I will try to upload two pictures from the Dell later on in this post.
- The keyboard is noticeably smaller, too, but I don’t think this will be a problem for children. I kept hitting the wrong keys. Eventually, I think I will get used to this size.
- While I was working on the desktop, I had the netbook sleeping next to me. When I went to wake it up, I discovered that it was in a coma. The machine had locked up with a Windows xp message stating “Please wait… Preparing to stand by…” I was unable to wake it up using the keyboard, touch pad, or buttons. This was a problem. I needed to do a hard shut down. This will not be good in the classroom. It takes time to get back in, and if this happens in a classroom with 25 of these machines and one teacher, it will be very frustrating for everyone.
I did try the Dell again, but I had a hell of a hard time reading what I was writing, and I was unable to upload pictures from the desktop to this blog post. I kept getting an “IO” error – whatever that means. I had to add the pictures below from the desktop computer.
Aside from the small screen I feel very comfortable with this new netbook. I think this will be an exciting new addition to our classrooms. I now need to focus on helping teachers become comfortable with the mini-computers, and then work in classrooms with them.