Tuesday, July 15, 2008

tt4t_046 Summer Crunch Time

It’s Tuesday, July 15th, 2008 and welcome to episode 46 of TechTalk4Teachers, I’m Tom Grissom. Now that I am back to work after attending the National Educational Computing Conference in San Antonio the reality of summer work that is planned to be completed this summer is beginning to set in. While it is great to get away to see new advances in technologies, the work back home remains to be completed. For many of us that work in the educational technology field across the country the summer time is not as relaxing as we would hope it would be. New equipment and software installations keep everyone busy as we try to compress all that work into a brief period of time before the students arrive back for fall classes.

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For those of us that have summer school the situation is even worse as we work around the class schedules so as to not interfere with classwork but at the same time still get needed updates completed. This is like working on an airplane while in flight. Working around waxed floors, class schedules, and day to day duties can represent significant challenges. We are now over half way through the summer and I am beginning to feel the heat as we are still awaiting delivery on lab computers and Smart Boards for installations that were originally planned to be completed over the summer. Each day of delay adds to the stress levels. If equipment is not delivered promptly then this work cannot be completed on time, a project managers worst nightmare. So it appears that there will once again be a mad dash to get planned work completed prior to the beginning of the fall semester.

New software updates are also being completed and faculty will need additional training in how to use the new software. Our course management solution at EIU has been upgraded to WebCT Version 8 and will be in full production use this fall. Each change is an improvement as the technologies evolve to better meet the needs of end users, at least that is always the goal.
So change is all around us as we prepare for the fall semester. Every year we improve and get a little bit better. There always seems to be room for improvement. That is what I like about the technology field, someone is always seeking a better and more efficient way of doing things. For some this change is welcome while others seem to be happy with the status quo. So I am chomping at the bit waiting for equipment to arrive before we run out of days to complete the installations before the fall semester begins.

Tom’s Technology Pick of the Week
My technology pick of the week this week is the eee PC 8G model of mini-laptop. While in San Antonio I took an eee PC Model 8G with me to NECC. The 8G model is the older Linux model that weighs only 2.2 pounds and has a retail price of $499.00 This model is still available from some retailers. I suspect if you shop around you may find better deals as the new models of the eee PC have now been released. I fell in love with this small laptop form factor while traveling to NECC as it was easy to carry and take with me at all the events I attended. This allowed me to connect to the wireless network available at the convention center and use Twitter to get my updates as mentioned in last weeks episode. It also allowed me to keep in touch with the office by checking my email and at least trying to keep up with work back home while attending the conference.

ASUS Press Release

Hands on with the ASUS 901 and 1000 (PCWorld article)

I did not have any issues taking the laptop through airport security and it was small enough to easily fit in my carry-on bag. At only 2.2 pounds I did not mind taking the eee PC with me to the NECC events. The only issue I ran into was that I did miss some of the Windows applications that I have grown accustomed to using. I was going to edit my podcast on the Linux eee PC and while I know that Audacity will run on Linux I was not sure what distro version to download and install on the eee PC. I could have fought and won this battle but I did not want to spend conference time installing software and fighting this installation. So instead I uploaded the MP3 file of my interviews that were on a SD card from my audio recorder to my Skydrive so I had an extra copy for editing once I got back home. I always make backup copies of important files just in case something happens to the original.

I have also tested out the HP 2133 mini-notebook that starts at a weight of 2.63 pounds and offers a larger keyboard size. As with all things technology related it is a trade-off between the eee PC and the HP 2133 for form and functionality. I prefer the lighter weight of the eee PC for traveling purposes but the 91% of full-size keyboard makes the HP 2133 a little more friendly for typing longer emails. For traveling purposes however I much preferred the smaller eee PC. If typing for longer periods on the eee PC you can always plug in a full-sized USB keyboard and have the best of both worlds.

New eee PC models are coming out this summer with the new eee PC model 901 now available in the United States in both XP and Linux versions. The new 1000 level models of the eee PC are due out later this summer and will be slightly larger than the existing 8G model with more capacity. I was able to get my hands on the new 901 model with XP at the ASUS booth while attending NECC and for me this is a great form factor for mobile use. I have never liked palm size devices as my hands are always a bit clumsy for this form size. So the eee PCs are kind of in the sweet spot for me, not too small as to be unusable and not so heavy that I would not want to take it with me. The eee PC will not replace my desktop but it will certainly make me more productive when away from the office.

ASUS the makers of the eee PC are developing this line of computers at a fast and furious pace. The big news with the new eee PC models 901 and 1000 are that they feature the Intel atom processors and are said to get a battery life of 4 to 8 hours. If true that is great news as I did have to tie myself to an electrical outlet with the 8G model every couple of hours at NECC. The new larger 9 inch eee PC models offer a screen resolution of 1024x600 which is much easier to use than the 7 inch eee PC 8G model with 800x480 pixel resolution. This increased screen resolution makes browsing web pages a pleasure because you no longer need to scroll to right to see all of the webpage as is currently the case with the 8G.

The new smaller form factor laptops offer many benefits to educators. They are less expensive than their full-sized counter parts. The light weight is a welcome benefit. Current models are hovering around the $500 to $600 price range and I hope manufacturers can keep costs down. Ideally these laptops should cost less than $500 (preferably much less) to make it more practical to offer one-to-one computing initiatives for schools. There is increasing competition in this space as HP, MSI, Intel, and now Dell have entered into this mini-laptop space.

The XO laptop project deserves a lot of credit for starting this revolution and increasing competition in this space with its one laptop per child initiative. The competition in this space will hopefully allow manufacturers to keep costs reasonable so that more schools can incorporate mini-laptops into their schools on-going technology plans. The goal of the XO laptop project is for a $100 laptop so we have a ways to go before hitting this price point. If your school is using any of the small form factor laptops in your classroom I would love to hear your experiences and share them with the TechTalk4Teachers audience.

That wraps it up for episode 46 of TechTalk4Teachers. Show notes for this episode are available on the web at the EIU Instructional Technology Center website at www.eiu.edu/itc by clicking on the Techtalk4Teachers Podcast link. To leave a comment or suggestion please send an email to techtalk@eiu.edu or leave a comment on the TechTalk4Teachers blog. Be sure to checkout the show notes for links to resources you can use for this podcast or other archived episodes of the TechTalk4Teachers podcast. Until next time, this is Tom Grissom, keep on learning.

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