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Spending technology dollars wisely is more important now than ever. I have been working on a classroom/conference room presentation system that provides a lot of bang for the buck and offers several other benefits as well, for schools, that I would like to share with you. I have named this project the Eeeasaurus because it combines the affordability of an eee PC netbook with the functionality of a large screen HDTV for a peculiar combination of the small with the large that is surprisingly effective and affordable.
The name is also influenced by the Skypeasaurus that Colleen from twit.tv recently put together that combined four low-cost PC’s into one unit that allows for simultaneous Skype calls into a multi-display format. I admire solutions that are creative, elegant, affordable, and capable of being easily replicated by others. I believe the Eeeasaurus solution meets this criteria and can offer many schools a different way of thinking about an affordable presentation system for their classrooms.
Listeners of TechTalk4Teachers know that I am a big fan of netbooks. Netbooks are mini-laptops usually costing below $500 that are light in weight (usually around 3 pounds) and offer educators an affordable and portable computing solution. You can buy three or four netbooks for the same price as just one average mid-range laptop. This affordability factor is catching the attention of schools across the nation.
There are however a couple of weaknesses of netbooks that do get mentioned regularly by others when considering their purchase. The first one I usually hear about is that the screen is too small. My current netbook of choice is the eee PC 1000he model with a 10 inch screen. The native resolution is 1024x600. This small screen size is a tradeoff between weight, portability, and cost.
Now enter the Eeeasaurus solution. Pictures of the Eeeasaurus are provided in the show notes of this episode if you are interested in seeing it in its native habitat.
With the Eeeasaurus you can go from a 10 inch netbook screen to a 42 inch HDTV screen! The 42 inch screen is mounted on a portable stand with wheels that can be moved around as needed in a classroom providing the teacher flexibility with its placement. It also offers the advantage of minimum installation costs and this advantage cannot be overstated. I cannot tell you how many schools I have been in where I see a pile of boxes sitting in a corner waiting to be installed before the equipment can be used. Smart Boards, computer projectors, and speaker systems require installation and mounting. This usually requires additional wiring and electrical work before they can be used in the classroom. The installation process requires time and additional costs not to mention the frustration of not being able to use the purchased equipment in a timely manner. The Eeeasaurus as configured requires a minimum of assembly time and can be easily operational in less than a couple of hours.
Since the eee PC has 802.11n wireless built-in no hard-wired LAN connection is needed if you have a wireless network available for use in your classroom. If you do not have wireless the eee PC has an RJ-45 jack that can be plugged into a LAN connection. The eee PC 1000he model also has up to a 9 hour battery life and that will take most teachers through the entire school day of teaching!
All that is needed for the Eeeasaurus is one electrical outlet to plug-in the HDTV, that’s it. The eee PC also has a key combination (Fn, F4) that changes the screen resolution from 1024x600 to a 1024x768 full-size screen on the 42 inch HDTV negating the argument about the small eee PC netbook screen size. You get the best of both worlds, portability, so you take the eee PC with you when on the go, and the ability to connect the eee PC to the 42 inch HDTV for classroom presentations when needed.
The other common complaint I often hear from others about netbooks is that the keyboard is too small. Once again the Eeeasaurus offers a solution. The eee PC 1000he model has a 92% of full-size chiclet style keyboard. To get around this limitation I selected a RF wireless full-size trackball keyboard from Adesso that also has left and right mouse buttons built into the keyboard. This solves two problems, first you can now use a full-size keyboard with the eee PC, and secondly you are no longer tethered to the front of the room. You can walk around the room with the wireless RF keyboard in your hand and control the eee PC from anywhere in the room. Better yet, hand the wireless keyboard to your students and let them take control to teach others in the class.
For the cost of an average mid-range laptop you can build the Eeeasaurus. I have provided a list of equipment with links in the show notes to equipment listings showing information about the equipment models that I selected to build the first edition of the Eeeasaurus. You of course can use whatever source you want, the links provided are just for information about the products I used for those interested, we use many different vendors when purchasing equipment. Please keep in mind that prices are subject to change at any time. Estimated prices provided from the Amazon website were accurate at the time of this posting. You can shop around with other companies and you may be able to find lower prices or you may adapt the equipment selections and brand choices I made to fit your own needs. Be sure to also ask if additional shipping charges apply for the larger items. Here is the rundown of the equipment list.
Eeeasaurus equipment listing:
eee PC 1000he - Cost: $389
Peerless HDTV mobile stand - Cost: $453
LG 42 inch LCD HDTV 1080p - Cost: $917
Wireless Keyboard - Cost: $60
Example Total Cost for the Eeeasaurus as configured above (April 2009) is $1819
Lower cost alternative for the HDTV:
Vizio 32 inch LCD TV 720p – Cost: $450
If you substitute a lower cost alternative for the HDTV like the Vizio 32 inch HDTV 720p model the total cost comes in at $1352, essentially the price of one mid-range laptop. You can even find lower cost options for the HDTV stand and save another $100-$200 bringing the price to just above $1100. If you are buying in bulk your savings could be even more.
When it comes to shopping for HDTV’s the sky is the limit. The 42 inch model I chose is a compromise of price versus size. For classroom use a 52 inch or larger HDTV would be even better but I was not willing to pay an additional $600 - $700 in price to gain 10 inches in screen size due to the limited budget I was working with. The one thing that was important to me about the HDTV selected for the Eeeasaurus was that it have as many different types of connection capabilities as possible. The LG 42 inch HDTV model I selected has a PC connection (VGA) that is used to connect to the eee PC. In addition to the PC connection there are also component, composite, and HDMI connections. It was also important to me that the HDTV have buttons on the side of the TV to easily change the Input selections so that no remote control is needed to switch between the PC connection, component, composite, and HDMI connections. Remotes are notorious for disappearing in classrooms. Schools also may want to invest in a padlock and cable system to secure the equipment against theft for preventative security purposes if needed.
So there you have it, the Eeeasaurus. Could an Eeeasaurus be in your future? Drop me a note in the comments section of the TechTalk4Teachers blog and let me know what you think or if you build one yourself be sure to send me a picture. I do have more plans for improving the Eeeasaurus by adding a DVD player (bluray would be nice ) and I have a couple of other additions up my sleeve that I think will make the Eeeasaurus an even more effective presentation system for teachers and students so stay tuned for more.
Technology Pick of the Week
My Technology Pick of the Week this week is a pick for students all across the nation as we approach the end of another school year and their studies come to a close. Quizlet is a website that provides flash cards for almost any subject imaginable and is a great study resource. If you cannot find what you like already created on the site you can sign-up for a free account and create your own. A link is available in the show notes.
Quizlet – Flash Cards and Study Resources
Most likely you will already find a set of flash cards to help you learn about the particular topic you are interested in as there are thousands of flash cards already made. The website provides immediate feedback on right and wrong answers. It offers different forms of learning activities from Familiarize, Learn, and Test. The feedback is immediate and provides correct answers for what you missed.
I have also provided a link in the show notes to an example State Capitals Quizlet section for you to try your hand using the wonderful learning tool to assess your knowledge. It has great learning games called Scatter and Space Race that allows you to match items to test your knowledge. It makes learning fun, but be forewarned you need to be a good typist for Space Race.
State Capitals Flash Cards
In addition there are other flash cards and activities for SAT, GRE, GMAT, LSAT, etc… and advanced placement courses. I encourage you to let your students know about Quizlet as it provides immediate feedback for assessing basic knowledge and comprehension on a variety of subjects and levels and is very well done.
This site is definitely worth you taking some time and exploring its offerings. When you find subject matter that you think would be helpful for your students please send them a link so they can study for your upcoming tests. Give Quizlet a try and let me know if you and your students find it helpful. Best of all it is FREE!
That wraps it up for episode 82 of TechTalk4Teachers. Transcripts and show notes for this episode and archived episodes are available on the web at the Eastern Illinois University Instructional Technology Center website at http://www.eiu.edu/itcjust click on the Techtalk4Teachers Podcast link. If you have questions, comments or suggestions please send an email to email@example.com or leave a comment on the TechTalk4Teachers blog. Until next time, this is Tom Grissom, keep on learning.