Sunday, April 19, 2009

tt4t_083 The eeeasaurus netbook project, part 2

It’s Sunday, April 19th, 2009 and welcome to episode 83 of TechTalk4Teachers, I’m Tom Grissom. Last week I introduced the eeeasausrus project that the ITC has been working on and we have been continuing its development over the past week. The eeeasaurus project has been in field operations for over two weeks now and I could not be happier with the results. The combination of a small affordable netbook (eee PC 1000he) with a large screen HDTV mounted on a mobile cart makes it a great solution as a classroom presentation system.

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This week we have added a couple of additions that will make the eeeasaurus an even more powerful presentation solution. We have added a bluray DVD player and interactive whiteboard capability. I have provided a picture in the show notes of the eeeasaurus with the latest additions.

We added a bluray DVD player that will provide faculty the ability to play back bluray DVD videos and/or regular DVD videos on the large 42 inch HDTV screen. If you have not watched a bluray DVD video you owe it to yourself to watch one on a 1080p HDTV as you will be amazed at the high quality of high-definition content that is now available in the bluray format. Even if you do not have a library of bluray DVD’s the bluray DVD player selected has the capability of upscaling regular DVD playback to produce a stunning viewing experience. Because the eeeasaurus is mobile we can wheel it into a classroom on an ad hoc basis when bluray DVD playback is needed. A link is available in the show notes to the model of bluray player that was selected.

Sony Bluray DVD Player

The other addition to the eeeasaurus this past week is the capability of using a wireless slate with included software that adds interactive whiteboard and screen annotation capability. We are using the Qomo QIT30 wireless slate that costs approximately $400 and includes interactive whiteboard and annotation software. This RF wireless capability gives you the ability to use the wireless slate anywhere in the classroom with interactive whiteboard capability that is similar to a Smart Board. It does not have all the bells and whistles of a Smart Board solution but it does offer an affordable alternative. A link is provided in the show notes to the Qomo model we are using.

Qomo QIT30 Wireless Slate

The Qomo wireless slate is approximately 11 inches square, very thin and light-weight. The slate uses a stylus to control the mouse cursor as viewed on the HDTV screen. The wireless slate is simply a square surface with a stylus, to control the mouse you move the stylus above the slate surface. To move the cursor on the screen to the lower left-hand corner you simply move the stylus holding it slightly above the slate surface to the lower left-hand corner. To move to the upper right-hand corner you hold the stylus slightly above the slate surface and move the stylus to the upper right-hand corner. All of the stylus movements are relative to what is displayed on the HDTV screen. To click on an object you simply tap the slate surface with the stylus, to double-click you simply tap the slate surface twice. It does take a bit of getting use to but with a little practice you can operate the screen from anywhere in the room as easily as if you were using a mouse.

The Qomo wireless slate also comes with its own whiteboard and annotation software. The addition of the Qomo wireless slate turns the eeeasaurus into an interactive whiteboard. For approximately $400 this is a great addition to the eeeasaurus.

The wireless keyboard and wireless slate combination offer a one-two punch for controlling the eeeasaurus from anywhere in the classroom. The capability of the Qomo wireless slate gives the teacher the same flexibility as the selected Adesso wireless keyboard in that the teacher can roam around the room and control the eeeasaurus from anywhere in the classroom. Unlike the wireless keyboard the wireless slate is better suited to free-hand drawing movements when using the interactive whiteboard capability or when using the very nice screen annotation capability of the Qomo called Flow Works Live. When typing and keyboard control is needed you simply switch back to the wireless keyboard.

The wireless slate can also be easily handed off to a student so that the student can demonstrate, explain, and answer questions for the rest of the class providing another level of engagement for students.

The other really big benefit of the eeeasaurus is that it is an excellent low cost video conferencing unit. Because the eee PC 1000he model selected as the heart of the eeeasaurus has a built-in webcam I have been using the eeeasaurus with Skype for audio and video conferencing presentations. Because I am doing the Skype calls with a larger audience I have added a set of external PC speakers that allows for more volume control as the sound from the HDTV could be better. The simplicity of the eee PC webcam and Skype makes video conferencing a breeze compared to some other higher-end systems I have used in the past.

Another advantage of the eee PC 1000he is that it runs the XP Home operating system and we have also installed the Microsoft Office 2007 Suite and these apps run very well on the eee. The eee PC 1000he also has three USB ports so even though two of the USB ports are taken by the wireless receivers for the wireless keyboard and wireless slate one USB port is still available for the teacher or students to plug-in a flash drive so that they can open Word, Excel, or PowerPoint files. Add an up to a nine hour battery life for the 1000he model and you have a solution that can run from batteries most of the instructional day.

Even with the additions of the bluray DVD player and the Qomo wireless slate with interactive whiteboard capabilities the cost of the eeeasaurus still comes in under $2500 US. I am very pleased with the capability and the flexibility that this solution offers, it really does offer a lot of bang for the buck. About the only thing I would change for this project would be to go with a 52 inch or larger HDTV model but that choice will be driven by your available budget. Keep in mind that replicating this solution is very easy and if you need multiple units to equip several classrooms you should be able to get even better pricing. All-in-all I am very happy with the way the eeeasaurus project has turned out.

Technology Pick of the Week

My technology pick of the week this week is a visualization tool that dramatically represents the way our Planet Earth is changing as a result of human activity. The name of the website is the Breathing Earth and a link is available in the show notes. I used this site a couple of weeks ago for a student presentation I was giving where I wanted to showcase some data visualization tools.

Breathing Earth Website

I recommend that you turn down the lights and get in a quiet room when first showing this site to your students and watching the site for at least three minutes in either silence or with some appropriate music selected to be playing in the background to set the mood for a follow-up conversation. The site simulates the level of CO2 being emitted by countries around the world along with a visual representation of human births and deaths in countries around the world. Be sure to note the statistics that are updated in the lower right-hand corner of the world map and be prepared for a class discussion about what this data visualization represents for the future fate of our planet with your students.

As a second technology pick this week I want to let listeners/readers know that Version 2 of the Lesson Activity Toolkit for the Smart Board is now out and available for download, a link is available in the show notes.

Lesson Activity Toolkit Version 2 Quick Reference

If you are a regular user of a Smart Board be sure to checkout the new version of the activity toolkit and let me know what you think.

That wraps it up for episode 83 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 just click on the Techtalk4Teachers Podcast link. If you have questions, comments or suggestions please send an email to or leave a comment on the TechTalk4Teachers blog. Until next time, this is Tom Grissom, keep on learning.

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