Monday, June 1, 2009

tt4t_088 The netbooks are coming, the netbooks are coming

It’s Monday, June 1st, 2009 and welcome to episode 88 of TechTalk4Teachers, I’m Tom Grissom. This week I would like to focus on a new project that the ITC is currently undertaking this summer involving netbooks. We have recently ordered two sets of netbooks to be placed in mobile carts that will be used to provide an on-demand computer lab type environment for our classrooms.

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This will provide an instant 1 to 1 computing solution for our students. The netbook carts will be placed in two different buildings to serve the needs of our faculty and students. We are very excited to add an additional building on campus that previously did not have this capability so that more of our students have an opportunity to utilize technology resources.

Add in the fact that we saved over 70 percent that a full-sized laptop cart solution would have cost and our business managers are also smiling. When you can equip an entire classroom for 30 cents on the dollar then you have maximized your investment while at the same time impacted more students, a win-win situation. We were able to buy more than twice the number of laptops for the mobile carts for less than half of the cost of the old way of doing business.

The ITC has had experience with mobile laptop carts dating back to 2001. Before that time we used what we called the Computers on Wheels model, aka COWS, for a one computer in the classroom approach. Now, with over 8 years of experience with laptop carts for our classrooms we know that the addition of the new netbook carts will provide a beneficial classroom learning environment providing our students with access to 21st Century tools in the classroom.

When we first started using the mobile laptop carts we did not have any wireless access in any of the buildings on campus. Back then we had to take an 802.11 access point along with the mobile cart and find a Local Area Network jack to plug the access point into near the vicinity of the classroom every time the mobile cart was checked out. Since that time our campus has added wireless access in all of our buildings which makes delivering the carts much easier.

Currently the ITC has two mobile carts with full-sized Gateway laptops and one cart with Mac iBooks. The biggest benefit I am looking forward to with the netbooks is the up to nine hour battery life that the new eee PC 1000he models have. Students typically get between 1.5 hours and 3 hours of battery life out of the existing laptops we currently have in the ITC and this short battery life is the biggest hassle we deal with for our existing mobile laptop carts on a daily basis. The current mobile carts are routinely checked out from the ITC and are often are checked out in back-to-back classes. We try our best to rotate the carts so that the batteries will be fully charged but the popularity of the mobile carts with faculty often prevent having adequate time to recharge the batteries. This means that students often need to find an electrical outlet in the classrooms to use them. Having the possibility of full day computing with the new netbooks is something we are looking forward to.

Add in the capability of the eeeasaurus classroom presentation system with the new netbook carts and we truly do have a very powerful learning environment that is powered by technology at much more affordable costs than was previously possible. We are still waiting on the new mobile carts to arrive on campus but as soon as they get here we will be ready setup and deploy the new netbook carts and we are looking forward to providing this opportunity to our students.

LifeHacker has an article on the Five Best Netbooks this week with a poll of their readers. Head on over to the Lifehacker article listed in the show notes to read this article and cast your vote or see the results of the interactive poll. I am happy to report that the eee PC 1000he model we selected made the top five list.

Technology Pick of the Week

My Technology Pick of the Week this week is an online collaborative whiteboard application that allows you to easily create drawings that can be shared with others. Dabbleboard allows you to easily create flowchart-like, as well as freehand drawings. You do not need to sign-up for an account and you can immediately begin to use this tool. Be sure to check out the links that are provided in the show notes for more information about Dabbleboard.

Top Ten Reasons to use Dabbleboard"

If you do decide to sign-up for an account Dabbleboard offers both free and paid accounts. With an account you can share your dabbleboard with others and it even offers an embed code that you can use to post to your blog or website. You can even download an image once you have created it so you have a permanent record of your whiteboard drawing. I have used Dabbleboard with a SMART board and it works very well, using your finger to draw freehand shapes is much more natural than with a computer mouse.

That wraps it up for episode 88 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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