Netbooks in Elementary Schools

Wednesday, December 17, 2008 | 9 comments »

There seems to be some excitement over netbooks - mini laptops people are using as an alternative to their main desktop or laptop while they are on the go. I first saw these in person at NECC this past summer in San Antonio, but noticed more and more on little trip to New York City where they were displayed like crazy in the windows of corner electronic stores. In the last couple of months, I've noticed more and more available through many retailers. Black Friday seemed to bring these even more to the forefront for me as I saw ads, both in print and online, for netbooks running around $300. I particularily remember Steve Dembo discussing his Black Friday purchase of one of these little machines on Twitter.

The excitement certainly seems to be growing around these computers, but why hasn't there been a huge push for these to be used more in elementary schools? Netbooks would be perfect for younger students!

Think about the size, it's perfect for young students. The keyboards are small, which would fit the small hand size of primary grade students very well. Proper keyboarding skills could be taught at an earlier age. This could help prevent poor habits from getting started. In our district, we start teaching keyboarding in fourth grade, and even that is tough for some of the students - they have a hard time making some of the reaches to certain keys. If this isn't the route to follow, why are we not at least using kid-sized keyboards? I'm sure there are some on the market, but districts are not choosing to buy them. Are we doing the children a disservice by not using equipment that is their size?

Netbooks are cheap (inexpensive)! Schools are looking for inexpensive technology and this could be a solution. While I've never used one, from what I've read, their functionality would be perfectly fine for elementary kids. I've worked with AlphaSmarts at a few schools and those were purchased with the idea of an inexpensive, portable alternative to laptops. Netbooks would offer much, much more.

I haven't read about a huge push for Netbooks in schools. The discussion is occurring, which I guess is a start. Doug Johnson wrote this post sharing his thoughts. This and this, however, do talk about some uses of Netbooks in schools. Thanks Doug Belshaw, for sharing your post.

What do you think?

Maybe it's the time of year, but I'm finding the time to do the things I want to do is pretty limited these days. We all know there are things we need to do with our families and jobs that take up a lot, if not most, of our daily time, but I'm sure I'm not alone when I feel like I could use another hour or two in the day. I'm not blogging as much as I'd like, even though I have a lot I'd like to get out. The number of posts I need to read in Google Reader is certainly not getting any smaller either. There's a lot I'd like to do, but I have to continue to prioritize my list. With the number of posts I need to read inching close to 400, I'm finding that I'm missing conversations and events. Some of the posts are time sensitive and it's not in my best interest to miss out on some learning opportunities. One thing that I've done to help my problem (this one at least) is narrow down the list of blogs I subscribe to. Over the last week or so, I've probably removed at least six blogs. While this might not seem like a big reduction, to me, it's a start. I know I'll continue shrinking my list until I find the right number of subscriptions that I can handle. What's the number? I don't know, but think I'll know it when it pops up. For now, the list must get smaller.

What are you doing to find a balance? How many blogs do you subscribe to? How many posts are in your reader unread? I'm very interested in knowing what you do?

How Young is Too Young?

Wednesday, December 10, 2008 | 4 comments »

This little 5 year-old wonder wants his own email address so he can email grandma and grandpa. My initial thought was no, he's too young. However, the more I thought about it, I don't see it as a problem......IF.

Earlier today, I posted this same question to my PLN on Plurk and below are the responses.

I was a little surprised at the responses. I would have assumed the responses would have been more "favorable." Perhaps some assumptions I had in mind were not taken into consideration by others. When setting up his account, I was planning on doing the following:

1. Using my local provider for his account - not Gmail, Yahoo, Hotmail, etc.
2. His user account on our Mac already is restricted using Parental Controls, so those would still be in place for this email account.
3. He would only be allowed to read and write emails with supervision.
4. He would only be allowed to send email to approved addresses, something that can be set up using Parental Controls.
5. A discussion would take place with him regarding entering his email anywhere or even giving it out to people.
6. Obviously, if any of these "rules" are broken, the account could be deleted.

With all of this in place, I can't think of a reason I should NOT go ahead with this. He's interested in this, which would certainly improve not only his reading and writing skills, but also his knowledge of a communication tool that is as common these days as the phone is. Am I missing something?

Why Didn't I Do This Earlier?

Tuesday, December 02, 2008 | | 5 comments »

While every school year presents itself with a series of "Firsts" - this school year marked my first attempt at writing a grant proposal. In fact, I've written two. One was the Best Buy grant, which is a pretty big grant - potentially thousands of dollars in tech for my school. Winners of this grant aren't announced for a couple of months yet, but the excitement is still there. The other grant I completed for the first time was a smaller grant, under $500, from our school district education foundation. I wrote a grant, with the help of my co-advisor, for technology for our newspaper club.

A couple of weeks ago, we found out that we were one of many programs awarded with the district grant. We received funding for new technology in the amount of $315. As soon as we found out we won, I immediately went online to find the best deals on a digital camera and digital voice recorders. These were the two items we submitted the proposal for, knowing we would not only use them for the newspaper club, but would not have any problems finding great uses for these tools in other classrooms. After making the purchases prior to Thanksgiving break, I arrived at school this past Monday to find a box from waiting for me. Needless to say, I was like a little kid on Christmas morning! I immediately ripped open the box to check out our new "toys."

This got me thinking. Why did it take me 13 years of teaching before I went after "free money?" Not that writing a grant is easy and can be done quickly, but why don't other teachers write grant proposals more often? Sure, some are more involved than others, but many groups are looking to give money away to worthy causes in education. Why aren't more teachers taking advantage of the opportunity? Is it because they are too busy? Is it because they are not aware of the grants that exist? Is it because they don't know what they'd do with the money? I'm sure it's a combination of these and more, but after succeeding with one grant proposal, I certainly see myself looking into more opportunities down the road. I'm super excited about the stuff we already added to our technology toolbox, but am just as eager to see what could happen if the Best Buy grant comes through. I'm certainly not getting my hopes up for that one, but figure if I submit two grant proposals a year, winning one isn't too bad!

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