Over the last few weeks I have decided to set up another blog site to focus purely on Netbooks and their impact in Education. For the time being I will keep you updated on what is going on over on the new site while it gets established. My full reasoning for setting up a sister site to SharePoint in Education called Netbooks in Education is explained here.
My second post on the new site looks at some work the Systems Team have been doing at Twynham to prepare for our 120 Samsung NC20 Netbooks and Windows 7. This afternoon we trialled Windows 7 login times against XP and the results were very surprising. Click here to find out more.
My Headteacher is fairly tech savy and often chats to me about technology but this is more often about what we are both interested in- the culture which underpins the use of technology. I was therefore a little surprised when I got an email from him earlier this week about Microsoft Surface. He simply said, ‘Have you played with surface? I can see how this would be very engaging with students’. At the same time I have close colleagues in Holland at the British School in the Netherlands who are heavy users of tablet technology. The love these machines and use them really well but I often comment that the tablet is never going to take off and make it into mainstream use. Looks like I could be wrong on the tablet and my Head might be right with surface!
Microsoft have today ramped up their plans for the use of multi-touch in Windows 7 and for me the key word which will move tablet technology on is ‘multi’. Take a look at this video to see some of the key features which will be with you in the next 12 months.
Is multi-touch important? It was interesting for me that I have now lived 3 months with an iphone and the other day I went to a smartboard (which I have used for 6 years) and looked very stupid. In front of a whole class I was trying to enlarge an image on the screen with two fingers. I was using my smartboard as a multi touch device and there were many giggling students. Multi touch will be a huge factor in our students moving from the mouse and seeing pcs in different ways and environments. The application in the video below gives a real sense of how interactive students will be able to get with their devices.
At the start of the week we were talking about the use of remote applications and rolling out laptops to students at Twynham School. As yet we haven’t gone beyond trialling laptops due to a number of key factors. Firstly price is the greatest issue as I would like to create a sustainable system where parental contribution and pump priming by the school can create a self financing system.
Looking at the state of the market in August while on holiday in New York, I was excited to see the maturation of netbooks with much greater range due to the arrival of big players such as Dell. In addition size and spec has increased significantly with many models now offering a 10 inch laptop, full or near full keyboard size and 1GB RAM. For me this development has been essential and makes a netbook a viable first machine for students. Any smaller and screen size, keyboard and power become an issue for many of the applications we want to use with students who will be using the devices for many hours a day.
What about the OS? Well we would prefer to use Windows and this has been a real issue. Most machined come with XP loaded if you want to go the windows route. This is a two pronged issue as XP is now 7 years old and the home version prevents connection to a domain. In truth the real issue has been the difficulty of loading Vista on the netbooks we have, For us the compromise in performance was too great and in November we took the decision that we needed to wait and see what happens with Windows 7 and notebook launches at CES.
I am pleased to say that on both counts we have good news. Already a number of people have loaded Windows 7 Beta onto their netbooks and they are impressed with the stability and performance. With less than half of the RAM used by the OS and a much smaller footprint in terms of hard drive all the signs are that Windows 7 will be our roll out point for netbooks. Take a look at this video
As for netbooks, there have been quite a few launched at CES and I am really interested in the new ASUS T101H. With a touch screen and tablet functionality this could well be the answer to schools that want pc access everywhere but still want to see regular hand writing alongside this.
My own opinion is that we will see both a maturation and convergence between low end laptops and netbooks to create a perfect solution for education in the next three years. I think that this ideal machine will have the following specs:
12 inch screen
Full size keyboard
Windows 7 OS
8 hour battery life
£200 price point
Of course there are more elements to this but these 7 features are likely to produce a cost effective powerful machine that is mobile enough for students. I think this development will take 18 months-3 years but what would I choose if I was rolling our netbooks to students this year? I will discuss this tomorrow.