Here’s the blog friendly version of My Experience With Netbooks In The Classroom:
Having a 30 netbooks in my classroom has increased not only my students engagement in learning but my own as well. Seeing the students so excited about learning is inspiring. The netbooks have changed the way I teach and put ongoing professional development consistently at my fingertips.
Here is a summary of some of my challenges, successes and suggestions from the past year:
District Policy: My biggest challenge with the netbooks has been having to go through our District Tech team for any changes and updates. As tech is not a priority in my district, many of these roles have been cut and the tech budget has been discarded. I wait up to 3/4 months just to have a ‘flash’ application added or updated on the netbooks. I meet a lot of resistance in this area – when I have a problem (like the sluggishly slow wireless speed when all 30 computers are being used) that If know is easily fixed, I am told that there is no solution and no attempt is made to help out. It would be great if the District was willing to give the ‘Tech Teacher’ on each staff the ability to make some of these simple changes.
Windows Updates: Window’s updates now need to be initiated by us on each computer and this takes a lot of time. (this ties into the District Policy challenge)
Screen Size: Small screens make ‘artistic endeavours’ such as movie making or picture editing difficult.
Internet Expectations: Setting clear expectations of allowable websites for students and maintaining this expectation for all students.
Staff Buy-in: Although It’s wonderful having the netbooks in my classroom all the time, I would love to see other teachers embrace them as well. It has been a challenge to gain staff acceptance of this new technology available to them.
E-ngagelive – www.engagelive.net – I stumbled upon this website in my search for tips on teaching online safety. Small groups of students interact through ’email like messages’ with ‘experts’ in the UK in regards to Internet Safety, Bullying and other topics like this. I’ve never seen my class so engaged in reading, writing, collaborating and oral discussion with their peers. An amazing experience!
Blogging with KidBlog – www.kidblog.org – A great place to host student blogs. You can change the settings so that all comments/blogs must be approved by the teacher. Very engaging for students.
Student Collaboration with Primary Pad – www.primarypad.com – I used Primary Pad as a collaboration tool with in my class as well as with a class in the UK. The two classes were able to communicate and complete projects together using this website.
http://primarytech.globalteacher.org.au/tech-tools-for-teachers/ – This blog has a newsletter that you can sign up for that I have found extremely usefully. Once a week they email you a newsletter about one web tool to use in your classroom. It gives you step by step instructions that are easy to follow. They’ve given me some great ideas for the classroom.
Twitter – I mentioned earlier, this is a great way to gain endless resources to use with your class.
Google Docs – www.gmail.com Wow! This has opened up my world of collaboration with students and colleagues! I’ve used it to plan team teaching for engaging lesson with a colleague. Students create their projects on here and then share them with me. I edit student writing on Google docs, create online quizzes, teach data management using the forms, create online worksheets for students to complete – the possibilities are endless!
Suggestions for schools interested in using Netbooks
Bandwidth – Consider that you will have 30 students using wireless internet at the same time and make sure you have enough bandwidth to make this feasible .
Permission to Change Netbooks – Have a staff member who has admin permissions and is capable of installing simple programs onto the netbooks all at once (ie. Windows updates, flash, screen readers, and open-source software etc…
Student Passwords – Use simple passwords for students! This is important for primary students
Transportation of Computers – House the netbooks on a portable cart so that they are easily transported around the school and can be easily charged at the same time.
Teacher Training – Give a school-wide workshop about basics in teaching students how to use the netbooks or have a staff member go around to each class and team teach to help encourage others to use netbooks. Not all teachers are comfortable with new technology and need to be shown how to use the technology and why it will be useful in their classes.