A popular topic in the edtech world is 1:1 classrooms (every student gets a computer), and netbooks seem to be the hardware of choice currently (though I could see the iPad getting into the fight very soon). At ETHS, we have not been focusing on a school wide 1:1 initiative, but rather targeting specific areas/groups that might benefit from more exposure to computers. Above all, what seems to get lost at times in the 1:1 discussion is how the availability of the computers will help improve instruction. As I assist in planning and developing curriculum materials with our pilot teachers, we find ourselves tinkering with exisitng lessons, often finding new ways to elicit more engagement from students, but occasionally needing to alter the lesson entirely or even deciding not to use the netbooks at all for the lesson.
Here are some of our observations during this first week of the pilot:
We seemed to have gotten over the technical hiccups within the first two days of using the netbooks. These issues included placement of the wifi router, login issues, and getting accustomed to the small dimensions of the netbook.
We are trying to use Google Apps as the primary user platform. This includes Google Docs for papers, Google Sites for a classroom website, and Google Groups for discussion board openers, summarizers, and quick free write topics.
Upcoming integration features include using the sound recorder (students reading poems) and video camera (video diaries), as well as Web 2.0 tools such as WriteOnline (word suggestion, assistive text editing), Jing (webcasting demonsrations), and VoiceThread (communication and reflection).
The pilot teacher noted that in just this first week, she has noticed a shift in the classroom dynamic. Students are more independent, engaged, and focused. Instead of asking questions all the time on the assignment, "students are becoming more self-enabled", researching their topics and engaging in their projects, and in the process, are answering their own questions.