When President Obama signed into law the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act in February, he made his priorities clear. According to Education Secretary Arne Duncan, it’s “absolutely a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to lift American education to a new level and make us more competitive in the global economy.”
With more than $100 billion over the next two years, no wonder computer manufacturers are hitting the education market with a barrage of sub-$400 lightweight notebook computers. Here are a few key considerations that schools and districts should make when selecting notebooks for a one-to-one program.
Notebooks or Netbooks
A one-to-one program has several advantages over desktop computers, such as the ability to collaborate on lessons, participate in video conferences, access electronic content, interact with teachers and work together in teams.
Depending on your budget and power demands, one type may serve your students’ needs better than the other. A notebooks computer is designed to be portable, but a netbook takes this idea to the extreme. Netbooks are smaller in size and weight than notebooks and cost hundreds less, but they are not as powerful as notebooks and they lack the power for demanding programs.
As for CD and DVD drives, netbooks have none; however, because connectivity is a central focus and so much content can be downloaded from the Internet, it’s not such a loss. Opt for the most powerful model your budget allows, preferably the one with the most durable construction.
Classroom Management Software is Vital
More important than which style or brand of PC you choose, classroom management software is where a successful one-to-one program begins and ends. The following features should be non-negotiable:
Monitor and control: This feature allows a teacher to monitor and control a student’s desktop. The typical use is to make sure students are on task. This works best when a student has no indication his or her screen is being monitored. Teachers can also take control of a PC remotely to show and guide students step by step.
Screen broadcast: Broadcasting what is on your screen is a great way to share your own desktop with students. Typical use for this is leading class by sharing content and presentations from your own PC.
Student demonstration: This functionality allows a student to share his or her own desktop with other students, allowing him or her to take the lead of the class. While the student leads the class, the teacher can monitor and even work in the background, preparing the next lesson.
Silence: The most useful function is the ability to disable all PC inputs and outputs. The silence feature helps to avoid undesirable distractions with the PC while the teacher is interacting with the students in other ways, such as a presentation. Silence is a powerful tool because it allows a teacher to work on his or her own PC, but also prevents students from being distracted when the teacher does not want them to use their PC.
File distribution: This feature allows teachers to distribute files to their students. It’s a great way to share knowledge and content in the form of files that can be taken home, kept as reference or used for learning.
Teacher Training is the Key to Success
Most teachers will not implement new technology tools into their curriculum unless they have seen it modeled by a skilled professional. Therefore, choose a vendor who will do more than just sell you a product. Look for a company that will create the process for utilizing technology in the classroom, develop a method for integrating curriculum with technology, and incorporate a strategy for instructional teaching with technology.