Our district spent $140,000 on student devices this year. We could have bought 230 9.7″ screen iPads (estimate $600 for keyboard case and a few apps) but instead we bought 400 11.6″ screen netbooks ($350 for Acer Aspire One 722).
- We bought netbooks because we saw that the web was powerful, we noticed that a lot of the web is words, and we discovered that it is easier to write words on a full, physical keyboard.
- We bought netbooks because we saw that the web was powerful and we noticed that some of the most exciting tools for the web are very limited on the tablet (e.g. google docs real time collab, comments, and presentations and turnitin.com’s peer editing and originality report).
- We bought netbooks because with Ubermix they boot quickly, are easy to manage, user friendly, and full of free educational apps.
- We bought netbooks because while text is great, multimedia is important and we wanted multitrack audio editing (audacity), layered photoshop quality image editing (GIMP), and video editing (OpenShot) for free.
- We bought netbooks because we wanted kids to be able to take a picture using the webcam and upload that picture to any site using a file manager (like our cool Moodle glossary of math terms).
- We bought netbooks because we wanted kids to be able to print (using our existing printers and from home when they start taking them home).
- We bought netbooks because Scratch is one of the best apps for students to create and share multimedia, animations, and games while learning the fundamentals of algorithmic thinking (programing, problem solving).
- We bought netbooks because now that kids actually get to have a device that they keep, they can start to customize it, hack it, learn to program, and then restore the device when they mess up.
- We bought netbooks because layout and design with a full office suite allows for some great professional work (like a 3 column brochure, a graph from a spreadsheet with a trend line, and a full featured presentation).
- We bought netbooks because we didn’t want to burden our student’s education with a particular corporation, so that they would know that they had options and choices when it comes to the technology they used like LibreOffice and Firefox.
I have nothing against tablets and I have nothing against Apple. However, I looked at all these great things our students could do with netbooks and then came the kicker. We bought netbooks because we could give 170 more students hands-on access to all of the tech tools that will help transform their education. Maybe an iPad can do some things that a netbook can’t (and maybe a netbook running Ubermix can do some things an iPad can’t), but being able to give 70% more students access to technology is something that seems hard to argue against.