One month with 1:1 netbooks

We sent out 1st quarter progress reports last week, which marked about 5 weeks into the school year.  With all the grades in, I’ve got a moment to reflect on how a 1:1 environment is changing the dynamic of my classes.  In my last post I highlighted some of the logistical issues I faced in the early weeks of the new year.  Since that time I’ve solved some of the issues and discovered some more.  The first couple weeks I really questioned whether the netbooks had any benefit.  We ran into a number of unforseen complications and spent so much time just getting to the right places that it seemed like we’d never finish an activity.  The last week or two, we’ve worked out the major kinks and are really getting some quality work done.  I’m looking forward to spotlighting many of the projects and activities for which we’ve used the netbooks, but this post will focus in on some of the challenges my students and have/are working through on this journey.

At the netbook

Challenge 1 – Lack of Home Access:

When I read blog posts or see videos about ‘digital natives’ and how ubiquitous technology is in our students’ lives, I take it with a grain of salt.  In my school (over 70% free or reduced lunch), a majority of the students do not have a computer – let alone internet access at home.  A number of students have cell phones, but many more do not.  School is the place where these students ‘power up’.  This complicates things when we’re working on projects that require web access because I can’t really assign anything computer based as homework or even for review.  While one person on the team may have access at home, the other three will not.   Students are usually pretty eager to check out a netbook during study hall, but if they can’t finish it during that time I usually set aside time during the next class to work on projects.   While it hasn’t been a huge problem, it slows us down from time to time.  Projects that I’ve planned for 3 days time, often end up taking the whole week because we have to complete all the work in class.


Challenge 2 – Basic Computer Skills

There are a number of basic computer skills that I picked up along the way, by necessity or dumb luck, that I had always assumed my students knew.  I was wrong – and have had to stop everything and give some impromptu lessons on basic computer skills.  Chief among them are the keyboard shortcuts for cut, copy, and paste (a computer person in the business world estimated that 90% of adults didn’t know about this when I told him my plight).  While all my students can right click like champs, the keyboard shortcuts were foreign to most of them.  Even though the right click can accomplish many of the same tasks, I find it much faster to control+c with the left hand, move the cursor with the right, then control+v.  We’ve used computers a lot in my classes the past few years, but little things like these become much more obvious in a one to one classroom.  Another skill I had to teach was the identification (and purpose) of urls.  Students are so used to using the google search box, that many didn’t know what I was referring to when I spoke about the address bar.  Sometimes, students had trouble locating a link that I’d posted on my classroom blog – unaware that links begin with http.   While we have resolved a number of these issues, it is certainly something to be aware of if you’re starting a 1:1 classroom.  Despite being labeled “digital natives” there are a lot of basic computer skills they might not know.

Challenge 3 – Screen Monitoring

At the beginning of the year, I planned on installing LAN School on all the netbooks so I could monitor screens throughout the day.  When I decided to switch over to Linux (LAN school only works on Macs and PCs) I thought I would use iTalc – an open source screen monitoring suite for Windows and Linux.  On the first or second day of school, I spent about 10 minutes trying to figure it out on some practice computers and got stuck.  I tabled it thinking I’d be fine without it.  Most of my day is spent wandering from station to station in my room, so I usually see what students have on their screens.  I’ve discovered, after a month with the netbooks, that students getting on inappropriate sites isn’t the problem.  The challenge is getting their attention and holding it when I need to go over something in the middle of a lesson.  While I often have students put their hands in the air, or even close their netbooks, when I need their attention – a few will try and fiddle with one more thing or quietly go back to work as I go over the directions for an assignment.  With LAN school or iTalc, I could just press a button on my computer and freeze their screens.  When I get some time to figure out iTalc, I will probably install it on all the computers.

4 thoughts on “One month with 1:1 netbooks

  1. I suspect that the challenges look a little different in every school. It is important to reflect on these challenges and take them into account when considering a 1 to 1 program. I appreciate you documenting yours!

  2. I love hearing how this is working! I got a cart of 20 iPod touches, so I’ll be trying to let you know some of the things I’m trying. I think I need to start a tech blog… 🙂

  3. I think that we often expect students to know things that we haven’t modeled or explicitly taught. I’m certainly guilty of it and often have to remind myself to step back and explicitly provide instruction/modeling of the abilities that I expect of my students. I tried setting up iTalc before and it worked sometimes and didn’t work other times and I got frustrated so I paid for Abtutor. Good luck.

  4. It’s great to hear about how these 1:1 programs are going. The students I have this year will be going to a 1:1 classroom next year. It will be a huge change for them as we only have one computer in our classroom; my school laptop. I’m very excited for them and hope that the effects come to other schools like mine soon.

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