Monday, December 14, 2009

Netbooks in the Classroom

Over the past two weeks I have had the great opportunity (sarcasm) to do some Christmas shopping with my wife. As I was more engaged with looking at items for myself rather than doing the shopping at hand I was drawn to the abundance of netbooks that are now available. For anywhere from $250-$400 you can get a netbook with endless options. It was interesting to see netbooks that were fitted with rubberized cases, fanless bottoms to avoid spills, anti-microbial keyboards, carrying handles, shoulder straps, built in cameras, wifi, Bluetooth, and even some that are 3G compatible. Why are companies packing such great options into such a small and portable device that can be accessed anywhere? Simple, for student use.
I immediately thought that if I were a parent (scary thought) and had a child what better way to help enhance and supplement their learning than through the purchase of a netbook for Christmas. Sounds like a great idea right? But after thinking it through, how many of our schools are “laptop friendly” campuses where utilization of these tools is encouraged? Having such a great tool at your disposable and not being able to use it at school seems somewhat pointless. What would a 4th grade teacher do on January 4th when a student walks in with their new netbook ready to use it in the classroom? What would a high school instructor do when a student gets out a netbook and begins to search for pictures of WWI propaganda posters for a U.S. History assignment? This scenario raises many questions: Is it up to each individual teacher to decide? Should the building level administrator make a decision on their use? Does the school already have a policy? All of these thoughts immediately came to mind.
My initial response is that all schools should already be in a 1 to 1 program to enhance curriculum and instruction in the classroom and be preparing students for the future. But we have to be honest with ourselves and with the current state of the economy and school budgets for many districts that is just not possible. The second best option would be to encourage students to utilize the technology that is at hand. Administrators and teachers should encourage their students to bring netbooks to class and to use them as a means to supplement and enhance the already great things that are going on within the classroom. As teachers and administrators we must show students how these tools can be used as a means to increase understanding and to become more efficient. As administrators we must also encourage staff to embrace the use of technology in the classroom through modeling its use and encourage the use of these tools outside classroom doors. If districts are not going to be able to provide these tools to students policies must be developed so that students are able to use their own personal netbooks in the classroom. I strongly feel we must confront those that “fear” the use of technology in the classroom and show them the many benefits of having these tools at our disposal within the classroom. With netbooks soon to be offered in the under $100 range we must recognize that most students are going to have access to netbooks.
What is your school doing?


  1. I agree with your point. Small and cheap wifi capable devices are going to move schools towards 1 to 1. The next wave will be ebook readers with wifi capabilities for $100.00 or less. The text books will be updated more frequently and the content will be more interactive (3-dimensional) We have established a guest SSID on our wifi network that lets everyone in. We limit access to the internet and any web-based apps. This allows students and teachers to use their own devices.

  2. How is the school going to protect its network against 700 (give or take) different computers connecting to it? That leaves a lot of room for viruses, hacking, etc... Also, some students may be able to buy the netbook but not be able to pay the monthly data package service plan, how would a school handle that situation?

  3. Doug, great point about ebook readers with wifi capabilities. I like the idea of having the "guest" option on the network. Some schools do not let teachers/students use their own devices.
    Netbooks with 3g capabilities will allow students to get around any firewalls anyway.
    diemerp, I think the school needs to have those infrastructures in place. I don't think a school would see an increase of 700 laptop devices that quickly. Having multiple wifi points throughout the school would take care of that. A student would not need a data package if the wifi were available. My point was that if students choose to bring these devices to school to improve learning we need plans in place. I would encourage all students to bring these devices into the classroom as part of the learning environment if I were not in a 1 to 1 classroom.

  4. Hi! I'm so glad I found your blog. I've just started my own aspiring principal blog so it's interesting to read your viewpoints. I'll definitely be following along.
    At our school we are considereing netbooks for teachers so that teachers can easily carry them back and forth between home and school. Adding netbooks to a building in large amounts does add a large expense and also brings with it many concerns regarding safety. I'm in a middle school and we have difficulty with students bringing electronics into school, losing them and parents believing the school is responsible. Allowing students to use school netbooks and take them home would bring up a similar problem. I do however look forward to the day that all students have a netbook or laptop to use at school. It just makes sense!
    I'd love to have you visit my blog and give me some tips on blogging, aspiring principaling, whatever strikes you!

  5. thebloggerfromupstream, each teacher in my district has a laptop and it has been great. We have had them for just about 5 years now. I am actually currently teaching in a 1 to 1 laptop initiative program currently and it is going great so far. Gathering great results so far ( beginning year 3 in January). I look forward to checking out your blog.