I received our Asus eeePCs yesterday. After playing with a couple at the tech conference last week, I thought it would be worth the investment to try a few out in the district. I bought one for each building, plus one for my techs to share and one for me to play with. That’s a total of eight.
I purposefully didn’t pre-configure anything. I simply put two lists of questions in the box, and delivered them to the tech team members in each building. The first list was a list of questions that already have answers:
What is this?
This is an Asus eeePC 4G Surf. It’s a small, low end laptop with a 7” screen. There’s no hard drive – just 4GB of flash memory that holds the operating system and applications. It has 512 MB of RAM. You can save data to an SD card or to a USB flash drive. It has a productivity suite (word processor, spreadsheet, etc.). It also has a web browser and can access the network wirelessly or wired. It has an external VGA port, so it could be connected to a larger monitor or to a projector.
Can I keep it?
For now. One was purchased for each of the schools, the technology coordinator, and the tech department. By the end of the school year, we hope to have determined what role (if any) these devices can play in our schools. At that point, we may decide to collect them all and put them in the same place so students can use them.
In the meantime, use it. Share it with teachers and administrators and students. Figure out if it’s a useful tool or just a gadget. Try to think about the questions that need answers. We’ll be discussing them at the April (and maybe May) tech team meetings.
Will it run Successmaker / Kid Pix / Accelerated Reader / Keyboarding software?
Then what good is it?
This device will do most of the things we need computers to do. You can word process, create presentations, use the web, and access network resources (file servers, printers, etc). When you think about what most people use computers for most of the time, this little laptop can do most of it.
How much does it cost?
It costs $367.37. Price-wise, it’s about half the cost of a desktop computer and a third of the cost of a traditional laptop. Compared to the Alphasmart Neo, it’s about 50% more expensive. So for the same cost as 30 Neos, you could have 20 of these. At the secondary level, it’s about 3 times the cost of a graphing calculator, and only slightly more than an ebook reader.
It seems like this little machine has a lot of value given the things it can do and the relatively low price point.
The second list was a list of questions that need answers. I fully expect this list to grow, but right now, this is it:
Does this device work well enough to have a place in our schools?
How could this be used effectively with students?
What limitations are there that would affect its usefulness?
Are there solutions to overcome those limitations?
What technical hurdles would have to be overcome to make the use of these devices successful?
If we were to start using these computers, what could they replace? What could we buy fewer of to make this cost effective?
Are these computers durable enough for student use?
Is Linux too complicated / different / cumbersome / annoying to be used in this environment?
I’ll let you know how it goes.