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Ross Reflective Summary

Use of Net books in class compared to notebooks/desktops

 

We are a small U1 school with 16 students from the age of 5 to 11. Our cluster comprises of 5 schools, all with student levels under 140. Upon entry to the ICTPD contract the school had a bank of E-Macs and PC computers, all at least 8 years old.

 

Historically the school had 12 outdated pc’s and macs set in a computer room at the other end of the school. The class had 2 macs and the teacher laptop.

 

An area we wanted to explore was the impact of portable computing on the students learning and that the buy in would be from the students to use these tools appropriately. The school purchased a set of 7 Lenovo netbooks and 7 mice. The intention was to also purchase a set of headphones for each device to minimise disturbance of others working.

 

 

The students quickly took to the new devices and initially used them solidly over the option of the desktops. These were starting to be used for such activities as Mathletics and web searches.

All these activities were happening at the student’s desk. After the novelty wore off of the new devices the same distractions become apparent again. Staff looked at how they were asking the students to use the devices and realised it was still very much in the traditional education style.. at a desk sitting working.. in effect swapping the chalk and slate for a computer.

 

Staff realised that the freedom that the devices were offering was being stifled by tradition. A change was needed. To do this the staff needed to have a mind shift on how to release the control of how the computers. This change was bought to the staff after one of the Learning@Schools conferences in Rotorua.

 

Trust. The students were given the freedom to use the devices where they wanted in the school. This was a turning point in the use of the devices.. students were able to have sound up, listen to their tasks at a good volume and did not require shutting themselves off from the class with headphones. Students also started taking more responsibility for themselves and others around them. Students became aware of others needs (sometimes by the whining coming from others nearby..) and are now regulating volumes and choosing to take them self to an appropriate area as required by the task.

 

The netbooks were great. The students were surfing the net, creating stories, paining pictures, using science emulators (OE Cake) on the machines and doing this in the freedom of the school.

Students started to get ideas. With the teachers they started exploring more features and the teachers confidence grew as the students drove the thirst for doing more digitally.

 

After a great professional development day in the holidays staff came revved up with great enthusiasm about what else the students could do and new sites fully of wonderful ways of sharing work with a wider audience. The school started blogging, and used sites like vokis and Extra Normal. An intranet page was created so that these could be regularly used. These came with issues. The students loved the sites and created many examples, but these became less educational based and more play, so the staff developed strategies such as time limits to create the avatars and the majority of the time in creating a high quality product.

 

Things were going well.. until staff got enthused about video.. and the children got excited.. The netbooks have a web cam.. lets make some movies.. then the wheels fell off. The processors in the machines were not up to the task. Instead of a fun week of filming we had issues, mainly during playback with the screens freezing yet sound continued. This caused frustrations for all involved and the teachers laptops ended up being used, meaning limited shooting time for each group.

 

The students and staff were not demoralised totally by this, they all became aware of the limitations of the devices and so planned their work on them accordingly.

 

Three years on and we have the same 7 netbooks still in use, one with a non functioning keyboard, (the students came up with a solution. .an external usb keyboard) that the students have free access to at any time in class to use as needed for their class work. ERO noted the use of ICT’s are well integrated throughout the curriculum, and this is, in part, to the ease of access and functionality that the netbooks provide. They are an integral part of the classroom resources and are used regularly. The students have the choice on which tool they choose and they make the choice based on the task they have to do.

 Results:

 

Have netbooks aided in students learning?

Yes. The students have become more engaged in their learning. It has also had a great social advantage as well with the students using the key competencies to ensure that they are managing themselves and being aware of others around them. Students have become less egocentric when using the tools. Some students have learnt the hard way, with peers repeatedly telling them to turn the sound down or move. In a month this stopped other than the odd loud volume that the student quickly rectifies before anyone needs to comment.

Because of the new class set up, students are able to grab a netbook and do a quick search and gain more understanding while lessons continue. The anywhere, anytime freedom that they offer for schooling is a major bonus.

Would we go to a platform of only mobile devices? (Netbooks, Notebooks or tablets)

The answer to that is no. While they are great tools for anywhere computing.. there still needs to be a few more powerful devices to run the high processor demands. These can be achieved by notebooks, but cost effectiveness leads us to a video camera and a few desktops with the power to run the high demand programs. Our next step that we are exploring is to trial tablets. These offer the same functionality as a netbook, and are more appealing in the current social market.