Tuesday, January 25, 2011

Getting Started

Although we started our 1:1 Netbook program in January 2011, my class has been using Google Docs to collaborate with "cloud computing" tools since August 2010. Before that, I had two other fifth grade classes using Google Docs to collaborate on projects and assignments. Sometimes, it has been as simple as the student doing their work and "turning in" the finished product by sharing their documents with me. That's the way Google Docs works, and any document that's shared becomes available for either viewing or editing by others with whom the author "shares". Now, my students have 24/7 access to their documents online -- those with wifi at home -- and this access has begun to make my students more prolific in their writing.

We began a week ago by simply getting to know our Netbooks, setting things up -- the trackpad settings, power options, and the like -- to make them run efficiently all day on a battery charge. We gave the students a set of minimum specifications including Windows 7, at least an 8 hour battery, minimum processor speed and RAM, and the like. Many purchased the Asus Eee PC we recommended, but others came in with Toshiba, Dell, Gateway, Acer, HP, and others. A few came in with Windows XP and have since upgraded or replaced their Netbooks with Windows 7. One is holding out with Mac OS. For the most part, since we're using open source software, this conglomeration is working so far. We'll see how it goes over the long haul.

Since I'm their homeroom teacher and also their "computer teacher", we used some class time in our first week for setting up the Netbooks. My partner fifth grade teacher and I all piled into my classroom for 4 sessions during the week of from 30-60 minutes. Plus, I used my two 40-minute "computer" class sessions for additional set up. This week, we're spending less time in school with setup and we've asked the children to download some things at home: Firefox, Open Office, and Dropbox. We're hoping we'll have all this initial setup finished by the end of this week so we can get down to the business of teaching and learning with our Netbook tech tools.

Next week, I head off to FETC in Orlando and I'm looking forward to using Skype to communicate with my students as they work with a sub on Tuesday through Thursday. Many of my kids are anxious to use Skype at school, as we've told them it's a no-Skype zone from 8-3 until we have a reason to use Skype in class. Next week, they'll get their first chance!

Stay tuned. More to come...

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