A libertarian inclined blog for teachers and learners of all ages. Comments, emails and links to other educational stuff welcome.

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Next entry: Handwriting is essential if you want to add words to pictures and for doing maths
Previous entry: Iliterate slebs
Thursday November 29 2007

Finally, a picture of the Asus Eee PC which gives you (by which I mean me) some idea of how big it is.  You would be amazed how many times I have looked at photos of this little beast that have told me everything except that.

image

This picture adorns a report which reveals that some optimistic educators have purchased a thousand of these things.  (Via engadget.) I am very enthusiastic about the Eee PC and it is only a matter of time before I buy one myself. 

In the next few weeks, the laptops will be in about 60 classrooms at 16 other schools. They will be shared by students and will remain in the classrooms.

Shared.  Hm.  Maybe nowadays, in the days of internet based applications, which machine you use is of less significance.  Maybe.  But, in my experience, a computer works best when some individual owns it.  If I buy an EeePC, it will be my money, and I will own it.  But, as I say, I could be out of date about that kind of thing.

But not every educator is thrilled with the $650,000 investment.

So I’m not the only one who has doubts.

Larry Moore, president of the Fresno Teachers Association, said new computers are useful tools, but a majority of teachers and students will not have access to the tiny laptop. He said the district should have spent the money on fixing broken computers in many classrooms.

So the last lot of computers they bought weren’t a complete success then. So why should this new lot be any better?  If anything, their extreme portability only makes it that much likely that these new EeePCs may get lost or stolen, or maybe dropped.  But again, that could just be my English background talking, and in particular my London foreground.  London is, I dare say, a more barbaric place than Fresno.

But there are other worries:

There are also mixed feelings among educators. Stephen Lewis, a geology professor at California State University, Fresno, thinks laptops are a useful tool, but they can also hinder the teaching process - he often sees students with their heads buried in their laptops instead of paying attention to a lecture.

That comment alludes to a far deeper problem with computers in classrooms, which is that old school classrooms are one way of teaching and learning, and computers and the internet are something else again.  Just shoving the latter into the former can surely create at least as many problems as it solves.  Teachers who know how they want to work in a room full of computers can do great work.  But what about teachers who aren’t prepared for that?

Maybe my doubts and suspicions are groundless.  But I do hope that Pablo Lopez, the journalist who wrote this first report about these EeePCs in the schools of Fresno, will follow up with further reports about how well this decision plays out.