Tuesday, June 16, 2009

Laptops For All: Are You Ready?

Last week, I wrote an article for Ed Tech Magazine (to be published anytime now), about key considerations when implementing a one-to-one program at your school/district. The two factors that topped my list were: 1) good classroom management software; and 2) professional development. In an effort to keep my article to the 600-word limit, I was forced to trim some of the fat; but as any steak lover knows, fat adds flavor! So, here is a collection of some of the "fat" I trimmed.

In addition to classroom management and teacher training, defining your goals, entertaining key questions, and going wireless should be considered.

Define your goals

What do want your students to do? Is it enough to for them to merely "use" technology for technology sake or are there learning outcomes that require a one-to-one laptop program? Here's a great resource: At the time of this post, one website in particular, lessonplanet.com, offers 893 lesson plans involving laptops for use in the classroom. Much of the groundwork has been laid, so there's no need to reinvent the wheel.

Questions before you jump in

-What if the laptop breaks down, gets a virus, or otherwise becomes unusable?

-What about extended warranties? What happens when it breaks down?

-In three years when it’s time to replace it…what then? If so, where’s that money going to come from?

Benefits of Going Wireless

One advantage to a one-to-one laptop program is the ability to go wireless. Most traditional “wireless” access points still need to be wired to the Internet to broadcast their signal. For large wireless networks, Ethernet cables need to be run through walls and ceilings; however, in a wireless mesh network, only one node needs to be physically wired to a network connection like a DSL modem. That one wired node then shares the Internet connection wirelessly with all other laptops in its vicinity. Nicholas Negroponte’s One Laptop Per Child (OLPC) and Intel’s Classmate computers both operate using mesh networking, a technology which allows each laptop to receive a WiFi signal, then broadcast that signal out to other nearby computers. The more laptops (nodes), the further the connection spreads, creating a wireless “cloud of connectivity” that can serve a small classroom or a city of millions.

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