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Netbooks – Ready for Education Prime-Time?

As net-books continue to outpace the rest of the PC industry, prices falling and specs improving, are they ready for prime-time use in schools?

I have dallied with eeePCs back in the day, I was impressed then, unfortunately school didn’t back that up with a permanent wireless network and they have been little used since.  Back then the main issues were small screens, small keyboards and small batteries.  All of these features have been greatly improved over the past two years.

Last week two stories came through my RSS reader, one from The Register and one from my new favourite blog, The Angry Technician.  Both were focused on the new Dell Latitude 2100.  A 10″ net-book designed specifically for school.  I was going to speculate on it’s advantages for school use but then found that Mike Herrity had beaten me to it.  Rugged design, options for large batteries and touch screens, and a specially designed charging station make it an attractive proposition.

Next year when I take up my post of my post of E-Learning Director I hope to have far more involvement in the designation of ICT budgets and the ICT direction of my new school.  My question is, are net-books now ready for mainstream use in secondary schools?  There is obviously still a use for old fashioned computer labs with more powerful desktop PCs, but are net-books now a suitable supplement to this, to act as mobile class-sets?  Has your school had success in this area, or are you planning a roll-out for September?  Are you going the whole-hog and rolliing out 1-to-1 net-books for all your pupils?

EDIT: Forgot to add this link to Lifehacker’s 5 best netbooks, not education focussed, but interesting none the less.

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  1. Well, since your post set my ears burning, I should probably let you know our experience so far.

    We’ve already replaced our existing classroom sets of laptops with Samsung NC-10 netbooks, and have met with success even running Vista on them as domain workstations. Our latest upgrades are running the WIndows 7 RC as a trial, and are performing excellently. We consider classroom sets to be complementary to IT labs rather than a replacement. Certainly having class sets means you can have fewer labs, but I don’t think you should do away with them altogether.

    Our new sixth form entry in September are getting ‘1-to-1’ netbooks, again the NC-10; last year they had laptops that proved inconvenient due to, you guessed it, their shorter battery life and larger size. I would love to be issuing the Dell L2100 to them, but sadly they were released too late for our purchasing as we had to get the machines in early. I will considering them very strongly for my next purchase.

    1. Look forward to hearing how your 1-to-1 goes, and also to some quality rants on the inevitable teething troubles getting 6th formers to use their new machines 🙂

    1. It’ll be fascinating to see how that goes Simon, has the state given training / suggested use or are they trusting individuals to innovate?

  2. Unclear as yet, there is supposed to be training (there needs to be substantial training for it to be effective) but I don’t know how much will happen.

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