Frerichs v. Mao: Showdown at the netbook corral

Chad Frerichs, Director of Technology for the Okoboji (IA) Community Schools, listened to Episode 4 of the 4 Guys Talking podcast and disagreed with Jeff Mao’s assertion that netbooks were not viable options for 1:1 laptop programs.

Here is Chad’s Tweet:


Here is Chad’s follow-up e-mail to me:

We've not been using them yet. I have been demoing varioius units for the last 2 months for consideration for purchase for next school year. I have been loving them. I have to admit I was skeptical and had the same reservations going in, but I have proven myself wrong. I have upgraded each demo unit to XP Pro (we have available licenses), and they have all ran smoothly. I await Win 7 which is supposed to have Atom specific things in it. I have been using Google Earth, Movie Maker, Gimp,, etc. without issue. Granted Google Earth is slow during the 3D stuff, and Movie Maker takes a little longer to do massive amounts of transitions/effects, but it is very workable. I have made a 'news cast' on each of the netbooks demoed with multiple transitions/effects with the built in camera and mic. A project I envision students doing. I have edited photos in Gimp and applied multiple filters without issues.
I have been proven wrong about these things. I think they are a viable solution for us, and possibly others. Are there drawbacks? Absolutely, but viable none-the-less. I think we will be ordering 72 or 96 of them for next year.

Your thoughts?

8 Responses to “Frerichs v. Mao: Showdown at the netbook corral”

  1. I got to tell you, I’m on Chad’s page with this, maybe because he works for us here but I’ve seen what all a netbook can do and we are officially on the bandwagon. Our goal is to have a 1:1 using these and bringing the computers to the kids versus the kids taking the computers home. Think it can work.

  2. I am also with Chad. Mao’s dismissal of Linux as beta (it’s not) and Windows XP as not updated in 4 years (SP 3 came out last April) showed a lot. I hope that’s not the extent of his research on netbook viability.

  3. It’s obviously a financial decision and I guess netbooks are better than nothing, but not as good as a full blown notebook computer. I’m at a 1-1 notebook school where the students are using these tools across a range of subjects for most of their day. Netbooks are good for chucking in your bag to get on an airline but would anyone really want to WORK on one?

    That said, one Australian state has decided to go netbooks and has done a deal with Chinese company Lenovo to supply 200,000 to every student in NSW.

  4. “Netbooks are good for chucking in your bag to get on an airline but would anyone really want to WORK on one”

    4th graders think they’re great. A netbook is a much better tool for elementary students than a big heavy laptop. I’m not really sure where the cutoff point is as you get older. I think the decision is about application needs and user engagement with the tool.

  5. I’m with Dan. Application needs and user engagement.

    It is similar to the Mac vs Windows question… does it run the software you want/need to use? After that, the economics come into play.

    There is no point in getting tools that you won’t be able to use comfortably. But, if all you want the class to do is surf, write and organize a little data in a spreadsheet the netbook is the ticket. It really should be about the tool fitting the job. Their (the student’s) job… not what we would use for our job. Those can be very different machines!

    Tiered computer purchases then? It seems that as you move up in grades there would be some logical trade-up opportunities. A netbook in first grade and something from Cray research in high school?

  6. I can get on board with a tiered set up as I could understand netbooks for smaller students, especially when not being sent home. When you get to 7-12 grade I still believe, after demoing two different netbooks, that a full sized laptop is the way to go, AND they should be going home not living in carts.

  7. Take it from the mouth of a student:

    I published the above piece as the student took so much time to do a quality review. The only bias to be aware of is that our 10,000 high school students have been a part of a 1:1 program for the past 8 years, so these kids are used to a full fledged laptop.

    We have about 1300 Asus Eee’s in our district, and this looks like the natural replacement for our laptops as we move into our 9th year of 1:1 on a large scale. Personally, the 9″ models have a cramped keyboard and are not effective for high school to adult sized hands. The 10″ Asus models, however, have (basically) a full sized keyboard and are easy to work on.

    Financially, we don’t have much choice. Reasonably, students (on average) don’t use more than the basic application base. Responsibly, students need a lighter weight device to carry in their backpacks. Logically, battery life in the UltraMobiles offers freedom from time restraints and financial burdens of trying to warranty two laptop batteries.

    We were hoping that flash memory would be an option, but Asus just announced the discontinuation of their flash drive models. While no moving parts is a repair desk’s dream, it added a huge amount of time to our imaging process due to slower data rates.

    Sorry for the random thoughts, I’ll have to consolidate them better for a future post.

  8. Doing 1:1 without allowing the devices to go home is a bad plan. I have been part of the MLTI project in Maine since it started 7 years ago. I have always allowed students to take the devices home. When the laptops go home learning doesn’t at when the last bell rings.

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