Tools For Schools: You Call That a Netbook?

Many people often wonder what the difference is between a laptop and a netbook aside from the size difference.  A netbook has been called a netbook because that is what it has been created for, surfing the net.  It of course can be used for other purposes, but because it was created for browsing the web it isn’t as powerful as your standard laptop, all of the key features are shrunk down along with its size.  What is great for schools is that all that shrinking leads to a price shrink as well.  In 2008, our school launched a 1:1 laptop program with full size laptops, however, by the 2009 school year it was decided to downsize to a netbook for carrying convenience and of course the convenience of saving $$ too.  Though I was a bit resistant to the transition, it turned out to be an equally beneficial tool for the classroom, and the small size doesn’t hurt either!

So what is the buzz about netbooks anyway?  Well it seems that, though still young in the game, some companies are giving their netbooks a make over that could really benefit the classroom.  There companies give touch technology a try and one of those companies take a stab at the ultimate “netbook” by combining a netbook, touch-tech and an e-reader.  What will they think of next!?

As a science teacher it is tough to give notes on Newton’s 3rd law of motion or the mechanical advantage of a lever without drawings, however, having kids taking notes on their laptops and expecting them to do your drawings justice is just not realistic.  I solved this problem by supplying students with the drawing before hand and just letting them label parts, but I am not sure that is as meaningful.  I always had wished that there was an affordable tablet laptop that we could give to our kids and finally my prayers have been answered!

Asus Eee T91

Though they still refer to it as a netbook, both Asus and Lenovo have developed a netbook that has a swivel screen that allows you to interact with touch technology as a tablet.  Asus’s Eee T91 premeired at CES 2009, but didn’t release until 7 monthes later.  Despite a C-net score of 4 stars, it didn’t make a huge splash in the market since its performance using Window XP + tablet software was not all that impressive.

Lenovo S10-3t

This year Lenovo has released its take on the tablet netbook, the S10-3t, using Windows 7, which is a much more touch-friendly software. Those that had the chance to see it at CES 2010 were impressed.  The S10-3t has additional features that make it look a bit better than the competition.  It has a larger screen size and multi-touch technology (similar to an iPhone or iPod touch)

enTourage eDGe

Taking a completely different approach is enTourage with their eDGe “netbook”.  With a such a set of unique features, I think calling this product a netbook is a stretch, but who am I to tell them what to call their products.  The eDGe is a 9 inch, 16 shades of gray, stylus controlled e-reader on the left side and a 10 inch multi-touch, color screen on the other.  The e-reader seems to have all the features of a Kindle, plus the support of its web surfing Android/Linux OS color screen to the right coupled with USB and  SD card ports.  Don’t just take my word for it, though, check out the great interactive demo on their web site.

I would like to note that though I am impressed with the features of the eDGe, I am a little disappointed in the overall design.  I feel like the large margins surrounding the already sizable screens add excess size and weight.  I also think that if it is going to be marketed as a netbook then it should have the capabilities of taking the place of ones netbook or laptop, but the touch screen keyboard doesn’t look very user friendly for writing papers or even e-mails for that mater.  My hope is that with a few revisions like one screen having the ability to be a larger size touch screen or hand writing recognition software.  It would bring this product closer to being the ultimate classroom tool.

CrunchPad

However tech review teams have warned geeks like me need to keep my ear out for a new tool called the CrunchPad ($300), which is to be release this summer.

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