I spent my day at one of our elementary schools, ensuring that the rollout of some new RTI software went smoothly. It was also the day that we first pushed our mobile labs of MacBooks to full utilization, so I kept myself pretty busy today. While the day went remarkably well, I couldn't help but think how much more natural computer usage in the classroom would be if each kid simply had a convertible Classmate, like the one on which I'm typing this post.
The kids went to the carts, lined up quite nicely, grabbed a MacBook, logged in, fired up their RTI applications for the allotted time, then put the computers away. From the perspective of RTI and reinforcing math and literacy skills with software, it was an effective approach. From an integration of technology perspective and time management perspective, it was, to put it diplomatically, sob-optimal.
A small, light tablet, on the other hand, that could sit at their desks and get tossed into their backpacks at night (or even stacked up to charge in the classroom for the next day) would be far more useful. The much younger kids could still really benefit from computer workstations in their classrooms, but by the first or second grade, an assigned netbook/tablet could be really effective if the curriculum was in place to support it.
I handed my 6-year old the tablet tonight with Lexia and Symphony installed (the literacy and math software we rolled out today) and he immediately asked if he could spin the screen around as he'd seen me do. He asked where the "pointer" was and was off and running, interacting with the software quickly via touch.
Tomorrow I'll show him the painting program and get him to do some drawing and writing on the tablet. For now, however, here is a video of the paint program in action.
I think we still have a ways to go on price to make this really accessible to a lot of students. However, a lot of students could benefit by having this incredibly friendly little device at their side much more often than half an hour a day.