What are those questions?
1) “Don’t you want MS Office on these?” My answer – No. I don’t want them to be glorified typewriters. As soon as there is a program on there for word processing, they become stations to produce. I want them to be doors to exploration and learning. They are Netbooks with access to the World Wide Web. What can happen with them when we open the world to students right in the classroom along with class discussion and collaboration? Then add Google Apps and email and the doors are thrown open. But when they are used to pound out documents or yet one more presentation with more spin to the titles than learning, one has to question the value for learning. So is there a way to record what is learned? Yes, students can use Google Docs. It’s not perfect but it meets the need for learning. So on these we will save our $50 price tag and watch students collaborate and learn.
2) The first question then is related to the second. “What printer do you want these to go to?” Again, my response is – None. Why do we think we have to print everything? There are boxes of printing that hasn’t been picked up beside so many printers. And how often does someone print a web page, then realize they didn’t need all 11 pages but only page 3, so take that and leave the rest? I confess I’ve been one of those. But when one is mindful of the reason for printing, it becomes much less necessary. Why do we have to have paper in our hands? Will there be a reason to print the information from the Netbooks? Yes, probably. But then I can go to another computer, log in, and find the document created in Google Docs and print it. That way I know I have considered why I need that item printed. But usually, I decide that it’s not needed.
We have the opportunity to explore new ways of learning. This is an amazing time to be an educator. But for true exploration to occur, we must be willing to leave behind some of the old patterns and ways of doing things. Is word processing and printing the only way to indicate learning? It may be a challenge but finding new and different ways to present information and show learning may be the first step to authentic innovation.