Video confession 18 – Joanne’s first lesson with the Asus Eee
Bringing IT to the lesson
We carried the “IT suite” of 20 Asus Eee’s to the lesson in two cardboard boxes – this alone seemed quite remarkable.
The class was BTEC Introductory Diploma IT At Work and the lesson was in a series about financial management. The students were organised into groups of 3 or 4 around clustered tables and each student was given an Asus Eee to use. Joanne introduced the topic on bank accounts then asked the students to use their computers to access the Internet to find out what forms of identification were needed to open a bank account. The students were then asked to work in their groups to evaluate the Asus Eee from their experience in using it to research the lesson question.
For this first experimental lesson there was plenty of technical support but I was amazed at how easy the students took to the small computers and unfamiliar software environment – given how familiar most students are with mobile phones, games consoles and other gadgets I shouldn’t have been surprised. Students are of course the “digital natives” and they seem to find this easier than staff – we really ought to involve students more when considering educational technology and planning.
The traditional way to deliver a lesson like this with a section requiring about 20 minutes of internet research is to book the lesson into a dedicated IT suite, however, standard IT suites aren’t conducive to group and collaborative activities. Another traditional approach is to set the research as homework/LRC work and have the feedback take place in the next lesson – with the disadvantage of splitting the lesson up. This lesson showed that it is feasible to use these small computers to bring IT to a lesson rather than bring the lesson to IT. This is going to be increasingly relevant in lessons as the Internet is a vital research tool let alone the other features it provides.
Standard IT access models involve traditional desktop IT suites; laptop classrooms or the use of LRC’s with open access IT. The cheap Umpc introduces two new possibilities – The Ultra Mobile IT Suite (bringing the IT suite to wherever the class is) OR the Personalised IT Suite (allocating these units to the students to bring to class with them). I talked about this with the students – how in the near future students could conceivably use their own equipment in classes for research and they understood this.
Technically the equipment was set up to explore the more extreme and “purer” form – the computers were running the pre-installed Linux and open source applications and operated on our guest wireless network – the computers could easily have been the students own.
The students showed great interest in the web cams built into the Asus screen although when it came to actually making a video most of the class became suddenly very shy but agreed that video would be a useful method to use and practice in classes. I’m looking forward to exploring new communications methods with classes – the use of collaborative documents, blogs, wikis, audio and video. I’m also looking forward to seeing what happens if we allocate Umpcs to students for a period of time – the full personalisation of IT.
However, using these computers throughout the college will require some significant adjustments. We will need to think about how we provide power in classrooms and we will need to consider accessibility and equality issues – availability of larger screens, keyboards and perhaps mice for some.
I found this experiment extremely revealing – the IT was non intrusive, seemed natural and supported the lesson – compare this with a lesson in a traditional desktop IT suite where the lesson adapts to the presentation of the IT.
Bringing IT to the lesson rather than bringing the lesson to IT
In the video’s – see Joanne just before the lesson outline what the lesson is about and see two students at the end of the lesson give their opinions about the Asus Eee
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