Photo Credit: wstryder
Most schools in our neck of the woods are trying out iPods with their ESL students. We started to do the same. Our teachers worked through the process of learning what they needed to know about them and how to utilize them with kids. Then, the Acer Aspire One came on the scene. We bought a few to try out for our elementary students thinking they might be a nice low cost alternative for our small handed friends in K-5.
While reviewing one of them, I noticed it had an SD card slot on both sides of the machine. Hmmm. Then I noticed one was a card reader and the other a storage bay. Double Hmmmmmm. I got to thinking about how we use Deep Freeze to protect our machines from viruses and vandalism in general and how a USB flash drive can be cumbersome for a kid to carry and pop in and out all the time when changing classes. So, we slid a 4GB SD card into the storage bay, redirected My Documents to the card (which in turn moved the iTunes preferred storage folders with it), and loaded our software of choice (OpenOffice, Skype, Firefox, all of the required web plug-ins, and Deep Freeze), and we had a nice little machine.
The big advantage of the SD card is that if we have a hardware malfunction with the Acer, we pop out the SD card, give the students a new machine, and they are back in business.
One thing we did specific for our ESL students was to use the web based version of Rosetta Stone. We have open wireless throughout our school district (read that as no active directory or other log in needed), so they now have the chance to work independently anytime throughout the school day with the given USB headsets. We are also waiting on Higher Ground’s new case for the 9″ laptops so we can begin sending the machines home with the kids. We know the family will begin to use it which will only serve to improve their fluency as well. It seems to be a win-win.
So as it stands, our secondary ESL students have a netbook to use freely throughout the day to do the following:
- notes in the wordprocessor
- presentations if asked using either OpenOffice or web-based tools
- podcasts in iTunes
- Rosetta Stone
- online language translators for communication
- Skype/video conferences
- MovieMaker with built-in webcam & mic to record notes, lectures, or whatever
- Firefox with Scribefire for blogging (when they get to that)
- Firefox for email with Gaggle (with built-in translator)
- Firefox for Internet-based research and web 2.0 tools
Something I still want to find out is how the Deep Freeze and/or swapping of SD cards will effect the subscribed podcasts. There is probably a workaround in backing up the account to the card, but we will know more as we move into the project a bit. I am not concerned about the rest of the project. The kids jumped right into OpenOffice and have not even asked how to do a thing with it. It is just intuitive, which backs up our belief that we do NOT have to have Microsoft Office for them anymore. They just need the productivity suite practice regardless of flavor. We really like OpenOffice 3, and the price is right.
I am sure I am leaving off some of the things they do with that great little computer. It is actually my Windows machine of choice (if there is such a thing). Now I just need to get me an MSI Wind so I can convert it into a Hackintosh to make my life semi-tech complete (for now). 😉