One-to-One learning, where every kid in a classroom has a computer that can interact with a teacher, although rewarding, is a complicated classroom model to implement. Lots of elements must come together to make this a successful transformation for both the students and the teacher. The right technology, the right professional development, the right software, content, and hardware accessories are some of the critical things that are needed. The Intel powered classmate PC category of devices are technology tools that can help make One-to-One learning a reality in a classroom. One way in which we at Intel are helping to close that gap on a successful One-to-One implementation with classmate PCs is by providing Software elements that constitute a basic set of tools for One-to-One. To that accord, Intel recently released an updated version of these tools that are optimized for its convertible tablet reference design. Let me walk you through what some of these major tools are and why they are important.
First of all, let me touch on a few generalities of this updated Education software stack. One key difference here is the Optimization for touch! With the introduction of the Intel-powered Convertible classmate PC, the device gained a tablet mode and touch screen. I am not sure if you have played with tablet PCs at all, but one of the criticisms I have about them is that you are expected to use your finger or the stylus as a mouse replacement …hmm, so that means clicking on small text menu items or small buttons with my finger…which is a lot bigger than a mouse pointer! Now imagine a young kid without the same fine motor skills as an adult, much more difficult. So one major focus area for us was to work with our software companies to have them optimize the applications for use with a finger or stylus. This was a highly important requirement. Secondarily, we wanted to highlight the two new usage models that the convertible tablet delivers on; micro mobility (the small mobile movements of kids; switching tables, going to the bean bag chair in the back of the class…) and handwriting/touch. SO, we added some application and features that take advantage of these new usage models. Now onto the details…
Classroom Management/Collaboration. This is a critical topic in On-to-One education. How does the teacher best use this new technology to keep her students excited about learning, manage and execute her lessons and assessments, and keep his/her students on task. This is where several tools come to play. First is SMART Classroom Suite from SMART Technologies. This is a full featured classroom management suite that allows teachers to augment their lessons using 1-to-1 computing. The teacher, using her notebook or tablet PC can augment her lesson with student interactivity. She can broadcast her screen to all the students in the classroom, can share files and Homework and also collect those homework files back, she can do quizzing and testing – basically doing real time assessment to see if the students are understanding what she is teaching, and also highlight a star students work to the rest of the class. She can also put the students into groups and have them work on group projects. The second element here is a Simplified Education Shell. This is where the Easybits Inspirus Desktop comes into play. We worked with Easybits to customize a simplified shell targeted at schools. This shell allows the teachers to remove distractions for the kids. When the teacher wants to focus the kids in the class on a particular lesson, she can put the kids classmate PCs into lesson mode and what they see is a creative environment with the tools needed for the specific lesson at hand, but all the tools and distractions that are not needed are not there to tempt the kids into doing things that is not needed for the lesson – like finding the latest Jonas Brothers wallpaper for their classmate PC! This tool helps the teacher prevent the laptop from being a distraction in the classroom by helping to prevent kids from getting off task. This in conjunction with Smart Sync provides a powerful 1-to-1 learning tool.
Moving on to safety. There are two tools here. First is Parent Carefree from Anmeng. This tool basically makes it easy for schools/teachers and parents to limit and monitor what their kids are doing with the classmate. It can setup different policies for school and home and can use whitelists or blacklists to limit what websites are visited and what applications are run. It allows times of using the classmate PC to be established and also generates reports on what the child is running and what sites they are visiting. It can even take regular interval screenshots for you to look at later if necessary. This tool actually helped me with my 10 year old daughter! I recently found out she started a Twitter account unbeknownst to me and against our agreed upon usage for her classmate. This allowed me to see what else she was doing and allowed me to sit down with her and have the CyberSafety talk with her. Additionally, the incentive is there to not break my trust again and if she does, the classmate PC gets locked down…now that is incentive! The second tool is Theft Deterrent, an Intel developed tool that works in conjunction with some special hardware on the classmate PC to help deter the system from being stolen from the kids or from the school. The theft prevention tool works with a school server and when it looses that connection for a set amount of time, the system is rendered useless – we call it “bricking”. The thief cant reload an OS or do anything to get the unit back to a working condition other than return it to the school it was stolen from so they can re-activate it!
Next is a tool that makes managing classmate PCs in schools easier for the administrators and the teachers. It is the Intel Education Administrator. This program helps create and manage “images” – a snapshot of the system – so that if the system needs backing up and restoring it can easily be done. Additionally, the classmate PCs can be easily provisioned with a new standard image to setup a new unit or to clean up a used unit. Down the wire updates for software patches and other necessary remote updates also add to this tools repertoire. Lastly, the tool can backup and restore user settings and data. This is important in making sure the classmate PCs stay updated and secure in a school environment.
Lastly, there are a bunch of smaller helper tools – a couple worth mentioning. First is ArtRage. This is a very cool realistic drawing/art tool. It provides a touch optimized canvas to draw with realistic art tools. Paint brushes, crayons, chalk, markers, pencils, erasers, pain tubes to mix paint, stencils and tracing. All these tools interact together like they do in real life…it is a very cool program and one that both my 10 year old and 3 year old daughter’s cant get enough of. Other programs included are a webcam application, a note taking tool called Evernote, an eReader, an add on for Internet Explorer to make touch interaction easier, and a cool Quick Launcher tool that allows one button access to all the students most used programs.
All these tools together help make the kids experience with the classmate PC an enjoyable and educational one. It also helps the teachers use this in a 1-to-1 setting in the classroom – providing the students with the learning tools they need to learn more effectively and stay excited about school and learning!
Would love to see some discussion on these tool and other tools that can help in supporting One-to-One learning!
Thanks for reading…Jeff