Monday, March 03, 2008

The Eee PC 9" and the Hopes of Linux in Teacherland

Well I haven't got a lot of time to expound on this story, but I was so excited to see that the rumors have proven true that I had to talk about it at least a little. At long last, we have photographic proof of a new, soon to be released Eee PC by Asus with a dazzling large 9" screen. Super Sweet.

I've been tracking the development of the Eee for well over a year now, from back in the days when the original 7" screen model was no more of a reality than the 9" one is now. It may have taken a long time for the first mini machine to make its debut (and unfortunately it failed to do so at the $200 price point that had been initially rumored) but when it did it certainly made some waves.

It has been my ambition to secure one of these little guys for all of my teachers for quite some time now. I might have pursued the matter a little more if the rumors about the existence of this 9" version hadn't been circulated almost immediately after the 7" versions release. The fact is, as most people have noted, that a 7" screen is simply inadequate for almost any kind of serious computing. This isn't a huge deal since the machine comes with a VGA out on the side and can obviously support full size keyboards and mice through their USB ports. It's more the fact that I sincerely doubt that anyone of my colleague teachers would reliably take such measures. I think it being infinitely more likely that they would just squint away at the tiny 7" screen all day and then all I would hear would be complaints about how it was too small. The Linux factor is something to be addressed as well.

Getting the students to use Linux is unbelieeeeeeeeeeeevably easier than getting the teachers to use it. Don't get me wrong, there are some teachers who have little to no trouble, but most ask the typical questions, "where is the My Computer?".

It's actually easier to convert students on two counts. The first of these is the classic "digital native" argument that they are younger yet more familiar with technology and, while I see this, the bigger factor I notice is simply that they are less set in their ways. It seems to me, for example, that adults are much more likely to try to bend a program to their will than a child is. An adult will try to organize tables in MS Word rather than use Excel simply because they are familiar with Word. A child will be more likely to search for or ask about a more appropriate program and then learn how to use it (in my experience).

The second count may be limited to schools and the school environment, but it deals with the fact that students are expected to be flexible and dynamic and adaptable; so suddenly ridding them of all Windows machines and replacing them with Linux is spun as a wonderful teachable moment instead of an untenable burden. Sadly, this is not the case when repeated with the faculty. In fact, I could probably keep an entire blog on the subject of things we expect out of our students that we neither expect out of nor ask of ourselves (line up to go anywhere? no talking in the halls?).

In any case, I have high hopes for this new 9" Eee as the harbinger of Linux to the faculty. It is just big enough, just small enough, just cheap enough (actually, this is just a guess at this point) and just cool enough to actually persuade some of the teachers to switch over....perhaps. Stay tuned for further adventures of Linux in Teacherland. Cheers! -joe
btw: photos from engadget.

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