Wednesday, November 19, 2008

Christmas comes a little early this year

The date for delivery of the CFF grant equipment is fast approaching. According to an email from the company contracted to do the installing for us, the installation dates are scheduled for December 16th and 17th. In mid-November we received the first part of our shipment of equipment from CDW-G. We received one teacher laptop and one student laptop so that we could see exactly what we’d be getting. We’ve also received some of the mounting material as well as much of the wireless equipment.

The laptops are Lenovo R500 ThinkPads, and the primary differences between the student and teacher models are that the teacher models include a built in webcam and microphone and have some administrative software on them that the students won’t need to access. Also, the teachers’ memory was upgraded from the standard one gigabyte of RAM memory to two by the district so thanks go out to John, Sue and the administration for okaying that. These computers are a tad heavier than what many would think of for a laptop today, but that’s because they were built to withstand a bit more punishment than one you might buy for yourself from a retailer.

There is an amazing selection of software that is available that is already installed on the computers. Each computer has Microsoft Office 2007(Word, Excel, PowerPoint, Access, Publisher, Movie Maker, and more), Adobe Design CS3 (Photoshop, Fireworks, Illustrator, InDesign, Dreamweaver, Flash, Acrobat, and more), Inspiration, ITunes , Google Earth and a number of free, Open Source programs. In addition, there is a collection of tools from Microsoft called Learning Essentials which is designed specifically for using Office products effectively in the classroom. Some of these products were new to me, so I would imagine some will be new to others as well.

The district opted not to get MS Vista as the operating system. These computers still run XP, so the learning curve is very slight. Microsoft Office 2007 may be a shock to those who haven’t ever used it because it is a complete redesign of the product from the 2003 version used here in the district. Personally, I like it better. It has several new features that make it much more efficient and workable, but it definitely takes some getting used to, and some people may be a bit put off by the differences.

Meanwhile, I’ve been flitting to and from various points on the map for training on how to best help teachers actually utilize all this stuff, and I’ve picked up a number of great ideas for all curriculum areas. I’ve also assembled a huge list of websites that can help teachers in the classroom. You can access my bookmarks by going to