Choosing the Netbook for all our schools took some time. We needed to find something suitable for students ranging from Years 5 - 13 that would meet our list of requirements.
We sent out a request to vendors asking for samples for us to trial and were surprised by the responses. Three in particular realised quickly that this project was not a waste of time (some seem to think private schools and new state schools are the space to devote their sales efforts) and that if successful there will be thousands of students eventually requiring an affordable device.
We started with the XO - the One Laptop per Child device. Partly because I saw Nicholas Negroponte demonstrate the prototype at NECC in San Diego in 2008, and partly because we like the open source philosophy behind it. So we bought one during the Christmas 2008 Give One, Get One campaign.
We tested half a dozen other netbooks supplied by vendors and had a team of Year 7 students who were the lab for this process. They used each one over a period of time in class and kept a spreadsheet (in the best possible way- on a large sheet of paper) where they scored each device against a list of desirable attributes. These ranged from speed of the internet chip to responsiveness of the keyboard to general appeal/desirability.
In the end there were always new products 'just around the corner' and we were told by our TTP partners that we had to make the decision. The vendors presented their supply and support packages, along with the costings and this was taken into account along with the students' recommendations.
We went with the Asus EeePC as the best out of the devices and support packages we were able to afford. The pricing key for us was that we did not want to buy an operating system - the Netbook was to come empty so we could put a linux based image on it. More about that in the next post....