Sunday, March 4, 2012

Student Reflections

Student Netbook Reflections: December 2011
After one year of owning Netbooks the Manaiakalani students were invited to publish a reflection on their personal blogs about their first year of having their own digital device.
90 children from Years 5-8 chose to respond publicly.

Kingston's reflection began:

Without A Netbook I Am Nothing!Do you know how much my Netbook has changed my learning?
Well last year (2010) I had to write in a book with a pencil and there was no point, because nobody could see it. Now that I have a Netbook I am able to write faster and my writing is much neater, but most importantly, I have an audience that can see my writing on my blog....

There were some repetitive themes coming through these reflections:

  1. A huge positive was around the mechanics of writing.  They seem to dislike the physical act of writing and most comment on how much easier it is to type - even when they are poor typists.  They also mention frequently how much they appreciate the ability to edit errors (back space, delete etc) without their work looking messy.
  2. Concepts around self-directed learning.  Consistent examples were; looking things up on the internet, finding out on YouTube, using the class Google Site or using specific sites like Maths Whizz.
  3. How having their own netbook enabled them to post on their blog more frequently.  This was often expressed in sentences like, “Now it is worth writing because people read my work.  When I wrote in a book, no-one read it”.
  4. Games were mentioned quite a bit, but definitely fourth on the list


  1. Issues with the speed of the internet frustrated almost every child who wrote a reflection.
  2. Quite a number mentioned their dissatisfaction with the paint app on the Netbook.  This was a cohort used to using Kid Pix, Hyperstudio and Photoshop on iMacs, so Tux Paint did not rate at all well!
  3. A few children mentioned issues around repairs, breakages and battery life.
These reflections were all posted publicly, so I have collated the ones I could locate on this Google Doc.  At the bottom of this document is a list of links to each individual student's post about this.

The unanimous consensus was that they would not like to go back to a life of pencil and paper!


  1. Thanks for these valuable reflections Dorothy. I think what I got out of your post is how important an audience is for students. Makes me wonder why so much e-learning is hidden behind digital gates.

    Also makes me wonder how much valuable learning time is squandered in New Zealand schools on teaching handwriting at the expense of text-processing strategies.


  2. These reflections are valuable pointers for us, as we have begun our learning journey with two 1:1 classrooms this year.

    I agree with Stephanie on audience being key, especially in our ongoing goal to grow student achievement in writing.

    Kieren, Parkvale School

  3. @Stephanie I thought it was important to share when a similar theme was emerging from kids across 4 year levels and about 6 classes. It does make you think about the amount of student writing which is being hidden in high tech walled gardens and only exposed to parents.
    I am working on a post about that handwriting bugbear....!!
    @Kieran Good luck with your 1:1 journey . We have found that our pedagogy of learn, create and share (publicly) has been a great motivator for our students. The 1:1 of itself will not make the difference, from our experience anyway.

  4. Very interesting post Dorothy - thanks.

    And..great to see some media recognition of your work today too.

  5. I'm curious to hear what issues people had with Tux Paint. Keeping in mind it is meant as a simple educational and entertaining paint program for young children. I see that you mention it in comparison not just with a similar program, KidPix, but also with Photoshop, a professional art/photo application! :)

    Thanks in advance!

  6. Looking at the Google Doc, I see comments like "The Tux Paint system almost makes our work look like a 6 year old did it" and "[Tux Paint] is making my drawing look babyish". So it sounds like more advanced users were trying to use it for more 'professional' things. I strongly suggest using something like GIMP, which is more along the lines of Photoshop, and, like Tux Paint, is also open source software, available for multiple platforms. :)

    Hope that helps!

    1. Hi Bill,

      To be fair, GIMP is installed but as Dorothy said, it can be troublesome on the 10" screens. Also, it's powerful - in the Open Source world, I normally mean this to mean that the interface isn't well thought out or that it requires more documentation. Which is where your application is a huge win i.e. put it in front of anyone and they'll have something half decent looking within a few minutes.

      Oh - I threw together a really quick bash script to create a gui way of importing pictures into tux paint after a request.

  7. @Mike - thanks - always interesting to see how the media interpret a fleeting visit. Think the info goes into a Lotto ball machine and whatever comes out is the winner on the day!
    @Bill - really appreciate your comments and the time you have obviously spent reading what the kids have said and sharing your thoughts here. As often happens when kids are quoted verbatim, the messages they are giving are not necessarily well informed. We have deliberately chosen Tux Paint to use on our Ubuntu OS as the most functional app available for our netbooks. These kids have grown up using 'professional' graphics tools on the iMacs in their classes since 5 years of age and don't understand the technical differences. The major barrier for the adults making the decisions is the 10" screen on a netbook really limits the user experience when drawing or manipulating graphics. Even using Gimp as you suggested is not that satisfying on a 10" screen.
    We are just thrilled that our kids have got the message that they should be creating their own content (especially graphics) and eg. are trying to use the tool they have in their hand to create a graphic to illustrate their blog posts rather than using someone else's work. I think they would also improve their user experience if they could afford a USB mouse instead of painfully using the track pad to draw!
    Happy to continue the conversation, and if you are looking for a group of Beta testers - you have found them :)

    1. Hi! It is Lindsay Curtis, once again, from the University of South Alabama Education Dept. I really enjoyed reading this post. I haven't had any experience on a Netbook, but I am aware of the impact that technology in general can have on education. Just by taking this technology class, EDM 310- I see how interesting and fun schoolwork and homework can be! As a future educator, I will strive to make learning fun and exciting for my students. Thank you for your post!

      -Lindsay Curtis

  8. Hi, it's Lindsey Edwards from EDM 310 at the University of South Alabama. I really enjoyed this post and the feedback your students have given on their Netbooks. This just reinforces the fact that technology is a vital tool to be used to engage and enhance the learning process in the classroom. It makes homework easier and more interesting for the students. It is great that you have integrated this in to your classroom and it has been so successful. I will be summarizing my comments as well as your post on my  class blog  this week. Thanks so much for your post!

  9. Hello,

    My name is James Dunnam , I am a Secondary Education Student in Dr. Strange’s EDM 310 class at the University of South Alabama. This post is interesting and well organized. I like how you provided links to your students posts. From the reflections of your students they seem to be very engaged in the writing process. They also like having an audience to read their posts. I am now in my third month of taking EDM 310 which is a educational media class and I have learned how important technology is in today's classroom. Congratulations on the success of your students while using their Netbooks. As a future educator I hope that I will have the skills necessary to effectively use technology in the classroom. Thank for the great post. I will be summarizing my visits to your blog with a post on my blog on April 1, 2012.

  10. Hello,
    My name is Magan Crum, I am a student in Edm 310 at the University of South Alabama, in Mobile, Al. I do agree with you by having the children use netbooks in the classroom. Technology is being used everyday around us. Most of the children know how to use cellphones, computers, and other devices better then parents. I believe using technology is a great way to learn. When I was in school I hated writing. Now I type everything, this makes it easier to see my errors and fix them with no mess. As a future educator, I want to find ways to use technology in my classroom. I will be summarizing your post on my blog. Thank you for the post.

  11. Great post Dorothy... we too used Netbooks (EeePCs) with Google Apps for 3 years in G7-8. The shift in the learning process has been tremendous. Though, the netbooks were a bit limiting due to the screen size and issues with Windows XP. Sure, Ubuntu will solve some of these issues.

    We just made the shift to Macbooks and MacBookPros with funding from a US Federal grant. This has been like putting the program into 5th gear! The productivity has increased tremendously and the excitement for learning has increased even more.

    Beyond the machine are the systems in place for learning. With kids fluent in Google Apps (docs, blogger, etc.), you can provide quite a powerful stage for learning. Recently a G12 student who is not fluent in Google Docs sent out a survey on email as a word doc. The G7 students just sighed and replied that they did not have the time (patience) to fill out a word doc and send it back by email. They then sent the G12 student a link to Google forms,

    I love the idea of a student reflection on the process. I will definitely do that as we wrap up the year in May.

    Gil Anspacher, Technology Coordinator & MYP Technology Teacher
    Virgin Islands Montessori School & International Academy

    1. Kia ora Gil, You sure aren't comparing Apples with, well apples when it is netbook v MacBook! I can see why your kids are loving it. We have steered clear of the grant scene as we need it to be sustainable and had to find a way for our parents to afford to pay for digital devices themselves. So netbooks are still a sacrifice for many of our families, but they are managing to commit $3.50/week or $15/month.
      Love your example of the kids and G Apps. Adults are forgetting that our kids now know no other world than cloud based apps - especially the collaborative Docs/ spreadsheets etc. And being send an attachment is becoming an historic artifact "What do I do with this?"

      I would be very keen to compare notes when your students reflect on their year. Will you be at ISTE this year?

  12. Hello once again, my name is Derkesha Dale and I would like to say that this post was very informative. I have not had any experience with the use of a Netbook, but I see that it has its ups and downs. I think that the students being able to see their mistakes and letting others see them is a good idea. When I was in grade school, I can remember writing papers and no one, but the teacher would read them. I think it is very important as a future educator to incorporate technology in my classroom. I t is expanding worldwide and I want to keep up with it. Thanks for the informative post again.

  13. My name is Erika Conn and I am a student in EDM 310 at the University of South Alabama. I enjoyed reading your post on your students reflecting on their use of their Netbooks. I, myself, own a Netbook and enjoy using it in class. They are very handy because of their small size. I think it is great that you are incorporating this type of technology into your classroom. I hope one day the school I work in will be able to supply my students with some form of technology to use. I think it's a great idea to allow the students to reflect on their thoughts of using Netbooks. Thanks for your post!