Low Cost Laptop: ASUS Eee PC

While the One Laptop Per Child gets most of the ink, there is an alternative out there. The ASUS Eee PC is available for about $400. Here is a mention on Gizmodo, and a listing at Directron, (currently out of stock with delivery projected for November 30th.) A longer review with photos is here. And there is already an Eee blog.

I can imagine some terrific learning projects with, say, a group of five of these for $2000, or even $1500 ($299 apiece) if you can manage without a built-in web cam and slightly less memory.

Here is a google groups thread with additional information regarding the concept of individual machines for each student. An excerpt:

Having run a 1:1 laptop program, I also know that the arrangement is also not without its downsides. The distraction factor alone of having such a rich, engaging device at hand can be overwhelming for a child. (Of course, it can for an adult as well, a lesson learned from many laptop-enabled meetings. Those are topics for another day, however.) In my opinion, the more significant downside to 1:1 programs is the unsuitability of current devices to the task. That’s the second lesson I’ve drawn from my experience running laptop programs. Currently available laptops, designed for the corporate or consumer markets, are ill-suited for use by children. They are too fragile, too bulky, and too expensive, with too little battery life. There are exceptions, of course, but most attempts to address these problems have succeeded only in fixing one at the expense of exacerbating the others. A subnotebook computer might be light, but it becomes more expensive & more fragile. It may be ruggedized, but then it becomes bulkier & more expensive. Or it may be cheap, but then it’s bulky and still breakable. Anyone who has supported school laptop programs knows how often one is replacing keys on keyboards that have “mysteriously” popped off or sending in for repair laptops that have suffered breakage due careless drops or compression in overstuffed backpacks, or replacing batteries that have been discharged one too many times, or just fixing the myriad of niggling errors that modern complex operating systems (read: Windows) pop up daily. The churn of equipment and drain on staff time is wasteful, expensive, and distracts from the learning process. And given these realities, I do understand why most teachers have not yet embraced the promise of “anytime, anywhere” laptop learning.

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