When asked about Netbooks as opposed to Laptops for equipping a classroom, I replied:
1. At $650 each, a full-fledged laptop with CD ROM is going to be only marginally more expensive than a NetBook with external peripherals
2. A Netbook will probably be close to $400.00, less expensive by itself, but when adding CD-ROMS, and maybe memory, etc, the price will rise.
3. Both Rosetta Stone (English language software) and several other programs, lilke Mavis Beacon, (a typing tutor program) require the external CD Drive. It is also a pain to install other software without one.
4. If you are working collaboratively, it will be difficult for two people to see what is on a netbook screen at the same time.
5. The netbooks are smaller and “cuter”, and perhaps easier to conceal and therefore more attractive to “borrow”. They are tiny!
6. NB keyboards tend to be quite small…. considerably smaller than a regular laptop. They also often have weird keystroke combinations to substitute for the lack of extra keys.
7. Many are limited to 1Meg of RAM, and therefore end up running a pretty limited version of Windows, either XP or Win 7 “home”, and will be slower.
8. A conventional laptop is more likely to be closer to the kind of machine that most students will have contact with, in the workplace, at home, or at school. The NetBooks, are great supplementary machines; good for eMailing and web surfing with a wireless connection in Starbucks….less satisfactory for things like word- processing a paper.
Small and lightweight. Easy to carry around in bulk, if you’re going to the library, for example and need to schlep all six machines.
Now, what *would* be very cool….would be a dedicated computer literacy project using NetBooks for, say, at-risk teenagers or young adults, where they actually get to keep the Netbook if they complete the program, and where the emphasis wouldn’t be on Microsoft Office, or R.S., but simply on becoming a “connected person”… This would allow for less conventional software, and even really inexpensive computers, in the $299 range.
Wireless router and printer shouldn’t be an issue. Routers are about $75.00. Printers: the usual caveats apply, laser is better than ink jet.. and Cannon and HP are recommended printer brands. (you can get parts for them as opposed to say, Brother.)
In short: Absent really convincing evidence to the contrary, I would recommend, “boring and conventional” for the classroom and keep the netbook idea in reserve for a fully-funded foundation project.