Amanda is visiting me from England, on the final leg of a four month-long backpacking tour around South America and Australia. She is sharing that trip with me (and all her friends) on the internet, which has allowed her to keep in touch with everyone back home, share photos of her travels, and let us know exactly where she is and that she’s OK. It allows us to send her our news too.
How? In her backpack, she is carrying a little Asus EeePC 901. This is half the size of a normal laptop – a bit bigger than a paperback – with the whole thing weighing in at 1.1 kilos on my kitchen scales.
Whenever Amanda can pick up a wireless connection, she goes into Facebook and uploads her photos and leaves messages for family and friends. Thanks to her EeePC, Amanda is not only keeping an indelible memory of her trip, she has kept in touch with her friends, every day of the way.
“Facebook is addictive,” she says, and shows me that a dozen of her friends logged in yesterday.
“Amazing,” I think. “That’s great!” This is a step into the Twenty-first Century, connecting people wherever they may be, and keeping friends for life.
The concept of very small PCs is great from an educational point of view too. Communication and writing about thoughts and experiences are educationally valuable experiences for teenagers and can lead to great things. Sharing knowledge, keeping a diary, using the internet in a creative way – technology is helping to make reading and writing a daily activity.
The EeePC 901 is affordable (under $600), very portable, and really cute. The screen looks great and, being so small, there is plenty of room for a textbook and an exercise book alongside it on a desk. The keyboard is a little bit cramped, though, and there is no CD or DVD drive but this doesn’t matter much nowadays. We were able to use a USB stick to load the Kinetic Education programs on to it.
In most households, with the TV just a step away, there has been little impetus for young people to read at all. Being spoon-fed everything detracted from the idea of participation. Thanks to wireless technology and computers such as the EeePC, however, children can connect and engage again, and we can put aside notions of the PC being anti-social device.
A note about the author: Mary Sanghvi has made a career as an innovative educator, applying tried and tested educational and pedagogical principles to computer-based learning, and pairing creative methodologies with today’s technology to make learning more interesting and accessible.