The demise of Netbooks – what are the implications?

I read a post from The Guardian yesterday entitled ‘Sayonara Netbooks: Asus (and the rest) won’t make any more in 2013‘. I know that the iPad has had a profound effect on the computing market and we probably all should have seen this coming. Looking at the stats of US sales presented in the article, I can see why manufacturers have decided to cease production and perhaps put their focus into the tablet market. For schools however, this decision has major implications for those who had chosen to run 1:1 programs with Netbooks as a cheaper option compared to running with full priced PCs or Macs.

At my school, we have netbooks in our K -4 classrooms on a 2:1 basis. Obviously, the demise of Netbooks is going to have implications for the program we are running. While I have already been thinking that tablets are a more user friendly option in Junior classrooms, the management of these devices leaves a lot to be desired. We have a class set of iPads in our Senior School, and Natalie, one of our Library Technicians manages them. It’s no easy task. The recent Volume Licensing agreement that now applies here in Australia has made things easier, but you still need to be adding and synchronising apps across multiple devices and updating apps and the operating system whenever new updates arrive. It’s time consuming and requires someone with a dedicated eye on it. Classroom teachers have enough on their plates and really don’t have time for the management of devices like this. There’s no doubt that tablets are designed as personal devices and not as shared ones.

I’m interested in taking a look at the Microsoft Surface, especially considering the fact that it has a USB and SD card ports. A device that enables easy transfer of whatever has been created on it is a lot easier than the current iPad set up that requires you to use cloud services or to email a finished product to another computing device for access. Looking at it’s price point (Windows 8 Pro will cost $US899 for a version with 64 gigabytes of memory, and $US999 for a 128-gigabyte model. Read more: makes it a very pricey option, coming in close to the price of Macbook Air at $1099.

I don’t think we’ll be needing to be making any decisions until later this year, so I’m hoping to see further developments in the Tablet market that might make them more user friendly both with price points and as a shared device, but I’m not pinning too many hopes on that. Maybe I’m wrong in my assessment of tablets as shared devices being problematic. If there are schools out there finding this an easy process, I’d like to hear from you and find out what you’re doing that might make our management of these devices easier.

7 Replies to “The demise of Netbooks – what are the implications?”

  1. How do the students go typing on tablets Jenny? I find it irritating to type on my iPad because it is by definition impossible to touch-type on an touchscreen. Until voice recognition improves it is going to be a *lot* easier to write with a netbook.

    1. I agree. We’ve had kids in our Senior School bring in ipads and use them exclusively. They seem fine with it, but some have decided to go back to Macbooks when they get stymied by what iPads can’t do. Personally, I view an iPad as a companion device – fine for browsing and typing notes at conferences and tweeting, but any serious document/post creation happens on my Macbook.

  2. Hi Jenny, happy new year! I enjoyed your post. We are in a similar position. We have just over 100 netbooks and they are due to be flipped next year. So as you can imagine, we have lots of discussions ahead of us and I couldn’t agree more about the complexities of running iPads. We have a cart in our library and they are rather difficult to manage in a multi user environment.

    The key thing for me is to make sure that the curriculum dictates the type of device we use. We moved to a bring your own laptop model in our middle and upper schools and I have yet to believe that any one device can do it all yet. There seems to be too many concessions when one limits themselves to one device. I find 2 to 1 at minimum as the means for our students to have a toolkit. Unfortunately, many believe that certain tools are Swiss army knives. But even Swiss army knives have there limitations.


  3. Nice post Jenny. iPads are a challenge. After a 1:1 experience I see iPads as supporting the use of other devices such as laptops and desktop PCs. The iPad is a starting point. A “just-in-time” solution to specific learning requirements. You are right, the iPad is a companion device… an excellent thought. I can ride my bike to the shops however I would not use it to travel to Sydney, 80km away.

    Significant projects take longer to construct on an iPad, even for the most capable of students. For example, I set identical tasks for my Year 8 students across three classes this year. The class equipped with the iPads were not able to produce projects with the level of efficiency, sophistication and design values produced by the students using laptops, etc., in the other two classes.

    Best wishes, John.

    PS. No need to update apps and the iOS all the time. Once a term or even once a year. If they function leave them as is.

  4. The MS surface, when shipping with win8pro appears viable alternative to me, and with an active cursor ticks the portability box. More significantly, my view of net books has been that price has come before form as a computing device. The real loser in Netbook proliferation has been computer labs. Almost no re-investment in rooms filled with desktops powerful enough to render video, animate or game. As these fields are actually growth areas of employment and are the highest growing areas of University new courses, I for one dont lament the end of netbooks. Perhaps now kids will either get good laptops or schools will reinvest in computer labs and reform their often aging computer curriculum.

  5. Great post Jenny. This is an issue that will affect many of our schools … or maybe it won’t – as you say, things are moving pretty fast and the surface may fill the void before the void is even felt by anyone. I also agree that the iPad is best to be a personal device and as such, when I look into the future I don’t see schools managing student devices like we have in the past. I think student owned and managed devices (or parent owned and managed) makes more sense. In the ten years ago that would have been an unreasonable thing to suggest – computers were expensive, software was very expensive, and managing software was simply too complicated for many non-tech-savvy parents, many of whom had never even used a computer. Plus there were issues with viruses and malware which we were able to keep a lid on if we took the responsibility (and rights) of management on ourselves and away from the kids. But I think the iPad changes that paradigm. There is no malware to fear, updating software is simple for anyone, installing apps is cheap/free, and releasing that responsibility to students/parents, saves schools a LOT of time and money in tech support, while giving students even more opportunity to make a personal connection with his or her device.

    I also agree with your thoughts about a tablet being a companion device (a “third” device), but the distinction is increasingly blurring. The number of things you can do on an iPad is increasing, rapidly. Many once-flash-based websites are now html 5 and work on iPads, and you can now update, backup and restore the iPad without connecting it to a computer. Still I agree with John, that if you really want to do some heavy computing – an iPad is no match for a laptop. But I’d question how many times in a day kids are doing such heavy-computing. Maybe the solution in the future is for kids to have lightweight, ultraportable tablets of some sort, for most things, and IN ADDITION a few desktop computers in the classroom with huge screens, and fast processors for those times when they are working on significant projects like large movies, long and complex podcasts, etc? For SMALL creative projects, (short movies, simple podcasts, etc. I think these can be achieved faster and with less messing around on an iPad – see my post on this if you are interested:

    For touch typists (like myself) typing on an iPad is indeed horrible. But I don’t find that most kids find it too bad. They seem to adapt pretty quickly to a virtual keyboard… and if not, there are plenty of cases with keyboards built in. And the Surface has one from the get-go.

    (As context – our year 7-8 have iPads, our year 9-10 have netbooks and our year 11 – 12 have a choice of either Mac or PC laptop).

    My apologies for the length of the comment! haha it’s almost a blog post!

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