From what I have posted in the past it is obvious that I work very much rooted in a Windows environment. Indeed, part of the reason for doing this blog is because of my success at the Microsoft Innovative Teacher awards in 2010.
More about forthcoming Barcelona trip soon ;)
Take your tablet
Since that time, the rise of the tablet has been unstoppable and this is primarily through Apple’s behemoth… Its infiltration into the education market has been remarkable and it has opened up a range of educational opportunities like never before. Its ease of use attracts nervous users who are familiar with their iPhones and iPods hoping that the experience will be similar – and in that, it is very much so. However, in these times not everyone has the budget for Apple’s tablet.
It has been well reported that Microsoft has been late coming to the game – with the release of Windows RT alongside Windows 8 being an addition to an already bulging market of iOS and Android offerings. And this is true – but I do think that lots of people are having their heads turned by shiny silver stuff without maybe taking a good look at what is already there.
However, I remember seeing all this before Apple came to the market….
So…. Shiny, silver ACER W510 landed into my lap for a trial run a couple of weeks and I have to say that I am smitten with it. I’m not going to go into all the tech specs – they can be found here.
However, I am going to reflect on how it has been used in class and at home and my time with it.
First up – it is running windows 8.1 Pro with absolutely no issues! First job I did was install Kodu followed by MovieMaker for the work going on in class.
Both work with ease – real ease which is brilliant to see on the Atom processor. I was sceptical – but it worked straight away. The added benefit of being able to use a mouse in the USB meant that Kodu was a success as well as plugging in an XBOX controller to use the programme.
The separation from keyboard to tablet is extremely smooth and a real benefit in the classroom. The children were able to take the tablet out and film a project, bring it back to the keyboard and use MovieMaker to edit their film using the keyboard and mouse controls. Now, I think iMovie is an excellent piece of software for the iPad and gives children an easy way into movie editing. But, I find it too simplistic – so much is done for you that the actual skill of creativity is taken over sometimes. MovieMaker isn’t the complete answer, either, but I find it a great piece of software for the children to extend their skills.
They edited their piece of film on the same device instead of having to upload the footage from a camera – the problem of finding digital cameras / flip cams that don’t work properly, etc. taken out of the equation.
The benefit of the W510 running W8.1 ‘out of the box’ is massive. Although it doesn’t have a CD drive, many of the programmes I would be using in class are downloadable and can be accessed on the device.
Let’s get physical
No bones about it – I love the feeling of the physical keyboard in my hands. In fact, I am doing this entry on the W510 – something that I tried on an iPad and got frustrated with. I love the fact that I can see the full screen while working – have a full Office experience when I need it as well as being able to multi-task the screens. Yes, I know that there are a multitude of keyboards for iPads and have used them very successfully – but there is something natural about the W510’s keyboard + trackpad / tablet + touchscreen combination. It just works! It works really well… One niggle is that the model I am using has the US keyboard style. When setting it up for UK use – the ‘@’ and ” keys reverse – as well as trying to work out how to get ‘\’ onto the screen to log onto the C2k network! However – just a niggle.
I like Windows 8. There, I said it! I like the natural flow of the Live Tiles with the practicality of the PC experience. I feel that it comes into its own with the W510 solution. I have been using it as a consuming tablet around the house as well as a productive laptop for school and work. That combination is, I feel, successful.
So… does it have to be a tablet or a laptop? Can it be both? As in The Lego Movie (go with me here) it can be both at the same time – just like Good Cop / Bad Cop. I definitely think that it has a place for both. The 270+ degree keyboard acts as a stand making the W510 an excellent personal multimedia device. I have had it playing my music playlists around the house whilst in stand mode – a discrete piece of kit. And also used it in stand mode for cycling training videos from YouTube. It sat securely on a shelf and was more than ready for the job.
As well as that, I found myself lying in bed reading from the Kindle App (synced wonderfully to my account) as well as having the Bing News App available to switch to when I wanted. As well as this, I had my headphones plugged in and was able to listen to my music via streaming service.
Since getting my hands on the W510, my laptop has remained in my bag! The once attractive 15 inch now seems unweilding, clumpy and ‘too much’ like a laptop. The W510 has ticked every box that I needed and has replaced the laptop in all ways. It is ultra portable and was a great device to take out and work on presentations that I have been doing. Indeed, there were a lot of curious public glances as I switched between tablet and keyboard mode – just for the fun of it :) all the files I needed were in my Dropbox and SkyDrive account and I was able to access them with ease to continue work already begun.
And I haven’t mentioned the battery life! 18 hours!!! 9 hours each in the keyboard dock and the tablet. It holds it too! I have given it a good hammering over the past two weeks and have had to charge it only three times! Very impressive!
Of course, the big issue that W8 RT has had since its launch has been the sparse App store. It is an issue – but the gap is shrinking – albeit very slowly. How could it be any other way- given the head start. I don’t know if there are a lot of Apps on the store that I need as the W510 will run desktop mode and Office applications / Programmes that I need. The Micro HDMI to VGA cable meant that I was able to link it up to my IWB to demonstrate MovieMaker… as well as demonstrating how to use it to the class before they were let loose. Indeed, I intend to use it to give my presentation to a forthcoming conference – a combination of tablet usage (swiping to move to slides) and Laptop (tapping to open links) should showcase its versatility (though the Air capabilities of iPad are remarkable).
I have yet to fully explore the App store for Apps that I will use – but am sure that I will be able to report in the future.
So, where do we go as a school?
I want to give my pupils the widest experience as possible and have a vision of integrating technology throughout the school in a way that they are prepared for all eventualities. So, I hope / intend to put iPads into a number of classes where the teachers have expressed an interest and tablet PCs into the other classes. The pupils will then progress through the school developing their skills in all areas and leaving us with, hopefully, a wealth of knowledge to carry them on in their new environments.
You may have noticed that I said ‘tablet PCs’ above…
The ACER is 18 months old and time (and tech) marches on. ASUS have recently added a similar model to their range of tablet PCs – the T100 and it has got me really excited. It is very similar to the W510 in form factor but is also extremely quick (according to reviews) and I wonder if I will leave the W510 behind knowing that it introduced me to the W8 tablet universe but was edged out by a younger model?
I would love ACER to upgrade the processor to a more recent one – to keep the W510 ahead of the game and the gaining competition.
As a general class tablet / PC I couldn’t recommend it enough. The 32GB and 64GB is expandable with Micro SD up to 64GB. There is Skydrive / Dropbox storage available – working on the new transformed C2k network (with which it is compatible). It has the USB slot (expandable with a hub). It runs Windows 8.1 comfortably. Lightweight and portable. Full Office capabilities. Runs Windows 8 Pro programmes – though I wouldn’t try to exert it (but would you in a primary classroom?. The expanding App store being added to daily. Battery life is a real bonus – as well as being able to ‘hot desk’ keyboard docks around the classroom – no one is limited to one place.