Monday, October 24, 2005


We have new toys. A colleague noticed that his building was dumping their eMate computers. WE contacted the district Tech Department and they said we could have them. They arrived last Monday. As luck would have it, 1/2 of my communications class was at a reading coach inservice for most of the period on Tuesday, so the rest of us dug in.

Overall, I am very impressed with this tool. They are rugged. They charge quickly and run for hours on a charge. They come with a wonderful tutorial and with a practice program to get the users quickly up to speed. They have a built in word processor, drawing program and spreadsheet. The children are very excited to use them. I hope I can leverage that into some good writing.

Another wonderful aspect is that one of my students is already making himself the eMate Expert. This will be an opportunity for him to shine, as other students come to rely on him for assistance. I was wishing for just such an opportunity for him.

Of course, I receive this windfall and I immediately want more, including...
  • one eMate per student instead of just ten eMates total
  • an IR printer
  • an IR dongle-- we can download using a serial cable, but my students would absolutely love beaming their writing through the air to another computer.
That brings me to what I foresee as problems.
  1. The eMates can beam files to other eMates. I can see this being a very distracting activity as kids send messages back and forth. I need to figure out how to use this natural urge into a positive learning experience rather than something I try to control. (Any ideas, anyone?)
  2. I need to figure out how to assign the eMates to pairs of kids. I want to be able to be teaching mini-lessons to small groups while other groups are working on the eMates. The eMates are so easy to use, that this should work. However, I need to figure out which groups I have them in. Their spelling groups? Their as of yet uncreated reading groups? Behavior groups? I'll keep thinking about it.
  3. I need to figure out how to keep the eMates charged with only three over-used electrical outlets in the entire classroom. And of course, while they are charging, I'd prefer they not get walked on or otherwise broken.
  4. And speaking of broken, I just found out about a known defect in these nifty devices. The hinge spring bends and pokes a hole in the display cable, leading to all sorts of problems such as dead lines on the screen or the stylus no longer working. A number of kind people on the NewtonTalk discussion list sent me directions on how to head this problem off. It looks really complicated and time consuming. I feel intimidated now!
If these work, they could help us get to blogging. The old, broken down lab that is almost always available during my communications class, doesn't have enough computers. Having children work on their blog pieces from the classroom on eMates might ease the crunch. Or it might become too confusing. We'll have to see.