The new laptop PC users: Kindergarten kids

A pilot program led by Lester B. Pearson School Board (LBPSB) in Quebec will provide HP 2133 Mini-Note notebook PCs to four-year-old students this fall.

The Kindergarten for Four-Year-Olds program will distribute 100 laptops among five Montreal-area schools and the International Language Centre in Pointe-Claire.

According Bob Mills, director general of LBPSB, the program will enhance learning opportunities by incorporating technology as part of a total education package. Research has show that the use of technology by three- and four-year-olds develops gain in intelligence, non-verbal skills, structural knowledge such as long-term memory and manual dexterity, he said.

“One of the reasons we went with the one-on-one approach was that the child will have ownership of that unit for the time that they are with us,” said Mills. Students won’t be allowed to take the units home.

“Studies have shown that one-to-one notebook programs really have an impact in terms of student motivation, engagement with the material that they’re learning, it helps develop a community environment and collaboration and it also improves personal responsibility because they’re responsible for these pieces of technology and also their attitudes towards school,” said Derek Merilees, HP Canada’s national marketing manager for education.

Portable models with Wi-Fi capabilities were selected so teachers could use the units with children in seated positions or in learning circles on the floor, said Mills. “The small laptops will be able to be moved from the desk to the carpet.”

Exactly how the notebooks will be used is left to the discretion of the teachers. “It will depend on how the teacher in the classroom decides to integrate the technology into the learning process of these children. It’s not going to be considered a separate entity,” said Mills.

LBPSB selected the HP 2133 model after performing field tests this summer, said Mills. Parents who used the notebooks at home with their four-year-old children found the battery life met their needs for thirty or forty minute sessions. Children could manipulate the on/off switch and the keyboard was large enough for their fingers.

“HP2133 mini-note was designed with educational input. At less than 3 pounds and with the small form factor, it really lends itself nicely to students at this young age,” said Merilees.

Child-friendly features include HP’s 3D DriveGuard, a three-axis digital accelerometer chip that shuts down the hard drive when it detects sudden movements or shock. The scratch-resistant display and magnesium hinge bracket provide additional durability.

With pricing starting at $500, the notebook is also targeted to business users. “Business and mobile professionals value the same mobility, usability and cost concerns of the education market. The HP Mini provides mobile professionals a sleek, lightweight device that provides access to information and the ability to collaborate with others as well as to communicate via email, instant messaging or even blogging,” states the April 2008 release.

Darren Leroux, product manager of commercial notebooks for HP Canada, explained how a notebook designed for the K-12 education market can also meet the needs of a business user. “Special focus was placed on a mini-note PC that could deliver ease-of-use, true mobility, and reliability; all at an affordable price point that would not break the shrinking budgets of many education institutions. Also, because of the features previously mentioned, the HP 2133 has attracted a lot of attention from highly mobile professionals from other market sectors who are looking for a second PC as their travel companion,” he said.

Registration is open to local area residents until mid-September, but spaces are limited. LBPSB schools offering the program include: Orchard Elementary, Thorndale Elementary, Mount Pleasant Elementary, Greendale Elementary and Bishop Whelan Elementary.

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