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…A Day in the Life
Following its launch at BETT, we wanted to get a real insight into how the PC on a Stick would be useful for education. So with that in mind, John Cowell, a Computing and ICT teacher, agreed to trial it for us and push the mini PC to its limits.
Here’s how the PC on a Stick got on with its first day at school…
MY NEW TOY
As a Computing & ICT teacher, trainer and university lecturer, I was excited about having the chance to try out the PC on a Stick. At first glance I couldn’t believe that someone had managed to squeeze a computer into such a tiny package.
The portability and flexibility of it, functioning as a full-fat PC, is phenomenal. I can take it to all the places I teach without the need to carry a laptop – it’s great. I thought that Raspberry Pi was small when I first used that, but the PC on a Stick is something else!
I started to get all excited and became inspired with the tech possibilities.
BEGINNING TO PLAY
In true teacher style I began using it at home first to iron out the kinks. I did the true tech geek thing! I ripped open the shiny new of piece tech, ignored the instructions, plugged it in to the side of my HD TV at home and powered it up. The set up was so easy and in less than 15 minutes I had a fully functioning Windows 8 PC on my TV – result.
“PIMPING MY DEVICE”
Getting it ready for use in my classroom was simple. I began to use the internet to download and install all of the programs that I use as a teacher everyday in my classroom.
This is absolutely amazing because it shows to me that this compact computer is limitless. I was able to access everything in my cloud storage, which as a teacher makes me more reliable and shows that I’m prepared for my lessons.
“This would be outstanding as a classroom display tool, I could see this plugged into projectors and used as the PC with a Bluetooth or wireless keyboard for the classroom.
You could stream to it and us it as a fantastic teaching tool. I’d get loads of apps from the Windows store, set my class twitter feed up on it and use cloud computing for everything! There are so many possibilities.”
COFFEE AND A PAUSE
After pouring a coffee – the life blood of all teachers – I began to consider all of the possible uses for this really inexpensive and flexible tool in my classroom. I soon learnt that it can be configured to your in-class Twitter feed, social media and class YouTube page to enable you to be a more secure and professional teacher. As it is also a fully operating Windows 8 PC, you can also mirror to the tablets in the classroom using one of the many pieces of software available on the market. It also meant that I could prepare my lesson plans as I normally would ready for the day ahead.
TRIAL DAY IN THE CLASSROOM
I plugged it into my monitor, switched it on and that was it – all set up and ready to teach in just over 5 minutes over morning coffee. My tech team (Year 8 students who help out in my class) thought it was excellent.
One of my students told me:
“This would be great sir! I would use it in my bedroom to turn my TV into a smart TV and to mirror my laptop to my TV to stream music and videos.”
I asked another student of mine to load the presentation I’d prepared and then plug in my USB clicker to allow me to move around the classroom rather than being at a desk. A second USB port would be advantageous but it didn’t stop me doing what I needed to. We were also able to use a Bluetooth keyboard which I’d earlier paired with the PC on a Stick. The students loved this as it meant they could wander the classroom and still use the keyboard.
TEACHING WITH THE DEVICE
I came to a section of my class where I was showing a YouTube video on the design and development of keyboards. The video streamed very well at 720p – I was very impressed, as were my class. The addition of the PC to my classroom meant that my teacher laptop was free for me to work on whilst the presentation and video were playing to the class. I was loving the full functionality of the PC on a Stick and the flexibility to work with it.
My first lesson was over for the day and I really wanted to push the PC on a Stick and have a go at using the Scratch (web coding) online software to design a game. This is quite an intensive process and I found it worked really well, as did the game design demo that I used for my Year 8s. They were even able to add their own code to the project!
“I love your new toy sir! I like that we can all collaborate on your screen whilst you work on a spare device.”
Lesson four was my planning time for the day and a few of my colleagues passed by to look at my new teaching tool and get some ideas about how they might be able use it in their class.
The Head of PE has just had a big 70” screen fitted to the sports hall and he wanted to test it out as a feasible video and sound streamer. He also wondered how he could increase the onboard storage. We plugged in a 64GB memory stick and this worked really well.
“I can see a real place for this in a practical classroom, such a PE, where space is a problem. It could be mounted onto the back of the screen out of the way and used with remote control which is really handy.”
Not one to be selfish, I let the Tech Club also have a play with this fantastic new gadget! Their verdict – “we can see a real place for this major technology in the school environment.”
I continued to use it for the remainder of the day, and much like the morning’s activities – my new buddy didn’t let me down! It performed surprisingly well and really broke down the barriers to tech and allowed the focus of my classes to be about the teaching and the learning and not the hardware going wrong.
MY FINAL WORD
The PC on a Stick was a welcome and refreshing addition to my teaching and learning tools. I’ve given it dedicated tasks of running my display and delivering my teachable experiences, hosting the class blog, displaying notices and homework and streaming media. I feel it is a robust and versatile tool. I look forward to pushing it to its max when I teach graphics to Year 7 next term using the GIMP free software.
The PC on a Stick can almost be described as an HDMI dongle, since it can plug directly into a TV or computer monitor with an HDMI port. It lets you turn any monitor into a fully functioning all-in-one PC, with the ability to install your favorite apps.
I am certainly going to continue with it plugged into my classroom screen. I’ll let you know how the journey goes.