Physical Aspects of the Netbook Classroom

Storing Netbooks and Their Components This book was developed with a “one to one” school initiative in mind  (i.e. every student in the class has their own netbook). This does not include the idea that netbooks are shared among classrooms or grade-levels via a portable cart. In a one to one vision, netbooks are stored in a classroom. Therefore, the teacher needs to choose a location that is convenient for his or her students to get to multiple times per day. There also needs to be a power outlet in close proximity so that all the chargers can be plugged in. Sufficient room to store the headphones also needs to be considered.

We have found the most affordable and easy way to store netbooks is in plastic bins or tubs on a set of shelves or a cart. We drilled holes in the back of the bins and marked each hole with the corresponding number to match the netbooks. We then put the charger cords through the holes then plugged all the chargers in to power strips and we were ready to go. Most netbooks come with a storage sleeve which we have the students put the netbooks back into when they put them in the bins and attach them to the chargers.

The best solution, if you can afford it, would be cubbies. In this setup, every cubby could hold a netbook and headphones. There would of course have to be a charger cord in each cubby. The cubbies should also be lockable so that the netbooks are secure.

There is no doubt that 24-30 chargers can make a spaghetti mess of electrical wires behind the bins. Try to wrap the wires to make them and the bricks as neat and compact as possible. Splitting the netbooks into two locations is a good idea since one electrical circuit might not be enough to handle all the chargers.

The headphones we got came with 7 foot cords. This required us to tie a knot into each cord, turning them into three-foot cords instead. The best solution for headphone storage is to either have the students put them in their desks, or have a wall of hooks that they can hang their headphones on. The headphones should be numbered and assigned to a specific student.

Your wireless classroom

You do not want to have network wires running to every netbook, instead you need Wi-Fi in your classroom. This is something that I'm sure your district has policies for, if not plans for doing in the immediate future if it is not already installed. Most schools around the country are being converted to have Wi-Fi networks. If your school does not have Wi-Fi, talk to your district IT department about how to make it possible. It might be as easy as plugging in a $100 Wi-Fi hub into your current network jack in your classroom.


Although we will talk later on about running a near paperless netbook classroom you will always need to have a printer in your classroom. We recommend a black and white network laser printer. Make sure it is a network printer. These typically cost around $300.

Netbooks and USB Flash Drives

Students and flash drives drive me crazy, that is because students loose and wreck these little drives so easily. I have heard everything from, “My dog chewed it,” to, “It went through the washer and dryer and now it doesn't work.” It is my suggestion that you stay away from flash drives.   Instead, have the students save their files to a school server or an external Internet storage location. If your students are using Google Docs, then all of their documents (like reports, presentations and spreadsheets) are already stored online.

A company called provides 50 GB of online storage for free, which is so much more space than a 2 GB losable flash drive. When my students work on big files like movies, they keep all the files on the netbook while they are working on it, and then when they are done they export it as a smaller file and store the final copy on their Adrive account.

Netbook Maintenance

Each month our students follow a maintenance checklist to keep their netbooks in optimal running condition. They check for damage, blow out the ports, and clean the netbook. We have found that having the students maintain their own netbooks really gives them ownership and responsibility for it, which we find true for most pieces of school technology. Furthermore it saves us from having to pay a tech from the IT department to do it.