By Megan Townes, Teacher Ambassador
A few weeks ago, I happened to spend a rare day working from the office rather than home, a school or café. I’m so glad I went into the office that day as I was handed a funky green and white laptop that I think could be a game changer for education. It’s called an Infinity:One and it’s made by One Education, a not-for-profit Australian company with a mission to ensure technology reaches the hands of students who could otherwise not afford it.
My unboxing of the Infinity:One brought delight to many colleagues in the office as I discovered more and more features that included a stylus, touch screen, 2-in-1 tablet (screen detaches from keyboard), backwards and forwards facing cameras, and Windows 10 operating system. I couldn’t believe that a device that retails for $318 (plus GST) had so many features. So let’s look at how the unboxing and my first experience with the Infinity:One eventuated.
As I picked up the Infinity, I noticed the stylus attached to the side of the screen which is always a bonus in my eyes. I’ve been spoiled by stylus-based devices over the past couple of years and it’s now an essential item on my list when looking for a new laptop. So it was a good start before I’d even opened the laptop.
Upon opening it, I turned it on to let it load for the first time, and started investigating the rest of the hardware. I noticed a USB port, always a good thing for people who want to plug in a mouse, or other peripherals like microscopes (more about that soon), external drives, and my personal favourite, a Makey Makey. On the left hand side of the screen there’s also Micro-HDMI, Micro-USB 3.0 and MicroSD slots, and a headphone jack slot. As the Windows screen loaded, I also noticed the forward and backwards facing cameras. I also noticed a small piece of plastic – I had no idea what that was.
So far it was ticking all the boxes for what I believe are the best features of a student laptop: stylus, touch screen, dual cameras, 2-in-1 tablet, and the ability to install apps and desktop software.
It was time to investigate the operating capability of this device.
Figure 1: Device elements that enhance learning – Infinity:One appeals to them all
After the usual Windows 10 setup I set to installing my favourite software and apps. Within an hour I had downloaded and installed a range of desktop software including Office 2016, Adobe Photoshop CC, Adobe Acrobat Pro DC, Minecraft Education Edition, and Spotify, plus my favourite apps from the Windows Store including Book Creator, Movie Moments, Kodu, Kindle, Flipboard and Fresh Paint. I’d connected my 365 account, and a range of Microsoft accounts to the device. I was ready to go!
By the way, while installing the software and apps, I figured out what the piece of plastic was. It’s a macro lens. The first thing I did once all the software was installed was to attach the macro lens to the backwards-facing camera and start taking microscopic photos of items all around the office, from fabrics to rocks to chalkboards. It’s not a perfect microscopic camera but it would be a great tool to have in the classroom for incidental up-close investigations.
I then started using it as my main device for the day. I was checking emails in Outlook, updating websites in Edge, using OneNote extensively (including inking with the stylus), creating and editing Office documents, and flicking between them all often.
It operated smoothly and there was no lag as I worked. I even opened up Photoshop at one stage to edit a flyer. I ended up closing any other software that was open, simply to improve performance but that’s to be expected when running such high performance software on a low-spec machine. It still worked perfectly fine though. After the initial charge, I was able to work for the rest of the day without charging the laptop again. It worked as effectively as any laptop I’ve ever used for classroom operations.
After just one day, I was very excited about the opportunities that this device presents for so many students and teachers. It’s a very affordable device for schools and for parents. Whether it’s a device that parents purchase as part of a BYOD scheme or whether it’s schools buying them as a set of devices for classroom use, the low price means that all students can have an effective device for learning in their hands regularly.
No more waiting for the computer lab to be free so they can use desktop software. No more compromising on file storage and access when OneDrive and OneDrive can be synced to the device and used offline. No more frustration when creating content on apps and not being able to save the creations to the device’s file structure. It’s a no compromise device where apps and desktop software can be installed, and the hardware includes a stylus and touch functionality along with the keyboard. I’m as excited about the Infinity:One as I was when I first worked on a Surface Pro 3.
I posted a few pictures of my Infinity:One experience on Twitter and a former colleague contacted me to say that her school had trialled the Infinity:One in their environmental education centre with prep students. They had a positive experience with the devices with the youngest of students using them to photograph plants and flowers from the gardens, and they also used OneNote to sketch drawings of animals. One of the big benefits for the youngest of students is the 70cm drop-resistance – the Infinity:One is a tough little machine.
I’ve also used it as a presentation tool in the past week. I use an ActionTec Screenbeam to present wirelessly from my Surface Pro 4, and the Infinity:One uses the same WiDi technology to connect to the Screenbeam. I loved being wirelessly connected to a projector in my classroom and I still love that experience when I present to teachers. The Infinity:One performed seamlessly as I presented for close to two hours using Edge, OneNote and Office Mix in PowerPoint.
Other than my tendency to misplace the macro lens frequently (my own fault really), I can’t find a fault with the Infinity:One as a student device. Yes, some of the keys are quite small but this device is designed for little fingers, not adult fingers.
I’m so excited to see how far the Infinity:One can reach into rural and remote schools, as well as low SES schools, and put a fully functioning laptop in front of every child for a low cost.