Lenovo ThinkCentre Touch Screen Edu-Smack Down – Google Earth
Earlier this month I was sent a demo unit of a Lenovo ThinkCentre m90z touch screen computer with Windows 7, in hopes that I would put it through it’s paces in an educational setting. It’s a pretty interesting machine, given it’s large size (23 inches, ye-haa!), and the fact that you can touch it to interact with the software and programs on the computer.
Thus far my feelings have been mixed. The touch has been very responsive, and for an all-in-one machine, it would certainly make for a great classroom computer. Yes, it’s a bit pricey compared to traditional student workstations, but physically deploying them means little more than taking them out of the box, putting them on the desk, and then making sure they can connect to the school’s network with the built in wireless for imaging, or loading school specific software. However, most of Windows 7 simply isn’t built around the touch experience; menus are very small, buttons and controls within programs are super slim and trim, designed to look sleek, and work better with a mouse. You’ll see what I mean about halfway through this video when my daughter tries to zoom in and manipulate the globe in Google Earth using the navigation controls.
As for Google Earth itself, currently it doesn’t support a multi-touch desktop (unless you want to install a couple of different plugins and add ons). Sure, Windows supports multi-touch, and you can do simple navigating and zooming in, but more complicated gestures like pinch to zoom, panning, and zooming out still rely on keyboard and mouse input. In all it makes it a bit more frustrating considering Google has implemented GREAT multitouch on the mobile versions of Google Earth and Maps on both the Android and iOS platforms. Other smaller issues crop up like unexpectedly hitting all of the tiny little icons, images, and other links in Google Earth while trying to move around the map, which means if you wanted to use this successfully as a touch device in your classroom you’d probably want to turn off many of the layers to start with until students feel comfortable using the touch screen with Google Earth. And those are simple issues to deal with really, making Google Earth a good contender for the Lenovo Edu-Smack Down.
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