Laptop Campus: Bane or Boone?

My curriculum director forwarded me this article entitled Saying no to school laptops from the Wall Street Journal. The article's synopsis is as follows:

A few years ago, such programs, [laptop access] which aim to better engage and train students by giving them round-the-clock computer access, were introduced in schools across the country — often with encouragement from the large computer makers, such as Apple and Dell Inc., that win the contracts. But now, some parents and educators are having second thoughts over higher-than-anticipated costs and the potential for inappropriate use by kids. At the same time, there is a sense that the vaunted benefits of constant computer access remain unproven. The programs are increasingly under attack — and in a few cases are crumbling.

I expressed my thoughts to her in a return e-mail and thought I should share them with you and get your opinion. We need to have a response, because people will be asking us.

Here is my initial reaction.
*****My e-mailed thoughts about this article on failed laptop initiatives.****

This is a great article and right on the money! Schools who implement laptop initiatives without specific curriculum objectives for how they will implement the initiatives are doing a disservice. A study just came out that shows a direct correlation with “aimless” time surfing during class and lower grades.

This would be the same with aimless conversations or aimless anything. The aimless classroom is always the failing classroom whether they have a computer in it or not!

The pattern I've been most impressed with is the Arizona school that I saw present last November. This school has specific uses and curriculum objectives for the use of the computer in each classroom. There is a combination of on and offline work that is done. They still circle chairs and talk about literature in addition to blogging.

Everyone is so busy trying to find the salvation schools that they don't want to do the hard thing — invest their energy and efforts.

I've seen a lot of this type of report.

Whatever we do will have to be very controlled and also employ the type filtration they are using in Arizona where even when the kids are logging on from home, they go through the schools' filtration server.

The fact is that our students will be using laptops in college. If they do not know how to take notes, have self control in the classroom and use them effectively, they will have lower grades. That in itself tells me it is important to do at least in their senior year.

There will be issues, yes. But there are issues with everything. We don't need to push ahead of the teachers but I think it is inevitable.

I believe that there are things we can do to help our writing across the curriculum in significant ways using blogs. I think other subjects could benefit: science with online experiments and there is an online history site that is free and better than any history textbook.

Like the gradebook project, we may decide we want to convene the teachers and have them analyze and look at what Internet curricula that they would like to use in their classrooms and let it be teacher driven again.

They are really the reason that we've had such a good success thus far with the gradebook.

It is good to be aware of these reports.

As with most things, innovations are not the panacea nor are they the hell that the two extremes play them out to be… the answer usually lies somewhere in the middle where the level heads teach.

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What do you think? (Sorry, I'm up late and haven't hyperlinked to the research articles I quoted. They are in deli.cio.us and I'll pull them out and republish.)

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8 thoughts on “Laptop Campus: Bane or Boone?

  1. Vicki,
    Once again you impress with your ability to put into words what many others are thinking. You truly have a gift and I love reading your entries. Both this one and your previous entry are all about PERSPECTIVE.
    Thank you for putting laptop initiatives in perspective as well.

  2. Vicki: I think you are absolutely right, the value in computers and technology does not just come from using them. Instead it comes from using them for smart purposes. Every teacher education student learns the importance of developing educational objectives. If we don’t have objectives when we ask our students to do something with computers we are wasting their time. As with the rest of education, I would argue that when students use computers the objectives should include thinking about important ideas in critical ways.

    Andrew Pass
    http://www.Pass-Ed.com/blogger.html

  3. Vicki: I think you are absolutely right, the value in computers and technology does not just come from using them. Instead it comes from using them for smart purposes. Every teacher education student learns the importance of developing educational objectives. If we don’t have objectives when we ask our students to do something with computers we are wasting their time. As with the rest of education, I would argue that when students use computers the objectives should include thinking about important ideas in critical ways.

    Andrew Pass
    http://www.Pass-Ed.com/blogger.html

  4. Vicki, as our school rolls out our 1:1 programme this week, you have addressed the heart of the matter – aimlessness leads to failure. Thanks again for your insights. I plan to email your blog entry to the powers-that-be in our admin system so that they have more ammunition to the nay-sayers.
    I am so thrilled to be going laptop and have been energized by the students’ enthusiasm and engagement that I have witnessed in the last few days. The laptop is an incredible knowledge management tool and yes, the students do need guidance and direction as they use this powerful mindtool (in the words of David Jonassen).
    I have just introduced the moodle environment to my students in the last few days and have been wowed by their interest in it. They are now giving me ideas about what they want to write about! How cool is that?
    Can’t wait to start blogs and wikis with them too. Thanks again, for your inspiring vision. SP

  5. I read some very interesting research this summer that relates to this discussion:

    Davis, A. (2004). Finding proof of learning in a one-to-one computing classroom. Courtnay, BC: Connections Publishing.

    I couldn’t even begin to tell all the positive observations/outcomes that resulted from the use of laptops in this classroom. Here are a few small excerpts:

    “The teacher expressed on more than one occasion, how much more student work she was seeing and assessing.”

    “The students in this classroom show increasing evidence of being able to self-monitor their way to learning.” (Note: This was a school that was labelled a “failing school” and was destined to closure.)

    “Introducing one-to-one computing expands the interaction of students with ideas, information, and materials. Interaction often results in learning.”

    “The students in this classroom are observed to be working hard.”

    “The students’ paper-based physical evidence [of learning] filled four bankers boxes and weighed almost 60 pounds. The average digital evedence kept by these students was 431.2 MB.” (this was collected in one year).

    I could go on….

    Brain Based Bloggin

  6. When our ancient educators evolved from chipping stone tablets to a thin rod of graphite encased in wood, I wonder if they shared a single pencil at first, afraid of its perilously sharp tip, fearful that some unruly brat might scrawl an offensive word so quickly that it would so grow out of control and ruin the integrity of their education.

    Silly ancestors. They thought the future of learning was carved in stone.

  7. Vicki,
    I agree with what you said about lower testing scores. It is a fact that a lot of children become distracted with the functions of a computer and decide to log onto aim or myspace rather then use the laptop for it’s intended purpose. I do think that using laptops is beneficial to students in the 21st century because many of our jobs today include the use of technology. Thankyou for your insight and your perspective.

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