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.


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

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