Wednesday, September 06, 2006

School Laptop Programs in the News

An article that appeared recently from a writer for the Wall Street Journal referred to laptop programs in schools and the experiences of one parent in regards to what her child was actually doing with the laptop.  As an instructional specialist and a technology advocate, I have few questions/concerns on my mind after reading this:

  1. The article doesn't tell us anything about the school district - was adequate training provided to the teachers or are the teachers using laptops to do the same old teaching that they did last year? (and the year before, and the year before...)
  2. This parent who was probably educated in the latter part of the 20th century was most likely taught by teachers trained during the mid-20th century so, based on her experiences and role models, what type of education/teaching style is she expecting in the early 21st century?
  3. The article refers to the "laptop program" as a catalyst to engage and train students - but I thought that research has clearly shown that the teacher has the greatest affect on student achievement.  So, if the teacher hasn't changed his/her teaching practices, no amount of hardware in the classroom and no new "program" is going to have any positive effect.
  4. What's the curriculum that's supporting these laptops "programs?"  Has that changed at all in the last 5-10 years?
  5. Larry Cuban makes a good point - what's the true cost of 1:1 laptop initiatives and have school districts really prepared themselves for that or are we back to "the promise of technology" in our classrooms?  That's what we were hearing about in 1995 and we seem to still believe that technology alone is going to change everything.
I'm sure we're going to continue to hear much about 1:1 laptop initiatives and we're going to get all the negatives until some school district somewhere does it well and shows results.  I know there are successful programs out there and I hope we'll begin to hear more about their results.  And I'll bet the results will be attributed to something other than the fact that a child had a laptop because we know there's a lot more to it than just that.

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