NECC Idea #2: A Bridge To Student Laptops

Session: The Web Portal As a Bridge to a Student Laptop Program

I would like to present a workshop describing our transition toward a 1:1 student laptop program, but it is a little difficult to encapsulate it into a neat package. One reason is that we tend to operate organically and through consensus, rather than attempting to move the school to a new place through large, targeted initiatives. Over the last three years, our computer use has increased up to the point that a student laptop program now makes sense. Some of this is due to the acquisition of a new building and the realization that our future, far-flung campus will be less well suited to desktop computers than is our present configuration. However, I believe that our web portal has also played an instrumental role in preparing the school for a student laptop program.

Unlike many schools, we have made the leap to the cusp of student laptops with few classroom laptops. Our science laboratories are the only classrooms that have dedicated laptop computers. Other classrooms do not have access to them. Yet, the pressure exists for students to have access to computers more of the time. Why? I believe that our web portal is the reason. Unlike classroom activities, which tend to take place during discrete periods of time, web access happens at all hours. Students check email, write in forums, read course web pages, post photos, create review sheets, submit service hours, compose independent study proposals, download permission forms, listen to audio broadcasts, play games, post announcements, look up sports schedules, and do work online. These activities happen anytime, anywhere. This pattern of use is particularly well suited to ubiquitous computing, so that students do not have to seek a school computer during the day or compete with family members for shared computers in the evening.

Our faculty lists the following three factors as the most important for our adoption of a student laptop program:

* Leveling the “playing field” for student home computer access.
* Making possible powerful classroom activities that are consistent with current pedagogical practices
* Increasing the efficiency of student work for students

I don’t know whether there is a legitimate workshop presentation in all of this, but it is a major movement within the school.

Our Board of Trustees will consider the student laptop proposal in October.

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