A New Push For Student Laptops

UHS is considering adopting a 1:1 student laptop program within the next few years. No fewer than four of our peer high schools in the area are also seriously considering such initiatives. Up until now, only Urban School and Sonoma Academy had fully implemented high school student laptop programs.

This new momentum has everything to do with Web 2.0. Whether or not you buy into the hype, it is true that the prevalence of low-cost, widely used scripting (PERL, PHP, ASP) and database (mySQL) applications have given rise to a new generation of data-driven web services such as Moodle, Google Maps, and podcasting. At the same time, students have learned to navigate new Internet technologies through e-commerce, social networking sites, and music file swapping.

More than ever, the wireless-equipped laptop has become the indispensable tool to access these resources at any time. Anyone who wants to fully engage in these new means of communication needs a fully-featured device that is accessible at any time and can move with him/her from place to place. As schools select which of the new Internet technologies will become mainstays for education, the pressure will increase for schools with the necessary resources to provide greater ubiquity of computer access to students.

One comment

  1. John Vrolyk says:

    While the concept of "laptops for all" undoubtedly facilitates some educational opportunities, I’m not sure it is the most effective way of using either school or student resources. In my own experience, the vast majority of the laptop *use* in class fell into the category of "doing other things". At least for myself, a laptop is not the ideal note-taking device – that position still being held by the notebook for the simple fact that diagrams, additions, arrows, and the like are trivial with a pen and paper as opposed to the much more complex formatting necessary in computerized form. Obviously, some people disagree with me (Zach probably would) and use notebook computers to great success in note-taking. However, the vast majority of UHS appears to do just fine using paper and pencil to take notes.

    What I find most interesting in this debate is the number of students who have laptops but choose not to bring them to school, or not to use them in class. While they use them in the library, around school, etc. the same functionality can, and is, accomplished by the desktops the school has for this very purpose. So it seems that the only advantage to the 1:1 ratio is in class work. Perhaps I’d have to actually try it to understand the advantages, but it seems that the advantages of everyone having laptops are far outweighed by the tremendous initial cost and ongoing technical support burdens. My 2 cents.