Urban School Laptop Mini-Conference

I am currently attending the Urban School Laptop Mini-Conference. Attendance is most impressive. There are about 80 people in the room, and Howard (Urban’s tech director) has taken the innovative step of requiring each school to bring one lead administrator. I have to believe that part of this new wave of enthusiasm for 1:1 laptop programs is the accelerating popularity of Web 2.0 technologies.

The content is not new to me, having heard Howard and other laptop evangelists speak before. However, I am pleased to hear directly from Saul Rockman, who has conducted a series of laptop program evaluations, and a member of the Lausanne School in Tennessee, which hosts the leading annual laptop conference in the United States.

Both Saul and the teacher panel provided me with some nuggets for my most present concern: how to convince non-teachers (e.g., board members) of the quality of classroom transformation that takes place with a laptop program. A teacher’s personal theory of effective instruction is (usually) complex and deeply held, and each teacher will selectively adopt aspects of a laptop program to suit his/her objectives. This reality does not sit well with individuals who are being asked to approve or reject a program that will cost families thousands of dollars.

Our strategy is to answer the trustee’s questions as well as we can. Let us describe the ways in which classroom instruction will likely change as a result of laptop implementation, stressing the long-term timetable for this change. My Dean of Faculty has added a good idea to this plan, which is to first describe what powerful activities we already do with technology before addressing how a laptop program will amplify and expand these.

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