Distilling Our Argument for Student Laptops

Our Board has asked me to distill our argument for student laptops. Here are some notes (in rough form) to support that effort.

Student laptop programs have the greatest direct impact on students. The keeper of the laptop is the one most transformed by its use. Individualization of usage patterns is a constant in high school faculty and student laptop programs. For most people, the greatest impact of laptop computers occurs outside of the classroom. UHS teachers use their laptops the most in their offices and at home. Only 15% of UHS students bring a laptop computer to school for use during or between classes.

A laptop is an essential tool to manage personal information in a technological world. Our faculty laptop program shows an extremely high degree of user satistfaction.

Students find it inefficient and frustrating to manage files among multiple computers. Files are frequently forgotten, corrupted, and lost in transit via disk, email, and USB storage device.

Less than half of our students share computers with other users at home. They sometimes report difficulty getting enough computer access in the evening. Other students have unfettered access to their own computers. This isn’t fair. (I am going to distribute a new survey to seniors this Friday to gain further resolution on this question. Would it be disingenuous to correlate this data against student GPA? I could get the data to do it!).

Email remains the #1 killer app but has limited potential when users check their new mail only once per day. The ability to instantly reach teachers and students throughout the school day and during classes amplifies the efficiency of email.

Web-based social networking tools are rapidly becoming the new technology literacy. Blogs, forums, wikis, and eLearning are making conventional technologies obsolete. Leading companies such as Apple, Microsoft, and AT&T are furiously releasing new, web-based products to catch up with this trend. Blogs and wikis have completely supplanted web page editors as the dominant online publishing tools. Blogs have broken the word processor monopoly on writing environments. Flickr and Google Earth are becoming leading tools in the domains of photography and geography.

Given this new reality, regular accessibility to the Internet is essential in order to be a powerful user of new Web 2.0 tools.

The definition of information literacy has changed. We grew up learning how to locate hard-to-find information on specific topics. Our students are learning how to evaluate and filter great quantities of information on specific topics. Immediate access to information and filtering tools is a great asset in this search.

2 comments

  1. Ben Casnocha says:

    What about numero uno, in my view: it’s the school’s responsibility to provide an education that will be useful in the 21st century. It’s scary how many students right now don’t know how to touch type or do pretty basic things on a computer or online. In their job, in life, they will be using a computer all day every day.

    THis theme is quasi mentioned in different points but i think should stand out – it’s irresponsible to send kids to college or into the workforce without intense computer/internet knowledge.

  2. Jason says:

    Hi Ben,

    I think one could argue that a laptop would not be necessary to fulfill your goals. Many schools I have worked with have had a majority of students who could touch-type, and only one of these schools had a student laptop program.

    Many parents believe their children spend too much time on the computer at home, which is made all the worse if they are required to use laptops all day at school as well. While it may be true that "in their job, in life, they will be using a computer all day every day", I think it is important that students have balance in their lives. I would rather see them outside exercising or interacting with their friends than playing games or chatting on their computers during lunch break.

    Without proper guidance from teachers and administration, laptop programs can quickly become a nightmare, with students spending more time playing games, editing personal blogs, and chatting, than actually using the laptop for educational purposes. And without proper training, the laptops can actually impede student learning, with teachers spending more time trying to figure out how to get the laptop to work instead of teaching 🙂

    Don’t get me wrong, I think laptop learning programs CAN be great, but they take a lot of effort from all parties to be implemented effectively.