School laptop lamenters
May 4th, 2007

A long article appeared this morning in the New York Times titled ‘Seeing No Progress, Some Schools Drop Laptops.’ The complaints are all there: kids play games on them, there are teachers who have trouble adjusting, some how the laptops don’t equip students to take standard tests and they need repairs (no comparison to the cost of textbooks). A couple of things struck me. One, I wondered just how students learn in today’s world without digital technologies: maybe the schools let them use wired computers. Two, the students all have little computers in their pockets now that are mainly phones but quickly morphing into doing what laptops can now, changing school virtual world isolation forever.

Toward the bottom of the second page of the article is this comment on of for what sort of future we are preparing our children:

Mark Warschauer, an education professor at the University of California at Irvine and author of ‘Laptops and Literacy: Learning in the Wireless Classroom’ (Teachers College Press, 2006), also found no evidence that laptops increased state test scores in a study of 10 schools in California and Maine from 2003 to 2005. Two of the schools, including Rea Elementary, have since eliminated the laptops.

But Mr. Warschauer, who supports laptop programs, said schools like Liverpool might be giving up too soon because it takes time to train teachers to use the new technology and integrate it into their classes. For instance, he pointed to students at a middle school in Yarmouth, Me., who used their laptops to create a Spanish book for poor children in Guatemala and debate Supreme Court cases found online.

‘Where laptops and Internet use make a difference are in innovation, creativity, autonomy and independent research,’ he said. ‘If the goal is to get kids up to basic standard levels, then maybe laptops are not the tool. But if the goal is to create the George Lucas and Steve Jobs of the future, then laptops are extremely useful.’

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