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Dropping Laptops

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Should one-to-one laptop programs be given the axe? A number of schools are dropping their laptop programs because they have not resulted in measurable academic improvements and have at times been abused by students, according to a New York Times story.


What do you think? What can be done to make laptop programs more effective? Do their potential benefits outweigh their drawbacks?

12 Comments

my school has a tablet program in place for grades 3 to 12. it has been very successful. i think one must be patient and not espect miracles overnight. professional development, in particular having an integration specialist in the building really makes a difference.

The 1:1 laptop program in my district is also very successful. There were bumps and challenges at the beginning that we have worked through. Success depends on having a vision, administrative leadership, teacher leadership, technology support, instructional support, and on-going PD for teachers. We have 3 years of university research that show gains in writing and problem solving.

My district embarked on a laptop program last year where we equipped every English and ELL classroom with everywhere from 6 laptops (English) to 16 laptops (ELL). The students and staff like the idea but the promise of enriching the instructional program has fallen far short. I am a proponent of this effort, have trained staff on use strategies, worked with classes and individual students but it is a never ending battle. Our wireless access is pitiful. Students spend anywhere from 1 to 8 minutes simply logging on and opening Word. Students and staff members are growing very frustrated with something that should be very easy to do. Our District IT staff seems to think everything is fine when in reality many teachers are now opting to not use the equipment because of the problems. It simply takes too much time and effort to even start having the students do what they could do much easier in shared use labs. The story goes on with shared drives not mapping, printers not printing, permissions on shared folders not working correctly. It can only get better though.

We have a mostly useless mobile lab "cart" with 30 laptops. In a 45 minute period it takes 10 minutes to set up and 10 minutes to break down. The battery charge will not last a full day. Additionally, the school has two floors with no elevator.
On the other hand, teachers who want them have an almost unlimited supply (i.e. classroom set) of older donated Pentium III's - celerons which do fairly well.

It's unfortunate that this article, which reported about 5 programs, ignored the other 1100+ programs that have been successfuly in public schools and many others in independent and parochial schools. Any large-scale innovation project will fail if a true committment to planning, implementation, professional development, resources and support is not in place and does not continue.

The article states the typical problems when technology is given away without the proper planning and implementation. Teacher training is vital for success, and all the parts involved must understand their role and responsibilities. Computers are tools, and for them to be used properly, the user must have the proper training as well as the willingness to use the tool in the right way. Students and parents should be explained the positive and negative aspects of the program and a signed contract could be the starting point. Follow up evaluations and audits during the implementation should be included in the program design to ensure an adequate use of the resources. Basically follow the four steps: planning, implementation, evaluation, and modifications to improve the chances for success. Personally I saw the positive use of technology when things are done this way.

We are phasing out our wireless laptop labs. They take too long to set up and take down. Also, there is no way to get the Windows updates or Norton antivirus on them when the laptops are closed. When the students open the laptops, the updates try to install, taking even longer to boot up.

Any type of technology program is heavily dependent on not only the planning and implementation strategies, but the vision of what you want to accomplish. Many times schools expect the "miracle" to just happen once the computers are put in place. Instead, teachers not only have to be shown how to use the technology but given the ideas of what creative things they can do. It is ok to do the basics, word processing, spreadsheets, powerpoints...but what really gets results is the innovative idea that stirs the students' imaginations. All to often we read about a complete lack of application of the powerful programs such as iLife. We can't keep doing the same old things we did 20 years ago. We have to use these tools to empower the kids and release their imaginations.

If a school or a system can afford laptops for all students, I say go for it. Like anything new,
one-on-one laptops need a breaking in period during which teachers will become accustomed to using them to facilitate learning and students will get used to using them to learn. Unless a school or system has data for at least 3 to 5 years showing no significant achievement gains, it is too soon to reject laptops as a failure. As far as abuse, that is up to the administration of each school or system to put in place strict rules and for the teachers to consistently enforce them. I don't think throwing the baby out with the bathwater is ever a good idea. This holds true in the case of laptops.

We currently have 2:1 latops for use by students in grades 5-8. Names are on the computers so that students use the same computer each time. We should be 1:1 by the end of the calendar year. These can be borrowed by lower grade students and their are desktops in every classroom. Speed was an initial issue, but working with our computer teacher and our parents, we replaced our school hub and upgraded equipment. Now the propblems are small.

We currently have several laptop carts at our small high school, as well as one large computer lab. As an English teacher, I have found that having students work on blogs, revise papers using peer editing and collaboration tools online has been invaluable and so worth the headaches. Yes, it usually takes 5-8 minutes for the laptops to boot up, for students to log in, and get to Internet Explorer. Yes, the battery life is short, and often the laptops are drained or have to be plugged to the outlet for the students to use them. Yet, the growth I have seen in the number of students who write essays has been out of this world. I am able to give immediate feedback whatever essay they are working on--usually within 15 minutes because they send portions of the essay to me or a peer for review while they continue to work on other essays or parts of essays. The problem is trying to beat the other teachers to the laptop sign-up book so that I can actually use them each week. I would love to find a grant to purchase laptops for my own class, at least a class set of 25. What a wonderful idea!

good i dont know really sorry

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