The Ready, Fire, Aim Approach To Laptops In Schools

from the try-that-again dept

Over the years, we've heard a number of mixed results from various attempts to give students laptops in the classroom. However, one thing seems pretty clear: if you give all the students laptops, but don't have teachers who are trained how to make use of them, the program is likely to fail. That seems to explain the problems one district faced, after many students barely used the laptops at all. It wasn't that the idea of laptops in schools was bad, but that there simply were few teachers who had any idea what they were supposed to be doing with them. This scenario has been repeated in many different schools, and it's still surprising that no one seems to think about the fact that maybe they ought to help teachers understand why laptops are useful before dumping a bunch of them on students.


Reader Comments (rss)

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  1.  
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    Daniel Bjorndahl, Dec 11th, 2006 @ 7:23pm

    Wow...

    ...I guess this means not everyone wants a computer?

     

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  2.  
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    XCetron, Dec 11th, 2006 @ 7:26pm

    I for once wouldnt mind using the laptop to take note in classes per say, I would think most students now a day should enjoy typing on a computer more than writing down notes anyway. If let them IM each other while taking notes and such itd be even easier since most can multitask. But some teachers would probly cut down on the notes and just copy the files over or something.

     

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  3.  
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    Anonymous Coward, Dec 11th, 2006 @ 7:30pm

    I'm still in high school and they have given us laptops. Our school is supposedly the "Technology Center", but nobody really uses the laptops for anything except games. They have so many restrictions that we can't even use Google. It's kinda pointless...

     

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  4.  
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    The Swiss Cheese Monster, Dec 11th, 2006 @ 7:48pm

    If teachers don't know how to use laptops, and how laptops can be used in education - should they be teaching?

     

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  5.  
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    Austin, Dec 11th, 2006 @ 8:02pm

    Teachers

    Wait, are you implying that ability to teach has anything to do with being a teacher? Clearly you've been out of the public school system of a while.

     

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  6.  
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    Austin, Dec 11th, 2006 @ 8:03pm

    Re: Teachers

    Edit: ...for a while.

     

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  7.  
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    Anonymous Coward, Dec 11th, 2006 @ 8:04pm

    Re:

    Even if they don't know how to use a laptop they should still be able to teach. I once had a calculus teacher in HS that could not even spell correctly on the chalk board, much less how to use technology. However, he was so good at explaining math that he did not need technology and everyone loved him, and mostly importantly we were able to learn from him. Two years later I got accepted to Caltech because of the solid math background he gave me.

    Technology is a tool that can fail is not used properly. My old math teacher would have learned to use Mathematica if fancy graphs if it meant more kids would learn, and he even eventually learned to use graphing calculators and implemented them into his curriculum. But just to give him technology without training and then claiming technology failed does not make sense.

     

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  8.  
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    Dml337ira, Dec 11th, 2006 @ 8:11pm

    Have IQ's dropped around here?

    Come on people!
    Reading! Writing! Math!

    Master the BOOK, the Pen and the BRAIN first!
    Then you'll be better prepared for the next set of tools.

    They are portable, random access memory, people powered, good for the environment if recycled paper is used. Accessible from any public library by the thousands.
    Really inexpensive.

    -DML337ira

     

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  9.  
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    Anonymous Coward, Dec 11th, 2006 @ 8:14pm

    THINK OF THE CHILDREN!!

     

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  10.  
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    Frumpy Pants, Dec 11th, 2006 @ 8:22pm

    Math

    It's math*ematics*. Aaargh.

     

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  11.  
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    Rick, Dec 11th, 2006 @ 8:29pm

    Reading, wRiting and aRithmetic will get you a job in a factory or fast food.

    Technology will get you a career.

    It's time we updated our educational priorities to recognize it's not just the 3 Rs anymore. We need to start with the teachers.

     

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  12.  
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    The Swiss Cheese Monster, Dec 11th, 2006 @ 8:36pm

    Good point...

    Good point!

     

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  13.  
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    Anonymous Coward, Dec 11th, 2006 @ 8:41pm

    I knew someone with a laptop given by the school. He and his classmates spent the first 3 months trying to figure out the admin password since some features were locked.

    The school gave them admin rights since they didn't want students installing their own copy of pirate XP to give themselves admin rights.

    After that, he was on AIM all the time, doing anything but studying. Thats one reason I dont want a laptop for my college classes

     

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  14.  
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    kilroy, Dec 11th, 2006 @ 8:50pm

    Re:

    I have to disagree with you on this one. If you teach the people how to learn and think then giving them technology will be beneficial. But to assume that technology will get you a career is ... silly. There are plenty of examples of people who can use technology but cannot think fro themselves. And don't even get me started on how useless technology is if the user does not know right from wrong and have the integrity to live up to a higher moral standard ... (think Enron). You can have all the technology you want and if you don't have the basics you are just creating problems ... and technology fails us from time to time but I could still make change without the cash register telling me what it is supposed to be.

    No I do believe that we should teach students how to think and reason. Stop teaching them that the easier softer way is best as long as you get to the desired end. But what would I know ... I never graduated from anything since elementary school

     

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  15.  
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    Bottom Line, Dec 11th, 2006 @ 9:01pm

    Bottom Line

    Technology is a tool. It is not an end to itself except in fully technology related subjects. Simple fact is that too many districts don't have enough brain power among the administrative staff to realize that laptops by themselves do nothing but encourage time spent away from learning. Too many administrators adopt the "me-too" attitude to any new educational initiative - if it looks cool and sounds cool and if others seem to be getting good results, then we've gotta do it too. Never mind that the places where these things work, the right kind of training and hard work has taken place to guarantee results. The "me-too" laptop initiatives should be stoped and the lazy adminstration and boards of education that wasted all this money should be summarily dismissed.

    On the other side, those places that actually trained their teachers and administrators in the authentic use of technology to advance and accelerate learning ought to be applauded and given all of the extra technology from the places that don't know how to use it.

    A good teacher can teach the binary system to any student by just drawing in the dirt. No laptop needed. Still, think how far that same teacher could go if equipped with advanced technology. A simple lesson in the binary system could quickly and easily be extended to octal and hexidecimal notation - still the basis of current computer technology.

     

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  16.  
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    me, myself, and i, Dec 11th, 2006 @ 9:14pm

    i must say...

    really, they tried this at my school, but only with juniors and seniors (thank god). all of the students (including myself) hate working on them what with the buggy wi-fi, and never ending glitches in hard and soft ware. i am the school's resident student computer guru (the most knowledgeable on campus all-together) and i spend more than 40% of my time while working on laptop projects making the machines work for all my classmates. its a wonder i can get anything done myself, much less them.

     

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  17.  
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    sleepless guy, Dec 11th, 2006 @ 9:47pm

    the bugs

    i have my own lap top and i use it in my collage ( blackboard)
    and it works great other then they need to improve on wi-fi strength and area of coverage. i love having little or all most no paper. it makes life os much eaiser and faster.. but i am worried because if we build out education system around technology to much it could lead in the long run to people not writhing all together because every thing is on computers . So how far do we go with this tool?

     

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  18.  
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    sleepless guy, Dec 11th, 2006 @ 9:49pm

    Re: the bugs

    lol i guess i gotta get some sleep
    spelling
    it makes SO much easier
    build OUR eduction

     

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  19.  
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    Frank Furter, Dec 11th, 2006 @ 11:59pm

    Tech is not the answer

    Students are too easily distracted and the internet is more often than not, while in school, used for all but school topics. We sit in class IMing, playing games, checking myspace.
    The overreliance on computers, wifi and the internet to have an answer to everything has quickly resulted in a high tech learning resulting in low quality learning and teaching. Honestly, how many teachers have even mastered how to give powerpoint presentations where a student can actually learn when in fact they are just being bombarded with information at a pace that very very few people can withstand? Teachers are slowly coming to understand that more information does not mean better, but how the information is sorted can lead to better assimilation of the points made.

     

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  20.  
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    Skeptic, Dec 12th, 2006 @ 2:12am

    Has anyone ever demonstrated benefit?

    I don't claim to know about every place that has tried using computers in schools, but I do claim that I have seen not even one decent study that showed any benefits to the students' progress that can even weakly be tied to the use of the computers. Can anyone here point out one or two well-run studies that show improved student progress?

     

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  21.  
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    The infamous Joe, Dec 12th, 2006 @ 3:56am

    "Distraction" or "Spinning your wheels"

    I don't think a nice, unlocked laptop would be much of a distraction to kids now days-- as opposed to some of us who didn't grow up with the internet-- I mean, it's the generation of multitaskers, isn't it?

    Even if it does distract them-- they'll fail and get to do it again next year until they learn self-control and how to prioritzie.

    I, personally, feel we should stop giving them computers and start giving them fountain pens. :-/

     

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  22.  
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    Anonymous Coward, Dec 12th, 2006 @ 7:12am

    Re: Math

    Mathematica is a very advanced mathematics software tool. He didn't incorrectly spell mathematics...

     

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  23.  
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    Anonymous Coward, Dec 12th, 2006 @ 7:26am

    Re: Has anyone ever demonstrated benefit?

    No, I cannot offer any studies, but I can guarantee you that my COLLEGE learning experience would infinitly worse without the use of personal computers. The laptops weren't essential though they were integrated in many courses. I am at an engineering school, and without the computers they supplied us with, we could not have even approached the level of complexity in designs and analyses that we did. Plus out in the real world, most of my time will be spent on computers running various engineering software (and yes I have worked internships and co-ops so i know this is true)

    Of course (in school) most problems are primarily worked out on paper and a computer is used to solve or check what we've done. I understand that this issue is primarilly about high schools, but the same logic can be applied if the laptops are used to teach networking, programing, or to extend math and science problems beyond what is reasonably possible witout a computer, then it makes sense. Throwing computers at kids only so they can take notes is simply foolish.

     

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  24.  
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    JohnnyZTS, Dec 12th, 2006 @ 8:01am

    Re:

    Heck, why take notes if you can record the whole class to review later. A laptop to take notes is over kill. Where did all these schools come up with the extra money to provide laptops anyway? Soon we can provide clones so students can be doing other things, most aren't learning anyway.

     

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  25.  
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    John A Horne, Dec 12th, 2006 @ 8:11am

    Re: Has anyone ever demonstrated benefit?

    No valid study exists. It gives students without laptops who are failing a reason to blame there failure on anything other than there lack of motivation. Some things remain the same to aquire a education. Dedicated teachers, the proper setting, decent textbooks and learning the three R's. Most everything else is mear fluff.

     

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  26.  
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    Rob, Dec 12th, 2006 @ 8:18am

    Frankly, giving computers to public schools is like giving a Tylenol to a dead body to cure his headache. Public education exists for only one reason: to create mindlessly patriotic consumers. There is nothing we can do to change that. You want your kids to grow up with any ability to think and reason, home-school them or send them to private school.

     

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  27.  
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    JohnnyZTS, Dec 12th, 2006 @ 8:19am

    Re: R R R

    What a load of crap! it might be true if anyone bothered to teach and learn the three R,s in the first place. When that happens students will be prepaired for the technology. Don,t put the cart before the horse.

     

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  28.  
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    Anonymous Coward, Dec 12th, 2006 @ 1:01pm

    Re: "Distraction" or "Spinning your wheels"

    ...Except that students are failing less and less often now, at least in the areas I'm familiar with. Not beccause they produce better work or demonstrate adequate abilities, mind you, but because their parents will have a fit and blame it on the school when they do. It's a sickening feeling to have to hand out a diploma to a student who is barely literate.

    A large part of the problem seems to be that students no longer have any reason to learn anything. It used to be that good grades got them positive reinforcement - in school and at home (because even in high school, most kids aren't real worried about the workplace yet) - and bad grades got negative results from teachers AND PARENTS. But many parents nowadays, if they even pay attention to their kids, want to be friends instead of parents (you know, be the "cool" mom that you always wished you had but never considered what you would turn out like if you did have her), and when that doesn't work, they'll blame anything but their child to avoid looking like they're not parenting.

    Wow, that was a long sentence.

    Anyway, back on topic: Until students have a reason to buckle down and actually do work on a laptop, they'll use it for other things. And unfortunately, although teachers are the ones who know best if their classes will properly use the technology, they aren't the ones who sign the purchase orders.

     

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  29.  
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    Anonymous Coward, Dec 12th, 2006 @ 1:08pm

    Re:

    Wow... when did you go to school? I agree with your last point that school teaches all students to come up with the same responses to every question and does not encourage those who think for themselves.
    But even back when I was in high school, the curriculum and teaching styles gave me the distinct impression that Americans are bad people with an inferior culture and that I should be sorry to everyone for having been born here. "Mindlessly patriotic", indeed.

    Or perhaps that depends entirely on where you went to school?

     

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  30.  
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    PD, Dec 12th, 2006 @ 4:04pm

    My school too

    My school gives out laptops as well, but doesn't know how to handle them. It's nauseating to deal with the problems in the computers.

     

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  31.  
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    PD, Dec 12th, 2006 @ 4:13pm

    My school too

    My school gives out laptops as well, but doesn't know how to handle them. It's nauseating to deal with the problems in the computers.

     

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  32.  
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    |333173|3|_||3, Dec 12th, 2006 @ 9:57pm

    non-school use

    Any school admin could tell you how much time students spend not working oin computers, just ask Magoo. Why would your average student work when theres Email, games, proxy servers (for access to anything you like), games, IM, and games, or less detrimental but hardly good, the reasisation that there is plenty of time to finish that assignment due today because I'm carrying a laptop with me and my teacher won't notice that I have TeXnic centre open instead of word if I play withthe settings a bit.

    Good luck locking them down, since the computers would have to be set to only boot from the HDD, and have some specialised program to allow access to the network, just to stop someone booting up under Linux, installing WINE, and enjoying themselves.

     

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  33.  
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    Anonymous Coward, Dec 26th, 2006 @ 2:55am

    Privacy Concerns

    'Free' laptops in schools provides the government an ideal testbed for new monitoring technology. Certainly, people don't believe that students are receiving something without strings attached.

    Vote NO on that next education bond referendum!

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]


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