Michigan May Kill Student Laptop Program

from the can-it-be-made-better? dept

In the past we’ve written about various “laptops in schools” programs — mainly in Maine and Michigan where they’ve been seen as success stories in improving education and (most importantly) getting kids excited to learn. While simply adding laptops to schools isn’t the answer — a well designed program designed to really make use of computers in schools to help kids learn and get them interested in education is a good thing. However, a budget crunch in Michigan has the state thinking about killing the program, meaning that some students would have their laptops yanked away, and others may not be able to get laptops at all. You have to wonder, though, if there’s a compromise solution. Certainly, some kids already have computers (desktop or laptop) at home — so perhaps there’s a better way to set up the program that focuses more on those kids whose families really can’t afford a laptop. Yes, this opens the program up to abuse — but with the country falling so far behind in education, it seems like a program that seems to get kids excited about learning deserves a bit of support.

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Comments on “Michigan May Kill Student Laptop Program”

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Anonymous Coward says:

No Subject Given

Makes you wonder how kids ever managed to learn anything without computers. How did we manage to get to the moon ? Oh yeah, the ‘special’ kids must have gotten computers in the ‘special’ schools.

While having a laptop is a nice idea it is in no way a needed tool for getting an education.

The money they don’t spend on the laptop would be better utilized getting and keeping better teachers. Remember when teachers used to get kids excited about learning ? ? ? ?

Jamie says:

Re: Kill the laptops!

I’m a student at a Michigan University and they keep taking away our money and raising our tuition. I do not know why 6th graders need laptops. Maybe 9th or even 10th graders, but not 6th graders. What are these kids going to do with these laptops…hmmm…use the Internet and chat. Yeah, these kids grades are higher, that’s because there is more access to the right information. In 6th – 8th grade you are supposed to be learning and practicing the basics. Bringing in laptops are going to kill many important skills I learned at that age.

I by no means am against tech., I’m a CS major, but I do not believe 6th graders need laptops.

Mike (profile) says:

Re: Re: No Subject Given

Yeah, the point isn’t that people can’t learn without computers — but that these are clearly a useful tool (when done right) in improving our education. This is especially true given the importance of technology in our economy going forward.

We don’t teach kids how to add on slide rules any more, because they’re not relevant. If our education system doesn’t keep up, neither will our economy. Just because it wasn’t done in the past, doesn’t mean it shouldn’t be done now.

dorpus says:

Re: Re: Re: No Subject Given

Slide rules.. hehe… a couple of weeks ago when I mentioned the Japanese girl who fell out of the bus on her way home from Disneyland, she was with a cram school that taught kids how to use the abacus (the tool with the wooden beads). Some people in Japan still believe that kids should learn the abacus for “spiritual” reasons.

Given advances in nano-machinery, might Japanese engineers invent tiny abacuses with billions of beads whizzing around?

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: Re: Re: No Subject Given

We don’t need kids who can use powerpoint, excel, or the electronic calculator application. Grade-schoolers aren’t responsible for producing information that could use a computer’s computing or visualization power. What those kids need is the conceptual grasp of, and visceral comfort with, (and sometimes a good memory of), the material they’re being taught.
Here and there are exceptions. AP Calculus students benefit from using TI calculators for their graphing capability, but still need to solve Calculus problems on paper, on demand. English students producing longer essays benefit from word-processing applications like MS Word, but still to quickly produce a reasonably polished written essay on demand.
Memorization of facts and relationships (equivalent to a certain kind of understanding) is absolutely vital in classes like history or anatomy. Giving grade-schoolers laptops will encourage them to use laptops as memory joggers, reducing a memorization-intensive class to an exercise in computer access.
Given the rate at which computer applications change, why start a child learning Office applications 10 years before that child will be required to use a computer on the job (assuming Office applications are around by then). Computer applications are easy to learn. They take a student, particularly a well-educated one, from 0 to 60 in a few months. In no way is it required that you educate children in software use, unless it helps the children to learn other materials, which it doesn’t. Heavy computer use at school hurts students job prospects after college graduation, because those students didn’t get the right education.

Mike (profile) says:

Re: Re: Re:2 No Subject Given

Er… as we said, just handing a computer to kids isn’t the answer. However, it CAN be used as a tool to improve their education, if done right.

So your examples of just tossing out Office applications is wrong — because, yes, if that’s all they’re doing, THAT is a problem. It’s not the *laptops* that are the problem, but how they’re being used.

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: Re: Re:3 No Subject Given

The point of my earlier post was just that the learning taking place is inadequate. The skills needed involve organizing your thoughts and carrying out tasks without the benefit of a computer. A computer removes some of the point of basic education.
If laptop-reliant students learn how to produce well-organized and cogent essays, how to produce correct solutions to difficult math problems, and how to reiterate academic facts from various disciplines, all by means that don’t require a computer, then a laptop-reliant educational program might be a good thing if, as you wrote, it is done right.

dorpus says:

We're behind? Since when?

How come our math and science programs are packed full of foreigners? Because we offer a better education than they can get in their own countries. Why do American kids stay away from math and science? Because despite all the lies about “shortages” of scientists and engineers, the job market for them is largely abysmal here.

Some countries claim to produce more engineers than us, but then most of the foreign “engineers” receive what would be considered a community college education by our standards. Their best engineers and scientists continue to come here — foreign universities remain complacent, backward places where little original research takes place. They’re taught to just memorize things or imitate American technology.

Anon says:

I honestly don’t think laptops should be provided to students. It only teaches and encourages them to be completely dependent on technology. Whatever happened to the basic skills: reading, writing, etc.

While laptops may be useful for access to the internet, not all the information posted on it is accurate. More and more students are shunning books (from which information is absorbed) and turning to websites. At my school, there was a major issue of plagiarism.

Laptops may be useful, but are definitely not a necessity!

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