Teaching with Laptops

The Washington Times (Washington, DC), April 9, 2006 | Go to article overview

Teaching with Laptops


Byline: THE WASHINGTON TIMES

According to Illinois Lt. Gov. Pat Quinn, "Laptops are the textbooks of tomorrow."

Easily accessible, anything related to school could be stored in one convenient location, thereby eliminating the homework hotline, carrying books back and forth and rendering obsolete any excuse for missing assignments. Class notes could be posted online, videos streamed, and a plethora of approved links to more in depth information would be accessible. Supplemental information could be provided on topics that struggling students don't fully grasp, or for gifted students who want to challenge themselves. Education in the 21st century would render assignment notebooks archaic, copying worksheets unnecessary. Important papers could be backed up on flash drives to ensure against possible loss. Substitute teachers could access detailed notes on what is to be covered in class so that critical instructional time is used to its fullest potential.

Unable to fathom writing or researching without a personal computer, there's no telling how many hours I save instantly accessing news from all over the world, experts in a plethora of fields, or being an e-mail away from colleagues. Likeminded, Dr. Mark Edwards, superintendent of Henrico County Public Schools, doesn't mince words: "We don't think technology will ever replace teachers. But teachers who can use the technology will replace those who can't use it because it's here to stay." Teachers, uncomfortable with computers and hesitant to change established routines and practices, need only step out of their comfort zone and learn the PC to gain an appreciation for the many advantages, which outweigh any disadvantages.

Concerns about instant messaging and playing games, computers getting lost or breaking, or ideological repercussions, are justified. United Nations Educational, Cultural, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO) and Microsoft are cooperating to create resources "to support the development of curricula for teachers and training courses on the use of Information Computer Technology in classrooms." These prefab curricula have the potential to cultivate UNESCO educational goals, "culturally neutral universal values to which all people aspire." Those concerned multiculturalism is replacing traditional learning goals of understanding and love for our country, its historical figures and practices may have their work cut out for them.

Unexpected problems surface in schools implementing laptop use without a well thought-out action plan. These include not consulting staff in deciding ways laptops should be implemented; failure to set aside money for program or professional development; classes in which teachers rarely ask students to turn on their laptops; the necessity for students to transport laptops between home and school; investment in tools only being used sporadically; digital resources of unreliable or poor quality; poor bandwidth; or batteries that only last 90 minutes.

According to Vicki Wilson, Henrico County Public Schools' assistant superintendent for curriculum, "New students and parents need a tremendous amount of training to understand the technology and be able to use it. …

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