Those Sensational Laptops

There’s been some discussion on David Warlick’s blog (and others) about a recently syndicated Wall Street Journal article titled “Saying No to School Laptops.”

The funny thing is, I feel like I’ve read this article ten times before. In many of the laptop programs I researched over the years, local newspapers published similar hand-wringing exposés, where an upset parent vents, but the article ends with a happy parent (for balance). A student misuses a laptop, but another gets benefit. The title and “hook” of the story, of course, is about a tragic program meltdown. Promises not kept. Lives in turmoil. Failing our kids again. Our kids failing us again. Teachers hiding under desks. Chaos, pure and simple, but for others it’s great.

One thing I loved when studying literature, and teaching journalism, was the concept of “story arc.” We’re used to certain structures being fulfilled when we read stories, be they fiction or journalism. To fulfill the arc, sometimes you just have to emphasize some things and leave others out. It’s clear that this story “had to leave out” nearly all the rationale and intent of the laptop programs. Probably too boring– you know, enabling students for the future. Acknowledging the omnipresence of computers in most segments of our society. Like the home, for example. Computers at home mean you don’t need them at school, right?

Despite this, I will admit that there themes in this article that are often on my mind. The first is sustainability. The “big laptop programs” always appear to have their funding under attack. If I were involved with the programs, it would be difficult to maintain enthusiasm with a budget question mark over everything that is achieved. Warnings in the article about poor estimates of associated program costs are likely true.

The second theme that concerns me is faculty development, and the note that some schools are thinking of “going slower” and maybe just doing faculty laptop programs first. I actually endorse this– one to two years of a faculty laptop program, before a student laptop program, can be an exceptional investment. Faculty preparation and buy-in is essential to 1:1 programs, and I don’t feel it can be done in a few workshops.

Basically, I believe the changes that occur with successful 1:1 programs are fundamental. In fact, the “access” they enable can be transformative in terms of communication, content and process opportunities. Many programs and proponents would disagree with a “go slow” approach, but in most ways I believe it’s well worth the time for a successful long-term program.

Now, back to work…

Comments are closed.

3 visitors online now
1 guests, 2 bots, 0 members
Max visitors today: 6 at 05:16 am UTC
This month: 8 at 09-08-2017 06:14 pm UTC
This year: 38 at 05-27-2017 07:36 am UTC
All time: 84 at 05-06-2013 07:12 am UTC