Bad Start, Bad End

There’s been a bit of talk about a new NY Times article about 1:1 laptop programs that are being discontinued. The focus of the story is the Liverpool Central School District, which is stopping their program after seven years because they don’t see students improving their academics with the laptops.

My last sentence is awkwardly phrased, because that this how the article seems to focus on the issue. The students failed to use the laptops well. The faculty appear to be secondary, and mostly victims of the laptops. Not responsible, really.

I was also interested in the article because I’ve used research on the start of the Liverpool program for years when thinking and talking about laptop programs. There’s a detailed, 171 page report about the first three years of the program (through 2003) available for download. It’s a picture perfect report of a program that was consistently losing ground and support in its first three years, especially with faculty who were progressively backing away from the program. Given this type of start, it was pretty clear that the program wasn’t going to make it without radical changes in approach. However, I’m not sure that seven years of this program creates a great example of how laptop programs in general will lead to no academic progress.

In the end, there’s a lot to learn from the Liverpool program. First and foremost, it’s strange to think that students on their own with laptops will lead to advanced academic achievement, as if they will create a culture of academic use by default. Other stress factors such as lack of teacher preparation and involvement are also critical risk factors, as noted on other posts here.

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