Schools ditching laptop programs en masse

Discussion in 'Current Events' started by Jasonbot, May 4, 2007.

  1. macrumors 68020


    Aug 15, 2006
    The Rainbow Nation RSA
    I just saw this on engadget and it seemed relevant to me as I was in a grade 9/10 laptop programme at my school in South Africa. The difference is that ours is still "going strong" and by that I mean it was good in grade 9 but in grade 10 loads of people just dropped out because of distractions and lower marks.

    Our school still promotes laptop classes as a major factor that will influence education of the future and prepare students for the "business world" in which laptops and similar technology are utilised daily.

    Personally I don't feel it influenced or changed my life 360 degrees but I do feel it made me more of a geek for a better use of the word. But it was certainly a different type of education oh, and I was the only guy with a mac in class (R.I.P. iBook G4):D
  2. macrumors 68000


    May 31, 2006
    i didn't have a laptop when i was in high school (which was not that long ago). i can't imagine it increasing student productivity - most students probably just goof off the whole time instead of focusing on their work or the teacher. i don't disagree that having computers in classrooms can be a good thing, but giving students something to do instead of learning (which is probably how some look at the situation) is a bad idea. plus there is whole question of computers disappearing. back in my day (again, not that long ago) we had about six computer labs in the school, each with about fifty desktops. that should suffice for any high school's computer needs.
  3. macrumors 65816

    Feb 14, 2003
    SF Bay area
    When I was in HS I used a slide rule. It only cost a couple of dollars and was made of plastic but it worked OK. I would have loved to have had a MacBook.

    Having said that, I can see where a laptop would be of little use for learning the basics. There is nothing like reading and listening to lectures and taking notes for learning.

    Also, if the student is not motivated enough to study and try to learn the material then a laptop won't help. I saw a program about students in California taking remedial math courses. This girl, didn't study, didn't do homework problems, then when she failed the final exam she just shrugged her shoulders and said "I guess I'm just not good at math." Sheesh.

    The laptop would have been a great benefit for going beyond the basics. In all of the science and math classes it could have been great for stretching time out or slowing it down or for zooming in on images or for measuring things in images. It would have been a lot of fun to have a laptop if we had access to some National or Hobo sensors in order to visualize anything we could measure.
  4. macrumors 6502a

    Dec 18, 2003
    I'm a university student and find my iBook G4 quite useful for notes. Can readily see how it would be much the same in a high school environment.
  5. macrumors 68020


    Jun 13, 2005
    I think technology can provide a powerful motivation for students who lack "traditional" academic motivation -- and I also think that laptop programs may be of more use in non-traditional high schools. At the same time, you're right -- it's those same "non-traditional" students who may make least "use" of the machines (or who may be most likely to destroy the machines, or steal the machines, or what have you).

    Public education is as idealistic as democracy. To have faith that all members of the citizenry can be educated, can overcome their circumstances, can care enough about themselves or those around them to constructively persist -- that's great faith, and one we each undertake every day (in small ways by paying our taxes, or in large ways by founding schools and reinvigorating each of those on the brink of losing hope). A laptop isn't just a tool - it's also a gesture. And while laptop programs aren't going to save a school or a district or a society, a laptop program can save a kid that can't be saved by an alternative curriculum, persistent teachers, or happy accidents.

    Such that:

    The sort of blatant disregard for "cost/benefit analysis," that's all part of the "audacity of hope."
  6. macrumors P6


    Jul 17, 2005
    5045 feet above sea level
    difference is you are paying to go to college and value your education whereas hs is full of slackers that dont care.

    even in my college classes, people with laptops from what i see tend to always lookup stuff during lecture anyways. that and i HATE the sound of typing as i take notes lol

    i personally would not have any type of program like this as people would end up im'ing or playing solitaire

    even in my hs/middle school days after using the schools labs, the teachers had to check everybody's mouse to make sure we didnt steal the mouseball.
  7. macrumors 6502a


    Nov 17, 2003
    Daytona Beach
    I am a senior in high school and I have brought a laptop to school for the last 4 years. It does help but at the same time I waisted allot of hours finding an ethernet port and logging onto mac rumors. :eek:
  8. macrumors 68040


    Jul 10, 2004
    New Orleans / Lafayette, La
    I just graduated from HS and never had a laptop in class. However, next year my school will be rolling out a one-to-one program of Thinkpad Tablets. I was given a chance to audit one of them and I honestly don't see this working.

    Maybe for juniors and seniors, but lower classmen really wouldn't get a full benefit and the tablet thin is just a gimmick to me. And this is a private school, so all of the nearly 1mil price tag is picked up by grants and private donors.

    But maybe I'm just bitter that I didn't get one...
  9. macrumors 65816


    Doesn't surprise me for several reasons.

    First the obvious fact that the students are not going to pay attention to the teacher while surfing (even if they are looking up class materials).

    Second, I doubt most teachers (or states) made any adjustment in their lesson plans to utilize the new technology in the most effective manner. So the notebooks were competition to the same old lectures rather then integrated into an effective teaching tool.

    Finally, even if the students were using the notebooks to take notes, some would say that they were simply becoming professional transcribers, typing away at what was on the board while totally disengaged from the discussion or concepts being presented. There was a story on NPR a while back about a law professor who banned computers from his classroom for just this reason (despite the fact the university required them).

    Note: I found a couple different cases here and here.
  10. Moderator emeritus


    Jan 9, 2004
    Grand Rapids, MI, USA
    I think this observation, of the three, is the most telling. The story for information technology is the same, over and over and over again. Information technology enables more sophisticated business processes. It doesn't replace business process. The same is true for education. Without being willing to seriously invest in advancing pedagogy, I don't think schools should expect any kind of return on investment for just throwing computers at students. I would suspect the return they get is mostly a motivational effect -- i.e. they could've gotten the same effect by prettying up the buildings, buying the students a rock climbing wall, etc, etc.
  11. macrumors G3


    May 25, 2004
    In highschool i was given a laptop to use in class. It helped when doing long essays and tests and notes, other then that i was just browsing the internet etc during class. Also during lunch watching movies....
    Good times!
  12. macrumors 68020


    Jun 13, 2005
    I think this is true, but the difference might be between academic motivation and environmental/rewards-based motivation. Just thinking about the kids I work with -- their educational environment sucks (the school is portable and beat to hell), and their behavior rewards are minimal. But even more minimal are the signs that the town/district believes in their capacity (or willingness) to learn (old textbooks, old computers, hand me down desks, useless "library," etc.). A laptop program would go a long way toward putting some backing behind a handful of teachers who say "you can do it," etc.
  13. macrumors 601


    Mar 20, 2005
    Oneida, NY
    I wish I had/could use a laptop to take notes on in school. I can type way faster than I can write and it would be nice to have notes in digital format that can be saved from year to year and searched through instead of 5 beat up notebooks that you can't even find anything in.
  14. macrumors Penryn


    Dec 27, 2002
    Location Location
    So, it only took 5 years for them to realize that this was a bad idea. That's good.
  15. macrumors newbie

    Mar 16, 2007
    the boonies
    Yeah, it's an effing shame that the average public highschool hasn't made the same realization about block scheduling... now THERE'S a travesty in education.
  16. macrumors member

    Sep 8, 2004
    This is true but it is true whether the students are typing on a laptop or furiously writing with a pen. I had one class in particular in college in which the professor had notes that she had pre-typed on transparencies and then threw them onto an overhead projector so we could copy them. All the test questions came from these notes so it was in our best interest to copy them word for word but it consumed the entire class period to do so. As you said, and I agree, we were completely disengaged from the material and the end result was that I learned the least from that class than any others.

    This also combines with your second point about teachers not utilizing the technologies they have. I graduated from college only a few years ago so computers and the Internet were heavily used by students but not so much by our professors and technology is used even less by most public school educators. The classes I learned the most from were the ones in which the professors handed out the notes at the beginning of class or posted them on a class website so we could print them out ourselves. This left us free in class to actually participate in a discussion and learn something rather than waste every effort in frantically copying notes from a projector.

    If the schools (either colleges or secondary schools) simply use the laptops as note-taking replacements for a pen and paper then the laptop programs will certainly fail and all the money spent on the laptops and wireless networking upgrades, etc was wasted. Sadly, that seems to be exactly what happened.
  17. thread starter macrumors 68020


    Aug 15, 2006
    The Rainbow Nation RSA
    By participate and learn you mean sleep and throw paper balls at people right? Jk, but it happens far to often at my school these days.

    On another note, you know it's injustice when the guy who sleeps in the back of the class does better than you in your science exam:mad:
  18. macrumors 6502a

    Nov 23, 2006
    Computers and learning are not the same.

    The other day some one sent me a web site with a regular 6th grade test in math, biology, spanish, history and phisics.

    Well, I did part of the test and came out with 7 out of 10. My gilrfriend who is 6 years younguer than me got barely a 5. But my mother got 10!

    Computers ans TV does not teach you things.

    I realized that back on my mothers days she had to keep everything in her mind and she is actually a very literature person as well as her friends of her own age. She read books, she know things.

    My girlfriend.... :rolleyes: she is cute still.

    But I do not believe computers will help you to get better grades.
  19. macrumors member

    Sep 8, 2004
    That's a shame but people who don't want to participate and learn won't do so not matter what, computer or not. But the people who do want to learn are not given the opportunity to do so when they are forced to transcribe while someone talks AT them.
  20. macrumors 6502a


    Nov 27, 2006
    North of where I'd like to be
    Much of my graduate research at University was in the assessment of technology in the classroom. (Don't make me cite my research, but you'll find all this on the ERIC database and AERA, CSCL, CSCW. AI-Ed sites).

    Bottom line:
    Tools (computers, films, or even books) are not answers; they are resources if used in the right way, for the right content, for the right goal, at the right time, to the right student, by the right teacher, in the right context. Yes, it's complex. You need smart people to use smart machines smartly.

    True, lots of studies show early performance and motivation benefits for computer mediated instruction, artificial intelligence in education, and computer support for cooperative work. Characteristically, the most improvement is with the weakest students where there may be the Hawthorne effect previous posters allude to. (Where any intervention would be a plus). There are few longitudinal studies.

    I always got the feeling that once a school or school board buys into the computer as saviour myth, they are obligated to spend the bucks to keep the technology route up and denigrate "traditional", albeit cheaper, more stable, and more expedient modes. (Try teaching and learning when your technology is having a bad hair day. After watching what other students went through, my oral defense backup included two different computers, an overhead projector, AND a flipchart - NB, the test bootup was fine, the second one crashed two minutes before the defense).

    Note taking, whether on the computer or handwritten, is not the same as slavishly copying down everything that utters from the teacher's mouth or blackboard. It is an adjunct to a prepared text like a handout or book. Teachers who expect you to write everything down are lazy, and giving them laptops as teaching tools won't make them more effective. These teachers probably don't even use up-to-date books because they'd have to change their lesson plans. Think Ferris Bueller (anyone? anyone?) but with laptops.
  21. macrumors 68040


    Jun 23, 2003
    Washington, DC
    To be fair, "remembering stuff" doesn't really equal "learning" either. Just because you CAN store stuff in your head doesn't mean you necessarily SHOULD. Einstein famously didn't even know his own phone number—why remember it when he could just as easily write it down and look at it later?

    By the same token, yes, the previous generation is probably better at just plain remembering things than the current one. But does that make them necessarily "smarter?" Only if your yardstick is "how much stuff can they remember." Sociologists have noted that while this generation is quicker to reach for a reference book or calculator than their parents, they are much better at handling many streams of different information at once. In other words, we might not remember as much, but we can quickly retrieve, process and synthesize a lot more information than our parents can.

    Which is smarter? Probably neither—it's a tradeoff. I don't think we'll know for sure which is "better" until farther down the line, at which point it's mostly an academic question. ;)
  22. macrumors 68020


    Feb 20, 2007
    America's Third World
    One of my favorite profs once told me that one of the most important (but often overlooked) aspects of learning is not remembering the right answer -- it's simply knowing how and where to find the right answer, in a efficient and effective manner. ;)
  23. macrumors 6502a

    Nov 23, 2006
    Well, that is true. My mother makes less money than I do.

    I believe people overstimate the use of the computers but for sure... it was a goos SALE to then SALE the software and create more future COSTUMERS.

    I mean, I do not belive the "better education" was the main motive, probably that si what teachers bought and for sure there was the expectation of a better learning.
  24. macrumors 6502


    Dec 28, 2005
    Looking for Lucy Butler
    We are among the last of our kind. :eek: My first one was a plastic Pickett student model. Back in the day, everyplace sold them. I think I paid four bucks for it.

    A cool place for collectors is The Slide Rule Universe. This is a canadian firm that I've done business with, to complete satisfaction.
  25. macrumors 68000


    Apr 2, 2006
    Cape Town, South Africa
    I use my Macbook every day in my high school. I do, however close it when I'm not using it, because the screensaver distracts me:D

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