Monday, August 4, 2008

Effectiveness on Laptops for Students

MSNBC has brought up the effectiveness of laptop programs for schools.  In Maine, the question is whether a laptop for every student make learning better for the students. This pressing issue should be applied to the whole country.  

While grades lead in terms of metrics to evaluate student learning, certain classes have students utilize the knowledge and understanding they've gained through writing or work on a real world problem.  And there have been beneficial changes already.
  • More enthusiastic about the classroom while grades have not improved.
  • Feedbacks from the frontline of education, the classroom, has been positive. An overwhelming number of teachers find the laptops make it easier for students apply and study real world issues with what they've learned in classrooms.
  • With the laptops, students are more able to learn and understand educational materials and venture deeper into the subject matters.
  • The laptops allow the teachers to help students stay up on new information and updates. Traditionally, textbooks are kept and used year-after-year. (East and West Germany, anyone?).
  • New Internet-based skills are being taught and utilized at a much younger age, thus, preparing a world-class workforce that will better compete in a global economy - original thoughts through new/updated information from the Internet, Web-based collaboration, technical skills from working with mobile devices.
The stumbling block may be the test scores that has not improved markedly. However, just as how companies and governments work have drastically changed during the last ten years because of the Internet, perhaps new metrics are needed to gauge. The ability to innovate, spawn creativity, and collaborate with others could be just as important as grades.

To underscore this point, 75% Of students expressed they liked the school better since they started e-learning. More essential in the classroom is getting the students to be excited about learning and less worries about tomorrow test.

However, there are potential downsides, some can remedies quickly.
  • Dinosaur way of thinking. As poorly worded as the term is, older teachers are not trained for this and maybe be resistant to computers and the changes technology bring. School districts need to be sensitive to their concerns and show how they themselves can benefit by learning new skills. It is unlikely a stance that their unions will favor.
  • Technical issues. These should be the responsibility of the companies like Apple and Dell that provide the build of computers to educational systems in the United States and Europe. Such issues should have been addressed during contract negotiations and the terms of the agreements effectively enforced.
  • Using the laptops for things other than learning: cheating or watching porn. Should be the responsibility of everyone involved. Students, teachers, and the technical companies. More importantly, the parents who shoulder the bulk of the learning experience.
  • Test-scores have not improved.
The downsides are not true reasons for states stop or curtain laptop programs but rather important issues that need to be addressed. For those who insists in test scores, University of Southern Maine professor David Silvernail said laptop-armed 8the graders have greatly higher writing scores. Better training for teachers on computers, how to use it to augment learning, and sharing experiences and resources could help improve the system greatly.

However, some issues are harder to address than others. All this comes down to one thing. Money. When the program started, an iBook cost $600 each for Maine. A slumping economy is not helping.

There may be as the momentum gained by netbooks that can cost half what Maine paid. These are only the early days in which laptops are brought in to augment learning. In the next few years, newer mobile devices may soon appear in classrooms that making teaching and learning even more enticing and challenge the students to realize their potentials.

Impact: Mobile warriors, these pioneering schools across the country that dare to defy convention are effecting a change our dated educational system. Today's students are tomorrow's Mobile Warriors 2.0.

Note: I would like to know from teachers, students, and other mobile users what kind of technology you like to see in classrooms. Onxo do foresee a day when wireless mobile devices such as tablets replacing laptops. Imagine the ability to schedule classroom activities through a class calender system and updating both the students and parents.

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