Two years ago a large high school just up the road from here (the only one in a much smaller district) gave laptops to all their students.
So, what big changes can they show for the time and money spent? There aren’t many according to an article on the front page of this morning’s Post.
The administration did extend library hours so kids could take advantage of the wireless connection.
The system is also going down the dubious path of requiring teachers to post their class materials online in Blackboard (something our district has done with generally mediocre results).
And there’s a lot of discussion about students and teachers being more efficient and the laptops replacing textbooks (or not depending on who is being quoted).
The big reason for the lack of any meaningful progress is summed up by one parent.
“My daughter and most of her friends, they don’t find it to be useful at all,” said board member Scott Newsham, who was elected in spring and is the father of a T.C. Williams student. “I think the decision was made to bring computers into the school system before they really knew what they were going to be doing with them.”
The district leaders are just now realizing that simply handing out technology does nothing to improve teaching and learning. That teacher training is the key to making a program like this work.
However, beyond the lack of planning and staff development, there is another major problem that all of the staff needs to address.
No one in the story talks about changing classroom practice to take advantage of the powerful tool they’ve bought for everyone.
They need to address the fact that grafting technology onto to the same old school structure produces very few improvements in either teaching or learning.
Unless they’re prepared to make drastic changes to the educational program to take full advantage of that power, the first student quoted may as well continue to leave her laptop under the bed.