Sunday, May 06, 2007

Laptops fail in high schools

Although not a technophobe personally, I have often complained about the use of technology in the classroom just because it is available.

The NYTimes ran this article on Friday, reporting on several school districts that gave laptops to all students are giving up the initiative. The data showed no real improvement in student learning, but provided lots of headaches for teachers and administrators.

I think the same thing is applicable for us. If you have ever snuck behind a student using a laptop in your classroom, you are likely to see a rousing game of solitaire or emailing. It may be true that I am just boring, but the university is often providing the resources so that they can physically be in class, but technologically, be miles away. . .

P.S. Last week was a busy one, and I was slow on the blogging front, but as the semester is coming to an end, I imagine the pattern will continue. For those of you reading, please send along information or comments and I'll be glad to post them!


Janine said...

I find it very distracting to be in a classroom where there are laptops. On a good night (I'm a non-traditional student going to classes only at night) the students are typing in class notes or looking up relevant class information. On a bad night they are using the laptops to watch a ballgame, play an internet game, or read the newspaper. I would say that the laptops are more a distraction than a help.

lammers said...

Janine said: "On a bad night they are using the laptops to watch a ballgame, play an internet game, or read the newspaper."

To this I reply as I always do when any sort of concern about student behavior is raised: "As ye sow, so shall ye reap." Actions have consequences. Those students who surf the net instead of taking notes will be very sad when final grades are issued, unless something is horrible awry with the class.

Janine said...

Lammers, I agree with you. Which is why I usually sit in the front of the classroom -- less distractions. I also see no reason to ban laptops for that same reason --- the student sows what they reap.

That being said, I have a problem with people thinking that putting a laptop into anyones hands automatically will raise test scores or course grades. The two don't go hand-in-hand.

lammers said...

>>That being said, I have a problem with people thinking that putting a laptop into anyones hands automatically will raise test scores or course grades. The two don't go hand-in-hand.<<

Exactly! We tend to have too much interest in tools as a society and less interest in their intelligent use. "A tool is only as strong as the workman who wields it."

Anonymous said...

Well I'm not convinced that laptops are necessarily required vs say some
computers somewhere like in a lab,
but I think there was an assumption
in that article that should be pointed out. They seem to be saying:
"laptops didn't raise standardized test results, therefore laptops have no value." I think especially fields heavily involving computers such as Computer Science, engineering, other science fields, business skills,... definitely require proficiency with omputers. [A person is very very hard pressed to learn programming without a computer needless to say.] But might well be that the tests that the high school does are never going to reveal that. Where that would probably come up in is the choice of majors in tech school or college and/or the students future success in those areas.

(And please get rid of the chalk people. As a person with asthma, chalk is completely not acceptable. I hate powerpoint as much as anyone, but at least it doesn't trigger my asthma. :-)

Dean Shareski said...

Using laptops with traditional teaching methods is akin to using a race car for a golf cart...doesn't fit.

The real issue is that teaching and learning must change. The laptops will come as a result of teachers realizing that they are not the keeper of knowledge and that laptops need to be used in effective ways, not simply to "look up stuff". The failure of these initiatives are linked directly to the lack of support for teachers to change.

If you're not interested in changing teaching, don't use laptops.

Anonymous said...

Some of us are able to surf the net and listen at the same time. I take my laptop to class all the time and pull down good grades.

And Dry-erase boards are a nice alternative to chalk and powerpoint.

Working To Make A Living said...

The article did not say the scores dropped. There is a wide and ever growing tech gap between the rich and poor. I think giving schools laptops is a great idea. Poor students in these schools would then have access to equipment, they might otherwise not be able to afford. I also appreciate the Luddites on this blog. i work in the pc field, and people will continue to pay 120.00 bucks for us to fix your computer, when there are tools easily available to fix them for free...thanks!!!

lammers said...

>>The article did not say the scores dropped.<<

So, you're saying it's okay to spend millions of dollars in taxpayer money to show no perceptible change whatsoever? We spend millions of your hard-earned dollars and *nothing* changed? Everything is just the way it ever was? So, if you went to the barber and he charged you $15 for a haircut, but your hair wasn't and different when he finished, it's okay because you're still alive??? You're kidding, right?

>i work in the pc field<

Ah! That explains it.

Working To Make A Living said...

I don't not have a problems with spending billions on education related expenses. What I have a problem with is spending billions on nukes, and other military projects. In fact i wouldn't care if they burned, "my hard earned tax dollars" in schools for heat rather then spending it on war, and tax cuts for the wealthy.

Anonymous said...

Why does every conversation around this University have to turn into something about the war?

Lake Winneblogo said...

I still have never seen a strategy that makes laptops a more effective learning tool in the classroom.

I would be glad to use them if someone could demonstrate one. I haven't seen it yet.

People have been teaching and learning for thousands of years. Clearly there is room for improvement, but we are not radically different than we have ever been.

lammers said...

Working To Make A Living said...
"I don't not have a problems with spending billions on education related expenses."

Well, obviously no one around the university would either. But you might as well spend it on something that will actually further our mission. Only an utter idiot spends money with no perceptible affect.

>> What I have a problem with is spending billions on nukes, and other military projects.<<

Um, I don't think much of the revenue from the local property taxes that schools depend on goes to fund the military ... Not an either-or situation.

lammers said...

Lake Winneblogo said...
>>People have been teaching and learning for thousands of years.<<

And I return to my original point that "a tool is only as strong as the workman who wields it."

There are profs on this campus who I know could do a dam site better job teaching in a cave with a slate and some burnt charcoal than colleagues with every high-tech innovation.

We also keep intentionally ignoring the 500-lb gorilla: student motivation. Until a student EMBRACES education, makes it a personal goal and not something imposed on him or her by external forces, it's all for naught. Far too many students have the "Broccoli Approach" to college: I don't like it but I put up with it because it's good for me.

Anonymous said...

I think you'all need to walk in
the students shoes on this. Laptops are very expensive and very heavy, especially when you include the transformers, and the case and so on. And they are very apt to be stolen so they have to be watched with extreme vigilance. So the fact that the students are hauling these fragile crime-targetted leaden suckers around is telling you something, just observationally. They perceive them as having a lot of value or they'd not be using them.

Maybe you have a secure office in that building where you lecture so you can leave your laptop there. But the students might have to haul it around all day long if they ever intend to use it for anything on that day. You could probably block/jam the the wireless and/or wired network in the classroom (which would still not prevent them from writing a term paper during your lecture) if
network activity is the major issue.

I get the feeling that everyone that is talking about lecturing in
a cave is in the English or History department. Why don't you try taking some engineering, math, or business classes without a computer and see how that goes for you before you decry the entire campus goes computer free? I think you'll find out computers figure much more prominently in those areas and anyone who doesn't have ample access to one is at a very significant disadvantage.

Janine said...

I don't see students being at a disadvantage to not having a computer in the classroom. I would agree that students are at a disadvantage if they don't have a computer at home.

That being said, I think it comes down to the student. Many students use the computers for real reasons in the classroom, i.e. taking notes, working on collaboration type projects, etc. Those students who would rather be writing the term paper, playing games, watching a ball game, etc. during the lecture will find out that they have missed a lot. A lecture in one class may be needed information in another class --- if you aren't paying attention you'll miss it.

In the end -- it really is a decision that is made by the student's willingness to do well or just do OK in school.