Tech for tech’s sake

I’d love to see additional details on how schools collected their data to conclude that giving students their own laptop does not improve learning. [via Arts & Letters Daily] There are many examples cited of the laptops being a distraction or being used for frivolous or illicit purposes. This isn’t at all shocking, and if laptops were otherwise improving learning this could likely be addressed through technological and disciplinary means. I’ve talked to someone at a small school that gives every student a laptop, and there are routine checks into the content on the laptop (no games or IM clients allowed) and laptop privileges are revoked if unauthorized uses are observed or detected.
However, that takes a broad school commitment to supporting laptops, and resources. And it seems like just the issues of repair and maintenance are a problem in many places – why do all schools seem to forget that part of the computing equation? It also doesn’t sound like equivalent resources have been invested in these schools in educating teachers on how to teach with technology. Just because you know how to use a computer doesn’t mean that you know how to teach to a room full of high school students with computers. Good schools hire someone, or any entire group of someones, who specializes in helping instructors integrate technology into their educational goals and style. Just purchasing hardware and putting it in the hands of students is not enough to expect improved education.
The thing that immediately jumped to my mind was whether these failures had any implications for the One Laptop per Child project that is building $100 laptops to distribute to children in developing countries. Clearly, education on their use is key, and it is my impression that that is being included in the project – these laptops aren’t just being sent in crates. But I also suspect that deploying these laptops in a setting where there is very little computing available will lead to a different attitude about the technology than in a setting where many of the children would have access to a computer (if only in a public lab or library) even if their personal laptop were taken away.

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