My answer to “How more laptop carts would improve instruction?” A bit rushed…but…

Alright…I finally got around to writing my response to the email I received about why we should get more laptops…

From: _____________

Sent: Thu 10/4/2007 1:55 PM

To: Moran Teachers

Subject: Laptop carts

The Bd. Of Education has asked how more laptop carts would improve instruction. If anyone has any thoughts they would like me to share, please email them to me.

Dear ______,

Thanks for sending out this email. As you know, I am a HUGE supporter of laptops and would love to see our district move to be a 1:1 district.

I do not know whether to be worried that the board is essentially asking will laptops help and should we get more? It is hard to even fathom that people in the 21st Century are asking whether or not we should inject more technology into the system. The question shows a real lack of understanding of current trends in education, student learning, and general world business trends. The question should not be should we get them, but how soon. Can you imagine an engineer, a doctor, an architect, a veterinarian, a oceanographer only being able to use a computer for 45 every couple of weeks and to use it they had to sign-up in advance of when they needed it and then have to travel to the “computer lab” to use it? Every creative job requires heavy use of computers yet we still do not offer them to the kids and when we do they are being used as textbooks and notebooks.

On the other hand…bravo to the board for asking the question. I am proud of them for staring the conversation that should be taking place in every classroom and administrative office…ok…enough of the soap box. My tidy, somewhat rambling, answer would go something like this…I should add that one must examine other issues besides just answering their question directly so I hope they can make the connections in my writing…if I had more time I could tidy it up but enough days have passed since you requested it and I fear missing a due date. Feel free to use any of the below thoughts…sorry for rushing through this!

We need the best educated people in the world and the most digitally advanced kids possible. Technology gives kids the chance to do something they could not do before. They can innovate, create, and collaborate in ways simply unimaginable with a textbook and pencil. Kids are inundated with technology all day long and go into class and presented with dry reading and lecture or fake make believe assignments. With laptops the world opens up and they become excited about learning — motivation increases. Textbooks give you a western idea of world–imagine communicating with the people in the country you are researching. Imagine taking the price of 40 textbooks and installing a plasma flat screen TV on the wall of the classroom. When it is time to learn about China they could turn around and stare a Chinese classroom in the eyes and learn about the country from people who live there—abut events in occurring there in real time.

Laptops bring a new way to interact with the world and explore– collaboration and interpersonal skills simply flourish when used properly. Students become more organized and it is easier to turn things in on time. Engagement is high – you can walk into a classroom and instantly see kids learning. The laptops make it so much easier to pace and differentiate to meet the needs of all students. They help kids retain a positive attitude as to what school can be. Will teachers use the tech to collaborate? Innovate? Create? To do the things that don’t just make use of the computer as a $1000 notebook and pencil? I do not know. I do know that if there are no computers there is zero chance of them being used to give the kids the 21st Century skills they need. A textbook simply will not every again give the kids what they need to know to be successful to solve the problems that they did not create and don’t yet exist and compete for jobs in careers that have not even been thought of yet – but in a couple of years the board will probably spend between $6000 and $7000 to supply just my team with new books. The tools that are being used in the classroom right now are preparing kids for a time that has passed us. They will not be able to learn, create, and innovate with the old tools and be able to stay a part of the creative class that will rule the economy of the 21st Century. They will become working slaves to all the others who stay ahead of the pack by turning up the right side of their brain and become entrepreneurs using new technology. Our kids must use learn to use the new technologies not as 21st Century pens and pencils with which to study history, but as tools to create and innovate, with which they can make history.

I would be more than happy to do a presentation on how they can be used and the “Classroom 2.0” tools that are available, and the 21st Century skills that will be needed by our students. They must be aware of the changes that are coming, and how different our students are from those of previous generation. The words podcast, blog, wiki, google docs, etc should be a part of every board of education’s vocabulary. Without this knowledge the board is simply doomed to lead our students to a future with no hope of success in our interconnected world. It is not about using technology, it is about creating and collaborating with it.

I did pose this question to my kids on our blog and here were some responses:

“I think that laptop carts will help improve instruction because it will help individual instruction and help to work together as a class. I think that by having more laptop carts it will be easier to have access to computers than just having a computer lab.”

“Laptops are technology,

Technology is the future,

and we are the future.”

“I believe that we could use more laptops because it would be easier to access computers in the classroom instead of going to the computer lab or the library. Also more laptops would be better because we wouldn’t have to request time in the library or the computer lab. It would be easier for students to just grab a laptop and get started right away.”

“I think that if there were more laptop carts there would be more instruction. I think that the way you are teaching class this year is great and if we got to use laptop carts each day we would be able to interact with our fellow students. Also we wouldn’t have to tie up the library or the computer lab. There would be more computers for everyone to use.”

“More laptop carts would improve instruction because currently what we can do on the computer is really limited. There is an unimaginable amount of information out on the internet that could help improve our education and learning, but it’s held back from us because of the shortage on good and working laptops in our schools. When kids get to work on the computer it immediately sparks their interest and therefore helps improve their quality of work just because of the fact that they are interested. Kids actually look forward to going to social studies class because of the technology used but more kids would probably get the opportunity to do more things on the internet if their were more laptops.”

“More laptop carts would increase the amount of collaborating we do in class. Instead of having to go to the computer lab or library, the laptops would be right there to use. I know that I always look forward to social studies class because we use resources such as the wiki and blogs. Easy access to laptops would make people excited about class, and maybe it would get other teams interested in using tools like blogs and wikis.”

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