How important or â€œworth itâ€ are laptops, or any other technology? How valuable they are as learning tools should be the decider of how much we are willing to invest. Not that I think we shouldnâ€™t expect that $200 dollar laptop, but it will be important what those $200 laptops can do â€“ we have had PC4â€™s that could do word processing and some other applications for less than $200 but that hasnâ€™t been enough â€“ they were hardly used â€¦ what is enough?
Internet based software like wikis, blogs, and various web based, math, language arts, science and social studies pieces make operating system issues closer to moot all the time. To use them effectively with my students Iâ€™ve found I have to teach them to think differently. I canâ€™t claim that it has been transformational or even â€œbetterâ€ than what we were doing before â€¦ yet â€“ but my students spend more time on task, and when I explain that we are going to use our laptops to do whatever, they are excited every time â€“ even on activities weâ€™ve done multiple times. We write more than ever â€“ and Iâ€™m a writing project consultant and I already had my students writing a lot.
Our laptops are 7 years old â€“ dropping and breaking has not been an issue, we spend some time talking about care â€“ but the fact that this year the students have some sense of ownership helps – Iâ€™m sure breakage will happen sometime â€“ is that a deal breaker? Tom mentions a 3 year shelf life â€“ well we are searching the net, blogging, wiki-ing, word processing, using digital video, digital photography and more with 7 year old laptops â€“ will we get less longevity later? Are we the exception?
Donâ€™t do a 1:1 laptop program (Or any tech program) if you donâ€™t already have,Â â€œage-appropriate, curriculum-relevant things to do with them.â€ Thatâ€™s been done many times and it doesnâ€™t work any better than spending money on textbooks or any other educational tool you arenâ€™t sure what to do with â€“ and it makes us all look like fools. Technology wonâ€™t make a hoot of difference if we donâ€™t do things differently and work and learn in ways that are more engaging and meaningful. And if we canâ€™t do that, or that doesnâ€™t work â€“ then we donâ€™t need to buy them or use them at all.
Iâ€™m not saying this alone really makes 1:1 worth it â€“ but just the experience my students have had in the last month while we have been reading stories about animals they know little about (whales, rhinos, leopards, camels, kangaroos, elephants, armadillos, and more) â€“ having them use our “Just So Stories” wiki to gather facts, but also to see photos and video of them â€“ how excited they get and how as a teacher I find that many really knew nothing about kangaroos or most of the rest of the animals (assessment on the run) â€“ how they moan when we run out of time. Just being able to build their schema easily and quickly in such an engaging way almost makes the cost worth it just for that.