What’s good about the May 4 NY Times Article about Laptops in Schools

Creative Arts Matthew Bolton CollegeSo, let’s get to it.  What’s good about the “Seeing No Progress, Some Schools Drop Laptops” article, written for The New York Times by Winnie Hu, is that this story was not limited only to people who live within the NYTimes paper delivery area.  It was immediately available to readers around the world — including youngsters, sitting at their desks, their laptops open, browsers engaged, accessing and interacting with a global library of content.

While the article’s URL was hopscotching the continents from one ed tech advocate to another, students could, regardless of their geographic location, also read and consider the story — and the rather dramatic conclusions that it implied based on such absurdly little evidence. 

No doubt, some students concur.  Their teachers don’t know what to do with these state-of-the-art computers, sitting between them and their darlings.  They’ve been taught how to operate the machines, but little more, and they don’t bother to hide their frustrations and resentment at being pushed into futuristic classrooms that they are neither prepared for nor believe in. 

“I’ve covered this material perfectly well for twenty years.” They’d say,  “Why change now!”

And computers do go un-repaired for days and even weeks for these students, because the district has not hired additional technical staff for the hundreds of new computers.  And available power and bandwidth have, evidently, not been considered by the school and central office administration as they scurried to jump on to yet another bandwagon, without the appropriate planning.

Just as certainly, there were many youngsters, laptops on desk, scanning the story in astonishment, and seeking to reconcile these claims with their own experience in laptop classrooms.  These students Googled laptop schools, and although there were some articles about the successes of technology infused schools, they were not so plentiful — because sadly, that is not considered the news story that  presumed mistakes at high levels is. 

But they find statistics, and they find pictures, and they record the sounds of their clickety-clicking at their keyboards, and the conversations in their classes, and they mix and remix the information to tell their story with multimedia, and podcast it to the world.  Alas, their parents see them, and rejoice in how tech-savvy their children are.  But The New York Times pays no attention — that’s not news.

Their scores on their government tests do not increase dramatically, but the skills they are developing: to ask essential questions, research, evaluate, collaborate, process, mix and remix, and publish their findings — learning to be active learners in a rapidly changing world — these skills are not tested. 

In a world, where local news is global, and global news is local, where a reporters value is measured in how much angst can be generated by their writing, the 3Rs are no longer enough.  They are merely elemental — compared to the rich and exciting information skills that are absolutely critical to not only our children’s future, but ours as well.  ..and gaining this new information skills can only happen from within this new information landscape.  It’s why every child should be walking into their classroom with a computer under their arm, every classroom should breath with the global information landscape, and every teacher should trained and practiced in the life-long-learning literacies of the emerging future.

Hu, Winnie. “Seeing No Progress, Some Schools Drop Laptops.” The New York Times 4 May 2007 4 May 2007 <http://tinyurl.com/27g53r>.

Author: David Warlick

David Warlick has been an educator for the past 40+ years. He continues to do some writing, but is mostly seeking his next intersect between play, passion and purpose, dabbling in photography, drone videography and music production.