I’m a Little Disappointed

I was contacted the other day by a reporter from the Dallas Morning News who wanted my thoughts on laptop use in our schools for an article she was writing. I am guessing this is the article she wrote, but my thoughts are not mentioned in the article, so I thought I would share them here instead.

How has instruction changed since laptops have been implemented? The implementation of laptops in the high school classrooms has made it easier for teachers to shift from being the purveyor of all knowledge to being a guide/coach who assists students in locating, synthesizing and presenting the information they need to complete assignments. Laptops have also made it easier for teachers to differentiate instruction for the numerous ability levels and interests of students in their classes. Students are able to work at their own pace instead of being locked in to the pace of the others in the classroom. When you enter my classroom, it is not out of the ordinary to see students working on different assignments and to see me walking around instead of standing at the front of the room.

What do students use them for? Students use their laptops to learn and create. Laptops and the Internet give students access to up-to-date information, and students are able to take this information and present it in professional formats. Students use laptops to take tests, manage data and information, write, record, remix and present. Laptops help students actively engage in their learning process by allowing them the freedom and responsibility of finding and verifying information on their own.

What are the challenges for teachers in using laptops? I think the largest challenge for teachers using laptops is to keep up with the continual changes in technology. Teachers need to be dedicated to continually learning new programs and approaches for implementing technology use in the classroom. In order to teach effectively with laptops, teachers have to invest time to learn and plan, and sometimes this requires attending training outside of the school day which is difficult for many teachers. Teaching with laptops also requires teachers to make a paradigm shift from a teacher-centered class to a student-centered class because when students have access to a myriad of information at their fingertips, the teacher is not always the only one in the classroom with accurate knowledge on a given topic.

I think I did a decent job of answering the questions. Maybe I turned them in too late to be considered for the article, or perhaps, they weren’t what the reporter was looking for… I don’t know, but I think I will take a minute now to respond to a few portions of the article.

Actually, before I move on to the article, I must first discuss one of the questions I was asked… I had a tough time answering the question, “What do students use them for?” I find this question odd… why, after seven years with laptops, are we still asking this question? We don’t ever ask business professionals or our teachers what they use their laptops for. We assume they are using them to accomplish their work; it is the same with our students. Now, on to the article…

“But teachers say it’s hard to find meaningful ways to use the laptops in class. And some report students using the machines for instant messaging and Internet surfing during class time. Some teachers have even told students not to open their laptops in class.”

I don’t understand how it is hard to find meaningful ways to use the laptops in class… I don’t get it. How are worksheets more meaningful? Or creating posters? Or writing an essay on paper? Teachers do not seem to have difficulty integrating these sorts of traditional lessons into their classrooms – it shouldn’t be about the laptops. It should be about meaningful lessons and the laptop as a conduit.

NEWSFLASH – Students might use their laptops to IM or surf the Internet during class. OMG! And when they are not allowed to bring their laptops to class, they will revert to passing notes, daydreaming, drawing pictures, etc. when they are unengaged with their lesson… nothing new here.

“Laptops will not replace teachers, but teachers who refuse to use the laptops – those teachers will be replaced,” he said.

If only this actually happened… after seven years, teachers need to either get on board or get off. Perhaps my view seems a little harsh, but if we are trying to prepare students for the future, then we might have to actually change our teaching practices a little.

“The Academy of Irving ISD has adopted the technology well, but other schools have struggled, Mr. DeWitt said.”

“Unless you get teachers to buy into the use of technology it doesn’t matter what you put into kids’ hands,” he said.

Yes, The Academy has adopted the technology pretty well, but we have had something that the other schools have not consistently had, and that is sustained support from our administration. Teachers on our campus are EXPECTED to use laptops and training is offered online as well as after school. Technology use is a priority. Is our technology integration perfect? Of course not. We have teachers who integrate technology use seamlessly, and we have others who simply replicate paper and pen work on their laptops; we are a work in progress.

“The study so far has noted no significant impact on TAKS reading or math scores.”

BEATING!! I am sooo tired of laptops in education being tied to testing. Laptops should enable teachers and students to explore learning in a different format than traditional pen and paper, so why are we still trying to validate the use of technology via the same ol’ standardized testing? I don’t get it.

Well, I guess that is about it for my rant.  🙂

I would love to hear your thoughts on the topic as well.

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3 Comments on “I’m a Little Disappointed”

  1. Scott Says:

    I’d be more than a little disappointed. I’m glad you posted your answers to the questions that the reporter obviously ignored. Too bad the Dallas Morning News doesn’t allow comments on their stories (like many other papers do) so that you could link to your rebuttal =-)

    It’s a shame that everything has to be tied back to the test, but unfortunately it’s a fact of life in education at this point. Interesting, though, how it points to math and reading scores, but not writing…oh but writing isn’t tested at HS, is it?

    I also think you’re right about having administration that “gets it.” Without that, your teachers who are resistant have no one to push them, and your teachers who will adopt it have no one to support them.

    Great answers, by the way!


  2. Scott,

    I received an e-mail back from the reporter yesterday, and she said my comments came in past her story deadline… oh, well.

    Yes, it is a shame about the importance placed on the test, and yes, writing is tested at the high schol level. 😦

    Thanks for your thoughts. I appreciate the response!


  3. I actually laughed out loud when I read, “What do students use them for?”

    I would have been tempted to give some sort of smarmy response:

    Why, they use them as bookends.

    The shorter students use them as stepping stools.

    We have a Frisbee golf team on campus, and they use the laptops when they’re trying to get around water hazards.

    The cafeteria uses them as serving trays.

    🙂


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