Why I Encourage Laptop Use in the Classroom

The entirety of this post is written in response to Why I Ban Laptops in My Classroom by David Cole, so you might want to read it first.

This year I am not “in the classroom.”  I am working this year full-time as an Instructional Technology Specialist on my campus which allows me to see in to many teachers’ classrooms and get a varied perspective on teaching and learning.  We are a one-to-one laptop campus as well as a career focused non-traditional high school, so I see many interesting learning activities taking place as I look through the windows of classrooms or go in to the classrooms to assist students and teachers.

As I walk through the hallways of The Academy I see students working collaboratively both on-line and in person; I see students interacting with text both digitally and traditionally; I see teachers lecturing traditionally and via pre-recorded videos students access via their laptops; I see hands-on activities, laptop-based activities and book-based activities; I see students engaged in their learning – students making choices, re-evaluating and facing consequences.  I see students getting a varied and effective education in a public high school – laptops are an integral part of this.

Laptops enable students to interactively participate in the classroom (and outside of the classroom) in ways they would be unable to without the aid of such technology.  With laptops in the classroom, students can still participate in a verbal discussion, but they can also extend that learning by participating in discussion boards, collaborative note-taking, instant messaging, Twitter, blogging, etc.  Students can deepen their knowledge of a topic or answer their own questions by accessing information via a search engine like Google during the classroom lecture or discussion.  In short, laptops give the learner more power to take charge of their education; they encourage learners to step away from the passivity of the traditional model of lecture and receive to the more active model of seeking information and learning.

Certainly I see students “off-task” on their laptops as I walk through the hallways, and I am okay with this because adults get off-task while working as well. In fact, while composing this post, I have been instant messaging with a teacher and a fellow ITS, as well as keeping up and responding with e-mail. I even took a break and read a news article some sent via Twitter, but I am still accomplishing my goal of composing this post in a reasonable amount if time. I am able to do all of these things because I learned how to manage my time; I learned personal responsibility; I learned how to multi-task, and I learned what happens if I do not get my work completed by the deadline. Students need to be afforded the right to learn these lessons as well – banning laptops does not teach them how to be responsible in a digital world; it does not teach them time or information management; it is the easy way out.

How does incorporating laptops work in practice?

Effectively integrating laptops into the classroom starts with a shift – a shift in pedagogy.  If the instructor continues to teach the same way he/she has always taught and simply views the laptop as a note-taking device then the integration will not be successful and students will definitely get off-task. It requires that teachers stop thinking, “This is the right way to do it because this is how I learned how.” It requires that teachers begin questioning, “What is the best way to present this information so my students (my students TODAY) are engaged with this topic and interested in learning? How do I prepare this lesson so that my students have some learning choices but still receive a rigorous assignment and deep understanding of the information they need?”

Effectively integrating laptops in the classroom demands that teachers take a step out of their comfort zone and give some of their “power” to the students. Gone are the days when the teacher was the sole purveyor of information; contrary to popular belief, teachers do not know EVERYTHING about their subject-area, but with the help of search engines like Google, students and teachers can quickly and easily locate the information they need.

Effectively integrating laptops in the classroom does not mean that they are used 100% of the time for every assignment because they may not always be the best tool. It is the instructor’s job while planning and teaching to assess student learning, offer choices and vary learning as needed to meet the needs of all students in the classroom… no one said good teaching was easy.

Finally, effectively integrating laptops in the classroom requires continuous learning on the part of the instructor (and students). It requires utilizing new tools, learning new skills, attempting new instructional strategies; it requires flexibility and change.

I encourage the use of laptops in the classroom because they can assist in extending learning to a higher-level – a level that may not be controlled by the teacher, a level that can transcend the walls of the classroom, a level that encourages collaboration and evaluation, a level that is active, engaging and fun.

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3 Comments on “Why I Encourage Laptop Use in the Classroom”

  1. drawingfromlife Says:

    “I learned how to manage my time; I learned personal responsibility; I learned how to multi-task, and I learned what happens if I do not get my work completed by the deadline. Students need to be afforded the right to learn these lessons as well”

    I just wish that more than a handful of our students saw the laptops this way as more of a tool than a toy. However, I have seen a big improvement over last year in this regard. I think that we are definitely on the right track. If more teachers used the laptops in the classroom effectively, (and many are), the students will continue to learn these lessons. I’m glad to be at a campus that strongly encourages these skills.

  2. Great article! if you dont mind i am going to reference this article on my website and place link to it.

  3. Bizhaku Says:

    Waw, I love This Article

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