Friday, May 11, 2007

The Value of Laptops?

Much has been written over the past week about the value of laptops in the classroom after the New York Times printed an article entitled, "Seeing No Progress, Some Schools Drop Laptops." The article talks about several school districts that have done away with 1:1 laptop programs after failing to see increases in test scores. Some districts did away with the laptops after being unable to justify the expense to parents and community members. (In 1:1 laptop programs, students "own" the laptops, have 24/7 access, and are permitted to take them home.)

How do these concerns impact Pennsylvania's "Classrooms for the Future" program? First, the CFF program is NOT a 1:1 program; the laptops are stored in classrooms for access during the school day. Students are not assigned their own laptops and do not take them outside the building. Teachers control how the laptops are used in their classrooms. Also, the CFF was designed from lessons learned from 1:1 programs throughout the US and the world. The focus of CFF is on developing good instructional practices, providing support, and using technology effectively for learning. Students are protected from inappropriate Web sites by filtering software required by the Children's Internet Protection Act. Teachers at CFF sites receive intensive staff development on integrating technology into their curricula. Some of the districts cited in the NY Times article apparently did not provide much teacher training before implementing the laptop programs.

Classrooms for the Future is not about replacing traditional teaching methods with educational software, which research has shown to have little to no impact on efforts to increase student achievement. Rather, the professional development helps teachers leverage technology to enhance and extend their instructional practices.

For students, the technology is a tool to help them master, create and connect learning across disciplines and topics. Technology integration, done right, is critical to transforming our schools for the 21st century. We are confident that Classrooms for the Future is such a program.

Andy Carvin, in his "Learning Now" blog on the PBS Teachers web site, offers a response to the New York Times article and says it all: it’s about changing classroom practice . . . sound familiar? Take a minute to read the comments others have posted in response to Andy's comments.

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