Tuesday, March 10, 2009

One-one laptops

In the wake of Governor Baldacci's speech this evening, I wanted to voice support for Maine's goal of a one-one ratio of laptops for grades 7-12. I understand the costs and difficulties, but I think it's the only answer to the question: "how many computers should a school have?" There's simply no other equitable way to get to where you can assign, collect, provide, share, collaborate or otherwise have students participate in a technology immersed world. It's true that our core efforts should be for "any century skills" such as character, work habits, etc., but we do need to incorporate practical, relevant activities to prepare students for today's adult work and study environments. We need to model strategies for coping with the "information storm," keeping safe on-line, and evaluating what we find there. So yes, in spite of the technical headaches and the need for additional support staff (which we must be honest about) it's important for all students to have a computing device, especially at secondary level.
I am an old English teacher, so I'll use an example from my own field: let's say I have a class today in journalism. There's a lot I can teach about cogent writing, and it's valuable, but if I don't include something about the blogging phenomenon, the new copyright issues, etc., I am negligent. And... how do I do that if they don't all have computers handy? And how do they put together their publication, which is on-line? And how do they post the material from their beats (which consist of digital text and images?) And how do they communicate with their sources, especially the ones in other countries, especially right now, as the news is breaking? Today, teaching in most subjects just doesn't work well without computers, because, working in most fields doesn't either.