Wednesday, April 29, 2009

Laptops as School Supplies

With several schools in Iowa looking at going 1:1, many are encountering the question of expense. Jim Klein poses an excellent question, when do laptops become school supplies?

Think about this for a second. In many schools, we require students to have TI-## graphing calculators, notebooks, dictionaries, and many other supplies that can add up in cost. How about purchasing a $300-$400 netbook that can easily last 3-4 years? In some families, the kids already have laptops, and for others, they would be able to rent from the school for a reduced price.

With the learning power that comes with the computer, it is far more instrumental a tool than all the other school supplies a student could purchase, to be dynamically used in all curricular areas, transforming their education. Where else could you get that potential of a difference for $100 a year?

And with primary cost out of the hands of the school, now the only thing that stands in its way is the school's willingness to handle a multi-platform environment. Which, shouldn't stand in the way of a school taking their curriculum into the 21st century.

Klein comments on the feasibility of this:

The trick, of course, will be achieving critical mass of parent supplied netbooks. 60% probably isn't enough, unless the district has the wherewithal to provide enough backup equipment to accommodate the other 40%. But, if the parents provide 70-80%, and those who don't are provided with equipment to use at school and all the software for use at home, have we achieved our goal? When do the laptops become school supplies? If we no longer have to teach students how to use the laptops themselves, no longer have the burden of providing significant support for them or training on how to use them, and we make sure all of the tools are free and easily accessible no matter what device the student uses, does the laptop suddenly become like a calculator? One of many means to an end?

Interesting food for thought.

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