Would you send your child to school with a laptop from home?

netbookskinI found out recently that my local school district now allows students to bring their own laptops from home. I think that this is GREAT (even while simultaneously understanding the digital divide issues that accompany this policy).

Imagine that your local district allows the same. Would you send your children to school with a laptop/netbook? If so, would your children take one (or would they be too worried about standing out because other students weren’t also bringing computers to school)? This latter question’s of particular interest to me since my tech-savvy daughter starts middle school next year…

Thoughts?

Photo credit: Netbook Skin using Wordle.net (Lenovo S10) [cool use of adhesive photo paper!]

41 Responses to “Would you send your child to school with a laptop from home?”

  1. Not a scientific study, but:

    http://chronicle.com/wiredcampus/article/3662/when-shown-how-in-class-laptop-use-lowers-test-scores-students-stop-surfing

    I’ve testing this myself in meetings – I tend to participate more actively when I don’t have it with me. Sure I take better notes with it, but I learn better when I’m actively engaged and participating, not when I’m taking notes, bookmarking mentioned websites, etc.

    … no laptop for my kiddo in class.

  2. ABSOLUTELY!…
    big issues now are with smartphones (iphones, blackberry, pre…) IT dept’s are having issues with persons wanting them on the ‘internal’ network and the security issues.

    the very positive thing is that the users are building their own 1:1 environments with their own devices that corp/district IT folks do not have to support/pay for.
    it becomes more of keeping access live and providing the web based curriculum instead of firefighting tech break/fix issues for so many machines.

  3. Since I’m still a student (University though), I probably have a different perspective (though I ain’t got kids, but a dude in my class does). If I had a kid, and they were allowed to bring a laptop to school to use in classes, unless it was an actual requirement, I wouldn’t let ‘em. And if it was a requirement, I’d question the hell out of it.

    Ever been in a class when you got people in there using laptops? You have basically 4 kinds of people:

    1) The one who’s using it to look at the posted notes so they can read things better, and sometimes actually typing notes (this guy’s alright, I was usually this guy)
    2) The one doing other work (this guy’s slightly annoying, due to all the typing, but not so bad)
    3) The one looking at facebook/digg/playing games (this fellow is downright rude).
    4) The group of people talking to each other over an IM client trying to figure out what’s going on because the prof/instructor/teacher doesn’t make any sense.

    I know different school systems are different, but back when I was in high school (a mighty 10 years ago now), we never had any non-class time other than that break in the morning and lunch.

    So, what are laptops actually good for in a classroom environment? Taking notes, I guess, kinda, except when there’s diagrams or formulas (you’d need a tablet for diagrams, and then there’s issues with that too), but the clicking of a keyboard is annoying to everyone else in the class. Referencing material maybe, if the wifi actually works in the room and the channels aren’t clogged anyway, and you don’t get caught in a wiki-loop.

    Things laptops aren’t that good for? Taking notes in classes with diagrams and formulas (so math and science classes, sometimes even english and social studies, geography, other stuff). Doing pretty much anything in an art or music class. Looking like you’re paying attention when you’re really not (this is best accomplished by sitting in the back and drawing in your notebook instead of taking notes). Standing up to the weight of everything else that school kids have to lug around. Doing work in computer courses using software that everyone’s expected to have (well, I guess they’re great for this, sometimes, but not everyone’s gonna buy a copy of Office, you dig?).

    I really don’t see it as a “digital divide” issue as much as “schools are filled with people who don’t want to be there, so they’re going to take every opportunity to not pay attention and not give a hoot about the rules” issue.

  4. I work for a private international school in Indonesia where we actually require all our high school students to bring their own laptops.

    Because of the economic background of our students, the digital divide is not really such an issue although we do get a huge range of laptops from top-end Macs to $300 netbooks.

    The fact that the kids are bringing in their own laptops which they also use at home puts the onus on them to take care of them and keep them in great condition. It also means that students and parents get to choose the laptop that suits them best rather than the school choosing a standard and imposing a surcharge to pay for it.

  5. While I think computers in the hands of students in the classroom is essential to 21st century learning, I find the idea of students bringing their laptops from home a classroom management nightmare, from a teacher’s perspective. It is hard enough to give teachers the professional development and support that they need to make the necessary shift to technology integration, but add to that computers running on various platforms, operating systems, applications, and so forth, trouble shooting and trying to plan lessons to consider this is difficult even for the most adept teachers.
    It may be a starting point for some schools, but I fear that it may be so difficult for teachers to handle that they will be turned off by the whole idea of 1:1 teaching.

  6. My children went to a school that gave them HP Tablets to use for the last two years. They quickly learned which teachers would sync the notes, handouts, lectures and which would just ignore the technology. Their issue, as everyone else has pointed out, is if it is just one more thing to carry why bother? How it is used is more important than if it is used.

    In a public school setting I have seen students fact checking teachers on iPhones and other smart technology. We have one teacher using it to immerse the students in a global language. Every student tweets in Spanish and follows others in the language of the class.

    The direct answer to your question– in a middle school it is very hard for any student to stand out. The sharks will circle and attack. I have seen students do this(bring netbooks/laptops) at our high school and they are praised by peers and teachers as leaders. Different levels have different socialization aspects. An ugly fact but true.

  7. Scott,

    I’d be very interested to know more about the policies related to the laptops students bring from home. For example, what happens when laptops get broken or stolen? Is this scenario adressed in policy?

  8. My son (grade 7) occasionally takes his $500 used laptop to school. He doesn’t seem to care that some of the other kids have $3000 Macs. There is no wireless for the kids to access, so it is of limited utility in the class anyway. I generally discourage it because I’m concerned it will get damaged, and as somebody mentioned in the other comments, his backpack is already ridiculously heavy.

    I would not want it to be a requirement given the wide range of social economic situations in our school, but I do wish better use could be made of those that are brought – the teachers generally don’t allow them to be used in class so they are playing games with them during their lunch break.

  9. @Darren Draper:

    Great question. I thought a little about this too. All I know is that students can bring in their own laptops and that the district is providing a separate “guest” wireless network that resides next to its internal wireless network.

    I’m guessing – but I don’t know – that computing devices might be treated like any other expensive item that gets brought to school: bring at your own risk…

  10. As a technology director in a school, and for the sake of those in your districts, please don’t do this. We have in policy that students/visitors cannot bring in outside laptops or computers. The no outside computers policy comes from the complete inability to support many many different kinds of laptops. Also, there are tons of software compatibility and legal issues to consider.
    NOW that being said I feel that computers/technology can be an important tool for the classroom. It is for that reason we are strongly considering a 1:1 here.
    Please for all the tech folks sanity out there do not send you kid to class with a personal laptop.

  11. I think this is how my district will eventually get to 1:1. People bring their own. If they don’t have a laptop we will help with that. How much help may be an issue. Is it a school purchased one or is it an attractive lease to parents…

  12. We have had many discussions about this topic and are looking to make this available in the fall. I would certainly allow my child to bring their laptop to school. I would have a discussion with them about appropriate use and respect for their teachers, etc…

    However, I also believe that we have many teachers excited about the potential of using technology in their classroom but it is not available. Our labs are overbooked, our laptops are old. Many of our teachers would see this as an opportunity to expand their classrooms.

    Another issue to be considered along with Darren’s would be expectations during group collaborative work. Should students allow others to use their laptop? What if they accidentally break it? Who is responsible?

  13. Whether students should have laptops or even a smart phone in school is a non-issue: there is no good reason not to have them. What matters is how they are used, not whether they are there. I like Alan Kay’s comment about computers: he wouldn’t let a student within 15 yards of a computer–laptop or otherwise–until he was sure the student saw it as a bicycle for the mind.

  14. We are experimenting with the “guest” account for people, primarily AEA folks and others. What we’ve encountered with a few test students is that our network is so tight and locked down (I know this brings up a whole other issue) that the students who bring in their own devices have less capability than those who are using the school issued computers from the mobile carts. Right now, we are leaning heavily towards not allowing students to bring in their own but having a “guest” account for just that – guests.

  15. What good is their laptop doing them if it is at home? If they can’t bring it to school, give them a desktop. Sheesh.

  16. Great question! This is the discussion we need to be having. The devices that students use to access the internet should NOT be the responsibility of the school. Students need to learn how to take care of and manage the tools they will be using.

    The cost of a good netbook will be about $100 in the very near future, and internet devices could easily be supplied by entities other than the school district. School IT departments need to move toward providing infrastructure other than personal devices. Let’s have One Laptop Per Child here in the US.

  17. As parent of both a high school student and College student I see both sides of the picture. Our high school allows laptops and the college provides them to all students. I see the advantages of laptops as follows: Electronic textbooks with all of the dynamic interaction that computers allow. Collaboration within the classroom between the teacher and other students. Web based instruction. A multitude of applications for, science, math, engineering, art and animation – the list goes on.

  18. I think that this is a fantastic idea! I think that many districts would be surprised by how much local support the parents would give if they allowed students to being laptops from home. I have thought about asking my parents of my students if they would be interested in this before.

  19. I’m fortunate in that Maine is planning a 1:1 7-12 rollout this coming fall. (Whether or not it actually happens — well — we shall see but I’m hopeful.)

    If my daughter was of school age and heading to a school where it was allowed, my initial response would be, “Sure. Take one of the clunkers your uncle put together for you from the scraps he’s accumulated over the years. But find out what your teacher/school uses for programs so that you have the same thing or OpenSource versions of the same.” Being a genius, she would have no problem with me talking to her like she’s thirty so off she’d go with her banged up laptop in tow.

    But that’s because the school didn’t offer a machine to her and opened the doors for her to bring her own. A school that does that must already be aware of its degree of ability to support that type of policy.

    I agree with everyone above who points to the nightmare of a Whitman’s Sampler approach to computers in the classroom. (Imagine if you get stuck with a coconut creme or a non-Pentium processor — blech.) And kids will be kids, thus, expensive equipment seems like not such a good idea across the lower grades.

    But technology is a powerful tool and to the naysayers about computers in the classroom I’d ask them to consider: is the problem the computer or the teacher? Don’t damn the hammer just because your carpenter can’t pound nails.

    Dan Ryder
    Co-Host
    Wicked Decent Learning Podcast
    http://wickeddecentlearning.blogspot.com

  20. These comments are especially interesting given that PA is in the midst of an initiative that puts LOTS of laptops in schools. The comments about being more engaged when you do NOT have a laptop, and the distractions that the off-task folks create, and then Karl’s plea to NOT allow them to bring from home (Didn’t Karl make a 20-20 vision ppt that said that kids would be doing just that? :-)) are all interesting and not at all what I thought I’d be hearing from your readers.

    But, I do believe that they do NO good at home. And, if we project things out to 2020 (maybe 2030) and beyond, I think it’s a definite that kids will bring their own, since computers will be so small and inexpensive and “can’t live without it” that it’ll just happen. So, maybe we’re saying that now is not the time, given our technology. But, we’re willing to look at the idea again as technology changes.

    Maybe?

  21. Interesting. My son is also going up to middle school (sixth) next year, and we are changing his IEP to have keyboarding. His writing is atrocious, while his keyboarding is hitting a functional level. We’re “piloting” first an AlphaSmart keyboard, then a laptop in his elementary for the rest of the year. I want to make sure he is not distracted by the non-notetaking parts of the laptop. I’ve been warned by the Special Ed Program Specialist in my district (different than son’s) that most kids his age prefer the laptops, so as not to stand out. Lee is pretty oblivious to peer stuff, but it may end up being a factor.

    This is a different instance because it is an assistive device, but like your daughter, he will need to learn how to use this tool responsibly. His writing is so much better on the computer, it’s worth the work to get him on the right track with this.

  22. I had my first computer when I was three years old and actively searched for high schools with a laptop program. I have a few issues with this policy:

    - Professional Development: Are teachers receiving training about how to integrate these powerful tools into the classroom? Like any other tool, students have to be taught to use the tool efficiently and effectively. (For example, there is a lot of research that suggests word processing use in older elementary/middle school students improves the quality of their writing during certain parts of the drafting, editing/revision, and publishing process – if teachers don’t know why and how word processing is good and how to implement it, the gains are lost)

    - Access, access, access. Is there a program where students can rent laptops for no (or a small) fee? When I use technology in my classroom, I make sure everyone has access to the same tools as everyone else. I don’t assign computer-based homework and give students the opportunity to use the computer at school.

    - How do laptops support the best pedagogical practices? It depends on the class, age group, other tools the school has, content, needs of the students, etc.

  23. Since I work in a very rural, low socio-economic community, allowing students to bring in their laptops would just further the divide between the have and the have nots. I would be more interested in our district/schools developing policies/guidelines for using cell phones in the classroom – as I believe that the vast majority of our students have those mini computing devices instead! Add iPods & MP3s in the mix and now we’re talkin’! Unfortunately, all personal electronics are verboten. :-(

  24. I’d get him a netbook in a heartbeat and take the bumps.

  25. No .. Never.. This kind of situations ruins the brains developement.. If the children are having each and everything right away in hand through net and laptop, where will they use their brain… its not working .. Parent must take care that their children works harder during study and not just taking things lightly since the material they want getting easily.. this attitude may make them dumbo..

  26. Currently the state of Maine has a 1:1 program for all 7th and 8th graders in the state. This summer the plan is to extend that to grades 7-12. We’ve been doing it for 7 years…we’re on our second batch of laptops. As you can imagine…some schools “get it”…some don’t. Same for the teachers. My feeling is that laptops are here to stay. At one time the pencil and paper was a “revolution” in education. Schools began to transition away from the old slate and chalk method. Portability become paramount with pencils, pens, and paper. Now we move on. The laptop allows us to take it ALL with us…research, writing, textbooks…and so forth all on a small electronic device. As in any case…nothing replaces good classroom management. The wise teacher who wants the kids to focus on a lesson tells them to close their laptops. That same teacher who is trying to mix the laptops with the topic at hand will guide them while moving about the room keeping a eye on what kids are doing and assisting/leading them along the way. Bad or inexperienced teachers and laptops only exacerbates the problems that already exist. but good teachers and laptops…now that’s an awesome thing to see. Trust me…I’ve seen it many times! :-)

  27. I am considering a proposal that our school district ban students from bringing in their own writing utensils. Having no control over the variety of colors of pen ink and softness of pencil graphite is a major issue. It poses a logistical nightmare for those teachers who wish to instill a certain standard in their classroom. It also poses a security risk. How do we know the students won’t bring in pencils that contain lead? Also, letting students bring in their own writing utensils only exacerbates an already big problem we have with equity in our schools. Some students have the means to buy the best writing utensils while others will struggle to have any at all. Is this what we want for our kids?

    The other issue here is the question of whether or not these writing devices are hurting our student’s brain development. If they can write things down they don’t have to remember them anymore. We will see a nation of students who cant remember things and rely on books for knowledge.

  28. Being a big fan of Dr. McLeod’s article on asking instructional leadership questions, I wonder why we are not asking those questions on this issue. We seem very interested in obtaining the vehicle (laptops) but have little discussion on where we might be going.

    My biggest concern is that K-12 is in varying states of readiness for using laptops in engaging and meaningful ways. Without any specific hard data, I would have to believe that when we place 1:1 programs in without significantly addressing how teaching and learning occur, we would likely see little difference.

    “The system” doesn’t need a tweak such as adding laptops to an already failing model of teaching and learning – the system really needs a reboot.

    Not that 1:1 computing isn’t part of that reboot, but I am concerned that most of us have advocated for the tweak.

  29. Yes, I think the netbook is a great idea for school students. Most of them have cellphones that hook up to the internet anyway. In our district, most students would show up with one if allowed to do so. I’m afraid that it might even become competitive among parents as to what they buy for their kids.

  30. First of all, bravo to Carl Anderson…hysterical and so, so right. I am all for allowing students to bring in their own devices but it is imperative that it is planned with great thought. We recently visited the Clovis School District in CA to see their 1:1 laptop program, where students bring in their own laptops. Not all classes are 1:1 but I can’t help but think that they are on to something with great promise; particularly for those schools that cannot afford to equip every child with a laptop. The question, at least for me, isn’t whether every child should have access to a device of some kind…the answer is “yes”. Rather, we should be asking if schools are helping teachers to rethink the way in which they teach? It’s a whole new world and I, for one, am so excited about the possibilities.

  31. I am an elementray school teacher. I like the idea of students using laptops or computers in school, but have a real problem with students bringing them from home. If I bring a laptop or computer from home, I have to “gift” it to the school before it is connected to the network. Will the same be expected of students? How will we/ will we be required to monitor where students go on the computer since they are under our supervision? Lastly, when our country is going through a recession, I cannot see how parents could be expected to afford another “luxury’ item masked as a necessity.

  32. I have had the opportunity to ask myself this same question four times in the last seven years as my four daughters have hit high school (middle school policy wouldn’t allow them). I answered it everytime with a no, not because I didn’t want them using it but because the schools (they attended three different high schools) weren’t equipped to make them functional. The teachers and learning environments were geared toward the low tech solution. I will say though that we use pentabs at home in hopes that they will soon be taking them to school for functional usage. In math and science courses the pentabs add huge functionality and are an asset not just a keboarding option.
    I asked every school when we were looking at schools what kind of technology environments they had and each time they pointed me to nice labs that teachers could take their students to I look forward to the day when this discussion is centered on seeing the kind of work that my daughter is doing in school right now because she’s twittering me a question or a link to a site that she is building in her physics class. Yes, I choose to live in the world of possibilities.

  33. We are fast approaching our first complete year of a 1:1 program in our 9-12 grades. While there have been challenges, the benefits of leveling the playing field are tremendous. We have hosted nearly 40 schools who want to come and see a 1:1 in action. We hide nothing and welcome any and all. We allow itunes, YouTube, and other web based tools that our tech coordinator allow.

    The number one question is I get is how has the 1:1 impacted student achievement. My answer is always, “we didn’t do this to increase student achievement, we did it to engage students”. Today’s student is able to toggle information much more quickly than those of us who didn’t grow up with all the exposure to multi-media tools and toys.

    I can’t give you any more concrete data of increased student achievement other than observing students who are coming to school early to work, asking to access other web based “free” programs to create projects. And writing more when asked to reflect because they can read other student ideas on blogs.

    My staff has been swept up in the excitement and have embraced our project to the benefit of the students. Students now expect that information will be available to them outside of the school day. The most important aspect is having a a group of leaders and board of education willing to take risks with the vision of impacting the learning process.

    If you have never heard Dr. Daggett describe how a teacher lecturing sounds to students who are forced to “power down” when they come to school, I would suggest it. They are bored. How do you engage your students? How do you provide equal opportunities at your school? I don’t have to ask myself that question any longer.

  34. Being a current college student, I don’t think I would send my child to school with a laptop. There are too many distractions availble on it and I would feel that my child would not be able to be fully engaged in whatever the computer task was. Unless you have a child who is very well disciplined and attentive, I would say not send a laptop with them.

  35. I would absolutely send a laptop with my daughter to school, and probably will beginning next year (6th grade). She’s used a laptop and other computer technology since she was three, and understands the personal responsibility issues. I suspect the biggest challenge will be working with teachers to determine when its use is appropriate.

    My own (anecdotal) observations as a technology director indicate that students today have little difficulty staying engaged with multiple forms of media in their faces, especially when compared to adults in similar situations. The benefits of access to connected technology far outweigh any FUD Factor considerations.

  36. I want to respond to one post earlier by ande warren by asking the question; Have you ever been in a class as a teacher where there are not computers? There a basically four types of students:
    1) The first student is one who’s is actively engaged, listening, taking notes, writing out all of their assignments neatly in cursive handwriting. This student rarely needs to study for tests, but does anyway.
    2)This one “copies” stuff from the board and relies heavily on their peers for academic support. They copy their homework from the first type of student. This student goes with the flow and fools a lot of teachers into thinking they are doing more than they actually are.
    3) The third type of student spends most of their school day doodling in their notebook or desk while not paying attention to the teacher. If they aren’t “doodlers” they pass notes and, make “kick me” signs, and plan their weekend parties. This student needs to study for tests, but rarely does.(It’s THIS guy who is downright rude)
    4) The group of people talking to each other because they have no interest in “the topic of the hour”. They are disruptive, rude, and they interupt the learning of students one, two and three.

    Why wouldn’t we give our children 21st Century tools. If you are concerned that your kid will be surfing the internet playing games all day, talk to the teacher and have them explain what the spuervision will be like. Actually, if you are concerned about your childs education at all, you would want your child to have a laptop in class.

  37. When dealing with the issue of bringing personal laptops to school, this must be looked at as a district by district, case by case basis. While Gerald works at a private school in Indonesia, I work at an elementary school in Texas. These two educational groups are significantly different. When looking at this issue from a teaching standpoint, it would be wonderful for all children to bring a laptop; however, many students at my high “at risk” school do not even own a home phone. Therefore, it is my belief as an educator that we try to get funding for a 1:1 program. This will enable all children to have the resource, and it will limit social issues that arise with the difference in means. As someone who has limited IT knowledge, in order to access the network with laptops, they must be district approved. It must be an IT’s worst nightmare to have a school full of personal laptops that can access the network. If students are going to utilize laptops during school hours, they need to be able to access the networks with the restricted access that is put on district equiptment. This would be possible with the 1:1 program. Currently, my school district has given each classroom teacher a Macbook. We are working towards the 1:1 program.

  38. I wouldn’t have my child bring a laptop to school because: 1. The laptop could get stolen. 2. The laptop could get damaged by another student. Who would pay for the damage? 3. Teachers have enough trouble obtaining students attention in class. Why add another burden in the classroom. a. Students are great at instant messaging in class and looking like they are paying attention at the same time.b. Some teachers are not qualified to teach a technology class. 4. Laptop computers are expensive and not every student can afford them.

  39. Angus,
    Excellent classification of students in 4 categories.
    So which ones do you think would adopt 1:1 quicker and which ones would be benifitted the maximum? I am now talking about tablets in 1:1.

    Best
    Sanjay

  40. I’m 16, I’ve been wanting to bring my laptop to school for the primary function of playing games at lunch, the library is open at lunch to play Wii,Xbox, and computers at your wish, I have a group of friends that are all tech junkies and its a real hobby of ours to push technology to It’s limits. the problem is the processing power these computers have, Which is why I would want to bring my own for the games we play. However, I have my doubts about bringing it because I feel like I’ll have to lug it around over my shoulder all day just to play with my friends for half an hour at lunch, that’s why I’m actively searching for academic purposes of bringing a laptop to school. The biggest one is taking notes, however I’ve found that when people don’t understand something they fear it, older teachers don’t always understand the use of technology and because of that fear students using it for a distraction. I believe there are ways to monitor students activity on laptops however, for example Skype has a video setting to show the students screen, the teacher could have a router set up for they’re room and view students continuously on one group chat session. I’m sure it would be easy to code programs to make interactive learning as well, recently i had a college director talk to my class and he passed out tablets that displayed questions and activities that everybody participated in because of the appeal to using technology, all the answers were displayed on a screen in the room and it pinned us in academic competition, which further grabbed our attention! If teachers better understood the technology at hand they would not underestimate its power because they fear it, but instead immerse us in interactive, intuitive learning tactics. I understand that you as parents have concerns about your kids goofing off instead of taking notes and making graphic visuals in class, However I feel It’s a teachers job to make the material interesting to students. This is much easier to do when using technology. Imagine if in history class you could take notes while having portions of the class watching small animations or videos of historical events to better explain the material. In math class smart pads can be used, for those of you un-aware of what smart pads do, imagine a touch screen that is used to draw on. You draw on it with a special pen and it transmits your drawings to the screen, this could be used to take notes in math class and even art classes such as graphic design or website management, Even clubs could benefit from this. The best thing is the elimination of Paper based learning, I currently have 6 notebooks, 8 folders, and 3 textbooks in my backpack paired with countless binders and writing utensils, with a laptop you could have 1 case with 1 light laptop. with accessories like the smart pad or a mouse, you could easily fit those in a case and they weigh little to nothing! If you can name 1 thing you cant do better with a laptop then you can with tradition pen and paper then i applaud you, but the reason students are distracted is that they aren’t interested in the material, not because they enjoy doodling and laptops can fix that problem.

  41. I have seen computers/smart boards used with excellent results in classrooms and I have seen them misused. Like some have said previously it isn’t the technology that is the problem but the teacher. The teacher needs to monitor the use of the technology to make sure students aren’t playing games during class. In this day and age it is imperative that students be able to use computers and integrate them into various tasks they do. Teachers can have students do far more with computers than simply take notes, although this isn’t a bad use of the computer either. I would allow my child to bring our computer to school, but if a school was able to provide a computer for each student that would make it much easier as far as compatibility goes.

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