Why? Well, here’s problem No. 1 (and if anybody wants to forward this to Lancaster, Texas superintendent Larry Lewis, feel free):
The students at Liverpool High have used their school-issued laptops to exchange answers on tests, download pornography and hack into local businesses. When the school tightened its network security, a 10th grader not only found a way around it but also posted step-by-step instructions on the Web for others to follow (which they did).
School districts with laptops have other problems, such as maintenance costs, a fair amount of which are not covered by insurance, down time, needing a “lab” room for repair work if it’s done on-site, trying to teach to a class where some students laptops are working and others’ aren’t, and more.
Throw in teachers having to reorient lesson plans, complete with some concerns about “teaching to the computer,” vs. the old “teaching to the test” with standardized tests, and you can see some of the issues involved.
And here’s not a problem, just the empirical evidence:
“After seven years, there was literally no evidence it had any impact on student achievement — none,” said Mark Lawson, the school board president here in Liverpool, one of the first districts in New York State to experiment with putting technology directly into students’ hands. “The teachers were telling us when there’s a one-to-one relationship between the student and the laptop, the box gets in the way. It’s a distraction to the educational process.”
Such disappointments are the latest example of how technology is often embraced by philanthropists and political leaders as a quick fix, only to leave teachers flummoxed about how best to integrate the new gadgets into curriculums. Last month, the United States Department of Education released a study showing no difference in academic achievement between students who used educational software programs for math and reading and those who did not.
Those giving up on laptops include large and small school districts, urban and rural communities, affluent schools and those serving mostly low-income, minority students, who as a group have tended to underperform academically.
In one of the largest ongoing studies, the Texas Center for Educational Research, a nonprofit group, has so far found no overall difference on state test scores between 21 middle schools where students received laptops in 2004, and 21 schools where they did not, though some data suggest that high-achieving students with laptops may perform better in math than their counterparts without. When six of the schools in the study that do not have laptops were given the option of getting them this year, they opted against.
No, that’s not to say that laptops may eventually find some place in more schools. But, let’s not consider them some magic cure-all for getting kids into Harvard or whatever, or even into a decent state university.