One to one computing is a big topic in Atlanta at NECC this week. One school has made significant strides toward making "laptops disappear" in their school. No we don't mean vandalized or stolen, the word "disappearing" refers to to how the laptop blends in with other tools like books, pencils, notebooks that students work with at any given time. The Urban School of San Francisco is a small independent high school. I know you are thinking that of course it can work in a "private" school, but the director of technology, Howard Levin, thinks it will work anywhere and it is a matter or priorty not lack of resources. The Urban School of San Francisco, California's web site is http://www.urbanschool.org/.
What the Students Say
56% of the students in this HS say they are more organized with all of their materials in one place, even if they don't have good file management skills, it is all on the laptop.
How would your life be different without a laptop?
"I would be badly unorganized – papers everywhere, stuff everywhere, all my stuff is on laptop – it is important for me..." - Zee
"All my stuff is in one place – my parents are divorced and I live in two different houses. With my laptop my stuff is always with me never left behind. The only thing I wish I could do is google where stuff is in my room -- I really wish I could do that." - Lizzy
"Making the laptop like a pen, paper, or notebook. It is just something else you bring. If you are conscious about laptop then it is a distraction not a tool." - Unknown
"For me it is just Normal - I don't know what the big deal is." - Unknown
Levin says the students don't have the learning curve that adults have,which we already know. He suggests not trying to figure out how to train the kids on the laptops just get it in their hands. Lizzy who we heard from above comments on how she used Inspiration one time for a SS class and then second time did a comprehensive multi-layer concept map to plan a very large research paper she did. "It was pretty easy. Without it I would have had several versions of the paper in draft 1, 2, 3 etc. I would have post it notes all over it and it would be terribly dog eared and torn. Inspiration eliminated all of the chaos and helped stay organized and have her paper done in an efficient way.
Teacher are often cautious when providing email to students fearing a barage of mail at the end of every day. However in practice - students will always go to each other for help before they go to a teacher so that the teacher questions are very relevant and have more to do with thinking than process or materials. Now students don't have to wait to get answers they can get them quickly and move on.
Teachers archive all class notes done on Smartboards so students can refer back to those notes when doing homework outside of the physical class to reinforce concepts or study for projects, quizzes and tests.
Can record demonstrations of how to use software and websites as a homework activity for students to view as necessary.
Students are doing peer to peer writing, contributing to wikis and blogs as part of their normal writing process. Much of this happens outside of the classroom because they have been provided access to the tools.
Students use probes and probe ware as a normal course of science research with the software on their laptops.
Immediate 24/7 access to software, communication tools (people), information.
The director of technology sent an email to all 9th grade students the first day of the conference asking what they thought about the laptops and how they help them. First of all let's realize school is out for the summer. He received a half dozen video recordings within 12 hours from kids lounging around homes, pools, and cafes who tookthe time to record their thoughts about the laptops. He was then able to easily insert them into his presentation that we participated in the next day. They could not have happened.
Kids can journal using video instead of writing - for some children this is a better way to communicate their thoughts and ideas than writing.
The conclusion for this Director of Technology was that an investment of about $1,200 per studnet has paid off way beyond their expectations and that while the fundng may seem like an obstacle, with technology planning that has educational objectives linked to student performance -- this becomes an essential tool that will be funded.