Why Laptops? The Rebuttal

I’m encouraged that in the Sunday paper the editor supports laptops for teachers (A Wise Decision?). Laptops are the wise choice to enhance productivity, collaboration, presentation and professionalism.

As for student laptops, there is a misunderstanding in the editorial. The school system is not proposing the purchase of laptop computers for students to have as their own “personal” computers.

The student laptops requested in the captial budget would be on mobile carts that remain in schools under the same security and accountability measures as any other school system computer. We are not brand new to this. For three years now, we’ve effectively managed a laptop cart at Croatan High School.

This mini-video from Croatan High School yields insight into the value of student laptops in our schools:

Why Laptops?

For a more detailed explanation of why Croatan has requested laptop carts for students, visit this link. But in a nutshell . . .

As for the cost effectiveness, the laptop carts for students are requested by five schools to increase student access without wiring more rooms for labs or displacing teachers from their classrooms. The laptops can be distributed to classrooms as needed. This results in more flexible learning options than having two or three desktop computers in every classroom. The cost-saving model is called “one-to-one as needed.”

Four other schools (West Carteret, Morehead Middle, White Oak and Bogue Sound) have also requested mobile laptop carts for student use.

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13 Responses to Why Laptops? The Rebuttal

  1. Tom Hoffman says:

    I think how many carts they’ll have per school is an important question. One cart, no problem. 4, 5, 6 carts, that’s a handful.

  2. jpoletti says:

    Three schools have requested one cart. Two have requested 2 carts.

  3. From the “A Wise Decision?” piece in the Carteret County News Times this past Sunday, I believe there may be some misunderstanding as to why West Carteret High School is asking for laptop carts and exactly what this entails. I would like to try and explain our situation by looking at two issues: reasoning behind the request and ways mobile labs will be used.

    Reasoning behind the request: Currently, we have two general access computer labs for a student population of over 1,200 students. We would like to add access locations for our students and teachers to use, but do not have the physical space to add another computer lab. In order to meet the needs of our students, we have requested two mobile computer labs. These consist of twenty-eight laptops, one printer, a wireless access point, and a lockable metal cart on wheels. This would allow for our space confinement not to be a detriment to our students and teachers. It would be a shame to punish the students of an aging building not to have technology needs to move forward into the educational future. These mobile lab carts are standard to many of our surrounding counties (Craven, Pitt, Onslow). These are also standard to many of the universities across the country. Our current fixed labs are booked on a consistent basis. Teachers have to reduce the amount of “real-world” research that can be accessed due to not being able to access the current computer labs.

    Ways mobile labs will be used: Our teachers would be able to check the carts out and take them to their classroom each morning. They would plug one network cable into the wall and the entire cart of twenty-eight laptops would be able to access the Internet or subject specific software for classroom assignments/research. This one cable would also allow them to print any documents, spreadsheets, graphs, etcetera to the printer located on the cart. This allows West Carteret to be much more versatile in the technology we are able to give to our students and teachers. This would also allow teachers to be in their classroom and the technology would come to them. This allows for greater amount of time on task when looking at the broad scheme of items. For example, with fixed location lab the teacher has to take attendance and then move to the lab. Providing the location in our building this takes between one and five minutes out of the classroom instruction time for each journey to the lab. With the mobile lab, the teacher would already be in their room and students would come in and checkout a laptop upon entering the room. The teacher would then be able to take attendance and have any possible items necessary while the students were working. I know we are always suppose to have everything ready for students at every minute, but we all know this does not happen every time we get to the lab.

    As one can see, West Carteret High School really needs to be able to provide our students and teachers with access to mobile computer labs as requested in our technology plan. We hope you will see our needs and encourage county officials to approve our request. Thank you for your support of our students and teachers.

    –West Carteret High School Technology & Media Team

  4. vicki fritz says:

    Joe, the video clip is very effective. You bring up some great points in your post. Laptop carts are the way to go as far as I am concerned! Nice blog, Mr. P.

  5. rick luettich says:

    Does this mean the laptop carts are not replacing aging technology but rather increasing the technology inventory/access at WCHS? Is this true at the other schools?

    As I noted in the budget workshop last week, I find the justification for laptops to be much easier in the higher grades (e.g., middle school and up) than in lower grades. I believe we need some good solid evidence that laptops are cost effective in the lower grades.

  6. jpoletti says:

    The snapshot guidance indicates that 3 schools (WCHS, NMS and BSE) will probably expand inventory by adding modern computers for students to access. At WCHS, simply because of its large student population, the ratio of student computers to students will still be among the highest. At NMS, we are trying to offset the “Croatan Bomb” effect where all computers bought at one time age out simultaneously. And at BSE, some extra computers will go into the new wing under construction.

    As for evidence for the value of laptops in the lower grades, we do not have any locally. But I’m sure we can find elementary schools who have gone to a laptop cart before us…even one-to-one. I’m thinking of an elementary school in Stanly County, NC.

  7. After reading “A Wise Decision?” in Sunday’s newspaper, I came to the realization that there is some confusion regarding Carteret County School’s budget request for technology. In response to the comment that “it is exorbitant to ask county taxpayers to provide laptops to students,” I would like to provide our taxpayers with the facts regarding laptop use in our schools.

    Three years ago, Croatan High School “stepped out of the box” and chose to spend technology funds on a wireless laptop cart. What a wise decision! The cart contains 16 Dell laptop computers which are reserved almost every period of the day by teachers who are conducting technology-rich lessons in their classrooms. A teacher who plans to use the laptops simply opens the on-line computer lab schedule which is saved on the school’s server and reserves the laptops for a particular period. The laptops are then delivered to the teacher at the designated time by student interns who work in the media center. When it’s time for the students to begin working, they unplug their laptop from the cart and return to their desks to log onto the school’s network—no wires attached! The laptops are equipped with anti-virus software and the internet content is filtered. The laptops are covered under Dell’s service warranty and those that fail to function properly are called in. Dell then dispatches a service representative who repairs the problem or replaces the broken part within 1-2 days free of charge.

    Students and teachers benefit greatly from the opportunities that are provided by the laptops. Within minutes of discussing black history, social studies students can begin to research an individually assigned topic using the Internet and create PowerPoint presentations which will be delivered to their classmates the next day. Science students, after learning about the reactions of certain chemicals, can conduct on-line interactive experiments using the very same chemicals. Math students can practice new concepts and gain immediate feedback by completing on-line quizzes. Exceptional needs students can complete their assignments while getting assistance with spelling and grammar checks. Because of these great learning experiences and the large demand for laptop use, the goal of Croatan High School is to equip each hall with a wireless laptop cart within the next few years!

  8. keoughp says:

    Latest Podcast from the Pat and Joe Conversations – New Wine doesn’t do well in old wineskins certainly applies to this dialogue.

    Click this one for Podcast

    enjoy

    Patrick

  9. Jeanne Huntley says:

    As for the need for a laptop at the elementary level, I would like to share some insight. In the last several years we have had to give up every usable space to become classrooms. This includes one of our two computer labs. Although our computer access has been more than cut in half as we have added classrooms but taken away a lab, we have continued to be held accountable for a complete Technology Course of Study required by the state. Having a lab on a cart would inrease instructional time by eliminating transitions and restore our accessibility back to a level it was several years ago. This would not tie up square footage for a lab be enable us to take a lab anywhere it is needed. There are great fitness programs that would make these usable with an entire class in physical education. This is just one of the many opportunities a mobile lab would open to our students. It will also allow our students to take advantage of the many online supplemental programs that enhance our curriculum needs that they presently cannot participate in.

  10. jpoletti says:

    Lisa Raines has posted the Morehead Middle response over at Click o’ the Mouse.

    http://lraines.edublogs.org/2007/02/07/mcms-response-to-sundays-editorial/

  11. Lisa Raines says:

    Morehead City Middle School is grateful that our community is discussing the need for schools to increase the accessibility of technology for our students and staff. We would like to clarify our school’s plan to increase the use of technology across all content areas.

    Morehead Middle School serves around 500 students. Our two computer labs are used for many purposes. One vocational classroom lab is used to teach the NC Standard Course of Study. In these classes, students learn basic keyboarding skills, as well as more complex skills, including applications such as word processing, database, spreadsheet, desktop publishing, and multimedia presentations. Our second lab is used on a rotating basis by our entire staff and their students. North Carolina requires teachers to include computer and other technology skills in their lessons. This lab is continually in use as our teachers create exciting and new ways to use technology in projects and everyday lessons.

    MCMS has a need greater than our current computer labs can meet. Therefore, we have moved forward with a plan to bring technology into more classrooms. This plan is supported financially by our parents and students who sold chocolate bars and magazine subscriptions so that we could lease a portable lab. This lab will be in the hands of our students within the next several weeks.

    Our portable lab has a three year warranty on parts and replacement, just like the desktop computers funded by the county. These laptops are stored in a secure cart which remains locked when not in use. When the lab is rolled to the classroom, students are assigned a specific laptop. Thus, if problems arise, the situation can be handled properly.

    Essentially, the only differences between our portable lab of laptops and the desktop computers sitting in a lab (both have the same productivity and security software) are mobility and flexibility. Laptops give teachers and students the ability to use them in a variety of ways, such as outside labs in science or grouping students into stations in a classroom for cooperative learning projects. Laptops allow more accessibility without the capital outlay to build more labs. We can “make do” with the facilities we have by turning any room into a computer lab.

    Rest assured that our students and staff will be trained in the proper care and use of this computer lab, just as they are with all computer inventory at our school. Improper use of technology equipment is dealt with as any other infraction would be. On the other hand, it is our policy to teach students the behaviors we want them to exhibit. We are confident that, with the proper training, they will treat this portable lab as well, if not better, than any other equipment they handle in the school. It is our hope that students will feel a sense of ownership and pride in this lab since they helped earn the money to make the lease possible.

    At Morehead City Middle School, we are preparing our students to be 21st century learners who are inquisitive, collaborative, responsible, and independent in their learning. Technology is one of the tools they need now, not just in the future. We live in a technology rich environment. To ignore that fact and limit our schools to pen and paper activities would be a travesty and would put our students at a serious disadvantage when competing for jobs and college admissions. Additionally, we must prepare our students for the North Carolina Computer Skills test which is given in the eighth grade and which all students must pass to graduate from high school. Students must be exposed to technology as much as possible to learn the skills well enough to pass this test.

    Our staff welcomes the public to visit our school to see this exciting tool for learning!

  12. AG says:

    As a current student at Croatan I find the laptops very efficient and think they are well worth the spent money.

    There has been many a-time where there has been more than a one-to-one student ratio of students-to-computers both in the library and in the computer lab. Instead of having student cram together so that they can ‘share’ the computers, Mrs. Temple can just whip out a lap-top (I swear this woman’s magical sometimes…).Not only are these laptops convenient but that save LOADS of time as far as logging into the school server and loading internet pages as compared to some out-dated science desktops.

    While I am all for technological improvements, I do struggle with the concept of laptops for elementary schools. However, I think there are far more urgent needs for this ‘precious’ money that are felt by every school throughout the county.

  13. jpoletti says:

    I’m with you, AG. Mrs. Temple is in a class of her own. She will be sorely missed.

    Just a point of clarification on the elementary school student laptops in the request. Both White Oak and Bogue Sound are amid building expansion projects that will provide much needed classroom and lab space.

    The idea at both schools is to utilize the laptops next year to increase student access. Then, when the construction is finished, they will give the laptops to the teachers and place the teacher computers in the newly available lab space.

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