Thursday, July 27, 2006

Laptops in school...

posted by Scott Roche

Nicholas Negroponte of MIT has been the champion of a project called "One Laptop Per Child", an effort to get a crank powered laptop running Linux into the hands of every kid in the third world. These things run about a hundred dollars a piece (+ $40 S/H). I think it's a pretty cool idea to a degree, but India disagrees:

"The case for giving a computer to every single child is pedagogically suspect. It may actually be detrimental to the growth of the creative and analytical abilities of the child," Education Secretary Sudeep Banerjee told a planning commission.

He added that the project is suffering from an unpredictable timeline. "We cannot visualise a situation for decades when we can go beyond the pilot stage. We need classrooms and teachers more urgently than fancy tools," said Banerjee.


I do think that laptops in the classroom can be detrimental. They're certainly a distraction in colleges that have wireless internet in classrooms. Were I a professor these days I would have a "NO LAPTOP!!!" rule in my class. You don't need to cruise whatever social networking site is the craze this week. Not sure that that's what he's talking about here though.

I think his strongest argument against them lies in his second statement. You need to recognize that solid teachers and facilities that meet your needs are more important than any whizbang gadget, no matter what the cost. Besides, it would seem that India is far from a third world country in regards to its IT power.


At 2:49 PM, Anonymous portia said...

Why not just deactivate wi-fi in the classroom? That's my school's solution. I'm not stuck writing by hand (good, given I'm quasi-handicapped) and they know I'm not typing this here.

At 2:56 PM, Blogger codemorse said...

I'm with Portia. Surely concerns about laptops being somehow detrimental are dwarfed by the overwhelming need to bring the third-world a little closer to the 21st century?

At 8:41 AM, Blogger Scott Roche said...

But... but... that makes sense.

Actually having laptops in class (I think) would still be a distraction with games and whatnot. Maybe I'm just a dinosaur, but what about just using a digital recorder to take notes if you're writing challenged? Worked for my generation (though we were forced to use cassettes).

And MM like I said if they don't have everything else they need then laptops need to be down on the priority list.

At 2:50 PM, Blogger codemorse said...

But in a world where the computer has, to a large extent, replaced the pen and paper, the newspaper, and become a (if not THE) primary means of communication, doesn't knowledge of, and skills with, the computer take priority?

And distraction-wise, if the lap tops are being given to the students, why not simply remove wi-fi and games from them?

At 3:11 PM, Blogger Scott Roche said...

The computer hasn't replaced those things quite yet. It's behinning to in karge portions of this country and a few others, but for now it's still secondary or perhaps parallel. And before you learn to use a computer you should learn how to write with your hands (okay actually first you should learn to write with your brain). You should learn math before you learn Excel. Having said that, yes they need to learn how to use computers and I disagree with him that it will take decades to go beyond the pilot.

And if these laptops belong to the sudents then they can reinstall whatever they like so how does that stop them?

At 3:57 PM, Blogger codemorse said...

Well, what's the stop a kid from doodling in class instead of paying attention?

Should we take away the pen and paper to prevent it?

At 4:16 PM, Blogger Scott Roche said...

Doodling is hardly as distracting to yourself or others. And I think that there are classes were the presence of laptops might make perfect sense.

At 7:01 PM, Anonymous portia said...

Obviously it depends on the age of the students in question, but at a certain point, personal responsibility steps in. If you're going to blow off a class, you're going to do it regardless of method (doodling, writing other things, playing Spider, whatever).

Why not use a recorder? Ironically, I'm also hearing-impaired. Trying to take dictation (listening to a recording and typing the notes) is like torture for me, and I lose a TON of information.

At 9:36 PM, Blogger codemorse said...

How can you quantify the distraction levels of doodling vs. computer games? Isn't that entirely dependent on the individual child?

At 8:52 AM, Blogger Scott Roche said...

Good points.


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