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The Laptops Are Coming! The Laptops Are Coming!

Posted by Texas Education on July 16, 2008

This article is interesting, mostly to those who are truly involved with education, teaching, but more so those who are involved with technology and teaching.

At first, Sarah Heller McFarlane believed that a classroom of students with laptops was an educator’s dream come true. Then the hard truth set in for this Washington State-based high school teacher. Among the unforeseen changes McFarlane details in “The Laptops Are Coming! The Laptops Are Coming!”, she found herself being less a teacher and more an electronic snoop than she ever imagined. Worse, as her students engaged with their laptops they disengaged with her and their fellow students.

McFarlane’s essay is a cautionary story on the problems associated with turning over laptops to students and turning classrooms into technology centers without creating a strategy that includes unplugging the earphones, turning off the machine, and tuning in to each other.

I found it fascinating because I could relate to most of what this teacher had to say about the kids and their experiences with technology. I also felt, especially in the beginning, and at times, like her, more worried about what the kids were doing (not instructional) during class. I felt this was my biggest criticism and wonder if any other teacher, or anyone else for that matter, could police them any better than I had. After reading this article I remember back when I felt I had to – disconnect – from technology and get back to basics, if you will. I would do “games” that would connect my students. I also felt I was faulted on not getting to know my kids better, and as a very new teacher, I needed to find ways to do that, especially since they would come in and all I saw was the backs of their heads, for the most part. Most students don’t show off, or ask questions, even when they have them, so learning about them, getting to know them and helping them when they need it, can be truly difficult, at best. One of the most popular games was rules-of-the-game. I introduced this during the second semester after I had come back from CKH’s and found the key is to “connect” and learn the story behind the behavior. They absolutely loved that game and would constantly ask it they could play it. I honestly got to know the quiet ones better. I found a student who hardly ever spoke a word, was a very funny guy.

Krikey, I find myself more involved on the computer now than ever, researching, reading, studying, learning. I often wonder, especially those teachers who are not computer literate, how the heck they do it and find the time. Yesterday, my husband paid me a compliment, he needed some information faxed (no, we don’t have a fax, and the one that “comes” with the computer is very funky) to our insurance company and wanted me to, go do it. I looked at the form and you could also email it. I told him, could I just do that instead? He said it would take longer. I though, um, go upstairs, scan and email, as opposed to putting on shoes, getting in car, driving the couple of miles, PAYING for the fax, wondering if it made it, um…which would be faster. After I did it, and bcc’d him, he came in and said “wow, that took a lot less time than I thought, it would have taken me a whole lot longer.” (My husband works with computers!) As he left the room, I said, “I will take that as a compliment.” And I did!

If you are interested in educating students, using technology to do that or you are just curious how it can be done or how it’s done, take a few minutes. Read this story, be enlightened!

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