Saturday, September 11, 2010

Share My Computer? No Way!

I feel I need to respond to a recent article by Jamie McKenzie,  “Over-Equipped? Is it possible to have too many laptops?” His argument is that “It turns out that one-on-one is perfect for some activities but not the best choice for other learning activities.” I would have thought this would be obvious to any teacher, but I don't see the connection between the tools one chooses to complete a learning task, and personal ownership of a laptop or netbook. Sometimes pen and paper is quicker and more efficient than using a computer but we don't tell kids they have to share one exercise book or pen between two students.
He also cites an article from the New York Times that states that giving out netbooks to teenagers from poor neighbourhoods actually lowers writing and maths test scores because kids spend their time playing games on the devices. You can manipulate data to suit editorial comment at any time but I imagine the lower test scores are a result of student's disinterest in the school system in general. Kids see that authentic learning is taking place outside of schools rather than within them. The kids are saying, “I don't care about what the tests measure because it is not going to get me a job anyway". As I have stated previously, handing out netbooks doesn't change much in schools. Technology management is about people. It is change management. Teachers need support in learning how to use tools effectively. If they don't have this support, they can't make use of the a laptop's potential to support new types of learning that engages students. Good teachers, quickly learn how to use computers well in their classrooms to engage students. Just like they probably used blackboards well to engage students. Bad teachers don't do this. Invest in teachers and you invest in students.
Netbooks are getting cheaper all the time and soon students will all have something like an iPad in their bag whether teachers like it or not. So why can't each child have a netbook? How would you feel if you started work at a new company and you were told you had to share a computer with another worker? If you really believe that it is best if kids share computers, demonstrate your support for the concept by giving your laptop away and sharing a computer with the teacher in the next classroom. Go on. I dare you.


  1. Your article is based on kids from poorer backgrounds and their attitude to schooling.

    I lived for many years and worked in a school in a mining town where many of the teachers were parents of students at the school.

    The students all had decided that going to drive a truck at the mine was a better outcome than going to university like their parents had.

    They saw mine workers on a 100,000 dollar a year income compared to their parents on a 60.000 dollar a year income and this drove their school performance.

    The whole question about school performance is not so much about what is given them to assist them achieve. .but about changing their values and attitudes to school in the first place.

    Giving a child a computer isn't going to stop them see hopelessness in gaining a job at the end of school.. if it's not a computer it is something else. They simply are not motivated to learn.

    Our role as educators is to use their attitudes and change their attitudes.. and to motivate them.

    I love the scouting concept of "learning by doing" and see it in my own students.. use the technology to assist them to find relevence of learning to their personal situation and it changes their attitude.

    This is the key to their personal success and should be the goal of every true educator.. they must WANT to learn..

  2. I agree about changing attitudes and that motivation is the key. I think we all strive for it. Giving kids computers doesn't change much. It is the way that teachers use them that counts.