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Laptop programs need proper preparation

By Murray Bourne, 04 Jan 2007

This article from the Washington Post, For some schools, using laptops simply doesn’t compute [no longer available] sounds to me like some school administrator decided it was a great idea to implement laptops and then the thinking came afterwards.

Staff had no idea what to do with the laptops:

“It was like, ‘OK, teacher, here’s the laptop − go with it,’ and (teachers) were like, ‘What do you mean, go with it? Is there a Web site I go to?’ ”

In mathematics class, the comment was:

Sometimes students “have benefited from certain things I can do with a computer that I couldn’t do before,” math teacher Mercedes Huffman said, but computers can be less efficient than paper in a discipline that often requires writing out problems or drawing figures.

She goes on to say:

“There’ve been times when a geometry class said, ‘Couldn’t we have just done this on paper?’ ”

Yep, what you have to do is completely re-think what the students need to learn and how they are going to learn it. It does not work to try to do paper-based activities (like curve sketching, or solving algebra problems) on the laptop. What does make sense though, is to do some investigation of curves ("what if" analysis), some maniuplation of statistics, matrices, algebra, or whatever.

This reminds me again of the ex-company trainer who joined academia who was horrified at how behind the academic world is when it comes to learning using technology. Shades of the 1990s?

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