SHOCKING: Laptops Don't Make Better Students

I just finished reading a NY Times article [article link] about how 1:1 laptop programs are not increasing student achievement.

This is the headline: Seeing No Progress, Some Schools Drop Laptops.

There are so many quotes in that article that stood out to me as things that my PLN is constantly saying. For instance, this one:
But Mr. Warschauer, who supports laptop programs, said schools like Liverpool might be giving up too soon because it takes time to train teachers to use the new technology and integrate it into their classes.

Basically, they gave laptops to all the students and teachers and said teach and learn. That doesn't work. Let me repeat that. That doesn't work. Teachers need to be tech. literate and they need to interested in the concept. They need the training on how to integrate this seamlessly into the curriculum. That takes time (years) and training for both the teachers and students.

Then there's this quote from a student:
Students like Eddie McCarthy, 18, a Liverpool senior, said his laptop made him “a lot better at typing,” as he used it to take notes in class, but not a better student. “I think it’s better to wait and buy one for college,” he said.

This is probably an effect of the lack of teacher training. It sounds like the students were merely taking notes on a laptop instead of paper. This is good but there is so much more that a computer or any technology can do. Did they create podcasts, storyboard using cartoons, set up a blog or a wiki to collaborate, or even simply do online worksheets? Even more, what is this student going to do with it in college? Take notes? They should be teaching much more than note taking in high school.

But, here is the money quote from teacher Tom McCarthy,
“The art of thinking is being lost,” he said. “Because people can type in a word and find a source and think that’s the be all end all.”

Thinking is lost because of the laptops? Students have every bit of information they will ever need at their fingertips and hundreds of tools to make the most of that information. They can take information that they didn't know and synthesize into something new. However, they also need to think about the source, compares sources, analyze points of view, and so many other critical thinking skills.

The thinking has just begun.

[As an aside on the subject of sources: In a meeting we were debating the meaning of "inference" and whether the inferences had to be logical or just be supported by evidence or prior knowledge. I typed "define:inference" into my trusty Google box. Half of the results included logical in the definition and half of them did not. Great discussion where not even Google results were definitive.]


  1. Great insight on laptops. Increased technology usage does not equate to increased learning. As you mentioned, this shouldn't be too surprising. White boards, typewriters and overhead projectors didn't do the trick either. More examples of mediums that allow us to do "old things in new ways." Until our pedagogy changes, students will continue to learn in teacher-centered classrooms. Thanks for sharing!

  2. Hi @mctownsly! Thanks for comment.

    I think whiteboards and overheads increased engagement for that generation of learners. Interactive white boards, laptops, and web 2.0 increase engagement for this generation.

    There still needs to be quality instruction. Good teachers are still good teachers. I'm a good teacher but I get better engagement and results with increased technology.

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