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Laptops in the classroom help middle-schoolers learn

Posted November 20, 2008

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— Laptops in the hands of middle-schoolers.

Teachers and students say it has made a big difference in learning at Centennial Campus Middle School in Raleigh.

Cary-based SAS, the world's largest privately held software company, gave the school more than 200 laptops, as well as software, last year.

Eighth-grade teacher Jessica Nelson said the laptops and wireless Internet access in her classroom allow her to go beyond the normal language-arts curriculum.

"I'm able to teach the standard course of study, but I'm able to enrich it with real-world examples," Nelson said.

When teaching about Edgar Allen Poe, Nelson asks her students if they know what cholera is. Before hearing from the teacher, the students can hop on the Internet and see if they can figure it out for themselves.

Students talked about the benefits of the laptops in other subjects as well.

"In math, we have this program that lets us draw sketches on the Internet, and they're more accurate than if the teacher was drawing them or if we drew them," student Nonye Onokalah said.

Teachers said the laptops have even helped students get more of their assignments done.

"Put a computer in front of them and give them the option of typing that paper, and that stress, anxiety goes out the window," Nelson said. "So I have a higher turn-in rate for a lot of my term papers."

The students store their laptops in their classrooms at the end of the school day, but the Internet keeps them connected to school – via teachers' Web sites – even at home.

"They have my actual notes, how they were given in class, to make sure they didn't miss something as they were copying. ... They can go home and print it," Nelson said.

Centennial officials believe that students' computer competency test scores have risen as a result. During the first full year of having laptops in the classroom, the percentage of students with passing scores rose from around 70 to 92.5 percent.

Students said their parents appreciate the extra boost their children have been given.

"My parents are happy about that, because in the world around us, technology is the big thing," student Prakhar Naithan said. "And if you don't know about technology, then you can't really get around."

31 Comments

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  • tanahusky Nov 20, 2008

    I think it is wonderful that SAS donated these to this school. I hope that those of you assuming the worst of these students invovled in this initiative have your facts straight about all the horrible things these kids are going to do.

  • colliedave Nov 20, 2008

    You could use that same argument for written textbooks.

    At least textbooks and journals have been peer-reviewed. And, yes, there is bias in these works.

    But the job of an educator should be to train his/her students to pick out the bias. Any idiot with a modicum of talent can develop a web page and get it into search engines.

  • something2say Nov 20, 2008

    I am all for having a mix of educational tools available to all kids. I think having the computers available is awesome. Not all kids will get to use a computer in the home or community. By having them at school and allowing daily use it helps level that field of experience.

    I don't think that computers are taking over the classroom, I think teachers are finding ways to incorporate it while still teaching and using the standard/traditional/pen and paper methods. Both have their merits and should not be forgotten!

  • Tawny Nov 20, 2008

    Having computers in the classroom is a very positive learning strategy. When these students enter high school, they will be competent in doing research-based classwork- which more curriclums are requiring.

  • HappyGirl08 Nov 20, 2008

    Seems like to me this would be a distraction more than a help for 90% of kids in school. ESPECIALLY if they can get online.

  • Travised Nov 20, 2008

    What is the status of their handwriting? If they are being thrown on computers (fulltime??) the handwriting must be going downhill. That is one of the problems if students are switched from books (writing) to computers.

    Thinking that they can't bypass security on the computers (online) is a joke. I'll fail to mention it, but the students most likely know ways around the system already. I found out ways around my schools lab security. I found out how to call long distance on their phones. Both all on my own. On the net it's common knowledge how to bypass the "locked out" sites/words that a network/system may have, not to mention easy.

    I had poor hand/eye coordination due to other reasons (surgery), so I was allowed to use sub-laptops/portables rather then write my works. Otherwise students should keep up their writing skills.

  • Iworkforaliving Nov 20, 2008

    " I think all textbooks should be online and just let kids use a computer in class instead of lugging around books. That way if they have a computer at home they can access the textbook. It may actually save money.Imagine that, the state doing something that saves money."
    deedeedee

    You're kidding, right? So if the internet was down for whatever reason there would be no textbook to fall back on. How much does a textbook cost compared to a laptop? Don't let these kids forget how to write with a pencil. So what if their stressed about writing an assignment, life has allot more stressed in store for them, they need to get used to it now while we can help.

  • starglow2005 Nov 20, 2008

    "Also, how can one expect the information retrieved from the internet to be correct? How does one address the biases of the author?"

    You could use that same argument for written textbooks.

  • emcmanus Nov 20, 2008

    So many different opinions...But I'd like to chime in and say that as an educator, the gap between students used to be determined by literacy. In this new era of technology, the gap will be literacy AND technology. I wish there was something we could do to eliminate that gap.

  • Sick N Tired Nov 20, 2008

    Colliedave....good point. There is so much information out there and biased one way or the other. How does one learn to discern the truth when they can pull a website to support any opinion under the sum?

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