Laptop computers are making their way into middle schools and high schools across the country, and advocates say they can enhance student and teacher use of technology. Surveys of some of the first laptop programs suggest this promise is being realized, as students with laptops generally attend class more regularly, use their computers more often (especially out of the classroom), score higher on standardized tests, and are better academic researchers and collaborators. These results appear sustainable over several years, whether students come from privileged backgrounds or impoverished districts. Creators of successful laptop programs say the following issues must be considered when developing programs:
- Goals and objectives. Work with an experienced consultant to set goals for the program, as well as to start settling on the details (number and type of computers, take-home policies, etc.). Also, study other successful programs that have a track record of a few years (see list of online resources below).
- Financing. The least expensive laptops cost about $1,300. Laptops that can handle today’s multimedia demands and can work in a wireless environment cost about $2,000 each. Many districts are leasing laptops to reduce initial outlays. One idea that has worked well for some districts is having parents purchase the laptops (and subsidizing those who need financial aid). Grants may be available, too.
- Security. Laptops can get lost or broken, so most districts purchase insurance on the machines. Initial training of students and parents in the care of laptops reduces incidence of damage.
- Teacher training. Laptops are a whole new ballgame, program developers say, because teachers must be especially committed to integrating technology into lessons.
The following web sites offer information about creating “one-to-one computing” programs and address many of the issues listed above: