The costs of purchasing and maintaining laptop computers is fast approaching that of purchasing textbooks, say a number of advocates of computer-based learning in traditional classrooms. One leading computer-oriented charter school in California has determined that equipping students with laptops is only 20 percent more costly than purchasing textbooks each year. Often the computers can be leased, which reduces initial cash outlays even further. And with laptops, students have access to far more information—and information in different formats—than textbooks can provide.

Participation in programs sponsored by Microsoft, Compaq, and other companies or use of government grants can help reduce the cost of laptops and further support your network. Many state universities also are eager to coordinate the activities of their teacher education programs and computer science courses with area schools, which further extends the utility of laptops.

One way to ease into a laptop purchase program is to shift funds planned for desktop computer purchases to laptops. Schools may wish to experiment by purchasing a limited number of laptops, a laptop cart, and other supporting equipment to create a roving computer lab.

Leaders in the laptop revolution say the convergence of many types of electronic communications devices—computers, cell phones, and fax machines, for example—make it crucial that schools find a way to bring laptops into their environment and design curricula that use the strengths of portable computer devices.

abstracted from “Laptop or Textbook?
District Administration, November 2001, page 54