Over the past two weeks I have had the great opportunity (sarcasm) to do some Christmas shopping with my wife. As I was more engaged with looking at items for myself rather than doing the shopping at hand I was drawn to the abundance of netbooks that are now available. For anywhere from $250-$400 you can get a netbook with endless options. It was interesting to see netbooks that were fitted with rubberized cases, fanless bottoms to avoid spills, anti-microbial keyboards, carrying handles, shoulder straps, built in cameras, wifi, Bluetooth, and even some that are 3G compatible. Why are companies packing such great options into such a small and portable device that can be accessed anywhere? Simple, for student use.
I immediately thought that if I were a parent (scary thought) and had a child what better way to help enhance and supplement their learning than through the purchase of a netbook for Christmas. Sounds like a great idea right? But after thinking it through, how many of our schools are “laptop friendly” campuses where utilization of these tools is encouraged? Having such a great tool at your disposable and not being able to use it at school seems somewhat pointless. What would a 4th grade teacher do on January 4th when a student walks in with their new netbook ready to use it in the classroom? What would a high school instructor do when a student gets out a netbook and begins to search for pictures of WWI propaganda posters for a U.S. History assignment? This scenario raises many questions: Is it up to each individual teacher to decide? Should the building level administrator make a decision on their use? Does the school already have a policy? All of these thoughts immediately came to mind.
My initial response is that all schools should already be in a 1 to 1 program to enhance curriculum and instruction in the classroom and be preparing students for the future. But we have to be honest with ourselves and with the current state of the economy and school budgets for many districts that is just not possible. The second best option would be to encourage students to utilize the technology that is at hand. Administrators and teachers should encourage their students to bring netbooks to class and to use them as a means to supplement and enhance the already great things that are going on within the classroom. As teachers and administrators we must show students how these tools can be used as a means to increase understanding and to become more efficient. As administrators we must also encourage staff to embrace the use of technology in the classroom through modeling its use and encourage the use of these tools outside classroom doors. If districts are not going to be able to provide these tools to students policies must be developed so that students are able to use their own personal netbooks in the classroom. I strongly feel we must confront those that “fear” the use of technology in the classroom and show them the many benefits of having these tools at our disposal within the classroom. With netbooks soon to be offered in the under $100 range we must recognize that most students are going to have access to netbooks.
What is your school doing?