An Iowa State University expert in educational leadership says he expects the number of school districts that offer students individual laptops for use to continue to increase. Scott Milepost of I.S.U. held a conference Wednesday for the 13 out of over 340 school districts that now provide laptops to students. He expects more districts to add computers to catch up with technology use in the every day world.
McLeod says most of the work we are doing in our “new information economy” requires some kind of computer, and there has been a disconnect between doing things with pencil and paper and on the computer. He says the driving force for school districts to give students laptops to use is the need to prepare them better when they leave high school.
McLeod is an associate professor of educational leadership and policy studies. He says students with a laptop learn faster how to use the devices. He says once the kids get the computers in their hands on a regular basis, they can do a lot more than they ever have. He says they learn from the software tools and are able to do more complex work at younger ages.
Computer classes are taught in schools, but McLeod says it often focuses on the basic software, and overlooks some of the extended uses of the computer. “You can see the impact of what we call the social media… these interconnected media, on-line video, and social networking, and on-line communities and so on, that are very robust and powerful these days,” McLeod says. “None of that is getting taught in computer aps classes, I guarantee it.”
While some might think the social media is for time outside the classroom, McLoed says those media are being used by businesses that want to connect with today’s consumers and sell their products. Students who know how they work will have an advantage. Most of the schools that now offer laptops to students are smaller, and McLeod says that size is sort of an advantage for them. He says it is partly a cost issue for bigger districts, and he says smaller districts have less “institutional inertia” to overcome to make changes and try new things.
Many teachers did not start out their careers with computers as part of what they used for teaching. McLeod says those teachers who are open to change will do better with the computer. He says it’s a question of whether the teachers are willing to be adaptive and learn new skills, or whether they want to continue tweaking things they’ve always done. “And that seems to be the critical divide, and it’s less of an age oriented issue than it is an adaptability and learner focused issue,” McLeod explains.
McLeod says a time will come when kids don’t pick up new school books, they pick up their laptops with the books already on them.
“There will be a day when we look backwards and say wasn’t it silly in this digital age, it took so long to get these digital tools into the hands of our kids,” McLeod says.
McLeod says the number of districts that provide laptops to students is expected to jump to 35-40 next year. He says the Spirit Lake district will be largest of the schools when it provides laptops. The schools that currently provide the laptops are: AHST (Avoca); BCLUW; Bedford, CAM; Cardinal (Eldon), Central City, Mount Ayr, Newell-Fonda, Sidney, Sigourney, South Hamilton, United and Van Meter.