A Laptop on Every Desk
Rural Missouri has an article about the Knob Noster School District and its use of computers in the classroom. Here are some things I like about the districts’ approach:
- Knob Noster gave out laptops to high school students and brought more technology into the lower grades in response to parents’ interest.
- Officials didn’t wait for years of research, but decided to try the laptops just because it seemed like a good idea. They weren’t discouraged by a failed grant proposal, either, and went ahead with the plan using their own available funds. So many districts miss out on opportunities because they don’t have a double-blind study to “prove” a method is the best. Knob Noster’s willingness to innovate is a refreshing exception.
- Knob Noster has adapted its use of technology to serve military families in the district. For example, parents who are stationed overseas can stay involved with their children’s schooling through the internet.
- Teachers and administrators at Knob Noster focus on teaching content using the new technological tools. Rather than teaching “computers” or “technology” for hours straight, the district gives students computers to use across subjects.
And a few criticisms:
- Some educators are so eager to use technology that they introduce it to younger and younger students, even when it doesn’t make sense. The article mentions that young students were listening to stories over MP3 players; the downside of this is that they may come to rely on the technology and fail to develop their skills as independent readers. Technology can be helpful, but sometimes it’s better for students to go without help and learn to stand on their own two feet.
- District officials justify the new methods as essential for preparing students for future careers. Computers can contribute to that goal, but let’s remember that technology changes rapidly. By the time students are in the workforce, the tools will be different. Students success depends on their ability to learn new skills and adapt, not on their mastery of last year’s software.