Laptops, tablets make inroads into classrooms, but Idaho voters say no

Laptops and tablets are no longer entering American classrooms in a trickle.  We’re starting to see something approaching a stream.

The Dallas Morning News reports that a move to give an iPad to every fifth-grader at Rutherford Elementary in Mesquite, Texas, was “an undeniable success,” and now it’s the fourth-graders’ turn to get the eagerly sought devices:

In the long history of Rutherford Elementary School, no learning tool has been as eagerly consumed. To know why a school district would put the expensive resources into the hands of 9-year-olds, you need only to know a 9-year-old.All but a few logged seamlessly into their school system accounts. A table of boys quickly hooked into a learning application to the solar system. Another had taken his photo and was displaying to classmates how he stretched the features to make a silly face.

In the Mayberry-like small town of Moorestown, N.C., the decision four years ago to issue a laptop to every student and teacher in the 5,500-pupil district has paid off, according to Education Week‘s Ian Quillen:

Since the digital conversion began, the district has seen an improvement of 20 percentage points—from 68 percent to 88 percent—in the portion of its students who scored “proficient” on all core-subject state exams, in the subjects of reading, math, and science.Six of eight schools achieved Adequate Yearly Progress, or AYP, up from two of seven schools during the conversion’s first year. And its 2010-11 graduation rate rose to 91 percent, up 14 percentage points from four years ago.All of those gains have occurred while the district sat at 99th of the state’s 115 districts in per-pupil funding, at $7,463 a year, as of last spring … And while Mooresville’s population is by no means impoverished, the gains came during an economic downturn that has seen the proportion of the district’s students eligible for free or reduced-price lunch rise from 31 percent to 40 percent since 2007-08.

In North Carolina’s Research Triangle, the 7,300-student Orange County School District is expanding its distribution of laptops. In September, the district became one of the first in the state to give a laptop to every middle- and high-school student. That has gone so well that the district now plans to give them to fourth and fifth-graders too,  writes the Raleigh News & Observer:

Some teachers say they can’t imagine going back to a no-laptop classroom. “It would be like trying to go back and teach math using an abacus,” said Michele Johnson, who teaches English at A.L. Stanback Middle School…Before they had computers in front of them, some students were visibly bored, even sleeping in class. The laptops are a tool for teachers to enter a world familiar to students and engage them in learning – often without students realizing it. Teachers do not have to ask students to take notes anymore, Johnson said. They just open their laptops and go at it.

County voters last year approved a quarter-cent sales tax, part of which was to pay for school technology. It came at time when state dollars for textbooks were dwindling and schools had to adapt to a new curriculum and online statewide testing, the News & Observer reported.

Voters in Idaho, however, resoundingly said no this week to a proposition that would have required every high school teacher and student to receive a laptop computer. The ballot proposal also would have required students to earn two credits through online or blended learning courses in order to graduate.

The measure went down, 66 percent to 33 percent, after opponents said it would have enriched computer companies while marginalizing teachers. A group supporting the measure — as well as one that would have limited teachers’ collective bargaining rights and another that would have set up a metrics-based performance pay system for teachers (both failed) — tried to keep its donors secret until Idaho’s secretary of state sued to force disclosure.

It turns out, the contributions included $200,000 from New York Mayor Michael Bloomberg and $250,000 from Albertsons’ grocery heir Joe Scott, as well as $1.4 million from an Idaho businessman, Frank VanderSloot. The National Education Association spent more than $1 million to defeat the three propositions, according to Education Week.

(Photo: newobserver.com)

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Posted on November 9, 2012, in Innovation, Teaching, Technology, Uncategorized and tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink. Leave a comment.

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