The Laptop. Once upon a time, it was only for the rich kids or those whose parents were somehow connected to the tech industry. I remember back in college, one of my housemates had a laptop. It was huge, clunky and HEAVY, but still. It was a stand-alone, portable, bring-you-anywhere-I-want computing, interneting machine. We envied her, despite the fact that her laptop was so heavy, she often drove up the hill to class.
Turn the page a few years (ok, a decade or so) and it has now become the Age of the Laptop. Their ubiquity has created a generation of techies, where the laptop has become the Trapper Keeper of the modern teenager.
I work at a school that has a one-to-one policy, beginning in grade 4, and so I am lucky enough as a teacher to be able to rely on the fact that I can plan lessons around technology. I take for granted that each of my students will have their own personal device with access to the internet, 24-7.
The power of the Laptop is such that it has the almighty ability to “close the gap between students from low income backgrounds and their wealthier counterparts by equitably providing access to information” (Dwyer 2011). The power of the Laptop = closing the achievement gap. Pretty awesome.
For a variety of reasons, including research that taking notes by hand can lead to greater retention of content, I try very hard to maintain a balance between the old world and the new world, i.e. paper/pencil and google docs.
The students who were taking longhand notes in our studies were forced to be more selective — because you can’t write as fast as you can type. And that extra processing of the material that they were doing benefited them.” (Doubek, 2016)
Despite my attempts to limit laptop usage time during class, there is no getting around the the transformative power of having the world at one’s fingertips. And, recent research has suggested that rather than asking students to put away their cell phones, why not use them as learning tools? I’ve tried this out with a variety of different web-based tools, including Socrative, Kahoot, and Poll Everywhere, all to great success. When you engage students with something that is relevant and fun, the understanding is bound to follow.
In one brave moment, I asked students to share their favorite “youtuber” with the class (as long as it was school-appropriate). To my delight and surprise, their shares were thoughtful, meaningful and even relevant to our class discussions. Allowing students the room to be creative and thoughtful with how they would like to use their own devices gives them a sense of autonomy, which, as any high school teacher would confirm, is really all a teenager wants. Freedom…or at least the illusion of it. 😉