The New & Improved Trapper Keeper

Brian Schlosser via Flickr All Rights Reserved
Brian Schlosser via Flickr
All Rights Reserved

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.

SONY DSC via Flickr All Rights Reserved

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. 😉


2 Replies to “The New & Improved Trapper Keeper”

  1. Hey Miriam,

    I agree that we are quite fortunate with our teacher and student access to technology! As you say, “I take for granted that each of my students will have their own personal device with access to the internet, 24-7.”

    This is true and I think I have become an entirely different teacher as I have tried to integrate technology.

    I know there is a great debate about student note taking as you make evident by citing the Mueller and Oppenheimer study ( and I too have a hard time with this debate. First of all, as a Tech Integrator, I believe technology should be seamless and ubiquitous and therefore, veering away from it seems contrived. Then again, we become influenced by all the tech-phobic articles about why we need to put down our devices. I wonder though, if we put too much stock in these studies. What happens if we change the system? If we are supposed to be getting our students more involved in the learning process and providing them with deep learning opportunities, the classroom structure will change. The teacher will spend less time instructing and students will spend less time needing to take notes. Or if they do take notes digitally, how do we then compensate with opportunities that make this learning lasting?

    You mentioned allowing students to use tools that engage them and also have the added benefit of making formative assessment easier. These tools are tons of fun! The way we access information is the first step to technology integration. You then commented on the moment as asked students to share their favorite YouTubers. I love this idea! Curation of content is next in tech integration. In my grade 5 class, we would have a class job called Video Jockey where students would find appropriate videos and share them with the class. Sometimes they would bring in content that wasn’t pushing anyone’s learning but sometimes they would bring in content that changed our class. Although not in the traditional sense of learning, the biggest of which was the student who brought all our attention to Lip Dubbing. I wonder if VJ or reporter might be a cool feature of the class where students curate content to share with the class. I find this exciting because then I become more informed as to what they are capable of and also get a better pulse on media that they connect and engage with.

    In a very simplistic formula, the final two steps in the tech integration process I would say are creation and publication. How can high school students create media that both engages them and showcases the learning. Then, what audiences are available to share this media with?

    I honestly wonder your thoughts as a HS teacher as my lens is so skewed to ES and MS tech integration….

  2. Hi Mariam,

    Firstly, must give you credit for the throwback to the “trapper keeper”! What fond memories you evoked of my own student life. It is crazy to see how laptops have literally changed the face of education as we know it and trying to find ways to maximise the learning advantages these tech devises can offer can be overwhelming and sometimes scary. This is often the result of being the guinea pigs of our teaching generation – a trial and error teaching squad so to speak.

    Having said that, I am glad to see that the tools you have applied within your own classroom, such as Socrative and Kahoot, are being accepted by the student body and have assisted in the learning and retention process. I share your concern about integrating technology into the classroom and how this could affect knowledge retention. While laptops certainly close the “achievement gap” they could delay the absorption process, so I too find is difficult to balance ‘old world and new world’ as you so succinctly put it.

    Your positive feedback however on the YouTuber presentation, and the peer-to-peer learning opportunity this enables, puts me more at ease with including tech in my own classroom and for that I am grateful. Teaching autonomy to students is essentially was every school should try and achieve and the younger and sooner we can start to build this sovereignty, the better.

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