Laptops à la carte

By Denebola
Published: October 2007
By Antoine GuillaumeSpeaking before the National Governors Association a couple of years ago, chairman of Microsoft Corporation, Bill Gates, called the American high school obsolete. “Training the work force of tomorrow with the high schools of today is like trying to teach kids about today’s computers on a 50-year-old mainframe.
To remedy this problem he encouraged the introduction of modern technology to high-school classrooms.
While many public and private schools around the country are outfitting students with individual laptop computers, high costs prevent most from doing so.
Newton has chosen to provide teachers with mobile stations filled with a class set of laptops that they can bring to their classes. Both students and teachers have generally reacted positively to the program, although some remain weary of providing uncontrolled web access to students during classroom time.
The program was introduced to South in the late nineties, when the first renovations in Newton South High School began. The school originally invested in 20 laptops, and now has 124. Both the oldest and newest laptops have gone to the Science department, where the program started with ‘Ëœclamshell’ iBooks. There, they were installed as “laptop carts equipped with internet access and printers. The technology gives students a whole new potential realm of in-class activities.
Teachers must go through a rigid process to get a laptop cart, as there is only one cart per department; the supply is limited compared to the demand. Teachers must first go to the house office and sign up for the carts on a first come, first serve basis. The carts are stored in the house offices or library, and are returned at the end of each block.
Nevertheless, some problems have arisen. “Some computers, when given out to the class weren’t able to access the internet Senior Jenny Charness said.
Students also complain that computers are slow to start up and run programs.
Still, the laptops are helpful. “[The computers are] good for classes like history, where kids can use the internet for research senior Alex Caplow said.
Nevertheless, the most popular and useful aspect of the laptops remains typing in-class essays.
Students agreed that they preferred this method over writing by hand because they can type faster than they can write, allowing them more time to think about the elements of their essay.

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