Social and Cultural Foundations of American Education/Edition 2.1/20.110 Wildcard

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Author: Justin Dickinson

"Laptop Programs in Public Schools”


With the Virginia requirements for graduation including that a student be technologically literate and the new for 2007-2008 requirement in Virginia for all staff and students to be trained in internet safety, programs such as these can target these requirements. Several questions arise when discussing such a program with a principal or school board member: How will it benefit the student more than the laptop carts and computer labs? How will we justify the cost plus technological equipment such as laptops and projectors do not last but a few years so how will we fund such an expensive program? How do we keep the students safe while online, on task and from illegal downloading? Will we have to hire a support staff in addition to our current technology staff?

Every year the world enhances its technology. Even though things have changed every year the knowledge of technology, for example, computers, is very low. A student between the ages of 16-21 are more likely to know more about a computer than a person who is 50 years or older. This is because senior citizens have not kept up with all the technology changes even though it was available to them. Now it is very unlikely that you will be able to communicate with a senior citizen. Computers are the future of our classrooms and the work world and the earlier students are able to get their hands on computers to learn about them the better. The same way students are not starting to learn a second language in the third grade rather than in middle school.


When a school district considers a laptop program they must figure a simple economic formula: number of students multiplied by the cost of each laptop or approximately $1300. That can be a huge number for a school board to approve but given the data from other courageous districts who have approved and instituted the program they can make a decision. Many of the programs have been with specific schools such as magnet schools with only a hundred or so students so the financial commitment was more reasonable (Bahrampour). A great target for the program would be a successful student coming from a lower socioeconomic level whose family would have difficulty buying a laptop and providing an internet connection. Maine has taken the progressive step of signing a deal with Apple to equip 32,000 students and 4,000 teachers with iBooks, wireless networks, training and technical support through its Maine Leaning Technology Initiative (Mao).

A Success Story[edit]

An article from The Herald newspaper of Everett, Washington reported that Weston High School issued laptops to students back in November of 2005. Weston High School only has 100 students and with no-interest federal loans appropriated for moving the high school to a building at the airport included money for technology. The money appropriated for technology was enough to purchase 100 Apple iBooks at $1500 each for a total cost of $150,000. The district superintendent said she had high hopes for the laptops leveling the playing field with wealthier districts and to make graduates more capable with technology as a result of the program (Stevick). She said her main worry at first was how well the laptops would be integrated into classes but she was amazed to see classes such as band where performances were recorded then loaded into laptops for students to access their progress. Completing assignments electronically and turning them in on a platform such as blackboard or even via email would save a huge amount of paper and clutter in the classroom. Software to help with student note taking was the most popular program for students to use during class. An unanticipated benefit the principal noticed was that students that struggled in classes before happened to be technologically savy and would help other students with problems. There were enough of these students to begin a technology support team of students that would meet with a teacher in a classroom each day for training before they would go out to be “techies”(Stevick).

A Not-So-Successful Story[edit]

A less successful laptop program was in Kutztown, Pennsylvania in the Philadelphia area. Thirteen students were charged with felonies for bypassing security with school-issued laptops, downloading forbidden internet goodies such as peer to peer networks for illegal downloading and for using monitoring software to spy on district administrators (Rubinkam). The students think they are being punished for outsmarting their teachers and administrators. According to Jean Armour Polly, the author of Net-mom’s Internet Kids and Family Yellow Pages most school districts do not secure their networks well enough and do not educate teachers well enough on how to monitory computer usage and how to teach the do’s and don’ts of computer usage . The students in Philadelphia acquired an administrator password and sabotaged the school’s computer systems. Mischievous students exist at each school and there needs to be a plan in place to prevent such behavior and to properly outline and enforce the consequences (Rubinkam).

Preventative Measures[edit]

Contracts are issued to protect the school property and to outline rules for usage that must be signed by parents and students (Bahrampour). It is a much more serious item than merely issuing a text book to a student and must be handled differently. We must begin by educating our faculty to teach responsible computer usage before instituting such a program. Avoiding the laptop from being a game platform, chat tool or download machine software must prohibit certain programs and teachers must monitor student usage in class. Parents at home will also have to monitor their sons and daughters and reinforce the proper usage guidelines. A new program in Alexandria, Virginia required parents to attend a training session to understand the liability of a laptop and to educate them on the terms of use of the laptop. Only a few parents attended the session so administrators took over the monitoring of the computers by installing filtering software to look for key words and websites to block. They also restricted the internet connection to the school connection. The only use for the laptop at home would be to review notes, web pages offline, create documents and work on projects. To protect against the usual student mishaps of loosing laptops or having them stolen they have Lojack installed which guarantees them found within 60 days or they will provide a free replacement laptop(Bahrampour).

An uneccessary burdon to struggling schools[edit]

The state of Virginia declaring that students must be technology proficient is a good idea however it puts unnecesary financial burdens on school systems that are struggling. Technology is important however if the state orders that a school must invest in technology when its walls are crumbling down and its teachers are underpaid is unfair. It makes no difference whether the state or federal government would actually pay for the technology investment, that is money federal, state or local that should be put to use in better areas. The idea of universal loaptops is impractcial, and i feel a small waste of money. Spending thousands of dollars on technology particularly laptops would be like putting a brand new sound system in a car that doesn't run. Technology integration and the support system neccesary for laptops would run into a lot of problems for older school buildings. As pointed out "Older schools are a special challenge because they may have insufficient power, poor lighting, inappropriate furniture and, sometimes, inadequate space. To complicate the situation, more than 90 percent of the classrooms and laboratories to be used with current technology tools already have been built"(Day) In some cases it is simply impossible to attempt to make schools technology centered.


Laptop programs are full of controversy and have a huge amount of pros and cons. Administration will see them as inviting a new headache into the school where they already have too many. More success stories need to exist and if computer manufacturers were to spend time and funds on research to make the transition smoother it would be an easier sell to school districts. The current trend in the Hampton Roads area is to use laptop carts that can be checked out of the library and taken to the classroom. They work quite well until one is needed and they are all reserved. Schools in Isle of Wight County and Suffolk only have 2-4 carts with 30 laptops per cart for each school which has nearly 1400 students each. Effectively only around a hundred students can access the laptop during classes using the carts. If we are to commit to technology as an important piece of the educational puzzle more of a commitment needs to be made. Proposals that meet the criteria of startup cost, residual cost, maintenance staff, in-service for technologically deficient teachers and administration and a staff that can help integrate the computer into each classroom to positively affect SOL scores and overall student performance must be made to school board. Data from other districts and programs from computer manufactures will go a long way to selling the idea of laptop programs to school divisions.


1. Rubenkam, Michael (2005, September 5) “Kutztown 13 Face Felony Charges.” Associated Press. Retrieved July 16, 2007 from:

2. Bahrampour, Tara.(2004, October 13). “A Laptop in Every Locker.” Washington Post Online. Retrieved on July 16, 2007 from:

Day, William "Technology for older Schools" Schools and University. June 1st 1997

3. Mao, Jeff. (2006, June 29) “Maine and Apple Sign Contract to Continue Maine Learning Technology Initiative.” Retrieved July 16, 2007 from:

4. Stevenson, Kenneth, Department of Educational Leadership and Policies, Washington, D.C. “Educational Trends Shaping School Planning and Design:2007. National Clearinghouse of Educational Facilities. Retrieved on July 16, 2007 from:

5. Stevick, Eric. (2005, November 14). “Weston High School Issues Laptops to Students.” The Herald- Everett, Washington. Retrieved April 27, 2007 from:

6. Heitz, Judi. "Computers as a Classroom Tool." Access Excellence. 3 Aug. 2007 <>.


1.What should be considered before implementing a laptop program in a school division?'

a) Cost

b) Impact on technological literacy

c) Impact on student performance and success

d) All of the Above

2.Current strategies for providing computer access to students except?

a) Laptop carts

b) Computer labs

c) Typewriters

d) Assigning laptops to all students

3.Why are laptop carts chosen over issuing all students laptops?

a) Cost

b) Security

c) Loss prevention

d) All of the above

4.Students and teachers at Weston High School who were technologically savvy organized a/an _________.

a) Crime ring

b) Club

c) Technology class and support team

d) Method for tracking computer usage

5.What potential risks are school board members and parents concerned with when considering laptop programs?

a) Downloading, theft of laptops, cheating and exposure to banned sites

b) Communicating with teachers and chatting with other students

c) Completing projects and homework

d) Playing educational games

6. What is Lojack?

a) a tool for lifting laptops

b) a tracking device for laptop security

c) a method of controlling the use of a laptop

d) a tracking device that records internet sites visited


1.D 2.C 3.D 4.C 5.A 6.B