Friday, November 16, 2007

The Scales Fall From His Eyes

Chris Dawson:

Yet when we talked about (giving students notebooks) a bit more extensively, (my students) had some interesting perspectives. Most actually felt that once the novelty of a new computer wore off, they would actually make real use of the notebook for school-related activities. No doubt there would be a fair amount of extra-curricular communication going on, but the general sense was that even being able to research and type a paper in their room at night would be preferable to fighting for time on a shared computer. Similarly, only a small minority thought the prospect of YouTube in class was especially attractive; rather, they immediately keyed in on the way the few students in the class who have laptops have access to so much information to contribute to class discussions and projects.

They also noted that, while the computer labs are great, it is often hard for a teacher to schedule time in the labs or to use them in an impromptu fashion. An overwhelming majority expressed a preference for being able to type their work instead of write by hand and felt like they could be more efficient in writing and editing on a computer than they could on paper.

A lot of people seem to have trouble realizing the utility of giving older students an inexpensive, robust work computer. I think it is partly because you can't thread the needle between those who say "we can't give them this, they'll play around with it" and those who say "if you don't give them something they can play around with, they won't use it." However, for kids, as adults, if you give them a computer to do their work on, they'll probably do their work on it. Of course, you can't say that because supposedly the whole purpose of giving kids computers is to change what kind of work kids do, so any discussion along these lines is immediately hijacked into a an unresolvable discussion of curriculum and pedagogy.

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