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Continued Opposition To Laptops in Schools

Zonk posted more than 8 years ago | from the grinding-for-faction-in-math-class dept.

528

theskeptic writes "The WSJ has an article about opposition to programs that provide laptops to 6-8th grade kids. Detractors say that the kids are wasting too much time online browsing dangerous sites, instant messaging friends, and posting to Myspace. Parents are worried that serious learning is being neglected in the quest to 'dazzle up presentations with fancy fonts instead of digging through library books.' Some parents however are 'enthusiastic laptop proponents,' one saying the laptop has helped her twelve-year-old son 'master critical professional skills like how to compile a PowerPoint presentation.'" Gaaah.

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Much ado about nothing? (3, Interesting)

TripMaster Monkey (862126) | more than 8 years ago | (#16018440)



It sounds like the vast majority of problems that this program is encountering could be solved by a halfway competent network administrator applying some basic restrictions.

(Hey....I'm a halfway competent network administrator...where do I send my resume? ^_^)

Seriously, though, a combination of Group Policy restrictions, a firewall at the school, and perhaps the use of a content filtering product like WebSense would instantly solve about 99% of the current issues, while causing relatively few problems in return. Sure, there's going to be a few hardcore users that manage to get around the system, but I think that if the student is savvy enough to outwit the Network admin, the school guidance counselor needs to talk to him/her about the various exciting and rewarding opportunities in the field of Information Technology. After all, hacking is an education in itself...a clever sysadmin would post rewards to any student who could game his system and show his work, so the sysadmin could plug the identified security holes.

Re:Much ado about nothing? (4, Funny)

jcr (53032) | more than 8 years ago | (#16018499)

I'm a halfway competent network administrator...where do I send my resume?

Sorry, you're overqualified.

-jcr

Re:Much ado about nothing? (4, Funny)

Ruie (30480) | more than 8 years ago | (#16018524)

Hey....I'm a halfway competent network administrator...where do I send my resume? ^_^)

Are you close to Boston ? Know bash or Tcl ? Do you have your resume somewhere online ? Thx !

Re:Much ado about nothing? (3, Insightful)

bagboy (630125) | more than 8 years ago | (#16018587)

The problem is that most school districts refuse to pay for the level of quality in network professionals that they need. Therefore, they get mediocre (generally) computer skilled people running their networks. I'm sorry, but a mac expert just doesn't cut it anymore. You need someone who knows how to manage IP layer traffics as well as various network applicances and Windows-based PCs (for the teachers who inevitably bring in their own laptops). Until the districts cough up for qualified people, their networks will continue to degrade.

Re:Much ado about nothing? (1)

dch24 (904899) | more than 8 years ago | (#16018645)

But every kid will have a laptop! Think of the children! (Without any administrator, think of what that will mushroom into...)

I agree with you--the money would be better spent building the labs and network that everyone uses. Or maybe paying the teachers...

Re:Much ado about nothing? (2, Insightful)

Ryan Amos (16972) | more than 8 years ago | (#16018696)

The problem is that many schools are chronically underfunded and can't afford books or enough teachers, let alone a competent network admin qualified to manage a 1000 user network, who can easily pull down the salary of 4 experienced teachers in the corporate world. As a result, most admins know less than some of the students at the school, which inevitably leads to problems.

Re:Much ado about nothing? (1)

Goblez (928516) | more than 8 years ago | (#16018769)

So drop the outdated books that are full of candy coated misinformation anyway, and let them google shit. And with the money left over from the books, pay the teachers more and pay for a real network admin!

Re:Much ado about nothing? (1)

maddskillz (207500) | more than 8 years ago | (#16018748)

It's not just the level of quality. It's the sheer amount of work necessary. I know in this school board they are understaffed. It's hard to get a board to realize they need to spend more money on something that hasn't been in the budget for years

Re:Much ado about nothing? (5, Insightful)

Jason Earl (1894) | more than 8 years ago | (#16018589)

Actually that's more than part of the problem. Many schools don't have halfway competent network administrators, and they certainly don't have the resources to maintain that many laptops, and they would have to maintain them. After all, if little Johnny's laptop stops working, and that laptop is important to his participation in school then someone is going to have to fix it, and in many cases the parents aren't going to be able to afford to.

What's more, this would give each of these children a tool that would allow them to get online at any hotspot on the planet, and lots of parents are going to have a problem with that. Sure, there are probably ways to make it so that the wireless card only works at school, but then why not simply use much less expensive desktop machines?

This doesn't even take into account problems of sabotage, theft, or accidental damage. Do we really need kids in urban areas carrying around hundreds of dollars of computer equipment? Plus, every year hundreds of thousands of school books get destroyed. Computers are far more fragile than books, and more expensive to boot.

Basically, giving kids a general purpose laptop is a horrible idea with very few redeeming virtues.

Learning comes from experimentation. (3, Insightful)

Myself (57572) | more than 8 years ago | (#16018678)

If you want kids to learn how computers work, then make it so they can experiment with them. Setting it up so that the kids depend on these computers for their classes means they'll be afraid to break anything, which means they won't get anything out of them other than the typical office-worker knowledge, which isn't very deep or useful.

If you want kids to use laptops in class, then stop pretending they'll learn anything useful about computers in the process.

Re:Much ado about nothing? (2, Funny)

geekoid (135745) | more than 8 years ago | (#16018633)

after reading your advice, I concur. you are a halfway competent network administrator.

Re:Much ado about nothing? (1)

nine-times (778537) | more than 8 years ago | (#16018740)

... or they could just save the money they would have spent on a halfway decent network admin, content filtering, a firewall, a helpdesk staff, and all those notebooks, and instead pay the teachers a decent salary.

We need to talk. (5, Funny)

hullabalucination (886901) | more than 8 years ago | (#16018441)

'the laptop has helped her twelve-year-old son master critical professional skills like how to compile a PowerPoint presentation.'

I need to talk to that young man. I keep getting this error when trying to compile a PowerPoint presentation:

make: *** No rule to make target `mindblowingpresentation.powerpoint', needed by `pointyhairedboss.info'

* * * * *

All my life, I always wanted to be somebody. Now I see that I should have been more specific.
--Jane Wagner

Re:We need to talk. (1)

frisket (149522) | more than 8 years ago | (#16018670)

Professionals don't use Powerpoint for presentations, they use PDF (generated from XML via LaTeX :-)

Children.... (5, Insightful)

Parker703 (767865) | more than 8 years ago | (#16018449)

Children need neither laptops nor cell phones. They need to learn the basics. Not PowerPoint!

Re:Children.... (1)

Ana10g (966013) | more than 8 years ago | (#16018634)

Just don't teach them the Visual Basics [sic], that'll really mess them up ;)

Re:Children.... (5, Insightful)

Anonymous Coward | more than 8 years ago | (#16018641)

I'm a master of the computer, and I never saw one until my senior year of highschool. Even later for the rocket scientists who put us on the moon. yada yada yada.

That kid needs an education that will give him the ability to know what to put into that powerpoint. The clicks will come later. Hell, the clicks will change by the time he needs it professionally.

Re:Children.... (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 8 years ago | (#16018651)

C or C++ is much more useful than basic...

Re:Children.... (0, Flamebait)

Gotung (571984) | more than 8 years ago | (#16018667)

Yea and throw out the pen and paper too. They should be writing with sticks in the dirt!! Why is the parent modded insightful? It's "insightful" people like Parker703 that forced me to waste a ton of time learning to write in cursive when I was a kid. I don't know a single person that still uses that form of writing. Children should be taught to use the tools they will be using in life, those are the "basics."

Re:Children.... (1)

devjj (956776) | more than 8 years ago | (#16018711)

I seriously hate to say it, but in today's business climate knowing PowerPoint is one of the basics. Maybe not for 6-8th graders, but at some point many, many people need to use PowerPoint.

Re:Children.... (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 8 years ago | (#16018719)

Children need neither laptops nor cell phones. They need to learn the basics. Not PowerPoint!

Basic? Tush! Pascal is the wave of the future.

Re:Children.... (2, Interesting)

Neil Watson (60859) | more than 8 years ago | (#16018732)

Indeed. PowerPoint is no substitute for speech writing and presentation skills. There is a book called "What coporate Americal can't build: A sentence".

Really... (5, Funny)

Apocalypse111 (597674) | more than 8 years ago | (#16018459)

'the laptop has helped her twelve-year-old son master critical professional skills like how to compile a PowerPoint presentation.'

So now he's prepared to show his friends a 15 minute slideshow about why girls have cooties?

Re:Really... (3, Funny)

debilo (612116) | more than 8 years ago | (#16018512)

So now he's prepared to show his friends a 15 minute slideshow about why girls have cooties?

Fascinating idea, but please make it 30 minutes and forward it to me, thanks.

Bah! (1)

jcr (53032) | more than 8 years ago | (#16018464)

In my day, we had ASR-33's and our only bulk storage was paper tape! And we were grateful!

-jcr

I concur (5, Insightful)

nelsonal (549144) | more than 8 years ago | (#16018465)

I went to a college that required lap tops, and even in the classes where they made sense, they were either kept off by rule almost all the time, or it was a game/chat fest. I remember one military science class that had 16 of the 30 kids all playing the same Red Alert game.

Too many kids can't do basic arithmatic without a calculator (literally they can't do it anymore unless they punch it in) why are we giving 10-12 year olds more technology? I think systems for home use (with computer assignments would be a far more effective use of the money).

Re:I concur (1)

dch24 (904899) | more than 8 years ago | (#16018527)

What? Red Alert wasn't the most important thing to learn at college?

Seriously, give the parents the money that would have been spent on the laptop. If they think their kid needs a laptop, they'll buy it and the kid will be labelled a geek.

Re:I concur (2, Insightful)

pkulak (815640) | more than 8 years ago | (#16018533)

I agree as well. Sure you CAN learn by using a computer, but they are entertainment/communication devices now. And we are requiring them in classrooms? In my 4 years getting a CS degree, I never needed a laptop in class, let alone when I was in the 8th grade. I think I turned out okay.

Re:I concur (1)

bstadil (7110) | more than 8 years ago | (#16018599)

Too many kids can't do basic arithmatic without a calculator

nor get arithmetic right without a spellchecker

Re:I concur (1)

Chordonblue (585047) | more than 8 years ago | (#16018615)

Then too there are disadvantages when you look at basic things like startup time, shutdown time - all of which is time away from an already compressed class time (around 40 minutes per class here).

Now, get me a smart pad with a nice, readable OLED display and make it instant-on? That's more like it...

Re:I concur (0, Funny)

Anonymous Coward | more than 8 years ago | (#16018629)

I concur as well.

6th graders should be featured on dangerous websites, not surfing them. As a strong supporter of NAMBLA, I worry that some of these 6th graders will come across nude pictures of themselves or their friends and blow the whistle. The risk is simply too high to allow them unfettered web access.

Gak! (5, Insightful)

gstoddart (321705) | more than 8 years ago | (#16018469)

A twelve-year-old making PowerPoint slides???

Wow. When I was 12 we were learning the basics of how to write an essay, look up stuff in the library, and how to organize a paper.

PowerPoint just seems totally wrong for kids in middle school. Teach 'em the foundations, they're gonna need them. They have the whole rest of their lives to get RSI.

Cheers

Re:Gak! (0)

jo42 (227475) | more than 8 years ago | (#16018601)

"The education system is raising a generation of idiots."

- me

PowerPoint is pointless (4, Insightful)

triskaidekaphile (252815) | more than 8 years ago | (#16018471)

If you cannot read, write, or speak, what good will PowerPoint do for you?

Re:PowerPoint is pointless (4, Funny)

debilo (612116) | more than 8 years ago | (#16018542)

If you cannot read, write, or speak, what good will PowerPoint do for you?

Well, that's the whole point now, isn't it? Most PowerPoint presentations that I saw led me to believe PowerPoint was made for those who cannot read. Or write. Or speak.

Re:PowerPoint is pointless (1)

truthsearch (249536) | more than 8 years ago | (#16018570)

If you can't read, write, or speak you shouldn't be in 8th grade.

Re:PowerPoint is pointless (3, Funny)

mspohr (589790) | more than 8 years ago | (#16018602)

Most people who give power point presentations can't read, write, or speak... and that doesn't stop them.

Who needs to read or write (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 8 years ago | (#16018691)

After all, he could still become a Stanly Cup winning coach.
Or a hockey GM.
Or the president.

I'm with them. (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 8 years ago | (#16018479)

I'm with them, all because of that one annoying kid who clattered his laptop keyboard way louder than necessary and wrote comments in his class notes... using *\ \* rather than /* */.

The big question: why do they need them? (3, Insightful)

PFI_Optix (936301) | more than 8 years ago | (#16018482)

Seriously. The majority of middle school teachers assign little- to no homework these days, and most schools provide plenty of time for internet and application access during school hours. In addition, schools can make computer resources available after hours in the same way they do tutoring and other assistance for students.

So why should we be putting laptops in the hands of 12-year-olds? Isn't there a better way to spend that kind of money?

(the district I work for couldn't possibly afford something like this anyway, we're treading water thanks to Texas' lovely Robin Hood program taking 51% of our budget)

Powerpoint... (4, Insightful)

b0s0z0ku (752509) | more than 8 years ago | (#16018486)

should not be taught in schools as a 'professional skill.' What kids need is a strong grounding in the maths, hard sciences, and history, as well as being literate; preferably in more than one language. Who knows if Powerpoint will even be around in 10 years when those kids enter the workforce. The way things are looking now, Microsoft's power might be much less by that time.

Apart from purposes of research or computer science courses, I hesitate to say that there's even a place for ubiquitous computing in the classroom. Typing noises *are* distracting, and a good teacher can teach more than 100 computers! And, as far as electronic demonstrations replacing *real* dissections and chemistry experiments for reasons of "ethics" and "safety" - some school administrators need a good punch upside the head since the virtual world is only a poor approximation of the real one.

-b.

mods on CRACK?! (1)

Travoltus (110240) | more than 8 years ago | (#16018704)

How is that FLAMEBAIT?!!!

What, do you think Powerpoint is going to be THE NEXT BIG THING above and beyond basic math, science and history?

There is room for computing in the classroom as LONG as it is used to accelerate the learning of the hard skills like math, science and history. Powerpoint should be a side issue, with programming and entry level network administration training being closer to the forefront (but far behind math, science and history).

I can't believe what's being called 'flamebait' nowadays...

Power point skills? (1)

RiskyChris (999242) | more than 8 years ago | (#16018488)

'the laptop has helped her twelve-year-old son master critical professional skills like how to compile a PowerPoint presentation.'

The only thing I remember learning about PP in high school was how to make every slide have a different animation and add typewriter sounds to every.textbox.ever.

i agree (3, Insightful)

AndersOSU (873247) | more than 8 years ago | (#16018489)

As much as I know I'll provoke the ire of slashdot, I agree with the parents. In most classes, Jr High, high school, or even college, there is no need for the student to have a laptop. I always find that I pay more attention, take better notes, and learn more, when I'm not distracted by the electronic toy.

Sure the students should have access to a computer, and it is beneficial to have computers for some classes, but there is no reason for any student to have a computer in 6th grade math.

In addition to this 12 yrs old is not the time to be learning how to make power point presentations. Sure it is a professional skill, and valuable at some point, but I'd rather have 12 yr olds who knew who Newton or Napolean were than, 12 yr olds who were capable of doing mommies homework.

Re:i agree (1, Funny)

Anonymous Coward | more than 8 years ago | (#16018679)

Newton's a PDA and Napolean's an ice cream, right?

(yes, I know it's Neapolitan (now), but I grew up calling it that in my early years cause I was familiar with Napolean and just ended up seeing that instead of 'Neapolitan'. This was at like 7 or 8...)

Grandpa simpson (1)

MECC (8478) | more than 8 years ago | (#16018493)

But after school started, Ms. Adam started to worry.

Ms. Adam - that's the name grandpa Simpson is going by these days?

"My car gets forty rods to the hogshead and that's the way I likes it!"

What's so bad about opposing laptops? (3, Insightful)

UbuntuDupe (970646) | more than 8 years ago | (#16018494)

Is it so bad to oppose laptops? I oppose them (disclaimer: have no kids) in schools on the grounds that they probably provide little educational value given their costs. They are typically given (like "a computer in every classroom") as part of a fad to use the coolest new technology, irrespective of any actual benefit. This is not to say students don't need computers -- they do -- but that's what the computer lab is for. The "enthusiastic parent" referenced didn't see her child master PowerPoint skills because because he had a laptop -- that was because he had access to *a computer*. He didn't need to have it on the go to accomplish that.

I'm all for using the best available technology -- as long as it makes you better off than before.

Re:What's so bad about opposing laptops? (1)

b0s0z0ku (752509) | more than 8 years ago | (#16018529)

This is not to say students don't need computers -- they do -- but that's what the computer lab is for.

Or a single desktop in every classroom, preferably linked to a projector, so a teacher can look up stuff and display presentations/educational films when required. But putting 25 laptops (restricted or not) in the hands of a class of teenagers is jsut asking for them to be distracted.

-b.

Re:What's so bad about opposing laptops? (1)

UbuntuDupe (970646) | more than 8 years ago | (#16018722)

Exactly -- and what you said made me want to clarify what I said above. If, like in your example about the projector, you know what you plan to use the computer for, and belief its benefit to justify the cost, that's fine. Then you should buy it. But a lot of the pressure to put more computers in schools is driven by "hey, all those rich people have computers, so if we start using them that will make us so much more effective than we were before!". It's like the plan is:

1) Buy overpriced computers without knowing what to do with them.
2) ???
3) Education!

The orignal lap tops... (2, Interesting)

creimer (824291) | more than 8 years ago | (#16018497)

It used to be that parents would put their kid on their lap and teach them to read a book. These days, since most parents are too busy to be parents, the laptops are supposed to teach the kids. Go figure.

PowerPoint (1)

Frosty Piss (770223) | more than 8 years ago | (#16018501)

Some parents however are 'enthusiastic laptop proponents', one saying 'the laptop has helped her twelve-year-old son master critical professional skills like how to compile a PowerPoint presentation.'

All you need to know these days...

Filmstrips (3, Insightful)

rwven (663186) | more than 8 years ago | (#16018504)

Back in the 80's and 90's filmstrips saw widespread use because they were a convenient and "entertaining" way to get students to learn. They eventually rejected the idea because kids were in "entertainment" mode (so to speak) while watching the filmstrips and really just weren't learning anything. I've got a feeling that this would multiply 10-fold when using laptops unless the machines were designed from the ground up JUST for education and lacked the ability to do anything that wasn't "school-related."

Kids + computers = fun-and-games. These kids go home and do nothing on a computer but check e-mail, surf, chat, play games, and things of that nature. What do you think they're going to do when they're put in a classroom with a computer in front of them? I know when I was in HS and we had classes in the computer lab or library...that's all ANY of us did on them. Things like that don't change.

Re:Filmstrips (1)

kdemetter (965669) | more than 8 years ago | (#16018751)

when i was a child , my father gave me a computer but it dodn't have acess to internet and contained no games . this sounds boring , until you figure out all the applications in the windows dir , and start playing with that ( regedit is also very fun ) . The result was that i screwed up my computer more than i can remember . it was fun though , and you learn much too . I even found a bug in a program to restrict me from working on it more than 4 hours . You could reset the timer by changing the date back and forward .

One reason why laptops are a good idea... (1)

pnuema (523776) | more than 8 years ago | (#16018506)

As an educator, I can't assign any computer based work without asssurances that 100% of my students have access to a computer. Issuing everyone a laptop solves that problem.

And before someone cries "library, school computer lab!" - you have obviously never had to deal with a parent throwing a hissy fit about their kid's homework assignment.

Re:One reason why laptops are a good idea... (1)

Bamfarooni (147312) | more than 8 years ago | (#16018544)

Unless you're teaching a computer class, what need do you have to assign computer based homework?

Re:One reason why laptops are a good idea... (1)

pnuema (523776) | more than 8 years ago | (#16018572)

Have you never written a paper? These should be done on computers now - most colleges will not accept hand-written work.

Re:One reason why laptops are a good idea... (1)

ClosedSource (238333) | more than 8 years ago | (#16018742)

I didn't know middle school students hand to submit their papers to a college.

Re:One reason why laptops are a good idea... (2, Insightful)

geekoid (135745) | more than 8 years ago | (#16018606)

Can you assign homework without checking to see if they have books? paper? pencil? pen? time?

Unless you are teaching computer programming, you shouldn't be assigning computer work.
The computer is onme aspect need for reference, but there are others.
As long as the reference is cited, what do you car if it's a web site or a reference book from the library?

Re:One reason why laptops are a good idea... (1)

triskaidekaphile (252815) | more than 8 years ago | (#16018628)

Which as a teacher you should be allowed to say to the parent "the assignment is reasonable and you are not" and be backed by your principal.

That the teachers reading this are all laughing, choking, or rolling their eyes at the above statement should be a good indicator to the rest of us that reality and realistic left the schools quite a while ago.

Someone should make a PowerPoint presentation about it. Anyone know a 12-year old with a laptop and nothing better to do with it?

Re:One reason why laptops are a good idea... (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 8 years ago | (#16018731)

OK, $1485 per student, x 30 students comes to $44,500. Send me a check and I'll deal with the hissy computerless parents. Hell, I'll give each whiner a desktop and still probably pocket 35 grand.

They better be Macs... (1)

soft_guy (534437) | more than 8 years ago | (#16018750)

When my daughter, who has a Mac laptop AND a Mac desktop system, was asked to do something (it was PowerPoint), at school on their Windows computers, she didn't want to do it and so I wrote her a note to give to the teacher to the effect that using Windows was against her religious beliefs.

It was hillarious. They let her do the assignment on her iBook using Keynote.

Re:One reason why laptops are a good idea... (1)

Kope (11702) | more than 8 years ago | (#16018771)

One reason I can't stand most public school systems is because too many educators think about their assignments in terms of media instead of in terms of content.

Zonk's comment... (1)

cerebrum86 (790912) | more than 8 years ago | (#16018510)

really says it all. The stupidity on both sides is staggering.

No child left behind (2, Funny)

Anonymous Coward | more than 8 years ago | (#16018517)

"Thiss iz mi Powhour pont prezentation four Engish clas".

One more case of lack of parental supervision (1)

audj (980103) | more than 8 years ago | (#16018519)

Here we go again with "I don't have time to watch my child, so I think the teacher/school/government should." Oh my god - don't have kids if you don't want to take care of them, which, BTW, includes monitoring what they do online. If you think that in SIXTH grade, they are visiting MySpace, it is time for a spanking/time-out/grounding/to run away from home and find REAL parents. This is right up there with parents who bring babies to horror movies only to be suprised they don't enjoy the screaming and loud noises. Also in this group: Mothers Against Video Game Violence. WATCH YOUR KIDS or I will call my local social work department on you.

Re:One more case of lack of parental supervision (1)

geekoid (135745) | more than 8 years ago | (#16018561)

except with a latop, a child will use it when they are not under your supervsion.

I raise my children, but I don't raisnthe 30 other kids in their class.

Re:One more case of lack of parental supervision (1)

audj (980103) | more than 8 years ago | (#16018631)

it's not about raising the 30 other kids. if you don't like who your child hangs out with, do something about it. grow up and make an adult decision to remove your child from a situation that you think may be damaging to them. the child in question should NOT have access to a computer or laptop WITHOUT SUPERVISION. that's the bottom line. if you have to quit your job to watch them and make sure they are frequently decent sites, do so. if you have to take it away because they can't behave, do so.

It goes both ways (1)

grapeape (137008) | more than 8 years ago | (#16018521)

Usually "concerns" like this can be attributed to people that dont understand the technology. There are plenty of ways to block ports, restrict access and diable services, any half-competent sys admin can accomplish this. The benefits far outweigh the negatives if its done properly. Take the "dig thorough books" comment as an example, many times a book is checked out or there is only one reference copy, that problem is completely eliminated if the data is available online. Typing and basic computer application skills are just an added bonus.

Re:It goes both ways (1)

dch24 (904899) | more than 8 years ago | (#16018621)

I think people on slashdot understand the technology and its usefulness.

Now instead of the book being checked out, it will never be checked out but all the laptops will have something carved in the back, coke spilled inside it, and then kicked around under the desk.

All at the expense of the school district. There are better ways to use that money, like upgrading the computer lab.

Re:It goes both ways (1)

Overzeetop (214511) | more than 8 years ago | (#16018659)

If the data is available on line, then the student can go to the library and if the physical reference is out they can use a terminal. If it's not there, they should learn to (a) order or reserve the book and (b) find the information somewhere else. Part of learning is learning to do it the hard way the first time. If you do everything at the highest level, you have (a) no appreciation for what goes into what you do and (b) no way to fix it if something goes wrong. If you're a programmer, you should know how to code in assembly, even if you never use it. If your an engineer, you should be able to analyize a beam or mechanism dynamic by hand. If you're a researcher you should be able to write a coherent paper with nothing more than a pencil and a ream of paper.

Computers are nice, and children should learn to use them. They should not be dependent on them.

"Critical" professional skills? (5, Insightful)

douthitb (714709) | more than 8 years ago | (#16018526)

the laptop has helped her twelve-year-old son master critical professional skills like how to compile a PowerPoint presentation

The terms "critical professional skill" and "PowerPoint presentation" should never appear in the same sentence. PowerPoint presentations are one of the most overused and misused pieces of technology. At my current job, I have sat through 400+ slide PowerPoint presentations on more than one occasion.

What they should be teaching kids is how to quickly and effectively get their point across.

Re:"Critical" professional skills? (2, Funny)

PFI_Optix (936301) | more than 8 years ago | (#16018603)

And also how to NOT read directly from a PP presentation.

PowerPoint has done two things to meetings: lengthened them, and made them less informative. And made them take longer to set up for. Three things. Lengthen them, make them less informative and harder to set up. Oh, and greatly increase their lethal effect on brain cells. Four things...

Gaah (3, Insightful)

geekoid (135745) | more than 8 years ago | (#16018530)

is right.

Nothing like preparing your child for middle managment. well done.

Power corrupts... (1)

geoff lane (93738) | more than 8 years ago | (#16018531)

...PowerPoint corrupts absolutely. -- Edward Tufte

Ah, so that's the secret. (1)

mnemonic_ (164550) | more than 8 years ago | (#16018534)

See everyone? This is why US education fails: no laptops! Heard about how Asian and European kids get better educations? It's the laptops.

Critical professional skills (1)

superdude72 (322167) | more than 8 years ago | (#16018539)

When I was in 3rd grade, I learned critical professional skills such as Turtle Graphics and Vic 20 Basic.

Lord knows those came in handy when I entered the job market in 1995.

Call me an old geezer (1)

Overzeetop (214511) | more than 8 years ago | (#16018552)

When I was in grade school we has a couple of computers, and about the only thing you could do on them was programming. So we learned to program.

The parents have found out the problem with modern computers - they come out of the box with "everything you need to have fun." Heck, isn't that the whole push of Apples new commercials (except calling Windows users stupid)? Why? Because that's how you sell computers.

They need to provide dtipped down, locked down versions for education. Oh, I know, think of the children. Look, they only have 5 hours of instruction a day, they should be making the most of it, not using computers to find a way to talk with friends. Heck, there is almost no reason that students in school need access to the internet. I didn't have access to more than the school library for papers, and did just fine. We're not trying to get these kids to do useful research, and we're not trying to teach them to be secretaries and middle managers - we're teaching them how to learn.

I say give them linux. It doesn't run anything that teens like without major hacking work (don't get all /. huffy about it - yu know it's true). Heck. I'd start em off with slack and the command line. Most people these days - and I mean you recent college grads - can't fix simple OS problems or resolve obvious app conflicts because *you have no idea how a computer works*. GUIs are not computers. We may as well give you toasters or washing machines. Kids will learn to work with what they've got. That's more real world than anything I know.

Oh, and get of my lawn, you young whippersnappers.

News Flash (1)

Travoltus (110240) | more than 8 years ago | (#16018571)

Giving kids pen and paper allows them to write love notes to each other and draw pornographic things, news@11.

My $.02 (4, Insightful)

the_wesman (106427) | more than 8 years ago | (#16018579)

I am also a laptop owner, college graduate and full-time nerd. Hell, I even think we should use less paper. Despite all of that, I am an outspoken opponent of laptops in the classroom.

As a teacher/professor, you are charged with getting through to the students. Helping them understand the material involves interacting with them. I can't fathom how a teacher could be expected to do that in front of 30 kids who are staring intently at the computer screen on their desk and not at the teacher. This lack of eye contact and interaction cannot be good for the educational process. I've seen it in action: it's tough to get through to kids sometimes and giving each one a laptop is not going to help.

Also, slightly less important, but still worth noting is how crappy my hand-writing has become since I started using a computer on a daily basis (this happened for me in 1994 or 1995). I've mostly forgotten how to write in cursive, my signature is a joke and when I do have to write something it is almost entirely non legible.

Computers are really great. With access to the internet in particular, you've got a wealth of knowledge (and lies and opinionations) at your fingertips. There are valuable computer skills that can be learned (programming, graphic design, even powerpoint, etc.), however, I don't feel that incorporating computer usage into every class is practical or useful. A notebook makes a hell of a lot more sense in a chemistry lab than a laptop... unless you set it on fire. Actually, the computer is not great set on fire either, so I'll strike that last comment.

When I was in school, note-passing was all the rage. It was the way that the students had come up with to communicate with each other (about things that should be dealt with outside of school) without the teachers knowing. With a classroom full of kids that aren't looking at you and all staring at their laptops, you can bet that many of them will be doing the modern equivalent of note-passing: myspace, IM, etc.

Let the little brats take notes in a notebook.

Wow (1)

linguizic (806996) | more than 8 years ago | (#16018583)

/.'ers are usually quite homogenous in their opinions, but usually they like to argue over the finer points to hating Microsoft. But the response to this article so far has been a resounding monotonous whine.

In related news... (2, Insightful)

lmpeters (892805) | more than 8 years ago | (#16018584)

Critics continue to argue that paper should be banned from schools, as it has been used by students to read "Playboy" magazine, pass notes to each other during class, and read forbidden Gnostic writings. Some parents, however, argue that paper helps their kids to learn essential skills, such as how to use neon colors to make class presentations less boring.

Two questions: (1)

maynard (3337) | more than 8 years ago | (#16018596)

WTF is this doing as the main article link?

http://www.emailthis.clickability.com/et/emailThis ?clickMap=viewThis&etMailToID=1094610967 [clickability.com]

lame...

Next: Why do kids in class have access to the Internet? I can see that it might be appropriate in a library, under supervision - but in class? Of course it would cause interruptions! What: are these kids expecting free wireless at school?

But this ignores the underlying question: is there reason for portable computing devices within the classroom? I think yes. The problem is not the computer, it is how teachers design curriculums with computing in mind. That is, they don't. Further, there's little software designed to help teach to a curriculum. Most teachers aren't programmers and wouldn't have time to develop good software even if they had programming skills. So, there's a large gap between what a computer could do to help teach students and how they are currently being used.

I would suggest that a laptop (or handheld) is best used for note taking. But with specialized software it could also help teach math, geography, foreign languages, etc. Providing etexts for coursework could be useful as well. But giving kids laptops with wireless internet? Whoa... bad idea.

Hide the TV too (1, Insightful)

Scentless (963269) | more than 8 years ago | (#16018600)

6-8 year olds with laptops? Unless you're teaching them how to program in C++, this seems a bit excessive. I say give em good'ole book and chalkboard education. Let em think for a change. While you're at it, hide the TV in the attic.

What a waste of money (2, Insightful)

MikeRT (947531) | more than 8 years ago | (#16018623)

Laptops for students makes no sense. A laptop is just an expensive machine that is not going to do anything for a student with bad teachers and little motivation to learn. It'll just be another taxpayer-paid for toy.

And she is exactly correct. (3, Insightful)

rantingkitten (938138) | more than 8 years ago | (#16018648)

Anyone who thinks school is about learning hasn't been to school in decades; at least, not a public school. They are essentially daycare centers designed to keep the little punks off the street until they're 18. The only reason they bother teaching anything is because they have to make it *look* like they're doing something worthwhile.

But in the end, how many of those students are ever going to need to factor a quadratic equation, know what a midochondria is, explain the tidal forces of the moon, be able to identify key characteristics of Southern Gothic literature, etc? How much of this stuff do you think they even remember?

Like most everyone here I went through high school and did the usual two or three years of algebra, plus another year in college, and today I couldn't tell you how to factor a quadratic equation if my life depended on it. I barely know what one is aside from some vague, dimly remembered notion of "something to do with parabolas". I'm 27. I'm not unique.

Most people "learn" the material taught in school long enough to pass a test, at which point it is forgotten forever, and school makes no attempt at pretending this isn't the case. As for "skills", as opposed to "facts" -- things like "how to research a paper" -- school is equally useless, cramming everyone into a one-approach-works-for-all method and emphasizing how you format your citations instead of why citations are important, or the content of the paper. I myself do not use notecards, outlines, and make only marginal use of rough drafts (certainly not in the rigidly formalized style touted by educators), yet consistently handed in highly marked papers. At the same time we were all being told that without these things, your "research" is wrong and can barely be dignified with the word "research" at all.

Really, what are we worried about the kids learning / not learning? In the real world, it IS more important for this kid to learn how to use a computer and make inane presentations, because that's what corporate America values, not your ability to think creatively, or recite the presidents of the US in chronological order, or memorize a bunch of math formulas you don't even understand.

Assuming we're going to keep the same basic curriculum and education system, then it doesn't matter if the kids are learning "normal" stuff, or how to make Powerpoint presentations. If we care at all about education, then it is time to utterly, completely scrap the system we have, start over with a system that actually works, revise the curriculum, and perhaps admit to ourselves that not everyone can be / wants to be / needs to be "well-rounded".

Throwing technical contrivances like laptops at the education system is useless but harmless; just more bread and circuses for the politicians to point at and say "See, we're really doing something to help the kids!"

Laptops are tools (3, Insightful)

antifoidulus (807088) | more than 8 years ago | (#16018676)

They are not magic bullets nor will they, by themselves, cause a talented student to blow their potential. However I think that most schools look at them in one of those two lights. Some schools seem to take either of the two extremes and thus do a major disservice to their students.
Giving a kid a computer won't automatically grant them superior research skills or even get them interested in a topic they just aren't interested in. They can aid both of those. Laptops can make looking up a book in the library much easier when compared to a card catalog for instance. They can also allow students to explore materials that are not in their library if they find a topic that particularly sparks their interest.
That being said, computers can be used to goof off easily if the student is so inclined. Motivating the student is the job of the parents, teacher, and especially as time goes on the student themselves. The student who posts to myspace all day long probably isn't the student who 30 years ago would have been staying after school to learn how a slide rule works. They would have been the students that snuck a comic book inside their textbooks. Slacking is not a new phenomena.
But instead of taking responsibility, teachers and parents are blaming laptops or trying to use them to compensate for their own shortcomings. That is like trying to thread a screw with the hammer then when that fails, blaming the hammer manufacturer.

Don't these seem like expensive laptops? (4, Insightful)

mspohr (589790) | more than 8 years ago | (#16018681)

I was struck by the high cost of these laptops quoted in the article... $1400 and $1200.

Since I can buy a very capable laptop for about $500 these days (in fact, I have bought a few for my daughters in college), why are the schools paying so much?

Desktops YES, Laptops NO (1)

davebarnes (158106) | more than 8 years ago | (#16018685)

I support the idea of 8th graders and up having computers.
Desktop computers at home and at school.
I don't support the idea of laptops for kids.
My personal thoughts based upon having a child recently graduate from high school.

1. It is important that children learn to use computers as it is impossible to get a "good paying" job without this ability.
2. It is important the children learn how to type quickly and accurately as they will be asked to type a lot in the near future.
3. Kids do not need a laptop as they have no need to carry a computer back and forth between school and home.
4. A desktop computer at home is much easier to supervise.
5. Teachers prefer typed papers over hand-written papers. And, we are not going back to the days of the Smith-Corona electric typewriter.

The trouble is... (4, Insightful)

LevKuleshov (998639) | more than 8 years ago | (#16018688)

Those in charge of school curricula have recognised that IT will be important in the future (at least we should credit them with that) but they have no idea in what sense or how to impart the knowledge needed to deal with this to the next generation. This is the generation that elects a senator who thinks the internet is a series of tubes! How can it be expected to come up with a meaningful strategy for teaching this stuff.

If all middle school can teach is how to make a PowerPoint presentation, then maybe it's best to leave learning about IT to the traditional method -- by kids hacking into the Pentagon's most secure system in their spare time.

Bull. (1)

nexcomlink (930801) | more than 8 years ago | (#16018695)

Parents should be seeing that there kids are doing there homework and not fucking around. A computer is a great tool for learning if used properly. All that crap like instant messaging & myspace is useless if they don't have a internet connection. This goes back to "parents monitoring there kids on the internet" topic.

Oh my God!! (3, Funny)

Sprotch (832431) | more than 8 years ago | (#16018699)

We sound just like our parents!!

Waste of taxpayer money (1)

brother_b (16716) | more than 8 years ago | (#16018705)

I live in Henrico County, VA, the home of the iBook riot. I'd like to do away with this waste of money altogether - there is no reason to burn 6 million dollars of taxpayer money a year to give every student a laptop. Want to use a computer? Buy your own or go to a library, or use a school computer lab. I'm running for Board of Supervisors next year, and I'd like to cut this from the school budget completely.

But teacher! (4, Funny)

IflyRC (956454) | more than 8 years ago | (#16018710)

The dog ate my hard drive!!

The kid has a future! (2, Insightful)

Beelub (252407) | more than 8 years ago | (#16018735)

the laptop has helped her twelve-year-old son master critical professional skills like how to compile a PowerPoint presentation

So, we've got some junior high kid who can make great PowerPoint presentations but hasn't learned enough about anything to provide content to fill a PowerPoint presentation.

I smell a lucrative career in marketing in the making.

Do you want your kids to be in marketing? (1)

amigabill (146897) | more than 8 years ago | (#16018736)

Some parents however are 'enthusiastic laptop proponents', one saying 'the laptop has helped her twelve-year-old son master critical professional skills like how to compile a PowerPoint presentation.'"

Powerpoint is a critical professional skill? I've never used it. I've never used OpenOffice's Powerpoint equivalent. Other than marketing guys, how many proffessionals actually do that kind of thing? I'm a chip designer doing VLSI layout, verilog RTL, design flow maintenence using various scripting languages and I have no use for presentation tools.

Does this parent hope their 12-year-old will grow up to be a marketing guy?

Forget laptops, buy ebooks (1)

swarsron (612788) | more than 8 years ago | (#16018741)

The problem isn't that pupils don't have access to computers but the outdated school books. They should learn how to work *without* a pc in their schools and thats good that way because once you know the basics its a small step to use a computer as a *tool*. The main reason to use laptops in school is IMHO that you can forget about those 20-year old biology books (i had several books which were way older than me when i was in school) and use current books so you can create interesting and modern education.

School Laptops are not the Problem (1)

cwgmpls (853876) | more than 8 years ago | (#16018747)

Anyone who has spent any time with today's teenagers know that kids are "wasting too much time online browsing dangerous sites, instant messaging friends and posting to Myspace" (and creating mindless PowerPoint presentations) whether their school provides them with a laptop or not.

Taking away their school laptop won't solve the problem -- today's kids are surrounded by computers whether their school gives them one or not.

What is needed is real training in time management and critical thinking -- things that must be taught whether or not the school provides a laptop.

At least providing all students with a laptop gives all students equal access to the information tools they need. Taking away the laptops won't take away the need to teach the personal management skills that our children need in the 21st century.

Stop the Insanity (1)

NJVil (154697) | more than 8 years ago | (#16018749)

Please.

Whoever is pushing the latest, greatest technology into school classrooms needs to stop. Taxpayers are picking up the bill for this unproven nonsense just because schools feel obligated to be on the cutting edge of technology, where they simply do not need to be.

"browsing dangerous sites" (1)

Caspian (99221) | more than 8 years ago | (#16018753)

Oh, PLEASE.

Aside from sites where adults recruit children to rape them or kill them (anything ending in ".mil" qualifies as the latter), I can't think of a site that could be "dangerous" to children.

I WISH the Internet as it exists now existed when I was a child. I could have prevented a lot of suffering for myself, in multiple ways. For one thing, I could have Googled the various slang terms people used to tease me for not knowing, thus sparing me the indignation of being pointed and laughed at for being too much of a nerd to know all the various sexual terms.

I'm so, so, so fucking sick of this "treat anyone under 18 like they're a fucking moron" thing that most "adults" have going on. (Full disclosure: I'm 27.)

It all boils down to the "ZOMG PEDOPHILES ON TEH INTARWEBS!" argument, which of course is a variant of the old "THINK OF THE CHILDREN!!11oneoneone" chestnut. You know what? When I was 12 (or 13, or 14, or 15, or 16...), I wanted to get laid more than anything. People seem to forget that kids want (and have a right to) sexual pleasure too. And I say that as someone who doesn't even date 18-year-olds, much less 15-year-olds. Jesus Christ, people, stop being so ridiculous about sex. It's Just Another Bodily Function(TM).

no more computers in school (1)

wardk (3037) | more than 8 years ago | (#16018756)

Florida making a rational decision? the end is near....

it's probably beyond estimating how many million man years will be wasted in school with these stupid laptops doing:

- teaching MS office (a free service to redmond)
- doing powerpoint (a scourge if there ever was one)
- scrubbing viruses (our new national pastime)
- re-booting (because you always have to)
- upgrading (because we have to replace the old holes with shiny new ones)
- setting up the firewall again (why bother, your machine is crap)

oh, and everyone favorite.

- getting expelled because the idiot teacher put the test answers on the public share and you had the misfortune of clicking on it

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