Computers for All?

The KCK school district is set to lease 6,000 Apple laptops for high school students. That, along with some wi-fi upgrades, would cost taxpayers $2 million a year.

Given the poverty rate of the KCK school population–the Kansas City Star article on the subject says that 50 percent of students do not have a computer at home–perhaps such a move is justified. Then again, Michigan tried an ambitious statewide program a few years ago, and the folks at the Mackinac Center for Public Policy were not impressed, citing inadequate student gains as well as implementation. Maybe it will work out for KCK. Maybe not.

The Star points out that other districts have considered and rejected the idea as too costly, including DeSoto, Olathe and Lee’s Summit. Students, the Star reports, would have to pay for home-based Internet use.

Writing in Education Week, a Stanford professor questions the enthusiasm for laptops. “One-to-one laptop programs,” says Larry Cuban,  “are popular. Districts compete to become the first in their area to achieve the ratio. Yet the hype shrouds easily available facts about teaching, learning, and what schools are expected to do. Not to be skeptical at moments like this invites brain death.” (“The laptop revolution has no clothes,”October 18, 2006).

And as a Washington Post article reminds us, technology alone won’t be too helpful. Schools must know how to make proper use of the tools.

Should the board go through with the proposal, it may be a while before the wisdom of the move is seen.

Source: “KCK Pushes High School Laptop Plan,” KC Star, April 12, 2007; excerpted by MacDailyNews.

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