Monday, August 28, 2006

Laptops...Friend, or Foe?

The first question my students ask now as they enter the classroom is, "Do we get to use the laptops today?" When the answer is "no," disappointed sighs ensue. While my response to the laptops is largely positive, there are still a few problem areas I need to address.

First, any activity involving the laptops will consume at least half of the classtime, and if you think otherwise, you're just fooling yourself. Although technological difficulties are lessening each day, Blogger is still a mysterious and temperamental creature that lashes out when you're least expecting it, frustrating even the most experienced of bloggers and drawing out activities designed to be quick.

Second, as aforementioned, the laptops seem to be addicting. Many students are turning their noses up at activities that they used to enjoy because they'd rather "blog it out." While I recognize that this is largely because the laptops (and the blogging) are exciting because they're new, and that much of this will dissipate as the laptops become routine, it's still a bit disconcerting. I hope that teachers will use the laptops with caution...call me old fashioned, but I hate to think of a classroom where blogging is valued OVER face-to-face conversation.

Now that I've vented, I have to say that I'm pleasantly surprised by the utility of the laptops each time I use them. They do shorten some activities. For example, visual collages are much more efficiently produced on the computer than the old way with scissors, paste, and magazines. It's also helpful to watch my students compose essays on the computers and to be able to model what they're doing on the overhead screen. I'm also noticing that many of the teacher web sources that I've used in the past, such as readwritethink.org, have links to interactive activities now, and the laptops will be useful for these, as for links to online literature that our anthologies are lacking.

I also see the students treating their laptops with respect, and the focus and intensity in their eyes as they work on the computer is unmatched. There is no worksheet that will inspire that kind of attention.

And I know of course, that all of these activities are still part of the technological dark ages, and that there are countless uses of the internet that I haven't even dreamed of, and this is more inspiring than it is frightening. But only by a small margin.

11 Comments:

Blogger Karl Fisch said...

Yes, Blogger can be maddening at times. I still have hopes that someday we will have an in-house blogging system (tied to a complete course-management tool that offers other goodies as well). And I think you're right - once the newness wears off, some of that will go away.

I'm curious as to what type of blogging you are doing in class with students? Last year you seemed to do amazing things with blogging outside of class, so I'm wondering what different things you are doing this year that would compel you to give up class time to do that. Not that that's necessarily bad, I'm just intrigued.

I'm glad that - vent aside - things seem to be going well. I was wondering if you and Anne had stopped using them, or if technical issues had settled down somewhat. I'm glad it's the latter. I think you will discover more (and better) ways to use them as time goes on and we get more experience with this. I think we're definitely in the "training wheels" stage (or maybe the tricycle stage) - I can't wait to see what you do with students when they graduate to the two-wheelers.

8:55 PM  
Blogger Crosby said...

I admire your sense of adventure! How many days per week are you using the laptops on average?

3:12 PM  
Blogger C. Makovsky said...

Kristin--I always love to read your posts. You're such a wonderful writer and such a constant inspiration to all of us. Your students are very lucky to be in your class.

2:47 PM  
Blogger shamitap said...

Wow! The laptops sound like great fun in the classroom! There's another technological step ahead, from the chalkboards, to the overhead projectors, to the laptops! I'm sure the students will continue to handle these devices maturely. Have fun!

4:37 PM  
Blogger Ashley M said...

Last year when you had said something about possibly getting laptops, I remember I was really excited. Then we never got them, but oh well. I've reflected on this and I think that they do have many good points, but it may become too much of a good thing. I liked doing the hand-made assignments in your class because sometimes it felt like you could do so much more with a pen, paper, scissors, and magazines. But I also find myself hoping to get a class in which laptops are used because I think it could be a really good tool for getting to know what college may be like.

10:02 PM  
Blogger Lizzie A said...

I think that by having gotten laptops and using them in the class room, kids will become less of kids and more of "adults in training". I understand that everything to do with technology can be frustration sometimes, but if things were not frustrating, then everything would be shallow and pointless to live through and the world a boring place to live. So albeit the laptops can be a pain and a half, I think that all students getting to use them (including myself) are learming valuble lessons. Also, if the students who use laptops are getting used to frustration of working with technology, then when they confront it in the workplace it won't seem as bad!

1:05 PM  
Blogger Lizzie A said...

I have a few small things to say. One thing is that I have just begun to really get the hang of this blogging thing, so I hope that you will visit my blog sometime, seeing as I have taken the time out of my crazy hectic life to read and comment on yours. Second of all, in reading through the other blogs on this page i read that you have cats, i was wondering how many, what do they look like, and did you know that I not only love cats, but am so much like one that some of my friends think that I am part cat? That is all I wanted to say, I hope that you read it, and if you don't well, then you won't know that I am saying this! Why am I saying this at all?!??!!?? I like that I ca get a tiny insight into your life through blog, I wish that you would take an intrest in me enough to want to get an insight into my life by reading mine!!

3:20 PM  
Blogger simonl said...

Ms. Kakos
Why are laptops being used IN the classroom? Aren't they designed specifically for mobile usage? Perhaps not but I don't see why the school couldn't just turn every room into a computer lab. Also, isn't it more difficult to communicate through laptops than through writing or oral communication-especially with the person sitting next to you in class? The computer work seems extraneous. Finally, can students take the laptops home? That would be sweet! I've never even seen one of the laptops so I don't know what all of my friends in "laptop classes" are talking about.

10:40 PM  
Blogger Ryan said...

You may want to send students who are considering purchasing cheap laptops for sale for use at their home to:

Blog: laptopbudget.wordpress.com

Site: LaptopBudget.com

11:19 PM  
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1:02 AM  
Blogger sager said...

Very informative and well written post! Quite interesting and nice topic chosen for the post.

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1:40 AM  

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