Finally, an article that addresses my concerns about the wholesale deployment of laptop computers to a single grade in the state of Maine. Katie Dean looks at a more average school in Maine in Wired News today, and addresses the issues of teaching training and student understanding. I wrote back in May about how the program seemed to value the computers as a panacea rather than as an additional tool. What would they be used for? Would there be enough training? Would there be ancillary support? For the school surveyed, at least, the answers seem to be that teachers are largely left to their own devices, and laptops are used mostly as a way to access CD-ROM content or haphazardly search the Internet.
More textbooks might have gone a lot further, or more advanced teacher training or additional teaching positions to reduce class sizes. When a teachers says, as they do in this article, that they couldn't get some students to crack textbooks, that's largely related to class size, a number of studies have shown. If tens of millions of dollars a year could go into improving teacher salaries and increasing teaching staffs at Maine schools, the result would be a multifold improvement in education that would pull the whole state up with it. But instead of that, let's air-drop computers in, and move on.