Laptops don't entirely replace other classroom computers

Student: Benefits outweigh distractions

News editor

When schools provide all students with laptop computers, they can reduce the number of other computers needed, but they can’t completely eliminate that need.

That’s part of the message from students and teachers at Hillsboro and Centre high schools, which have issued students laptops for several years, while Marion school board considers instituting its own program.

Senior Kevin Lewis was a sophomore when Centre first provided laptops to students. He said the Apple computers are good enough to run most programs students need, but he did have to use a desktop computer to use Photoshop.

He said he wasn’t sure whether that was because his laptop wasn’t powerful enough to run the program, or if the district determined licensing the software for all students would be too expensive.

Hillsboro business teacher Nathan Hiebert still has several desktop computers in his classroom. He said his students prefer to use those computers for accounting work because they have larger screens and number pads, which the laptops lack.

Technology coordinator Forest Barger said Marion could eliminate as many as 92 computers if all students had laptops. Desktop computers would still be needed for any classes using computer-aided drafting software, which requires a lot of processing power, Barger said.

He said the laptops the district was considering could run Photoshop, but he was unsure whether they could run it well enough to replace desktops in the art classroom.

Computers simplify collaboration

Lewis is on Centre’s yearbook staff, and he said he has done a lot of work for the yearbook at home. Laptops allow him to send page proofs to classmates to review and give feedback on outside of school.

Similarly, laptops speed up feedback from teachers, he said. Lewis said he could turn an assignment in on Friday, get feedback from a teacher on Saturday, and revise it Sunday to improve his grade.

Hiebert agreed that individual computers allowed more and faster collaborative activities. Without laptops, if every student needed a computer for a project, they would have to go to a computer lab.

“You would lose 5 to 10 minutes every day to that process,” Hiebert said.

He said they also help in his personal finance class. Students are doing a project with stocks, and laptops make it faster for them to look up information. He said it also lets students explore the topics, rather than being limited to showing them.

“Hands-on is better than showing them,” he said.

Hiebert said that some students communicate better using the laptops, because that is how they communicate outside of school.

Distractions

Laptops, tablet computers, and smart phones provide access to so much information that it can overwhelm a student, Hiebert said.

“They can become a distraction,” he said.

As with any other teaching tool, computers help some students more than others. Hiebert said some students get distracted easier than others.

Technology can be useful, but it can also be a barrier to personal interaction. That’s why it is important to teach students to use technology judiciously, Hiebert said.

“They definitely can be (distracting),” Lewis agreed, “but the benefits outweigh the distractions.”

80 percent have computer, Internet at home

Marion High School Principal Tod Gordon surveyed students Friday and was surprised by how many have access to a computer and Internet at home; 122 of 151 students — 81 percent — surveyed said they had a computer at home.

The same number said they have Internet access at home, but some who said they had a computer didn’t say they had Internet, and some who said they had Internet didn’t say they had a computer. Gordon’s hypothesis was that students with Internet but no computer used a smart phone at home.

Multiple attempts to contact Hillsboro High School Principal Max Heinrichs and Centre Superintendent Brian Smith were unsuccessful.

 

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