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Laptops: Give me a dictionary instead

September 12, 2006

1996…Beijing China, Apple Computers, trying something different, with the thought that this internet thing might take off in education :)! I remember handing out laptops in a silver case to a bunch of 8th graders, with no orientation, just trust and the highs of trying something critically different..these kids took the laptops and melted into the Beijing traffic…. the fall out everything you could imagine, laptops forgotten on buses, at home, etc… well since then and a few more laptop programs under my belt…a little different orientation.

Interesting the reaction from parents and kids when you explain the students are going to spend two weeks walking with dicitonaries prior to getting a laptop…their assumption is why would you need to do this, many of them already have laptops at home….or feel it easy…some truth if you are a single user…BUT once you through a few hundred kids with laptops, walking school hallways, stairs and classrooms… a new dynamic is in play…. the process of getting them to simulate with dictionaires engages them to be mindful of the variables which come with using a laptop in areas congested with people traffic, managing a desk, books, bag, water bootles and this expensive piece of equipment. From my own experience and research it seems once a laptop program begins, if there is no real orientation their is a tendancy for a higher percentage of breakages than with an orientation program…..the bigger or more important issue is the process engages the kids in discussing, developing and creating conversations on responsiblity, care, management of the laptops and collaboration…all components that transfer to many areas of their school day…. so this little blurb was my answer to the community sceptics….

Dictionaries for Laptops

Wondering why your child might be sharing stories of walking with a dictionary to and from class instead of a 12” iBook laptop?

In the last couple weeks all Grade 4-5 and Middle School students have been participating in a two-week orientation program in preparation for the use of laptops at school.

The orientation program consisted of an initial full assembly where the IT Department and the homeroom and/or subject teachers discussed and presented the responsibilities that come with the use of a laptop; this was then followed by a series of skits performed by faculty, highlighting the “dos” and “don’ts” of using a laptop. Each class then debriefed about the skits with their IT Specialist in the ES and their Advisors in the Middle School. In the Elementary School students then designed their own skits to highlight the issues and responsibilities of using a laptop during their computer classes.

This was followed by a two-week period were students practiced walking with dictionaries to and from class and managing them on their desks and classrooms. The dictionary simulation allowed the students to get used to a new delicate object to manage in class. That in turn allowed them to develop strategies honoring the responsibilities discussed in the assembly. Each student was issued a temporary laptop drivers license that kept track of any infractions. This process allowed both students and teachers to continue to discuss and work on the appropriate behaviors expected in class.

After the two-week orientation a final induction ceremony took place for both the Elementary and Middle School. Each student pledged to abide by the group agreements for proper laptop use at school. Then the laptops were integrated into each class.
The goal of the laptop orientation program was to engage students in developing an understanding of the privilege and responsibilities associated with the use of a laptop in class. Through this process students got to problem-solve and support their peers allowing them to develop a high level of self-sufficiency. The dictionaries provide both teacher and student a safe environment to develop these new learning’s.

The students were outstanding in demonstrating a real commitment in developing appropriate behaviors and understanding sthe responsibilities associated with this. A special thank you goes out to the entire faculty involved with the orientation program for their time, patience and leadership with the students.

Good-bye to our dictionaries and welcome the 12” ibooks ☺

John@ISETS

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