Last week I visited schools in a particular country in Central America. All of the schools had 1:1 computing environments, with the computers donated by a private foundation. Some schools just had laptops and some schools had laptops with Internet connectivity. None of the schools had any textbooks because the government had no budget for textbooks. The computers served as the principal learning device and Wikipedia (loaded on all the laptops) served as the principal source of all student information (not provided orally by the teacher) in the schools without connectivity.
A few observations:
- The students were very engaged in class even though they had no textbooks
- Discipline problems and absentiism had dropped dramatically after the laptops were introduced
- Parents came to the schools for their own computer training, which was scheduled during parent-teacher conferences; parental attendance at such meetings has increased significantly; (the students take the laptops home each night)
- The number of laptops stolen is de minimis even though the setting is poor because of community involvement in the project
What has become clearer to me is that the lower the resources available for education, the greater the potential benefit of laptops in classrooms for each student. The higher the resources available the more the laptop becomes just a device for connectivity...to the better educational content online. Resource rich environments perceive a risk the further they diverge from traditional classroom methods for teaching in the use of computers. Such environments also have more controls through testing and curriculum.