Power Up! Why a Laptop is Good News for Your Child

‘Computers in classrooms are a scandalous waste!’ This is the sentiment from a Sydney boys’ school principal, defending his decision banning laptops last year. He declared that laptops were not necessary due to the social nature of teaching. The key concern was that technology sits in the way of positive, authentic human interaction.

Human interaction, of course, underscores the role of teachers and peers in a social learning process. The principal’s decision has been met with cries of protest from many technology-savvy teachers and students who operate in similar positions to myself. They are not impressed by his seemingly backward stance on education.

However, while this principal raises a point about distraction, he is wrong. There is something fundamental missing in his argument – that technology is not the point.

It is what we do with it that counts.

The technology you use impresses no one. The experience you create with it, is everything.’ – Sean Gerety

Santa Maria College runs a comprehensive laptop program where every student is given a MacBook to enhance her education. Not to replace her teachers, but to enhance what is done in the classroom. All over the world, technology is used to create, organise, communicate and share. This is an important part of the modern world and one we are compelled to ensure our students are exposed to.

Students receive their laptop along with the responsibilities that come with it: Protecting it, managing its use and caring for it. Having access to this technology turns every classroom into a mobile, hands-on learning space in every lesson. The biggest library in the world. The largest video playlist. The most varied collection of ideas in human history.

The internet allows teachers and students choice in how they navigate and respond to challenges. Perhaps, instead of writing a page of notes, she could create a stop-motion video, a collaborative mind map, or upload her thoughts to a blog?

Very few teachers advocate for all work be done on laptops or that no work be done on laptops. In fact, the mission of classroom technology use is for visible learning, invisible technology – that laptops are a conduit for expanded learning, not a blocker.

The technology should never get in the way of the learning. If the technology becomes the point of all lessons, then we have missed something significant. 

The use of laptops from Year 5 to Year 12 gives teachers scope to develop lessons where students participate in technology-rich lessons without barriers. When students learn the skills of navigating around an interface, saving work, touch typing, searching, critical judgement of sources and effective digital literacy, they will be able to put these strategies into effect as they study.

research into the relationship between school technology and the technology outside of school, young people are exposed to far more technology outside of school than inside it.

Of course, the rise in social media and the anxiety that comes from a worldwide audience is also present. Schools and parents have joint responsibility for guiding our young people in this area. Positive and productive technology in school is one way to demonstrate that we can master its use, rather than be mastered by it.

There is certainly no need to think that all students need technology all of the time.

Some tips for managing laptops in the home: 

  1. Have a central location that the laptop (and other family devices) ‘sleep’ at night while charging. This location should not be in the child’s bedroom.
  2. Set aside time to create with technology, rather than consume. Perhaps your child likes to make videos, create comics, or code programs? This sort of screen time is a good thing.
  3. Have open lines of communication regarding what your child is seeing and hearing, and what you see and hear, too. Kids learn self-management through example and problem-solving.

There are many excellent reasons to use technology, which is why it is so prevalent in our homes and workplaces. We power up our young people when we give them the tools and knowledge they need to succeed – and this includes laptops.

Melissa Marshall, Head of Digital Learning

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