On Becoming a Laptop School

With start of the 2009-10 school year Beaver is officially a “1:1 laptop school.” We have been preparing to become a laptop school for more than a year, with extensive professional development on how to enrich students’ learning and our teachers’ teaching with the latest Web-based applications. In the year ahead you’ll be able to see some of the innovative work classes are doing online by visiting a new section of our website called “BCDS mashUp” at www.bcdsmashup.org.

Until recently, I had been skeptical of 1:1 laptop programs. Software like Microsoft Office has unquestionably improved productivity, and search engines have altered the way we conduct research, but none of this had fundamentally impacted teaching and learning. The introduction of Web 2.0 applications, however, changed the equation by providing new outlets for students to create content and connecting our world in ways we never dreamed possible. Research shows that schools implementing the new Web-based applications in comprehensive and thoughtful ways see improved collaboration and communication among students and teachers, and that students create more sophisticated presentations and become better writers.

Why now? The pace of technological change is astonishing. A few examples: Google launched in 2000, Wikipedia took hold in 2003, and YouTube became part of our lives in 2005. The Class of 2009 was the first to go through high school with Facebook, and Twitter emerged as the fastest-growing social networking site this year. What’s next? There’s no telling, but our students will need to be ready, and our laptop program will give them a leg-up. I should add that Beaver is the only school in the area implementing a 1:1 laptop program in this way.

Requiring laptops is not just about helping our students become adept with technology; you won’t walk down our halls and see every student in every classroom with a laptop open. Instead, it’s about developing 21st century literacies and, as I like to say, it’s about making Beaver better at being Beaver.

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