Laptop programme simply shows vision

PUBLISHED : Sunday, 26 June, 2011, 12:00am
UPDATED : Sunday, 26 June, 2011, 12:00am

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This column continues the topic of laptop computers, first raised by parents whose daughter has to take one to school every day. Some secondary schools in Hong Kong have introduced this requirement for all pupils in every grade.

Practical issues of looking after the laptop were explored in a previous column, but here we can consider the educational reasons why a school would want to introduce this kind of scheme in the first place: what do the principal and staff see as the benefits of such an expensive and complex scheme?

Despite the technophobes and the traditionalists who are suspicious of computer worship and view it as the latest fad, most of us accept the inevitable, necessary and natural place of computers and information and communications technology (ICT) in our daily lives.

A school that insists on every pupil having a laptop as a basic item of equipment, like a pencil case or paper, is acknowledging that in our wider society - not just the world of work - this level of daily technology use and experience is inevitable. Pupils are being prepared for skills (typically, labelled as 21st-century skills, to assert the belief that this is where the future lies) that they will need all through school, on into university in any career they opt for, and in their socialising, their family lives and their leisure time.

The educational benefits of a school's laptop programme are seen as going much further and deeper than just technology, into broader ways of learning that foster children's development. The classroom becomes connected to the world as pupils learn to communicate far more widely and to share a rich breadth of ideas. Skills of creativity and critical thinking are fundamental to how pupils experience ideas and knowledge in ICT, through words, pictures, film and sound - often combined.

By expecting every pupil to have a laptop in class, schools are acknowledging these benefits as an entitlement for every child. The laptop scheme is founded on the understanding of how children already learn: ICT is as natural to them as a book or a pen, but is far more than just a tool.

Those leaders in schools establishing the principle of one laptop per child have a vision of a similar balance of learning in classrooms: the teacher as a director and guide, but also the children taking ownership of and responsibility for their own learning.

It is an exciting, inspiring vision, and any school with that vision should be delighted to share it with parents who have questions and anxieties about its implications for their children.

Adam Conway teaches at an international school in Hong Kong