There was a good article in Downeast Magazine about the MLTI program in Maine. Jeff Clark did a good job emphasizing that training and professional development made a difference in the implementation of the program. Real results were seen in classes that used the laptops for more than just a “finishing tool”:
Silvernail compared students in classrooms where laptops were used as a working tool to those in classrooms where the computer was essentially a finishing tool, used as a fancy word processor rather than an integral part of the writing process. “Kids using them as instructional tools significantly outscored kids who were not using them that way on the Maine Educational Assessment test,” Silvernail concludes. “The powerful thing is that they are becoming better writers, not just turning in better [papers] because they happen to be using a laptop equipped with SpellCheck.”
Silvernail is also working with math teachers to help them learn how to use laptops more efficiently. Compared to teachers who don’t receive the training, “the differences in math scores are significant,” he says. “It really emphasizes the importance of professional development for teachers, and it reinforces the idea that the laptop is a tool and needs to be used wisely.”
This can’t be said enough to the nay-sayers who are canceling laptop programs or prohibiting student use of laptops during classes. Computers are tremendous tools that can help teachers create and extend a learner’s experience in their classrooms. A laptop can’t do that alone; a teacher needs to be innovative and adjust their pedagogy to take advantage of what this tool can provide.