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Lap top schools

Discussion in 'Teaching abroad' started by ian60, Jan 19, 2011.

  1. ian60

    ian60 New commenter

    I have heard of schools where all pupils are expected to use a lap top in class, but I have no experience of them.
    Does anyone work in such a school?
    Who buys the laptops?
    Has is made major positive differences to teaching and learning?
    Are textbooks loaded electronically?

    Any thoughts?
  2. I worked in one such school where I was a classroom teacher for a class of Year 8 boys. What a sanity saver!
    As 13-yr old males are notorious for losing/screwing up/ripping/paper planing worksheets, notices, assignment details etc., it was brilliant to be able to put anything I gave them onto the network space and let them print themselves extra copies if need be.
    I was also able to post template files for them to work from to produce essays, PowerPoints etc.
    Getting written work out of them was also much easier. Without laborious handwriting to do, essays came in without too much whip-cracking. Grammar worksheets were posted on the system, the boys edited them and emailed them back. Checking who had done it was also easy....a quick scan of the inbox was all it took.
    Sites like mathletics meant that I could set homework and see at a glance who'd done it and how well they'd gone.
    WebQuests or online quizzes were also much easier to incorporate without having to worry about trying to book into computer labs.
    The families bought the laptops, as well as the heavy duty take-the-knocks carry bags they were kept in. The school had a dedicated technical team for run-of-the-mill maintenance tasks, staffed in part by older students.
    It does require fairly close supervision, though. When I started, the boys had developed a bad habit of playing online shoot 'em up games when the teacher wasn't looking, and on my third day (I took over mid-year) I caught a couple of boys looking at **** that was doing the rounds on a USB stick. The hardest part (as a female) was keeping a straight and solemn face while making him stand up and march off to the year group leader when inside I was chortling "You are so busted!"
    The boy concerned had trouble looking me in the eyes for nearly a week afterwards. I would see him looking at his work, glancing over at me, (obviously wanting some guidance), thinking better of it and looking back at his page, looking over at me again and finally back to his work. Bless.
    He actually ended up being one of my favourites.
  3. ian60

    ian60 New commenter

    That was a great reply sidinz! Thanks very much.
    Can I ask you (and anyone else who has experience) a few more questions:
    Was yours an International school (British/American/Other)? I have a feeling that American international schools are likely to be IT savvy)
    Were text books redundant? Or were they hauled around the school along with the laptop?
    Was there no way of remotely monitoring what the kids were up to on their computers?
    Who actually teaches the IT skills? Is it a requirement all kids have the same type of software (eg everyone has windows 7, with office 2007)

    I can imagine my questions will be laughable if viewed again in 10 years (or less) time.
  4. I teach in a Spanish state school. All the pupils in the last two years of primary have laptops (10-12 year olds). The editorials provide the software: Geography, History, Science, Maths and Spanish Language. Each classroom has a smartboard which the teachers use to present, explain each topic (I imagine) then the children do whatever they have to do on their laptops from there. I couldnt really tell you how successful it is but whenever I walk past one of these classes the children seem very engaged in whatever they are doing.
    All the computers have Windows 7, with Office 2007 which is not the case at the lower levels in the IT room. Today for example whren I was in the IT room with the younger ones the internet connection kept crashing. Grrrr....
    Each subject teacher in our centre is skilled in IT but we do have an IT specialist who is there when something goes wrong. In fact, today in a meeting he commented that at any given time there might be over 150 computers online which can cause traffic problems; something to do with the connection. I wasnt really listening.
    Well, worth it though as this is in a lower socio-economic area and not all children have a computer or internet at home.
    In hindsight, maybe Spain is not so backward afterall.

  5. SMT dude

    SMT dude New commenter

    This last September we told older students to go buy netbooks.
    Not laptops at €1,500 a go, but netbooks costing as little as €250.
    They must have a legal student version of MSOffice. The entire school is covered by a wireless network but the net filter is pretty strict - no Facebook, no looking up 'sexual imagery in Antony and Cleopatra', nothing redolent of weapons, gambling... but as above, 'unofficial' material can be stored on pen drives, and the cyber-bullying (Facebook site for the ugliest girls at school and so on) can commence once the children reach home.
    We have a long 'acceptable use' document which students and parents sign, and so far <strike>nobody has infringed it </strike>nobody has been caught infringing it.
    Most of the abuses which upset the bed-wetters among staff and parents existed before this technolgy. When I was a lad, pornography existed in magazine form, anonymous abuse could be communicated via written notes dropped in lockers, and tiny transistor radios were employed to provide alternative entertainment when the Physics class became unbearable.
    Some parents resented our passing the cost on to them, others thought their 14-year old was too young to have her own netbook, others said they would get stolen, broken, abused... we are about to conduct a review involving teachers, students and parents, and I don't expect these objections to re-surface. One girl did drop and break her netbook just before Christmas, but it was the headmaster's daughter, so harmless amusement all round.
    More lively will be the debate about just how we can measure genuine positive effects on learning. Sidinz in an excellent and upbeat post above describes some of the joys of running a class with the little machines on the go, and just this afternoon I have enjoyed a fertile 'brainstorm' in a TOK lesson, with ten minutes unrestricted surfing and conversation to research and grab ideas, twenty minutes directed discussion sharing these, and a final ten writing a personal synthesis in the student's TOK journal, now a little yellow icon not a bulky exercise book.
    The next step is to get textbooks online, onto the school e-learning site, onto students' hard disks.. anywhere but on to the students' backs in school bags twice the body weight of the average Year 9. We'll need some help from publishers with this one, I think.
    We have software which gives the man in the bunker access to the screen of any computer logged in to the network. HELLO, MIKE! I'M AT IT AGAIN!
    The e-learning site, if we offer full acess to parents, will give them big-brother viewing of their child's day-to-day work in a manner never achievable in the days of banda worksheets and essays on lined foolscap. Do we want this? Not me.
    Naturally in a few years this will all look as amusing as my rapturous passion circa 1983 for the first Amstrad, its operating system loaded by three floppy disks at the start of each session.
    Happy New year, notyet. &iexcl;Arriba Espa&ntilde;a, co&ntilde;o!
  6. It was not in an international school but a private school in NZ. There, years 7 & 8 are still primary years and are therefore taught by generalist teachers. As such, I taught ICT but as it was a laptop school the boys were pretty proficient so new skills were taught on an as-needed basis. A few times I did something on the projector (no SMARTboard, just a projector - you don't need a board when they can all access stuff for themselves) they would ask me to teach them how to do it.
    The laptops were bought through the school which got bulk deals. As such, they all had identical hardware and software, no doubt making the techs' lives much easier. The teachers too, for that matter, as you could assume that everyone had a certain application that you wanted to use with them.
    Interestingly, the higher up the school you went, the less they were used. The 6th and 7th forms basically didn't use theirs. I think it had more to do with the teachers than the students. This was a few years ago, so I don't know if it's still like it. However I know that the high school teachers did use electronic copies of textbooks with projectors so these do exist.
    I can't really answer your questions about textbooks as in general, NZ is less textbook-reliant than other countries. When I was at high school 20 years ago, I had very few. None for maths, none for English or history. Just very occasionally did we read a page or two from a science textbook and even then we generally didn't take it home. I never really had textbooks until university.
    One of the blessings was the network software which I mentioned before. In addition to all that, you could set up online conferences and store resources for other teachers there too. While you can also do that on regular networks, this was a one-stop-shop and more intuitive. I think it was called First Class.
  7. Oh, and yes, there was a very strict filter on the system. No Youtube or anything for these kids. I often had to email the tech guys to get sites unblocked that were actually harmless and I wanted the boys to access. It was sometimes irritating, because my computer didn't have these restrictions and there was no way to tell that it was a blocked site. So often I'd sail into a lesson, get halfway through and find myself becalmed because they couldn't access a crucial page. If I was lucky, a quick email and it would be sorted within minutes. But sometimes the techs were busy and wouldn't get the email until a couple of hours later.
    There was somewhere to monitor usage, but with a student body of rather large proportions logged on at the same time, constant monitoring of all users is not logistically practical or desirable. It wasmore useful as an evidence-gathering tool if there were suspicions of students breaking the acceptable use policy.
    Printing wastage was eliminated by issuing each kid with a pre-paid, reloadable swipecard. They sent their printing to the network, then swiped their card through one of various photocopier/printers where it was promptly spewed out. So if they kept losing their bumf, they were the ones paying to print replacement copies. At least, their parents were.
  8. ian60

    ian60 New commenter

    Thanks to all of you, all were really informative and well considered replies.
    Our school is considering this change over soon (isn't every school). This won't be my decision, in fact I have nothing at all to do with the decision making. I was just wondering what other's experiences were.
    It seems there are so many things to take in to consideration given that it involves a huge amount of money to equip every student with a notebook (insurance, repair costs, loss, software etc)
    But your responses have given me an insight
  9. Oh, fer crissakes, I cant resist it...y un clavel para t&iacute;.
    Sorry sidinz.
  10. SMT dude

    SMT dude New commenter

    No need to apologise surely for a passing politesse to another (at this time serious) poster.
    Anyway back to topic. Someone above - sidinz herself? - said that the smartboard is redundant if all students are online, so that all you need is a projector from time to time.
    I hadn't thought of this, but looking at the teaching groups using netbooks, it appears to be true. Primary teachers are still putting the boards through their paces, there's some adroit use by secondary scientists - but other secondary teachers seem to have let the cleverboard stage pass them by, jumping straight to the next technological moment.
    It's galling to think how much money we spent two or three years ago getting dozens of those intelligent boards installed, partly out of fear that we were "falling behind best UK practice" and that "newly arrived teachers from the UK will think they are being de-skilled if they don't find the big board up and running in the classroom when they arrive".
    Any thoughts? Are the boards already due for the dustbin of history or do they still have a role to play once everyone is seated in front of a screen?
    Today in a discussion of computer gaming I reminisced to Yr12 about the early 'Space Invaders' game, a clunky pastime playable on consoles in pubs in 1977. Within seconds a student had the ancient game on his screen and was shooting 'em down. I could almost smell the Bass and taste the cheese n onion crisps.
  11. I think it may depend on the teaching subject, Dude.
    I was recently teaching a foreign language (Spanish, as it happens!) in secondary. In my school a lot of effort was made to keep things dynamic and fun in order to maintain retention rates.
    My classroom had a projector but no SMARTboard. It was amazing, once I got into it, how many all-singing, all-dancing PowerPoints I could come up with that didn't require a SMTbd. I just clicked whatever question the kids wanted to choose. Then the new SMTbd software with all the upgraded bells and whistles came out. Suddenly the potential was enormous.
    To increase interactivity, I purchased a wireless mouse. When games and activities were underway, the mouse was simply passed around the classroom for everyone to have a go at clicking on mystery questions or whatever. In some ways this was even better as it maintained the flow of the lesson better. No lost time as kids ran the slalom gauntlet of chairs, tables, backpacks, musical instruments and sports equipment just to get to the front of the class.
    So for me, it was more about the software than the board itself. 'Course, you need to have at least a few boards in the school to get legal versions of the software.
    So while I can see good use being made of them across the board for quizzes and in certain subjects like science animations, I imagine that they'd be less useful in subjects like maths. But then, it probably depends on the teacher. Personally, I find the ability to write screeds up (annotations, brain storms) and then save it electronically to call up next time I have that class a huge labour-saver.
  12. ian60

    ian60 New commenter

    A brilliant idea, why didn't I think about that? I have a digital projector in my class, having a wireless mouse would be SO useful.
  13. Make sure it's a bluetooth mouse - costs a little more, but the range is fantastic You can even freak out other staff if you leave the dongle in, and remotely control the mouse pointer from another room by accident ;)

    I sent you a PM on examples of good and bad practice re: 1-1 laptop schemes. I felt this thread was too useful to risk the ire of TES moderators if I named specific schools in public.
  14. Karvol

    Karvol Occasional commenter

    You would be surprised. In fact I cannot imagine conducting my maths class - on a long term basis - without one now.
    I work in a very IT literate school, with 1:1 laptop policy ( all staff have a laptop provided by the school and all the students have to buy a laptop as part of their acceptance requirement ).
    We work in a mac environment and this has both positives and negatives.
    First the negative:
    The Smartboard software from Smart for macs is absolutely atrocious. It is so bad that I use parallels and emulate a windows machine to use the windows version of the software. Fortunately this is the only major piece of software for the mac that has this issue.
    The advantages of using a mac, irrespective of whether or not you use smart software - and this would work just as well with a projector - is that you can link it with iPads and use the iPad as a wacom board. The screen of the iPad then becomes the screen of the computer and students can use the iPad to communicate with the screen. If you have a class set of iPads ( something we are experimenting with now ) it opens up the interactivity quite nicely.
    One of the reasons why I like the smartboard software is that if you add the maths tools, it allows graphical and statistical work to become interactive. So if you are working with ipads and the software together, students can change graphs, place points etc. etc. and they can see this being done in real time on the board.
    I also feel that the new mac store for apps could become very interesting. This allows you to purchase small programs for specific purposes. At the moment there is not much variety, but I am hoping that this will change pretty quickly.
    Next term I am going to be trialling the use of iPads with AppleTV in the classroom to see how it works. AppleTV can be connected to a smartboard and it will allow live streaming of whatever is happening on a wifi tethered iPad or iPhone. What I am particularly interested in is being able to walk around a classroom and to be able to use my iPad as my computer and work solely with the different apps you can download. I don't think that the iPad is a good enough tool to write on as yet, but I am hoping the trial will allow me to see if there are advantages to it, and also for the students to see if there are any innovative uses that we haven't considered.
    These are just some of the stuff I am working on. Other staff at the school - particularly in the sciences - are trialling other things.
  15. etc etc etc...the whole post.
    This is a class act.

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