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Technology and Society 216

nyquist_theorem writes: "MSNBC has an interesting article entitled Billy gets a laptop that covers the Harley-riding independent governor of Maine's take on technology and its role in government. While previous coverage on Slashdot covered the governor's plan to give his 7th graders laptops, this article offers a glimpse of that all-too-rare breed, the insightful, technologically aware bureaucrat - in this case discussing the sociological implications of the net in the wake of Sept 11th. The article also mentions some of the other measures the government of Maine is taking to use the net in ways that actually benefit its citizens."
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Technology and Society

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  • great, they can IM each other instead of passing notes to each other when the teacher isn't looking
  • Instead of giving people the electric chair he gives them electrical equipment!
    • by grammar nazi ( 197303 ) on Sunday October 21, 2001 @10:36PM (#2458324) Journal
      All too many times, the government or teachers give out technology and try to use technology as a crutch in the education. Time and time again, the schools and students have proven that what they need isn't the latest and greatest calculator or the fastest internet connection. They need skilled and motivated teachers.

      I believe that technology should supplement a strong education, rather that be the basis of it. Give the laptops to the teachers; they can take them home and plan the next days lesson rather then passing out laptops in class and telling the students to quietly browse the internet while Mrs. Smith cuts her fingernails.

      They don't even teach multiplacation tables to childeren any more. Okemos, MI is an example of a school district that left multiplication tables out of their students' educations. They stated that it was due to the fact that students have easy access to calculators and computers and don't need to remember these things. I say that the Okemos school district was using technology as a crutch to remove a rigorous and somewhat challenging (for the teacher) thing from the curriculum. Young students need to sit down and learn that some things you have to memorize or work for and their are not always easy shortcuts.

      </end rant>

      Perhaps this was a better rant for my 'angry old man' alter ego.

      • ok here in BC Canada the public school teachers just voted %91 for a strike and I had a little chat with one of them, and he told me that after all his bills are paid at the end of the week he only has like 50 bucks left, so i can understand how some teachers would be pissed if the government started giveing the students perks and not them. But I belive that technolegy enriches the lives it comes in contact with, so giving the students laptops is a good idea in my opinon, but the teachers should gain some control over what the students can do with the laptops.
      • They need skilled and motivated teachers.

        I Agree.

        Laptops aren't going to solve anything. It's the people involved that need to be focused on:

        Teachers
        These people are responsible for making children learn something and if it weren't for good teachers I don't know where we would be right now. Teachers deserve WAY more respect (and money) than most of them get these days. With "teacher" I mean real, trained professional teachers, not untrained substitutes. To anyone unaware: teaching is not at all an easy task, it takes skills to make a large group of children grasp any concept, to make them behave in class etc. (I've worked as a substitute for a year, no formal training).

        Teaching should be considered a noble profession, because you get to pass on desperately needed knowledge to the next generation.

        Parents
        I hate to say it, but in my experience, a surprisingly large number of parents don't really seem to care very much about how their kids are doing in school (parents have problems too). It's almost as if school was just some place you drop off your kids in the morning and pick them up after work. The parents are responsible for making the children realize how important school is, not just tell them the obligatory "you won't get a job unless you go to school", but to really make them understand the value of knowledge.

        Most will probably agree that being a parent is certainly not a walk in the park.

        I'm not from the US but I think these thing apply globally.

      • Multiplication tables are useful, but honestly I don't think that memorizing facts should be the point of math education. I was never taught during my 12 grades of school how to solve problems. Only how to memorize stuff like multiplication tables. And as a result I find a lot of college classes tough. We have to take 4 Calc classes, probability, 2 discrete math classes, and algorithm analysis. Though there is some formula memorization in calculus, mostly you need to have the thought process of figuring out solutions to the problems. These are only 200 level math classes anyway, its kids stuff to math majors....

        >
        What i'm intersted in is how well those kids in Okemos can multiply when they get to high school. I spent forever studying flash cards of multiplication takes in elementary school, but I don't remember many of them. If you ask me to multiply 7 * 6 I would think 7,14, 21, times 2 is 42. It takes about a third of a second, but it isn't necessarily memorized.

      • I live in Henrico County VA, which just struck a deal with Apple to loan every high school student in the district an iBook, and the current school year is the first year to see it implemented. It was the kind of thing where they did it because they could, not because they should. They're the first school district in the country to do this on such a large scale, and it's such a fantastic accomplishment that Steve Jobs himself came out and told everyone, "Look at how fantastic this is." The school district figured they'd get themselves some national exposure and make themselves look incredibly important. They didn't count on a few things, though.

        First, they forgot that your average high school student, when given a network-equipped laptop to use in class, is probably going to use it for things like games, surfing the internet, and IM. The teachers are having tremendous difficulty maintaining classroom discipline, and are having to tell students that they're not allowed to use the iBooks. The irony is that just about every class has been redesigned to allow for CONSTANT use of the iBooks - accessing notes, lecture outlines, even textbooks online.

        The teachers have been told by the school district that they aren't allowed to say anything "negative" about the program, so they're being forced to give anonymous quotes to the local papers. Some of the ones that have offered anonymous negative quotes have said that they would LOVE to say who they are, but have been told that doing so will all but guarantee their termination of employment.

        The other problem is that, because they rushed into this just so they could be first, they didn't think to UPGRADE THE NETWORK. I don't know what kind of connection they have, but putting a few thousand extra people on it has led to a lot of crashing.

        I definitely think that there's a time and a place for technology in schools. By all means, teach them how to do things like use a word processor and a spreadsheet, things that will help them later on. I think there is also such a thing as overdoing it, and this is what people need to be careful of.

      • Technology == tools, i.e. pen and paper are technology just as much as laptops, what has been around a long time and become commodotised and has fairly universal usuage we now call "low tech" and that that is not we call "high tech". Technology, tools, are just things that help us do things, teachers are to my mind "Learning CEOs" they set the direction, pace and scope. A good teacher to me is one that inspires the student with a passion to go out and learn for themselves, because in the real world that is what many of us have to do each day, learn something new and apply it in a way that is valuable. Once you've got the basics, like language and some basic math skills you can become your own teacher, thats what really good teachers I have expereinced do. As I remember someone saying, schools teach you to get A on the test, not how to apply that in different strategies to get good outcomes in real life. I am fortunate to know some very dedicated and good teachers who are able to inspire their students who may or may not do well on the tests, but will be able togo out and learn what they need toeven if it wasnt on the curriculum. Computers will hopefully just make it easier for the students to find information faster and therefore lower the barriers to learning something new. So in conclusion, we need both, technology to make learning any new topic easier by providing a means to access information and teachers to guide and inspire, I do hope we have plenty of both.
    • So will he be the "West Wing" candidate in 2004? Intellectual progressive governor of a small(ish) New England (or thereabouts)state?
  • If the teachers don't have the means to teach the 7th graders won't have the means to learn. A laptop will get you pretty far, but not everybody just "learns" how to use a computer intuitively like many of us on this forum have.
    • I disagree, computers are fairly easy to learn, espesialy for kids. I know that most 12 year olds won't understand the inticises of Linux, but im a certain they'd be able to use mandrake-linux, after only a few weeks of using it.
      • And all of this has what to do with what a 7th grader should be learning?

        I know I was into computers at that age, but it was a hobby outside of school. School needs to focus on the basic skills (building blocks) that will let that kid make his hobby (the computer) even more rewarding, since he'll actually learn and understand far more than he could ever have on his own.
        • That's absolutely true; I would argue, however, that computer literacy has become a basic building block, along with reading, 'riting and 'rithmetic (hmmm... "computer" doesn't start with "r", damn it). Even now, most people would be required to point-and-click somewhere at some point in their lives. Computers are becoming cheaper, and ubiquitous Internet access is almost here (despite the recession, even). Portable devices, such as Palms and suped-up cellphones, are also becoming more widespread. It is becoming difficult to survive without having at least a basic understanding of how all this stuff works.

          Consider - a couple hundred years ago, basic literacy was really an optional luxury for most people, not a requirement...

        • The problem is that all school does is repeat over and over again the same information, and in most cases it never sticks permanently. Personally I think the idea of "building blocks", while intuitively it seems to make sense, is not the best way to learn. I always found the best way to learn is to get thrown into something, and let the brain learn the basics by analyzing and breaking down the complicated. Give the kids a laptop, and maybe a few of them will have the tenacity to mess around with it until it makes sense to them...
        • Just in case you somehow missed the beginning of the 21st century, learning how to use a computer *is* a basic skill these days. Relegating the use of the computer to a 'hobby' is a luxury only those already-established in the job market can afford; an example being the large group of boomers who rail, whine, and moan about the advance of computer technology and how it has no place in their childrens lives simply because it had no place in their own.

          It's been my experience that the folks who piss away at computers are either the ones who already 'got theirs' and wish time would just up and stop (i.e., the aforementioned boomers) or the technologically illiterate who can't keep up with their peers and are bitter about it.

          I currently work in a school district, and have for the last three years. Sure, there are problems with the school system, serious problems; but blaming these problems on computers ("our kids should be learning the 3 R's", bitch and moan) is the refuge of the simple-minded who pine for simple solutions.

          Computer technology and the internet will be an integral part of these kids lives, far more so than any generation previous. Teaching them early, especially the poor who don't have computers or the internet at home, is far better than saying 'screw you, learn it on your own'. Regardless of how it panned out for you, it won't fly for future generations.

          Max
  • Angus? (Score:1, Offtopic)

    by ekrout ( 139379 )
    Cool, he must make the world-famous high-quality Angus fine beef that we all have grown to love. I wonder what his take is on episode where "Billy" is introduced to the slaughtering house by the celebrity "Troy McClure" (you may remember him from such films as...).

    ;-)
  • unfortunately, he implies that government is the only source of "the big mass of stuff that allows us to get about our lives". industry has provided us with most of the things that we use in our lives. anybody REALLY want a US Gov. brand car?
    • I live in Maine, and I can say, we have much to much of that mentality already.

      We are a state of dependents, waiting and begging for our next handout. As a result we are the highest taxed state per capita.

      King's little ploy is a bad idea, and he's a bad bad person and politican. His support in Maine has always been tenuous, and he is on his way out now due to term limits.

      Our state is basically broke, yet he insists on finding money for his latest welfare program.

      Ohh well, at least this will help build his image for higher office.


      • King's little ploy is a bad idea, and he's a bad bad person and politican. His support in Maine has always been tenuous, and he is on his way out now due to term limits.


        A bad person? Because he doesn't agree with you? What a contemptible thing to say. As for that "tenuous" comment, that's just wishful thinking; he's had a huge approval rating during his term in office.
        • A bad person? Because he doesn't agree with you?

          No, because he is putting an entire State, and 1 million people, at risk to further his own future political aspirations.

          The State of Maine suffers from a severe case of misplaced priorities and he is head of this movement. He loves to fund quirky "get the headlines" projects while ignoring some of the only true state functions - child welfare, criminal justice, highway and infrastructure improvements, etc. He sets aside $50M for his laptop initiative at the expense of other programs that are clearly more important. He knows this, and doesn't care.

          That is why he is a bad person.

          As for his popularity, it has always been tenuous. His initial election was the best example. He was a 3rd party candidate because he didnt want to slug it out with a very popular democratic candidate (he was a registered democrat before the campaign). It was a brilliant political move, but it lead to a very close three way election if memory serves me.

          Since then his numbers rise and fall based on many outside factors. Some years back when he was running again for election things were very favorable for him; since then his support has wanned, to be bolstered by his petty political moves.
  • by Anonymous Coward
    as this may go against many of the geeks beliefs, i believe laptops would be close to deadly. it is during these years that you need to actually start focusing. i know from experience that whenever i got a hold of a computer during middle and high school , i would use the computer for the purposes they weren't meant for. restrictions could easily bipassed, so instead of reading about biology, i would be "surfing the net" and looking at slashdot, etc. computers = death of brain. just imagine YOURSELF with a computer in middle school during a boring class. what would you do? something bad or good?
    • just imagine YOURSELF with a computer in middle school during a boring class. what would you do? something bad or good?

      Good troll, and Im gonna bite. OK, if youre in a boring class, most people will just zone out after a brief point anyways. SO? Nothing is being learned; if a kid is intellectually excited by something online and they pursue it for 45 minutes in class (yes, still ignoring the teacher) instead of fantasizing about the girl two desks over...whats the big deal? People have been bypassing boring teachers and having fun for years (well, even longer than that), as represented by the always present note being passed, pencils getting thrown at the ceiling etc. etc.... But, replace the mindless time, filling with something a bit intellectual, and many kids are bound to grow a little bit. Plus, i might be little bit stimulating to find various ways around filters, firewalls and stuff. The worst part about introducing these laptops is that they DO have the potential to be distractions, and surely will be to a lot of kids. But isnt it a better distraction than fantasizing all class about the hot substitute? (which can be better accomplished at home with the door locked anyways ;)

    • I quite agree with this. When I went to school, we were never allowed to use a calculator during maths classes. I was in my last year at high school (or second last year) before we were allowed to use a calculator. It definitely helped us comprehend the principles.
      Using a computer, even though it is a "cool" thing, I do not think it will encourage students to learn the basics. Why bother if you can get the computer to do the work for you. As a visual aid it would be great. As replacement to pen and paper, books and the good old talk-to-your-classmates, I think will lead to many problems.


      • You dont need to do a math problem a million times to understand the principle of how its done.

        I was allowed to use calculators in math class, I admit i'm not good at math, but i'd be far worse if i had to do algebra, trig, and statistics by hand because theres no way i would do my math work without a calculator

        Not because i dont know how to do it, but because it takes too long.


    • IT has nothing to do with the tools

      When i was in school i couldnt focus with a pen and paper, I'd draw and pass notes to my friends.

      With a laptop it wont be any diffrent. However the diffrence is, for the kids who can focus at that age, they will definately get better grades.

      • unfortunately, that's not always true.

        i was a 4.0 student through most of high school. then i got a computer. i stopped doing my homework, and instead surfed the 'net. i'd play with verious things online, or with the computer, every chance i'd get instead of doing my homework.
        now, in college, i can still quite well pay attention in class. but give me an internet connection, and i'll zone out and occupy my time quite wastefully

        and i know that i, just like you, am not authoritative for the rest of the population. however, i am an example that these could be quite bad. just as you are an example on how they could be quite good.

        shalom

  • if I can give-back my Engineering degree in Comp. Sci., and my high school degree as well, and move to Maine in hopes of finally getting my own laptop?!!!
  • radio interview (Score:4, Informative)

    by terpia ( 28218 ) on Sunday October 21, 2001 @10:29PM (#2458304) Homepage
    This radio interview with the gov really says more than the articles...(realplater, WinMedia, and quicktime) here: http://www.wired.com/news/school/0,1383,45866,00.h tml# [wired.com]

    BTW: I think this is really a great idea, and although its bound to be misunderstood and misimplemented by many teachers and administrators, it does have the potential to really benefit TONS of students. I'm encouraged by the governors actual awareness that faculty will need just as much training and help (if not more) than any of the kids. Good stuff.

  • I'm writing this from my school laptop now (Melbourne Australia), but I'm only one of probably 20 or so people out of the 400 people in years 11 & 12 that use their laptops frequently. Most of them will only use them when the are forced to


    • A laptop would be a godsend

      Imagine your english teacher telling you stuff and you typing the notes
      then she says use that information to write an essay and you just edit your notes a bit and print it right there.

      I've seen somenoe do this.
      • What's this "notes" thing that people talk about? :)
      • When you show me a program that will let me draw lines and diagrams with the same ease I can do it on paper, then I'll think about switching. But in the meantime it's a hell of a lot faster to draw with pen on paper than with mouse on screen.

        As for reusing your notes as an essay, if you're taking notes verbose enough to be able to do that, then your notes are too verbose. You can't concentrate on rearranging your teacher's statements into essay-suitable format without missing some of the content itself (unless you're a brilliant writer, in which case you wouldn't need to resort to tricks like that in the first place).

  • ISP stands for 'infrastructure service provider.

    This is about where I switched off :D

    Talez
  • In politics, every action has an equal and opposite reaction. The desired action occurs in the short term. The undesired action takes a while to occur. Since everyone can see the desired action, people sometimes praise government action because it seems to accomplish its goals. In the long term, though, government action hurts people. Why? Because governments find it hard to take action which hurts in the short term (thereby producing the long-term gain).
    -russ
    • I went and read the portion of quaker.org you link to in your .sig, Mr. Nelson, and I'd like to explain something. What occurred is a crime of massive proportions. Adequate evidence has been collected, I believe, to without a doubt implicate Bin Ladin and a large, if disbursed terrorist organization surrounding him. Why do I believe that? Immediately after the attack, various NATO nations were calling for a complete and undoubtable presentation of evidence before any action was taken. In about a week, all those countries, including Turkey, Norway, and the Netherlands, who originally were loudly demanding actions be forestalled, were in full support of US actions, provided they were undertaken with care. None of those nations have lodged complaints since. Conclusion: they were persuaded, so therefore there is evidence.
      So why, you ask, doesn't the public get to see that evidence? Eventually, you will, however, the difficulty in fighting a terrorist organization is in gathering dependable intelligence. We DO NOT want to reveal our sources, because then we lose them. I don't generally trust the US government blindly, but that some extremely liberal European nations are persuaded, and Turkey, who is islamic, was as well, speaks in favor of trust for the US.
      But how, you ask, can we attack Afghanistan? After the first WTC bombing attempt, the US court system had found Bin Ladin guilt of a very serious crime:conspiracy to cause multiple murders. The finding was backed up by judicial review in countries from Russia to England, most of whom agreed to make him a wanted man under the extradition treaties that civilized nations maintain amongst each other. The WTC bombing cas was not Mumia Abu Jamal, there were no shades of grey, and evidence was used conclusively. However, Afghanistan doesn't have an extradition treaty with the US, and hence, OBL has been there since. The military operations, I truly believe, are being carried out with great care.
      Final point: I strongly respect pacifists, however, I believe that in a world where evil still exists, pacifism cannot work as foriegn policy. Don't tell me wars never solve anything. WWII killed some german civilians who may not have supported the Nazis, however, you'll be hard pressed to persuade me that they were not a reasonable sacrifice in stopping hitler. And yes, Germany was in a recession, and reparations were unreasonable, but that did not mean that once war began, involvement was not justifiable. Simialarly, there may be some awful accidental deaths, and there may be some causes behind our enemy, but that does not invalidate our reaction.
  • Not a great idea (Score:5, Insightful)

    by UserChrisCanter4 ( 464072 ) on Sunday October 21, 2001 @10:40PM (#2458335)
    I graduated from high school not too long ago. I was one of the generation that was supposed to be propelled forward by the "computing revolution".

    IMHO, computers have no place in schools, at least not until upper level classes where a computer is necessary (say, a basic computer literacy class, but more importantly, programming courses). My experience with computers in school consisted of the following:
    1) "Educational games" that were neither fun nor particularly educational. Among the ones I remember were those I played during the monthly trek to the "math lab" in Junior High; stupid things where you added numbers and a correct answer would advance you closer to a goal. Whoop-de-do... I could have learned those fractions a lot easier in a classroom.
    2) A few "multimedia" computers in the library playing movies of cheetahs. This was during the era when "multimedia" was first rearing its head. Each one of these 486s with a CD-ROM and monitor probably cost the district $3,000, and possibly more.
    3) Computer "literacy", which taught basic point-and-click on ancient (even at that time) Apple IIe units. A wonderful waste of a semester.

    Which left us with the one actually useful application (outside of CS): Writing lab, so that students who didn't have a computer at home could type their papers.

    When I look at these massive expenditures, I can't help but think how angry the teachers must be. A fairly reasonable estimate (even for the dinky little CE machines) for purchase and maintenance of those units would be around $8,000 for a classroom of 28 students. Can you imagine the jump in the quality of teaching applicants a district would receive if even $4,000 of that amount were being given to the teacher?

    Instead, districts and states are forced to give in to "feel-good" programs like this. Parents think that these computers are giving their children a "head start" on the "high tech" world out there (buzzwords used for emphasis). What the system is really doing is (inadvertantly) discouraging quality teachers who would have made a far bigger influence on their child's life than ANY computer could have ever made.

    Computers do have a place in schools, but that place should be very, very limited. Say, 10-20 computers in a library for research (ideally running linux on a lower end ~500mhz system to save money), a gang of 30 or so computers available in a writing lab for students before, after, and during school, and a classroom of computers for any programming course. Beyond that, I don't think districts or states should squander precious funds that could be paying teachers or repairing schools.
    • by fm6 ( 162816 ) on Sunday October 21, 2001 @11:05PM (#2458389) Homepage Journal
      You're half right. The kind of computing that was imposed on you has no place in the schools. "Educational" software is a total joke. And it's pretty pointless for technologically clueless teachers to be teaching any of this stuff. Most "computer literacy" programs like this are just a half-assed way to con the taxpayers into thinking that the schools are up-to-date.

      What use is a few computers in library or the back of the classroom? Suppose you had to learn to read that way. You're only allowed near books a few hours a week, under supervision. Please!

      I'm not acquainted with the details of the Vermont program, but there are schools that have gotten good results with classroom computers. They do it by giving the students continuous access to computers. One student, one computer. With wireless LANs so they can use them in the classroom. This has a positive effect on all aspects of learning, not just computer skills.

    • Re:Not a great idea (Score:2, Interesting)

      by Gabey ( 18874 )
      I was going to post a comment similar to this, but you've really hit the nail on the head... I used to be my high school's "tech" person, and I also worked in the elementary labs, as well as keeping the other ~350 computers in the school up and running.
      Each classroom had a minimum of 4 computers with english/language arts classes having more (for typing projects?). In at least 95% of the classrooms, the computers went unused for the entire year. In the english rooms, the typical action was to sign out a lab for the period since the 6-8 machines in the classroom couldn't accomodate the whole class using them, so why bother staying in the room?
      If we had consolidated maybe half of these machines into 5-6 high quality labs, given the rest of the money to teachers who deserved them and programs that needed them (the year I graduated, the budget got shot down and the vast majority of the arts programs there were screwed), a lot of good could have come of the funds.

      Anyway, just wanted to post a big "hear, hear" to this comment...if I had mod points, I would've modded it up instead :)

      -Gabe
    • You're right. It's not like they could use the Internet for research or anything.

      Not teaching children how to use computers nowadays is like not teaching them to read or write. You need to be able to use a computer because they're parts of our daily life now.

      Typing up a report at school in Word and then dragging a picture into your document from Internet Explorer has streamlined the learning/work process immensely and made it easier for children to express themselves. This is a good thing.
    • by BarefootClown ( 267581 ) on Sunday October 21, 2001 @11:43PM (#2458469) Homepage

      First of all, I agree wholeheartedly with your comments about schools' purchases of computers, and their ultimate disuse of them. I graduated from high school two years ago last May, and I saw how our systems were, or were not, used. Probably a million dollars' worth of equipment throughout the district (and I'm not exaggerating--between the labs with IBM Eduquest-series PC's, Novell network software, and token ring networking, to the teachers' systems, Digital machines on ethernet, which were replaced after four (IIRC) years, across a high school, three middle schools, and I don't remember how many elementaries, plus admin buildings), and most of them were only minimally used. Teachers often had only passing familiarity with the systems; one used the system primarily to collect South Park clips (in RealMedia format, no less!), with many others in the same category. Windows licensing no doubt cost a small fortune, to achieve a network with almost as much reliability as a 15-year-old Chevy. All of the copies of Office were at least one version out of date, making it a royal PITA for most students to transfer work from home to school (and no e-mail for students, either--sneakernet only). Bess, that wonderful internet proxy, stopped more useful research than it did pr0n. Students were limited to eight (IIRC) pages of hard copy from the printers at any given time--meanwhile, those of us in Honors English were writing papers that often ran to eighteen. Yes, the systems were a waste. The administration was not exactly the most clueful, either, but what do you expect on a public school salary?

      The big thing about the funding, though, is that most of it couldn't have been used any better. Most of the funding for our computers came from grants, with stipulations that the money be used to bring technology into the classroom. I never did find out who donated the money (MS, trying to get another group of kids, and another school, hooked on Wind'ohs?), but the stipulations were clear--no tech, no dough. It would have been nice to have money that could be used to hire some decent teachers (we had a few very good ones, but we had a number of not-so-good ones too...names withheld to protect the guilty...). From what I'm told, this is actually a fairly common situation. If the money were to be given to the general fund, it would be a lot more useful. I understand why it is not, having seen how our administration handled itself (yes, i actually attended school board meetings; dad and I made a sport of embarrassing board members)--I know what would likely have happened. So, while I agree that the money could be better used, before complaining, it might be wise to check out the source of the money, and see if there were other options. The administrators might have their hands tied. 'Course, they might also just be dolts. (OR, not XOR.)

    • Re:Not a great idea (Score:3, Interesting)

      by The Cat ( 19816 )

      2) A few "multimedia" computers in the library playing movies of cheetahs. This was during the era when "multimedia" was first rearing its head. Each one of these 486s with a CD-ROM and monitor probably cost the district $3,000, and possibly more.

      Here we go...

      for purchase and maintenance of those units would be around $8,000 for a classroom of 28 students. Can you imagine the jump in the quality of teaching applicants a district would receive if even $4,000 of that amount were being given to the teacher?

      It is easier to get approval to build a two-mile suspension bridge than it is to be successfully hired as a credentialed teacher. $4,000 makes no difference at all.

      The process of becoming (and remaining) a credentialed teacher is as sure to crush the very life from any possible inspiration to impart knowledge as being a cubicle-dwelling "team player" programmer is to destroy any joy in writing great and useful programs. Fix that problem, and you'll have all the great teachers you need.

      We spend $150K/year per classroom per year in this state. Teacher makes $40K if they are lucky. See any problem here? How many classrooms in the average school? District? Where's *that* money? That's a far more important question than the tiny sum spent on computers.

      Meanwhile, people just keep saying things like "we don't spend that much!" while the budget is quietly increased to $175K. Schools don't have pencils, paper, current textbooks, reference materials, properly maintained buildings, etc.

      Name one, ONE public school band, athletic team, club, whatever (besides football) ANYWHERE that has their uniforms/equipment replaced at district expense on a regular basis (and the football team pays from their own ticket sales.. nice try).

      When problems like that are solved, the teacher pay problem will be solved with them.

      • "We spend $150K/year per classroom per year in this state. Teacher makes $40K if they are lucky. See any problem here? How many classrooms in the average school? District? Where's *that* money? That's a far more important question than the tiny sum spent on computers."

        Not to mention that many teachers spend their own money to buy supplies for their students.

    • In elementary and middle schools, students were taught to learn Apple // Logo. This was great because it helped you to learn geometry and basic math. I recalled one of my favorite teachers had one of those cool Apple // Logo turtles (robotic; screen shots [technologyindex.com]).

      I remembered when each student/group had a specific project on how to draw simple objects. We had to figure out the commands to draw it (e.g. fd 90, rt 90, etc.). Now, this was a good example of an educational. This was useful to me in math classes and drafting/architectures.

      Another good one was the typing project for us to type very well and fast. This was important for high school, college, workplaces, etc. I thought some parts of the computer classes were beneficial to me.

    • I agree, the kind of computing you describe has its place in a Disney movie, not in an actual classroom. However, my own computing experience has proved very positive.

      What we had is a cross-discipline program: in our Physics class, we learned how to collect experimental data (and what the data means). In our statistics class, we learned how to plot and analyze any data (including the one from physics). And in our Pascal class (yes, Pascal is lame, but still), we learned how to write programs so that all that data needn't be analyzed by hand.

      As the result, I gained a much deeper understanding of the subject. It is always easier to understand something by explaining it to another person - and the computer is an ideal "person" for these purposes. It's extra-stupid, but it works fast (actually, the same is true of a TI-85 graphing calculator, but the TI-85 has the added benefit of being portable). And of course, programming is much more fun when you actually have a real problem in mind (calculate where the rocket will land), as opposed to some contrived excercise (write nested loops all day, whee). In any case, computers actually helped me learn, and made the process more enjoyable.

      In summary, computers DO have their place in the classroom - not as glorified CD players, dumb Internet terminals or word processors, but as programmable multi-purpose tools. Which is what computers have been originally designed to do, actually.

    • I disagree in this regard. The 'computer lab' in my highschool was a group of dog slow 486/33's which thankfully were networked to a novell machine using 10bT. Basic computer literacy courses were offered, as well as intro level programming courses (pascal mainly).

      And of course the main program run by the semi-literate computer students was Doom2 (which rocked on 10bT). I easily learned networking and security faster in this environment than at my workplace. You'd be suprised what inventive students can do to hide things, and circumvent things just to get in a little Doom.

      Oh, and I learned pascal too.
    • How sad. That's very different than my experience with computers in high school. In the 1980s, if you were in the computer room, you were a probably a programmer. Maybe you were a newbie, or maybe you were an oldtimer (where an oldtimer is someone 17 years old), but that was the only thing to do in there, at least until the programmers started to get pretty good at writing games. After that, there were a few gamers around, but they were a minority.

      You know what it sounds like your school's problem was? They had too much software. Just preload the computers with an editor and a few compilers. A compiler is the ultimate in "educational software." :-)

    • Sure you were unimpressed with the equipment and training you received . . . but YOU are not one that will benefit the most from computer use at an early age. A comp literacy class to a slashdotter = a Mr. Wizard episode to Steven Hawking.

      But many of us aren't tech-priveleged. Imagine two teens from low income households without computers. One has had some basic office app experience from school, the other hasn't. The one with the small amount of experience isn't about to become a unix admin, but can at least comfortably type reports, do office work or become an MCSE :) . The other will flip burgers or drive the bus as a victim of the digital divide.

      The governor of Maine made a point of making laptops available to ALL 7th graders, that means both the future /.'ers and the underpriveleged. Some will have fun with it and be bored while learning things they already know, while the others will gain critical experience that will put them ahead of children from other school districts.

      I dont mean to be critical, but your dismay over the "inferiority" of your grade school comp classes is selfish. Try and look at it from the vantage point of an under-privelegd child.
    • I completely agree with the analysis here. I attend a engineering college [rose-hulman.edu] where all freshman are required to buy laptops. Thus, there are barely any public labs on campus, because it is assumed that all students will simply bring their laptops with them (not such an appealing proposition for the seniors, who have to lug their four-year-old laptops around and can barely run the software for the classes). The public labs we do have are pitifully slow WindowsNT workstations, which are only used by foreign-exchange students. Additionally, all the classrooms are wired to the Internet, so that each classroom can be transformed into a computer lab for math classes, programming classes, and so forth.

      And what is the end result of this? Well, let me simply note that IRC, ICQ, SSH, and Email are significantly more interesting than a really dull physics or chemistry lecture...and my freshman grades reflect this. There was a kid in my Differential Equations class last year that used to play CounterStrike nearly every day during class. If a class wasn't constantly using laptops as part of the lecture, it became nothing more than an incredible distraction.

      At my college, the best way to recognize the freshmen is to look for the students who carry their laptops around to each of their classes. Upperclassmen, who have learned their lesson well, bring their tried-but-true notebooks and pens. And of course, the real irony is that last year, I had to buy a 3,000$ computer (as if college isn't expensive enough already :), which I don't use in class, and I don't use at home, either because it is nowhere near as powerful as my desktops.

      There definitely are times when a laptop policy such as this is very nice, but I think that overall, it is a very dangerous influence to force upon an educational environment.

    • A-fucking-men. In my day ~93-94 we had a computer lab that served these purposes:

      1) email
      2) games
      3) warez
      4) h4x0ring

      Probably category 2 and 3 should be merged. Our poor sysadmin spent most of his time kicking people out of the lab after lunch time, and futily trying to erase any games and warez found on the network. Of course some clever kid would find a why to set the BIOS password every once in a while, requiring that the computer actually be manually opened up and fiddled with. These computers were really only useful for the one programming class that our school had (we had a whole other lab of lower-end computers just for typing class). I can only imagine the "productivity" boost that giving laptops to kids in class would have. Absolutely a fucking waste of money. Not *only* a waste of money, because they would actually have a *negative* effect. Hey, let's just give everybody a GameBoy Advance to expose them to "high tech" electronics. It would cost less. It seems this governer does have some clue, but really laptops are a magnificent waste of money, which could otherwise be spent on medical subsidies, education (ok, REAL education), the poor/homeless, or just being given back to the taxpayer. You will hate high-tech in the classroom once you get a job and realize how much of your income goes to the school district, which you yourself don't use, and you have no children, but have to pay anyway.
  • by haus ( 129916 ) on Sunday October 21, 2001 @10:41PM (#2458336) Homepage Journal
    While I applaud Mr. King's efforts to improve the services that the state of Maine provides by implementing technical solutions, he should remember that technology is not a solution in and of itself.

    I fear that merely throwing hardware at the class of 2006 will provide very few with any significant benefit. Now I am sure there will be the occasional adventurous student who will discover their own means of benefiting from this windfall, but for the masses I believe it will cause more confusion than benefit.

    I doubt seriously that the majority of junior high school teachers have the knowledge of how to thoroughly implement the new machines into the their daily lesson plans. Do they know how to reinstall the OS, or how to configure the computer to print to a different printer when the class's primary printer goes belly-up?

    Hopefully these issues, and others have been taken into account and resolved, but I would not hold my breath. My guess is that the primary benefit will be the extra strength training the kids will receive in having an extra 5 - 10 lbs in their book bags every day.
    • I doubt seriously that the majority of junior high school teachers have the knowledge of how to thoroughly implement the new machines into the their daily lesson plans. Do they know how to reinstall the OS, or how to configure the computer to print to a different printer when the class's primary printer goes belly-up?

      Why would a teacher need to know anything about reinstalling the OS? That's what IT departments are for. The student drops off the laptop and picks up a replacement from extra stock. If the curriculum was all web based they wouldn't need to worry about data being lost on the laptop itself. A couple of guys could easily manage a network of 1000 student laptops in this fashion without requiring that the teachers waste any of their time. Now, it'd probably be a good idea to find a user friendly OS for the kids to avoid the inevitable interface problems so I would hope they're all getting Apple iBooks instead of Wintel PC's.


    • A kid could use the laptop to do his homework AT school.

      A kid could use the laptop to do MORE english work than he could possible handwrite, 10 page papers now dont sound so bad when you have microsoft word.

      The owner of the laptop can LEARN to install an OS by teaching themselves, the way way I learned computers and most people here.
  • I've had the oppurtunity to meet this man, and I must say he's even more impressive in person. We had a long talk about technology and schools and the future, and for the first time I walked away from talking with a politician feeling *good* about the future.

    A lot of /.'ers are probably going to question the reasoning behind giving middle schoolers laptops, and to them I can only say that just _having_ the laptops will increase they're technological awareness. It's espically important up here in Maine, where there is almost no high-tech industry.

    It makes me smile to know that now he's finally getting the recognition I've always thought he's deserved. Definatly an honor to say I voted for him.
  • by OdinHuntr ( 109972 ) <ebourg@noSPAM.po-box.mcgill.ca> on Sunday October 21, 2001 @10:44PM (#2458345)
    Two points:

    *) Angus King (Maine's governor) is on his way out of office - his second term expires shortly. This is his "going out with a tekno-cool bang".

    *) Funds have *not* been appropriated for the laptop-for-7th-graders program; people are being asked to donate laptops to it. Needless to say, they aren't anywhere near the number of laptops we need. Does anybody really think that Maine has enough money for laptops for all of its children?

    Sure, Maine is the coolest state in the USA - but for a different (better) reason.

    We drink Moxie [mediaone.net].

    • I gave members of the Maine Appropriation's committee copies of Clifford Stoll's High Tech Heretic. Hopefully they will properly spend the little resources they have. One thing about Independent Governor Angus King, is that he isn't well liked by either party, so he rarely gets that much the he really wants passed...
    • Oh come on. I'm from Maine and I know the first part of your statement is a lie.

      *) Angus King (Maine's governor) is on his way out of office - his second term expires shortly. This is his "going out with a tekno-cool bang".

      He first proposed this idea over two years ago. Unlike Clinton, with his last minute attempts to make peace in the middle east, Gov. King has been working on this idea for a long time.

      I understand why Mainers see this as a last minute effort, but it's really not fair to Gov. King to label it as such.

      It is tragic, as you point out, that there are no funds.

      And while I'd have to agree that Maine is the best state in the union (lived there for 13 years), I'm not sure why at all. If you have any ideas, I'd be interested in a response (shy at jhu dot edu if you'd like to take me up on the offer outside of /.)

      -NeoTomba
  • by truesaer ( 135079 ) on Sunday October 21, 2001 @10:44PM (#2458349) Homepage
    The problem with these laptop giveaways that state governments want to do is that they don't usually take into account maintenance and training.


    In michigan, the governor is spending a zillion dollars to give every kid a laptop. But there is no way to get it fixed, get any software you might need, or learn how to use it. And you wont be getting a new one in a few years when this one gets old.


    Well, thats a waste of millions of dollars. Most teachers don't know how to use computers. The ones that do could probably make good use out of a laptop, but is it really worth it to give everyone a computer at a cost of tens of millions of dollars?


    At least kids could put better use to them, but personally I think it would be better if needy kids who couldn't afford a desktop at home could apply and get one. And if a kid already has a computer, put that cash to good use on something else. Like an extra teacher, building repairs, a field trip, new books, etc.


    Or, to take a more technology related course of action, develop a computer curriculum that doesn't suck. I graduated from a relatively well off community 4 years ago, and our High School had 2300 students. Our computer curriculum was two classes: Typing, and learning MS Office. And it was the windows 3.1 version of office when Office 95 was out...useless skills. And being MS I'm sure you all think useless in general. We need to be offering some higher quality tech classes.

  • WTF?!? (Score:2, Troll)

    by SCHecklerX ( 229973 )
    Does a 7th grader need with a laptop????

    Hell, even as an ENGINEERING student in COLLEGE, I didn't have my own computer. You see, I was there to, um, learn how to actually *DO* things. Computers are a good tool to do those things, but you really need to learn what it is the computer is doing to make it worthwhile! We didn't learn how to use commercial FEM in school. We learned the equations and methods, then wrote our own.

    What, exactly, will a laptop be used for in the teaching of algebra, history, writing? Does nobody use books and teachers anymore? WTF???

    This stuff scares the hell out of me. We are not teaching our kids to think or research. We are teaching them how to let a computer figure it out instead.

    How can this country ever hope to innovate new ideas, etc, if the children never have to figure out *HOW* computers work, and *HOW* to derive equations, systems, text, etc. to accomplish a given task?


    • English, Writing, etc, well since a laptop has a word processor, that answers your question.

      History? The internet.

      Homework? Do do it on your way home from school or in school.

      Math? ok math is hard to do on laptops, but anything dealing with text is easier on a computer than hand writing it.
    • Hell yeah. I'm a last year student in mechanical engineering and let me tell you one thing, a guy that can pick up a napkin and sketch out a smart way to solve a problem is worth 100 guys that draw it in Catia and use Catia as a "black box". In fact my friend, who finished in the top 3 of his promotion never owned a computer during his studies, and it didn't hinder him a bit. Hell I spend most of my time playing games which keep me from studying.

      Which is just the problem with teaching with computers, you usually end up specializing people in using the tools instead of making them understand the problem necessitating the tool and how to build that tool(figuratively speaking). And let me tell you one thing, people that rely on the "magic black box" to solve their problems usually lack the criticism to evaluate the answers given to them by the computers, and they end up making HUGE errors.
    • Re:WTF?!? (Score:3, Insightful)

      by sql*kitten ( 1359 )
      This stuff scares the hell out of me. We are not teaching our kids to think or research. We are teaching them how to let a computer figure it out instead.

      Mod the parent back up, please. For an explanation, read Silicon Snake Oil [amazon.co.uk] by Clifford Stoll (who also wrote Cuckoo's Egg). Summary: computers are pretty much useless un education between the ages of 6 and 16. The money would be better spent on museums visits and field trips than on multimedia CD Roms, and on hiring great teachers rather than on bandwidth.

      Even the best search engine can only answer questions, it cannot teach how to ask new questions. A word processor can't help you with what to right. A spreadsheet will work out numbers for you, it can't tell you if what you are modelling even makes sense.

      Parents who let their kids be educated by laptop are as guilty as parents who dump their kids in front of the TV their whole time. It's simply abdicating responsibility.
      • Even the best search engine can only answer questions, it cannot teach how to ask new questions.

        I actually disagree to some extent; the search engine alone can't teach this, but a decent human can, if he or she sees what the student is trying to do. I've actually sat down with undergraduates before when they have problems getting anything useful out of search engines. In many cases, the real problem (as you note) is that they don't know what question they are really asking. That itself can either happen because they lack some kinds of critical thinking skills, or because they don't know what *any* of the terms they're trying to use really mean, because they don't spend the time to get even that far. In both cases, it's easy to point out the fatal flaw, and only a bit harder to get them to improve to some degree. And, in most cases, you can get people to the point where they themselves can realize what's going wrong.

        I mean, it sure beats trying to learn how to ask questions when no answers at all ever come back...

  • by nyquist_theorem ( 262542 ) <mbelleghem&gmail,com> on Sunday October 21, 2001 @10:48PM (#2458359) Homepage
    The univeristy I got my first degree from, Acadia University [acadiau.ca] in Nova Scotia, Canada, gives all its students AND all its faculty IBM Thinkpads. It's a very small (less than 4000 students) but well-respected [acadiau.ca] university a few hours north of Maine. Every residence room is wired with 100mbit ethernet to a decent internet pipe, as is every classroom, parts ot the campus pub, most on-campus hangouts, and the first two floors of the library. Even the town, with a population of less than 4,000 (not including the students) has both cable and DSL available for $39CAD (~$25USD)/mo. It's a wired place.

    The students really do all use the laptops, and for more than ICQing from one side of class to another (although that's fun too). My fourth year, I was a teaching assistant, and one of my assignments was to moderate online discussion groups for classes on ACME (Acadia's online discussion and coursework system) - one of the things my professors and I found was that the students making the most intelligent posts online were often NOT the students making intelligent points in class - opening up online discussion allowed a lot of shy, nervous, or whatever people to come out and say their piece to the class in a forum that they were comfortable in. Professors really do reply to their emails, and students and professors alike use powerpoints and websites on a regular basis.

    Also, because students were posting on a forum (like Slashdot), URLs and other methods of backing points in their arguments up was quite common, and helped to add a level of intelligence and legitimacy to discussions.

    Overall, the Acadia Advantage, as it is called, works quite well - while there are some who criticize it, enrollment at the school is up substantially, and students are well-trained in internet research methodology, online collaboration, web publishing, and lots more regardless of their major. It works, and it gets a lot of attention in Canada (its why I chose the school in the first place). Hopefully the same benefits will be seen in giving the computers to younger kids, as the man from Maine proposes.
    • Here at virginia tech, there are some successful classes and some less so.

      If you want to take a look at the Math class i'm taking (math 1015 - algebra/trig/calc intro) [vt.edu], click on the lesson pages link. The lessons are fantastic. They can be learned at your own pace, and are accessible from anywhere.

      If you wish to, you can go to the Math Emporium [vt.edu], a place off campus that's open 24 hours a day, and has something like 600 Mac G3's/G4's. (they can also boot into windows 2000.) If you go there during appointed times, i.e. 9AM-2PM, one of several teachers for the math course will be there to answer questions for you, and there are grad students on duty 8AM-7PM to answer general questions. It's a great place to do work in general, remove yourself from the noise of life, and to get help.

      A not so successful example, however, is CS 1604, intro to the internet [vt.edu]. It was created when the internet was the cool new thing, and never revised. The quizzes have questions about Gopher, how to use search engines (looking for allen touring? type Allen AND Touring - as opposed to today's "allen touring"), questions about webpages that don't exist, things related to adobe acrobat 1, the list of grievences goes on and on.

      In general, though, computers are ABSOLUTELY necessacary to my education here. My humanities homeworks, due every thursday, are submitted to a "digital drop box", all my teachers respond to email within 24 hours, many times less, my Econ teacher sends out the homework on the listserv, 2 years ago, all my C++ was submitted online, and graded by an automatic grader. It's virtually impossible to get anything done around here w/out a computer. But, if by some chance, mine is broken or gone or whatever, I can always use the emporium.

      ~Z
    • The difference is, of course, that YOU are paying for your laptop (through tuition), while I am NOT. If I were a taxpayer and you were going to a public school I'd have to pay for whatever whizzy thing the politicians decided everybody needed.
    • I'm glad to hear that you see the laptop program at Acadia working out.

      My sister was just graduating from Acadia when they were putting that into place. One thing that people we upset about is that the laptops were compulsory and that the students had to pay for them. Maybe you have the extra money, but a lot of students simply don't, and it is pretty tough getting extra money becuase the employment opportunities in Wolfville during the school year are somewhat limited.

      While I don't doubt that the laptops may improve the educational experience for those that can afford it, I wonder what the real cost is. Mind you, there are so many universities in Atlantic Canada I guess you have a lot of other choices if you don't like Acadia ;)

  • The governor's comments that:
    It is a natural human tendency to pull together with those who share similar interests -- we are a 'series of tribes,' said the governor. Getting those 'tribes,' previously fragmented by geography, to co-exist, is something we have never had to address before now.
    were of particular interest. One of the greatest powers of the internet is to bring people together but this is true for both people of mainstream thought and people of fringe thought. This can be vary dangerous, however I wouldn't think that the internet is solely to blame for this trend.

    Modern media is extremely diverse in it's offerings. People can now get news of any type and/or political bent they wish. Religous fenatics can get religous news; geeks can get geek news. Groups on the fringe can reinforce their beliefs by reading, viewing and absorbing only information that conforms with their world view. It's important that e recognize though, that these risks are the cost of doing business; table stakes for enhancing societal efficiency and value threough ease of access to information.

    --CTH
  • teachers have a hard time getting kids attention in class. why are you giving them another distraction?
  • In a lot of places the education budgets are shrinking.


    The old reading books from the 1960's that were put in storage when it was decided that they were too violent are back out again, because there isn't enough money for new reading books (and the kids love them, plus the violence was pretty tame for any time other than the 90's).


    If every kid has a laptop, something else has got to go. If there is a desktop for every kid, a bit less has to go. The only advantage of the laptop is that the kids can use them on the bus. If the kid can book out a desktop system that they can use at home, then they have a computer at home. You can buy a lot more than two PC's for the price of a laptop, and you still wouldn't need a full PCs per student. Laptops typically have a short and nasty life in comparison to a desktop system. Also, most schools already have a lot of desktop systems. Just because it's an old box doesn't mean that it can't run matlab and teach the best and brightest students - it just won't run quake II or above.

    • If every kid has a laptop, something else has got to go.

      How about the administrator? Every district has a 1:1 ratio of administrators to students anymore.

      Maybe they could go get jobs as managers or HR people.. you know.. the kind of people in big companies that never lose their jobs?


  • Moderate Governor King up!
  • My experiences (Score:4, Interesting)

    by sprayNwipe ( 95435 ) on Sunday October 21, 2001 @11:13PM (#2458405) Homepage
    When I was in school, they had a "students with laptops" program - essentially, if you had a laptop, you could bring it to school and use it instead of books.

    It ended up being the worst 3 weeks at school. It was quite a while ago, so my Laptop only had 1 hour of battery power - every other class I was moving my desk or trying to find somewhere with a power point. On top of that, since it was a 486, I spent 2-3 minutes just waiting for Word to open. Maths was impossible, and Computing Studies was ironically also a waste of time, since I was forced to use their dodgy programs rather than my own, not to mention that most of the CS Teachers were just other teachers who filled spots ("CorelDRAW? No, I'm sorry, you have to use Canvas, since it lets you draw lines").

    It ended abruptly when my laptop was stolen. Fortunately it was recovered, but literally just before the kid who stole it was about to hand it over to someone outside the school for $$$.

    While it might be different now (longer battery life, books online/net access), I still think in general it's a bad idea.
    • Seems like your problems were mehcanical in nature. For example, we never had a program like that in our school (we had fixed computer labs), but almost every desk was equipped with a power outlet; these outlets were mostly used for physics/chemistry experiments. And, of course, 486 and Word just don't mix. As to your teachers, well... what can I say ? Sounds like you would have a problem with them anyway, laptop or no laptop. I have had plenty of those glorified substitute losers, and they always manage to make any subject feel like torture.

      I guess what I am trying to say that your experience doesn't necessarily invalidate the whole concept of using computers in the classroom - you just got shafted :-(

  • IMHO, I would not give the kiddies a laptop until they know a little about how a computer really works. The old Bell Labs CARDIAC [larkfarm.com] "system", a cardboard computer, was really great for this and cheap too. Of course, you don't have to buy this, you can make your own. There are also a large number of software simulators too.
  • the big controversy was calculators in the classroom. And sure enough many of my less numerate peers never learned basic math skills. Would they have been forced to learn them if they didn't have the crutch of a calculator? Open question. Now with computers they won't have to learn how to spell either. It's bad enough I have to suffer with the near innumeracy and illiteracy of many otherwise brilliant recent grads. This old fart only sees this making things worse.


    • Some people just arent good at math or spelling.

      Should a genius at say science, not get a chance because he failed math class in 5th grade?

      Einstien failed math you know.
  • Why don't we use all that money to improve the education process, instead of allowing every 7th grader in the state look at porn during class...
  • 7th graders getting a laptop is a bad idea for many reasons.

    i recently finnished college, and am working in an it related capacity

    1.my reliance on technology means that i need a machine to do things that my parents were taught to do in there heads.

    2. laptops in class make it easier not to follow the class by provideing distractions.

    3. they will get broken. part of my current job is to repair college laptops. college students manage to mangle them well, imagine what what 7th graders would/could do to them

  • Give the kids a laptop today and they will wind up hanging at The Remote Lounge [remotelounge.com] tomorrow.

    The Maine Governor's "vision for the future" [state.me.us] starts out with an unconscious reference to Travis Bickle's "I've got to get organisized" that left me with vertiginous nausea. The guy seems to be a politico with a New Age rap, nothing more. A laptop in every pot? A poor political slogan, there are much better uses for cash, as the consensus here (among technophiles!) confirms.

    BTW, the MSNBC article seems a poor choice for a means to examine the "Pop!Tech" [poptech.org] gathering, a once-over-lightly where several more in-depth looks at the participants may have been more worthwhile. That is available through the Pop!Tech website, linked above.

  • You guys act like a Laptop is a toy or something.

    A laptop is a portible computer. Now i dont know about you, but my computer was the key to my success in school, I used it to do my homework, to study, etc.

    We would use the computers at school to surf the net to get information for assignments and research, we would type up papers and submit them for review, and because they were typed, handwriting was not an issue nor was spelling. This helped us because learning to write isnt about having nice fancy handwriting or being a spelling bee champion.

    And if there were laptops in school, i think it would bring everyone closer together, people may actually study with one another via the net.

    People from seperate classes even!

    • Seventh graders are 12 or 13 years old. When I was 12, I couldn't avoid losing housekeys, lunch money, anything that wasn't bound to me in some manner.

      Not all 12-year-olds are like me. Just enough to make this a way-too-expensive proposition, even assuming a PC is useful for a 12 year old.

  • I wonder how many of these laptops will end up on eBay, or just sitting in someone's closet...
  • ... if they gave the money to, oh say, better teachers, better textbooks, more schools, smaller classes, etc. I don't mean to troll or anything, I'm actually glad to see that at least someone in america is still focused on education, but I honestly think that the money could be better spent.
  • by Anonymous Coward
    giving students laptops. At the end of the day you have to consider what kids are going to be using their puter's for, plus wouldn't they have access to this equipment already? be it windows or linux based?


    A much better idea would be to give then some sort of ruggerised palm or winCE device (maybe even pocketlinux when it matures). They have the advantages of being,

    Cheaper, even the most expensive examples are still more then a third the cost of a laptop.


    More portable


    Longer battery life


    At least as hackable


    Are worth while replacement for calculators, textbooks etc that students already need to carry around.


    In short much much better then a laptop. Hell why dosen't this guy give Merc's to every student just so they learn how to drive a luxury sedan, it's only taxpayers money.


    This is just another brain dead policy proposed to win votes without thinking things though. Like giveing laptops to the homeless, a while ago.

  • Laptops for 7th graders? And why don't we get them all PS2's while we're at it ... The last thing we need to do is give every kid in 7th grade the M$ drone training program. Instead we need to teach Math and programming classes differently.

    Arithmatic should be taught in grades 1-3 instead of 1-5. We all have calculators now and its ok if it takes you a few extra seconds to divide 37 into 34564 by hand. We need to teach algebra earlier, say from grades 4-6. Then grades 7-12 can focus on geometry, trig,calc, probability/stat, and most importantly discrete mathematics.

    *RANT*
    The number of high schools that have manditory discrete math courses is very few (in the US). The one area of math that is most usefull in an information economy isn't being taught. Permuations, combinations, graphs, codes, and algorithms are WAY more useful than anything you will get out of an intro calculus course.

    Many calculus techniques are becoming outdated. (Don't get me wrong here, Calculus is a MUST for those that are Science/Math inclined, but its importance is much less for those in the middle of the bell curve.) Instead of making continious approximations of our data we now have the computing power to crunch the whole data set. Algorithm efficency is becoming more important than how to do nasty Trig substitutions or integration by parts. The biggest problem is that there is no AP test for Discrete Math. Why take the course if you aren't required to, and you don't get college credit for it?
    *END_RANT*

    As far as programming courses go, they should be manditory and probably be integrated with math courses. No more BASIC. Start kids out with C++/JAVA/Scheme/Python in 7th grade. By the time they graduate highschool every student should be able to abstract, design, code, and debug simple programming problems involving IO, conditionals, boolean algebra, loops, and a slight amount of recursion.

    I would much rather see collage freshmen who knew [INSERT PROGRAMMING LANGUAGE] with a discrete math background than a student who could use Powerpoint/Word/Excel.
    • The number of high schools that have manditory discrete math courses is very few

      Tell me about it. My HS didn't even have any discrete math/linear algebra; not even in the library!

  • The Downside (Score:2, Interesting)

    by Adrian Lopez ( 2615 )
    Laptops for every kid seems like a great idea until you consider how little control kids are likely to have over the laptops given to them. Restrictions such as filtering software installed on every computer is almost a sure bet. Kids who use their free computers for all their schoolwork will get a filtered view of the Internet. A dream come true for many, a sad state of affairs for independence of thought.
  • Saw an article about how his good friend Jesse Venture was theorizing the two of them probably could have beaten both Bush and Gore this last election. I think they're thinking about it for next time around.

  • I moved to Maine in January. I'd never even visited before I came here shopping for a house - my wife and I picked Maine to live after our wedding in the summer of 2000 for the fairly random reason that it was close to her previous homes in Atlantic Canada (she's from Newfoundland, and was studying in Nova Scotia when I met her).

    I live in Owl's Head, Maine [midcoast.com], which is where Midcoast Internet Solutions [midcoast.com] was founded - Midcoast was featured on Slashdot [slashdot.org] recently for its forward-thinking work on installing wireless in Midcoast Maine.

    I was talking about this with my neighbor, a midcoast dialup subscriber, and he told me that the founder of Midcoast did it while he was still in high school.

    (I'm looking into getting wireless finally; however there is a hill between me and the transitter so I'm not sure yet I can get the signal).

    When you cross the border into Maine you will see a big blue sign that says "Welcome to Maine, the way life should be." And I think it's true.

    It's very peaceful here, the people are nice, there seems to be a lot of interest in the arts and music.

    I was able to buy my first house here after renting for 15 years in Santa Cruz, California [cruzio.com]. I'm paying substantially less in mortgage payments to own a 4 bedroom house with a 2 car garage on a bunch of land than I did to rent a cramped 2-bedroom half of a duplex in Santa Cruz.

    Of course there is the winter to contend with. And I never imagined the summer would be as hot as it was. The climate is much more even in Santa Cruz. But I found last winter to be tolerable and incredibly beautiful.

    I recall reading on my power bill recently that electricity rates had dropped slightly. Take that, California!

  • Get a Clue. . . (Score:2, Insightful)

    by foo fighter ( 151863 )
    Boy, most of the posts I've seen moderated up have been from people out of school for a decade bitching about 486 machines.

    Get a clue people, and do some Google searches for e-learning, online education, and the like.

    Cisco's CCNA courses are probably the best example I have personal experience with; you should check out their education web page. http://cisco.com/warp/public/10/wwtraining/whats_n ew/

    E-learning is a huge market and a great resource. Online programs utilizing Internet technologies (classes are accessed via a browser) are teaching everything from basic maths and sciences to advanced router configuration and particle physics.

    E-learing is in many ways a better solution than teacher led classes:
    * Truely individualized teaching is possible.
    * Classes are more accessible. If you can't read, the text can be read to you. If you can't hear, it's all available as text.
    * There are many innovative uses of multimedia in these online classes. Flash is the most widely used technology for multimedia in online education. Most uses of it for this application have been very, very well done.

    Online education is absolutely the future of education IMHO. Do some searching for info on it and I think you will be amazed at what is being done with this incredible application of technology.
  • Then automating it will just make your students as dumb, faster. Use the computer as a tool and then offer courses in computers for people who want to go that way. For example there are lots more people who can get something out of using Photoshop or Microsoft Project then there are people who can make something out of Java or Python. And since we all pretty much wear aprons and smocks we'd be better off, eating and bill paying-wise, knowing something about Photoshop and MS Project then we would as poor crappy programmers.

    Make the computer a tool not an altar.

To understand a program you must become both the machine and the program.

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