November 08, 2004
Laptop Secondary

And (for the second time today) … a Times Online link, this time to a story about laptop computers.


There are plenty of reasons for St Cecilia’s to be popular. Sheer newness and glossy, high-tech appearance for a start. Even the head teacher, Jeffrey Risbridger, admits that from the outside St Cecilia’s, with its large plasma screen flashing up the names of guests in the foyer, looks more like a plush new office block than a high school. But it is the school’s laptop policy that may be its biggest lure for parents and pupils.

St Cecilia’s, building its way to a full complement of 900 pupils, currently has just 11, 12 and 13-year-olds on roll. But every one of its 300 pupils has their own laptop, picked up in the morning and used across subjects until the school day ends at 2.30pm. If they then want to stay on to complete homework the building is open – and the laptops are available – until 6pm.

The laptops are a vital part of a state-of-the-art information and communication technology (ICT) scheme in which the latest radio technology and extended battery power are used to avoid the need for cables. Every classroom is equipped with electronic whiteboards, upon which teachers flash up their lessons, consigning the old-fashioned handout to history.

As I have said here before (and I will have to dig up the link later because I can't now find it), this kind of thing only works if you have staff who are committed to making it work, as this school obviously does.

Nightmare scenario: this school is brilliantly successful, and is copied by other schools who think that flinging money at computer companies will guarantee success, even if the staff don't have a clue about how to use all their new toys, and think that the toys will rise up magically and do their job for them.

The bad news about this school and its laptops is that they can't be taken home and worked with there, because they would then be stolen by marauding gangs of less educationally advantaged youths. So I guess the next step is to fix it so that the pupils can access all the same material from their home computers, with some kind of networky thingy arrangement.

See to it, Professor Jeeves.

Posted by Brian Micklethwait at 10:32 PM
Category: Computers in education