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Laptops: Helping or Hurting?

Cole Ratliff, Staff writer

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Laptops: Helping or Hurting?

As students advance through their education, laptops prove more and more necessary. They are less bulky than a backpack full of supplies and notebooks, and are far more versatile. However, as their use in schools increases, so does the suspicion that they are not as beneficial to education as some would like to think.

A major criticism is aimed at note-taking. For all the different applications of laptops in schools, note-taking is more effective when taken with a pen and paper, rather than keyboard and screen. With pen and paper, notes get filtered for more important information, exercising critical thinking, and having to condense notes helps with comprehension. While typing is faster, information isn’t necessarily digested. More telling, though, is the increased opportunity for distraction with a laptop. When browsing the internet is suddenly a possibility, it becomes far harder to focus on taking notes and doing homework.

I would argue that pen and paper notes are more reliable than notes taken on a laptop for a number of reasons. If the battery depletes, notes are lost until it’s charged. If the device gets dropped, notes are likely gone. If notes are taken online, through mediums such as google docs, they are gone without an internet connection. Laptops are much higher targets for thieves than notebooks are.

There are certainly situations where a laptop can be extremely helpful, too. A film student could have instant access to editing software wherever they go, research is made easy and portable with a laptop, they are sometimes cheaper than a desktop computer, and heavy books can be condensed into megabytes on a hard drive.

This debate exists on a larger scale, too. One point often brought up is the use of funds on expensive things like laptops and new tech, rather than using those funds on a myriad of other things like campus improvement, school lunch improvement, new textbooks, better on-campus resources or (even better) higher wages for teachers. Just this year, budget cuts have caused the tutoring center, a prominent and free resource for students, to be downgraded significantly. In return, we got chromebooks.

Many classes, like Mr. Fudge’s AP Stats class, could use an update. The class uses textbooks published in 2002, and this is the first year that there are enough books for each student to have one. Many classes are in similar situations, and Chromebooks can’t fully replace textbooks for reasons previously discussed.

In contrast, a large sum of money has been spent on new devices every year. First it was the netbooks, small and inexpensive computers wheeled around in carts to different classes. A slew of other devices have been introduced since then, and over time the original netbooks lost their usefulness, and many other devices are following suit. This year, we continue the sampler of computers with the largest quantity yet, one chromebook per one student.

This debate of responsible spending is one that could benefit greatly from input by those who it affects the most, students. These issues are not ones people discuss everyday, but they still need attention from time to time, like right now. Some will prefer the integration of technology, and some will prefer other commodities. What matters is that those making the decisions know what the students want.

Laptops are often touted as the future of education, but there are lots of problems with this future. As the school spends more on tech, they spend less on other necessities. I think tech integration should be left up to the student to explore, rather than administration. This way, schools spend more on things they need, and those without access won’t be left in the dust.

 

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The student news site of Stephen F. Austin High School
Laptops: Helping or Hurting?