When you think of a roomful of people using laptops, you probably imagine a business meeting or a trendy coffee shop, not your child's classroom. But did you know there are nearly 500,000 laptop programs nationwide? We're not just talking about laptops in every classroom; we're talking about a laptop on every desk!

The experts are supportive of this new trend. Andy Carvin, one of the nation's leading EdTech advocates, says that "laptops bring four big opportunities to the table: opportunities for equal access, mobility, individual creativity and for collaboration." In our technologically driven world computers are necessary educational tools; in order to compete in global society, kids need to know how to access and use information in innovative and electronic ways. Simply put, computer-aided learning helps prepare our children for their future.

What are the benefits of laptop programs?

According to Carvin, "computers are an invaluable tool for providing active collaborative learning."  Though 1:1 computing programs vary in design-- some schools provide a laptop for every child at a certain grade level, while others put laptops on carts and circulate them among many classes. But, in all these programs, computers are used for:

  • drafting, editing and publishing work with word processing programs
  • using graphic-organizer software, such as Inspiration, to brainstorm and create projects
  • navigating subject-specific instructional units at a student's own pace
  • fact-gathering and research using carefully selected educational websites
  • individualizing instruction so teachers can act as guides to student-driven learning

How can schools finance laptops? 
School districts often face budgetary concerns related to purchasing, maintenance, networking and staff training, these financial issues aren't insurmountable. If you're interested in exploring the options, try:

  • Contacting the Anytime Anywhere Learning Foundation. The AALF helps districts implement 1:1 programs and has consultants who can assist in planning the financial investment.
  • Using the Funding Factory's unique program, which allows schools to recycle toner, ink cartridges and cell phones for points. Points are redeemable for cash or technology equipment and Funding Factory provides prepaid postal boxes, community collection displays and other promotional materials.
  • Investigating Apple Computer's educational finance options. The AppleTech Lease program allows schools to lease equipment for a negotiated period of time. The AppleEquity option is a rent-to-buy program. Schools can purchase the equipment at the lease's end-- for $1! The Community Finance program gives districts the chance to recoup some funds by charging students and faculty a minimal monthly user fee.
  • Applying for Microsoft's Fresh Start for Donated Computers program, which provides free license documentation and Windows 2000 installation CDs for qualifying donated personal computers.
How can parents help?
  • Be vocal. Talk to people at the school administrative level about what, specifically, the district needs to put a program in place.
  • Attend school board and city council budget meetings.
  • Speak with your legislator about initiating a state funding proposition. Across the nation, many 1:1 computing programs have been funded by state bond initiatives.
  • Seek donations, either monetary or in-kind. Ask businesses to pledge funds or used computers; see if the local computer guru will donate time to train teachers or find a technician who will install the network.

The extra effort is well worth it. Students with their own laptops consistently show more motivation, participation and autonomy. Plus, schools can use a means other than standardized tests to gauge student achievement. But technology-based education isn't about test scores: it's about learning to keep up with the rest of the world.