Perhaps chalk is the best teaching tool after all. Last month a federal study found cast doubt on the benefits of educational software, and now some schools districts are dropping one-to-one laptop programs. “After seven years, there was literally no evidence it had any impact on student achievement—none,” says Mark Lawson, board president for Liverpool Central School District in New York. The district initially implemented the program to give all students access to a computer at home and prepare them for a tech-savvy future. But it also resulted in students cheating, looking at pornography, and crashing the network. “The teachers were telling us when there’s a one-to-one relationship between the student and the laptop, the box gets in the way,” adds Lawson. “It’s a distraction to the education process.” Schools in Virginia, California, and Florida have followed suit, citing the financial burden of purchasing and repairing laptops and the lack of a clear academic payoff. Still, some say school districts are giving up too soon. “If the goal is to get kids up to basic standard levels, then maybe laptops are not the tool,” notes Mark Warschauer, author of Laptops and Literacy: Learning in the Wireless Classroom. “But if the goal is to create the George Lucas and Steve Jobs of the future, then laptops are extremely useful.”
A version of this news article first appeared in the Web Watch blog.