Wednesday, December 05, 2007

Reward or Tool?

Mayo writes:

The Montessori freshmen team had an interesting meeting with a parent this morning. In trying to work as a team to help the student achieve success, the suggestion was made that the student be given a laptop. Without getting into the details, it was felt that the student might be better organized with folders on the laptop, and more motivated to get work done if able to use a medium he enjoys—technology.

In a nutshell, it seems to boil down to what school values and what the student values. Schools value a certain type of compliance. The student showed that he did not value what we were offering, and he failed almost all of his classes. The team was split on whether or not to let the student have a laptop. Concerns voiced included the notion that the laptop was rewarding the student for failing to comply, and thus sending the wrong message. In 2007, is a laptop a reward or a tool? We lag so far behind. All students should have laptops*. Why do we seek to “punish” students who don’t fit the mold rather than trying to change the mold?

*In a post I got from my friend Rich Kent, Director of the Maine Writing Project, Rich wrote that “all of our middle schoolers in the state have laptops. Now, we're on to giving them to high schoolers. All the Maine high school teachers received them in October.


W Brown said...

I can see how the laptop could be a distraction, but I think the benefits will outweigh the drawbacks. I think it is an interesting experiment and can't wait to see the outcome of this accommodation for this student. Worse case scenario, he fails all his classes again?

Mr Tesler said...

"Worse case scenario, he fails all his classes again?"

True. What have you got to lose? I think every kid should get one.

There are several schools in NYC that have issued Laptops to their students; our old teaching alma mater MS 202 for example. I remember a particular class of 6th graders there who were not performing well at all. When their class was given their laptops, a radical transformation took place.

Think of the possibilities. Instead of taking notes on a topic, students could upload notes for the topic. Using google docs for example, to upload and post assignments, students to upload, post, comment, get feedback not only from teachers, but from people around the world.

Think of the time saved on note-taking, collecting, etc. Not to mention the lost papers, the "my printer didn't work," excuses going out the window. It could free up so much time for the students to work on meaningful assignments, projects, etc. Moreover, you're providing technology to some students who may never have the opportunity to use it at home, thereby preparing them for the job market in which they will enter.

Kudos to your team for going forward with the plan. Hope it works!

Mr Tesler said...


Superfly said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Superfly said...

I definitely agree with Brown and Tessler on this one, while the laptop does have the potential to be a distraction, think what a difference it might make to his academic success! Additionally, the logic that the laptop will be "rewarding the student for failing to comply" just sounds a little outlandish to me, like forcing lefites to write with their right hand. It's been established and accepted (at QHST at least, I hope) that each person learns differently and it would do the student a greater disservice, be a much more severe "punishment," not to supply him with the tools he needs in order to succeed academically.

Mr Tesler said...

I thought about this post today in our PD as we discussed one of our students in a similar situation.

We have a student in our sophomore learning community who is failing all of his classes, rarely completes assignments, participates, etc.

Discussing what we can do to help, one of the teachers mentioned that he only seems to be motivated to work when he gets to use a computer. One of the teachers balked at the idea, and said "it's a reward for bad behavior." Immediately I thought of this post, and mentioned some of the ideas.

We're going to try and roll this out with the student, and see what happens. Again, "worst case scenario, he fails all his classes again?"