you are here > banned/banned1.html

Think Different – Lose the Cart!

Not published by District Administration Magazine

© 2002 Gary S. Stager



Steve Jobs

Apple Computer


Dear Mr. Jobs:


Congratulations on the recent success of Apple’s new products. Educators seem quite excited by the new iMacs, eMacs, iBooks and Xserve servers. iTunes, iPhoto, iMovie and iDVD offer kids of all ages unprecedented opportunities for self-expression.


As an educator who led professional development in the world’s first laptop schools twelve years ago, I am thrilled to see American schools finally embracing the power of personal computing for children. It’s terrific that you have partnered with Maine to make it the first state on the planet committed to a laptop computer per student. When you speak of Apple’s digital hub strategy - how computers offer the processing, storage and distribution power to accentuate human creativity and enhance the value of our devices – you’re really in tune with the mission of educators.


However, your company is running a disturbing advertising campaign in the school, market, Computer lab. To go.” Do we really want to reinforce the concept of the computer lab? What happened to the throw caution to the wind, power to be your best Apple of yore?


The computer lab is an artificial environment in which kids who already know how to use computers are taught to do so again, but with less time, access and freedom than they are accustomed to outside of school. Computer labs are historical oddities separated from the curriculum by a firewall thicker than that, which keeps kids from researching breast cancer online. The computer lab on wheels is a capitulation to the conservatism of schools. It does not recognize that the laptop is as Seymour Papert says, “the prime instrument for today’s intellectual work.”


To borrow from your most famous television commercial, “Computer lab. To go.” IS just like 1984.


While I know that you understand that the iBook offers the potential for every kid to have a wireless laboratory and multimedia design studio in their schoolbag, You need to do a better job conveying this to educational decision-makers.


I have taken the liberty of outlining some reasons why you should help schools think different about laptops and education.


Quality work takes time

Learning, working and discussion are no longer confined to the bell schedule. Quality projects require a great deal more time and technological processes like video compression often take longer than a classroom period.

Kids can and should be trusted with a laptop

Experience from Harlem to Sydney has proven time and time again that kids are capable of being responsible for their own personal laptop computer. At a time when we worry about personal responsibility, it’s a good time to trust students to do the right thing.


24/7 learning

Kids may write, conduct research, collaborate, program in MicroWorlds, edit iMovies and share their productions around the clock. Skills introduced in school are practiced, refined and enhanced through the types of meaningful playful work kids do with their computers outside of school. All of this time to learn must have a positive effect on achievement and student engagement.


Teacher professionalism is enhanced

Teachers who carry laptop computers think more highly of their work and themselves. The laptop offers teachers the ability to prepare for school, continue their education, collaborate with peers and even work with students beyond the school day.


Family life may be enhanced

Anecdotes abound about how a child brought their laptop home and used it to teach a parent to read or prepared a relative to seek a job in which computer skills were necessary. Parents have been amazed and delighted by the confidence and competence displayed by their laptop-toting children.


The digital divide may be closed

Maine Governor King knows that the only way to close the digital divide is to ensure that every kid has a personal computer. The laptop allows for that divide to be closed at school and at home.


The community gets involved

Citizens in one of New York’s troubled districts know to look out for kids toting laptop bags. Computer hobbyists may create opportunities for kids to learn more about computing through clubs and informal mentoring. Kids can use their laptops to contribute to the needs of the community.


Kids have access to a world of ideas without waiting for their Mom to drive them to the library

The Internet not only offers unprecedented research opportunities, but a vehicle for publishing your own work for a potentially infinite audience. Kids can engage in collaborative projects without waiting for a parent to drive them across town. Soon projects may involve collaboration across oceans.


Terrific warranties and insurance are now available

Extended warranties and low-cost insurance address any maintenance, theft or loss concerns that may arise.


Charge ‘em at home – Use them at school

New laptops provide enough battery life to last the school day without the need to dock in an expensive cart.


New models of learning, teaching and schooling may emerge

Quite simply, embracing this powerful intellectual tool and acknowledging the fact that learning is a continuous process may lead to all sorts of new insights, structures and policies for the future of education. Work typically done in class can now occur at home and class may be used for the types of activities requiring a group of highly motivated learners to be together face-to-face for an extended period of time. Distributed learning, time shifting, extended or shortened school days all become possibilities. The investment in truly personal computers taken home by children offers a remarkable laboratory in which to construct the future of education.


Here’s to the crazy ones who will free computers from the shackles of computer labs and newfangled carts by giving kids freedom to be their very best.


Home | Search |Articles | iMovie | Bookstore | Bio | Booking Gary
Locations of visitors to this page
Copyright © 2003-2007 Gary S. Stager - All Rights Reserved.