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How Laptops Help Learning

Tuesday, January 24, 2017

I’ve been at Waterford my whole life and I have just recently started Upper School. Today, I would like to talk about how laptops have changed my learning experience here at Waterford. When I first heard about this new program, I was admittedly skeptical. I wondered how the school that I had gone to all my life would be changed. Would classrooms be as social and interactive as they have been? Would my computer randomly malfunction on the day of my final? Would the library be jam-packed with people fighting to charge their laptops?

Within the first few weeks of September, my worries were quickly put aside. My teachers used new teaching tools that used to be unavailable. Many other benefits came with the program, and I would like to share some of these benefits with you all.

In my English class, we do these things called discussion boards. These can range from something like analyzing a poem to combining sentences, but the class always does it together. Because this activity is done on a computer, no one is afraid to share their ideas. The most outspoken kids in the class and the more soft spoken individuals have an equal opportunity to contribute to the discussion. I think that full student engagement is part of the optimal classroom environment, where the class is run more by each student.

Another plus is that, with a computer, there is much more liberty to make mistakes. Whereas handwriting an essay or assignment takes much more time and looks its best without any eraser marks, a sentence that isn’t sounding right can be fixed immediately on a computer. For everyone, including myself, I think that this has made a big difference. At times, Waterford can seem like a rather intimidating place where mistakes should be avoided. But the reality is that none of us are going to look back in our thirties and think, “Man, that thesis statement really could’ve used some work” or, “I wish I had submitted that assignment on time.” Laptops have shown me and I think many others that mistakes help us learn, and the ability to make a mistake, fix it, and move on from it is powerful.

Of course, with any new experimental program, there have been some challenges. I usually have to think about when I should use a computer for an assignment. Writing on a computer can take away the personality of my project. For some projects, handwriting can connect me to whatever it is I’m writing. Although computers may offer something that could give the likeness of this feeling, it rarely works. But this also pushes me to put my personality into a project through the resources that I have, such as wording, format, and tone.

Another thing that computers aren’t the best for is note taking. It has been proven that writing notes on a computer has a lot less impact than handwriting notes. Imagine reading a page of book and then realizing that you have no idea what you just read. That’s basically what note taking on a computer is like. Handwriting is a lot slower, but it makes you remember the experience of writing down information.

When I first heard that we’d all have laptops, I was worried that some students might use them to cheat, but I haven’t seen this happening. Trusting someone is often a lot more effective than assuming their worst intentions. Of course, some students will always make poor decisions, but I think that over time many students will appreciate the opportunity to prove their integrity.

All in all, in my experience, the laptop program has made students feel more willing to share their ideas and respond to those of others. Online resources make for more interesting classes, and can make topics more real through videos and real-life examples. Everyone can, in turn, react and share their thoughts about these examples. Computers help me quickly and widely share my ideas with others, and learn how to improve from their thoughts.