is an unpublished letter to the editor of the Portland (Maine) Press Herald
newspaper written by Gary Stager in November, 2000. The letter was a response
to the criticism of Governor Angus King's plan to buy a laptop computer for
every 7th grader in the State of Maine.
I have followed the controversy surrounding Governor Kings proposal
to provide laptop computers to Maine seventh graders with great interest
like to join President Clinton in applauding this thoughtful proposal.
You do your readers a great disservice if you allow state politicians to
portray the laptop initiative as a kooky idea without precedent. There are
their eleventh year of providing every student with a personal laptop. I
know since I began providing professional development services to Australian laptop
schools in 1990. Today, more than 100,000 American and 50,000 Australian
school children use their laptops as intellectual laboratories and vehicles
for self-expression. Schools from Harlem to Sydney have gone laptop with
few regrets. Maine would just be the first state bold enough to lead in laptop
A variety of research studies have demonstrated the wisdom of combining laptops
and learning. Laptop classrooms tend to be more collaborative. Students become
more confident, creative and expressive learners. Teachers are re-energized.
Work quality and quantity increases as does school attendance. Pedagogical practices
become more learner-centered. Learning neither stops nor starts at the sound
of a bell.
It is Representative Davidsons alternative proposal that deserves scrutiny.
His proposal to establish a blue-ribbon panel to investigate how computers should
be deployed in schools is imprudent and fiscally irresponsible. Governor King
convened Maines wisest educational leaders and technology pioneers
several weeks ago. They support his laptop proposal! Seymour Papert began
personal computing for all kids thirty years ago. The experiences documented
by schools around the world provide ample evidence that laptops are the way
Mr. Davidsons scheme has failed in schools for two decades. Scattering
more computers here and there will do little to close the digital divide or
inspire great teachers to use computers in rich ways since scarcity is a major
obstacle to use. Girls are less likely to fight over limited computing resources.
Teachers will not invest their energies into integrating computers in their
curriculum if there are too few computers to make the activity worthwhile. Children,
increasingly disaffected by schooling, will be more so when the classroom lacks
the learning tools they are accustomed to using outside of school. Non-laptop
schools will react in haste and ignorance when kids arrive at school with their
own personal computers. The Governors proposal provides each school
with an opportunity to invent the future of education.
Governor Kings proposal is on the right side of history and will make
a great stride towards supporting the intellectual development of Maines
youngest citizens. The habits of mind developed by laptop kids will pay dividends
for decades to come. If the proposal fails, some other state will embrace
the idea. It would be a shame for children elsewhere to experience the jobs
joy of learning intended for Maine.
Gary S. Stager
Gary Stager is an adjunct professor of education at Pepperdine University,
Senior Editor for Curriculum Administrator Magazine and an international expert
on laptops in education.