Portfolio Example
© International Baccalaureate Organization 2004

A Presentation of the Issue

Some studies claim that laptops are linked with increased student motivation, improved class attendance, and a “sustained level of academic achievement” (Belanger, 2000). However, negative aspects can also be raised, for example, that laptops prevent students from concentrating on their school work, and degrade learning (Borja, 2000). Not all students can afford laptops to buy a laptop for school, so their introduction has also raised the issue of equality and financial discrimination (Corcoran, 2002).

Laptops at schools have also an extended social impact on global equity, by helping to bridge the digital divide in third world countries (Lent, 2003). The donation of laptops to underprivileged schools around the world not only aids underprivileged students during school hours, but also allows students to bring their mobile computers home to their parents, slowly and comfortably exposing the wider disadvantaged community to the prospects of technology.

B IT Background of the Issue

Laptop usage in U.S. schools increased by 43% in the 2001-2002 school year (Suryaraman, 2002). Last year, 15% of school districts in America were participating in a laptop initiative (Corcoran, 2002). Although desktop computers far outnumber laptops in the school environment, an increasing trend in laptop usage at school has become clear: “The direction we’re moving is absolutely away from PC labs” (Suryaraman, 2002). As more and more educational tasks require, or are enhanced by technology, it is predicted to be only a matter of time before a personal computer at school becomes essential as pen and paper (Suryaraman, 2002).

The laptop is small and light enough to be easily carried between classes, and home, by hand. The laptop has become possible with the development of thin LCD monitors, long life batteries, and low heat processors. Stronger built, cost effective models of laptops have been produced specifically for students, such as the I-book or the StudyPro (Belanger, 2002).

Now, with wireless network cards, laptops can share file storage between teachers and students, internet access, and printing facilities, making them as effective as a desktop computer, and more flexible.

C The Impact of the Issue

The use of laptops at school has been claimed to “improve the speed, quality and depth of their work” (Beck, 2002) and to be responsible for a “significant increase on standardized tests” (Learning with Laptops, 2000). Education studies report that these improvements are due to an improved attitude towards learning, as laptops encourage a fun, hands-on approach to education (Belanger, 2002).

Also, disabled or struggling students are benefited by the flexibility of owning and maintaining their own personal laptop. Students with particular areas of individual need can install their choice of programmes that will help them learn more in a school day. For example, a program called Co-Writer can help dyslexic student who are struggling with
spelling (Ansary, 2002). On the other hand, the added mobility and flexibility of laptops have allowed students to become more easily distracted from the focus of education (Borja, 2002). Misuse of technology at school, such as file swapping, pornography, and instant messaging have become more prevalent at schools with the introduction of student laptops.

Education has a great affect on a student’s future life, and job opportunities, so the affect of laptops on education quality is an issue of the upmost importance. Weighing up, the motivational benefits outweigh the prospect of added distractions, as such distractions are solvable by teachers enforcing policies at the school.

Lawrence Hardy claims laptops cause economic discrimination against students of lower socio-economical backgrounds, who would not be able to afford to buy their own laptop for school (Hardy, 1999). However, subsidised leasing programmes have made the financial burden to parents more affordable (Hardy, 1999). Resultantly students from all socioeconomic backgrounds will have similar opportunities to use technology both at school and home.

The issue of educational benefit is more important than the financial issue. While the negative issue of financial will lessen in the near future as government and public support grows, and technology costs decrease, the issue of education must be addressed immediately, before lifelong damage might be caused to a student’s education.

D Solutions to Problems Arising from the Issue

The main problem regarding laptops is the ability for students to become distracted and become off task. One solution to the problem of distraction is to create a set of strict laptop usage policies that make clear what is and what is not appropriate at school. The policy should describe what third party programs are allowed to be installed or executed, explain the prohibition of games, outline acceptable use of instant messaging and internet usage, and make clear the situations when mp3s are allowed to be used. By setting up a detailed set of rules there is no excuse for the misuse of computers at school. This policy would be enforced by teachers patrolling computer usage for students who break this policy. If a rule is broken, the student will be given a detention, and be temporally prohibited from using their personal laptop during school hours. This solution is limited as it relies on a student’s honesty. It does not really solve the problem as students can hide their mischievous actions from teachers on the other side of their screens

Another solution is to give the teacher of a class the ability to view student laptop usage, through screenshots of what is present on the student’s screens. This could be made possible with a small mandatory utility that captures regular pictures from a student’s laptop, and passes this information through a wireless network connection to the teacher’s computer. The teacher could view a number of student’s screens at one time, presented on the teachers screen as small, continually updating thumbnail images. The teacher would be able to notice on his or her screen if a student was visiting an off topic internet sight, listening to mp3s, chatting to other classmates, or otherwise misusing their computer privileges. It involves less personal time and effort and can be used also during the normal teaching process. In such cases, the teacher could confront the student, and make sure they returned back to the task at hand. This solution is limited as it involves a breach of privacy. The purchase of software means it will be more expensive to implement than the policy.

Word Count: 979

E Selection and Use of Sources

Ansary, Tamim, 2002, “Computers in Schools: Are We There Yet?”
http://encarta.msn.com/column/computerschoolsmain.asp (06/14/03 16:19:49)

Beck, Robin, 2002, “Laptops Power Learning to New Dimension at Elementary School.”
http://boothbayregister.maine.com/2002- … ogram.html (06/14/03 17:41:16)

Belanger, Yvonne, 2000, “Laptop Computers in the K-12 Classroom.” http://ericit.org/digests/EDO-IR-
2000-05.shtml (06/14/03 17:53:05)

Borja, Rhea, 2002, “Student Misuse of School Laptops Forces District to Tighten”
http://www.edweek.org/ew/newstory.cfm?slug=20laptop.h21 (06/14/03 16:55:20)

Corcoran, Katherine, 2002, “Educators dream of laptops for all students”,
http://www.siliconvalley.com/mld/silico … 994121.htm (06/14/03 16:56:30)

Dean, Katie, 2002, “Students Treat Laptops with TLC.”
http://www.wired.com/news/print/0,1294,56295,00.html (05/22/03 21:45:41)

Hardy, Lawrence, 1999, “Electronic School: Lap of Luxury.” http://www.electronicschool.
com/199903/0399sbot.html (06/14/03 17:34:38)

Lent, Colleen, 2003, “Reuse, recycle computers“,
http://www.seacoastonline.com/news/exet … /40729.htm

Learning with Laptops, 2002, “Third Year Laptop Program Reflections“,
http://www.learningwithlaptops.org/file … 20Prog.pdf

Mathewson, James, 2002, “On Topic – Gadgets for today’s digital classroom..”,
http://www.computeruser.com/articles/21 … 01,02.html (06/14/03 16:43:01)

Rocha, Daniel, 2000, “The Emperor’s New Laptop”, Education Week on the Web,
http://www.edweek.org/ew/ewstory.cfm?slug=04rocha.h20 (06/14/03 16:36:28)
Suryaraman, Maya, 2002 “New S.J. school gives every student a laptop.”
http://www.bayarea.com/mld/mercurynews/ … 662002.htm (06/14/03 17:39:24)

The future of mobile computing in K-12 education is still uncertain. Laptops may never become as common in classrooms as hand-held calculators. Solutions for issues of cost, technical support needs, security, and equitable access are challenging for many schools. Many schools with laptops, however, remain positive and enthusiastic about the changes observed and benefits their students derive from access to portable computers. Although many laptop programs are young and studies are still in progress, research has shown educational benefits from the use of laptops, particularly with respect to increasing student motivation and creating more student-centered classrooms. Continuing improvements in student portable computing technology as well as models of successful programs may make laptops an increasingly attractive option for K-12 educators and technology planners.

Assessment Criteria
Criterion Level Examiner Comments
A Presentation of the Issue
4 (Maximum 4)
The issue in the news item is clearly identified and, with the aid of further research, the positive and negative social consequences are explained.

B The IT Background of the Issue
3 (Maximum 5)
The trends are well explained with cited evidence and the developments are clear. The concepts are, at best, described.

C The Impact of the Issue
5 (Maximum 5)
The impacts have been well researched. Both positive and negative impacts are explained and counter-arguments are presented. Arguments are substantiated by cited research.
There is evidence of analysis and evaluation.

D Solutions to Problems Arising from the Issue
5 (Maximum 5)
Two feasible solutions are very thoroughly explained. In both cases their limitations are considered.

E Selection and Use of Sources
2 (Maximum 2)
The news item is attached. The piece has been extensively researched and arguments are well supported by cited sources throughout the text. There is a formal bibliography.

F Expression of Ideas Relevant to the Social Issue
4 (Maximum 4)
The student clearly expresses ideas with supporting arguments and extended relevant examples.

Total 23/25