Laptops for students: Cleveland Heights-University Heights gets it right

I grew up in Cleveland Heights. It was a progressive integrated first ring suburb of Cleveland, home to many college professors, medical professionals and members of the Cleveland Orchestra. When I graduated in 1980 my class was 850 or so, and about 25% of the class was African American. It was a top-performing district, with something like 34 National Merit Scholars in my class.

Now, the district is closer to 90% African American, the high school has received funding from the Bill and Melinda Gates foundation, and was split up into 4 smaller high schools in the same building.

But, CH/UH schools aren’t sitting still, they recently began giving students laptops. Something Dayton should have been promising with the levy passage:

Monticello is the pilot school for a program that will provide an Apple MacBook laptop to every middle and high school student in the Cleveland Heights-University Heights district over the next five years.

Superintendent Deborah Delisle said the goal is to “prepare our students to be learners in the 21st century,” a role that requires a computer link to the rest of the world.

That’s a big change in direction from now, when students are asked to leave many of the tools they use daily outside the classroom door, Delisle said.

In addition, the program’s design ensures every student — regardless of family income — has access to the same technology, she said.

Cleveland Heights-University Heights district students to get individual laptop computers – Cleveland.com.

At the end of the article an administrator points out that textbooks are often obsolete the day they are printed, and that there are lots of online resources that can help save money for the district. Never mind the savings in paper (I’ve been watching how much paper the Springboro schools send home with a fourth grader of late, mouth agape).

While our country can’t seem to find a few billion to equip every student with a laptop, we can bailout the titans of Wall Street. Think about how much education $700 billion would pay for? Or light rail in urban areas and high speed rail to connect major cities?

How can we expect kids to compete in an information technology economy, without giving them the primary tool of the digital age? When will Dayton think about getting competitive by offering free laptops to every student?

If you want to see people start moving back into Dayton with young kids who aren’t here as a school of last resort, look at this laptop program and think how it could be a start at changing Dayton’s self-image.

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3 Responses

  1. ShortWest Rick October 12, 2008 / 11:58 pm
    Hello David, I’ve been feeling you all along with your quest for replacing text books with computers. I’d advocate machines bolted to the desks though, here nor there, my dog pee’d on my laptop and sparks shot out of it or I don’t have my homework because I left my laptop in my dad’s car over the weekend. Lets face it, some families are more dedicated to their childrens’ education than others. I personally think homework is B.S. It’s probably the single defining factor between kids who keep up and those fall behind because they don’t understand what is being presented in the classroom.

    The real issue is content provision, I searched it up about a year ago, found one company offering text book material in html but they were licensing it per seat. It occurs to me in this case there has to be a supply side before the demand develops and some serious introspection into how it will be supplied.

  2. David Esrati October 13, 2008 / 7:24 am

    Rick-
    the materials are out there-
    and I’m sure there are open source things being developed, buy- and, until more schools make the move, how big is the market? If we can have all the money in the world for bailing out Wall Street- I’m sure we can also come up with an open source curriculum nationwide- complete with our own testing.
    As to “bolting down the machines”- if we don’t trust kids to learn- we may as well give up.
    I was listening to This American life yesterday- there was a story about a guy in Harlem- who was concentrating on kids from 0-3 with a “baby college” and was having an even greater impact on test scores. Whatever it Takes

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