Our View: Let them have laptops
January 6, 2010
Steamboat Springs — Tim Corrigan is on the right track.
The South Routt School Board president has suggested implementing a program that would give each Soroco High School freshman an Apple laptop computer, starting as soon as next school year. The program would continue from there, and each incoming freshman class would receive laptops for academic use.
We think Corrigan's idea is a fantastic one. Basic computer knowledge already has become a prerequisite across a variety of industries, and students who enter the military, college or the work force most likely will be expected to use a computer at some point. A personal laptop would give each student the opportunity to become familiar with the technology and its applications.
Corrigan would like the district to join an Apple program he learned about at the Colorado Association of School Boards meeting last month in Colorado Springs. The program allows districts to lease the computers by paying one-fourth of the cost each year. Soroco High School has about 30 freshmen each year. So in the first year, the program would cost $7,500. The program would cost $7,500 more each additional year the district participates. At the end of the fourth year, the program would cost about $30,000 a year as each grade's students would have their own laptops.
That amount of money isn't insignificant, particularly in a smaller district such as South Routt, but we don't want to get so budget conscious in the schools that we don't see the forest for the trees. The greatest gift we can give young adults preparing to enter a difficult job market is to prepare them with the most current technological tools available. For a small, rural school district such as Soroco to tackle such an ambitious endeavor is exemplary. Should the program be put into effect, every Soroco student who receives a laptop will have been given a better chance at success in their chosen career path.
And the benefits outweigh the costs and the risks, especially if the district succeeds in getting grant money. We urge the Routt County community to throw its support behind the school district's efforts. Corrigan probably put it best himself: "We can afford to do this. We really can afford it. It just takes some will."
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If each student in class owns a laptop, teachers have the opportunity to assign homework, assign reading and even administer tests using computers. That could cut back on paper use and textbook costs for the district.
Corrigan addressed some common computer concerns, noting that a Weld County district using the program installed a filter restricting some Web sites.
The computers also were programmed to turn off at midnight and to turn back on at 5 a.m. Such safeguards could be implemented in South Routt to put parents' minds at ease and combat abuse of the computers.
We do recognize that other costs could be associated with a laptop program. Other districts that use such programs have reported some lost laptops — though, notably, most were lost by teachers — and there might be a need to pay for additional tech support.
But overall, Corrigan's suggestion is innovative and forward-thinking. Providing the same laptop to every student in the class puts everyone on the same platform and allows each student to use a computer with the same capabilities. It also eliminates economic disparities among students in terms of the technology to which they have access. Leveling the playing field and preparing our South Routt students for the future are very, very good things.