Sitting in the staffroom around springtime after another difficult day at the mill, I overheard some of the teachers talking about laptops and students. This got my interest and without further ado they told me about a new project. Both of the primary schools I work in are taking part in a programme called Escuela 2.0 which means that all of the children in the 5th year will be given a laptop to use for the school year.
Now, I have to admit that my initial reaction was disbelief then laughter perhaps they’d caught me on one of those days because I thought it was possibly the biggest laugh of the school year. Imagine the situation; I work in two very different centres. One is a quiet rural school where many of the children’s’ parents are unemployed; the teacher is over 60 (and let’s says not the most up-to-date). The other school well it’s the kind of school where the children often turn up to school without bringing a pencil to class and some of their parents still haven’t bought the required books by the third term.
Okay I’m not particularly proud of my reaction but there’s no point saying that I jumped and shouted hallelujah what a brilliant idea. My initial reaction was followed by the following thoughts:
• Surely the money could be better spent on basic things like more tables and chairs or resources such as books.
• How on earth are you going to teach with a class of 25 kids stuck with their heads stuck in a laptop?
• Who on earth is going to teach them in this new way?
• Who on earth is going to train the teachers in these new techniques?
• How on earth are we going to trust these kids to take home a laptop and make sure they bring it back the next day in tact?
• Apart from the ‘novelty’ factor why on earth would anyone think that they were going to learn more effectively stuck in front of a screen and not interacting with their classmates?
The list went on and on I found myself taking part in staffroom discussions about the senselessness of those in charge with their crazy ideas.
Then one day something happened that started to change my mind. I came to school (the quiet rural one) and the children were all excited. At the door to the English classroom they stop and ask each other how they are. It’s not the typical “How are you?” with the “I’m fine thank you” response. The teacher this year has taught them all sorts of creative variants like “I’m tired” “I’m thirsty” and “I’m very hot”. As they filed in they were all happy, or very happy or very, very happy.
As the last student went in, I asked her why she was very, very happy and she told me that their new computers had arrived. Okay one point to the laptops. The second thing that made me think was towards the end of June I walked past one of the classes and there were rows of kids tapping away at their laptops. You should have seen their faces they were working on different subjects and they were definitely “on task”. There was no doodling, staring out of the window or playing with their water bottles.
These laptops were a definite pull. The term finished in June and so their new laptops have been un-packed and used but only superficially. Now I have to say that although my initial reaction was less than positive, I’m looking forward to seeing how these laptops are going to be utilized to help enhance our children 's learning and I’m looking forward to thinking of ways that we can use them in our English lessons.
Anyone else in the same situation? Any thoughts and ideas?