RCDS started its laptop computer program for grades 7-12 in 1999. The central goal of the program has always been to make the information processing power of the computer available to students whenever and wherever needed. This does not mean that laptops are or should be used all the time. Instead it means that the computer will be there whenever there is a benefit to be gained from its use. This approach is essentially no different from how pencil and paper have been deployed in schools. Pencil and paper are not used all the time, but we want them to be immediately accessible at all times.
Following are some of the specific reasons we have laptop computers at RCDS:
- Schools that help their students and teachers harness the information processing power that laptop computers provide will place their students at a competitive advantage. Students will be more engaged in learning the content of the curriculum while at the same time developing deep competency using the problem-solving environment provided by the computer.
- Laptops help promote a positive shift toward more project-based, hands-on learning, and away from lecture-based learning. Lecture-based learning will not, and should not, disappear. However, the information manipulation environment provided by laptops allows teachers to reduce their reliance on lecturing.
- Writing is done across the curriculum. Word processing makes writing a significantly more enjoyable process for students. Students do more writing and revision when they have laptops.
- Mathematics education is made richer and more engaging with the aid of software tools like spreadsheets, Geometer's SketchPad, and Mathematica.
- History, social studies, and current events instruction is tremendously enriched by students having immediate access to the vast wealth of information available on the Internet. Laptops provide a platform for the creation and presentation of multimedia rich projects.
- Science education is greatly enhanced by the data gathering, data analysis and simulation software tools that run within the virtual digital workshop the laptop provides.
- Foreign Language instruction success correlates highly with the time students are able to spend immersed in the language. The multimedia capabilities of laptops allow students to spend more time listening and speaking in the language of instruction. With the right software and a set of headphones, a laptop can function like a language lab work station. Laptops also provide access, through the Internet, to the media of the countries where the language of instruction is the native language.
- In art, music and drama, laptops provide easy access to examples of best practices. Students visit virtual museums, listen to music clips, and watch videos of great performances. Students also use various software applications to assist in the creation of artwork, music, scripts and digital video.
- Laptops provide easy storage and access to a student's accumulating body of work. By viewing previous work, students can better gauge their own progress and avoid repeating tasks already accomplished. In many situations, laptops can also help students who struggle with organization.
- All students develop a strong competency in using computers. Providing laptops to students goes a long way toward eliminating any digital divides in the use of technology.
In sum, enabling students with laptops helps create a more humane school environment in which drudgery and repetitive tasks are minimized while exploratory and creative tasks are maximized.