Sixth-grader Abby Adam loves to send instant online messages to her friends, and she could just spend hours tinkering away on the social networking site MySpace.com. Thanks to Hermosa Drive Elementary in Fullerton, California, Abby was doing a lot more of both--on a school-issued laptop--until her mother, Shawna Adam, removed Abby from the school's computer program and returned the machine. "School was one big happy gabfest," Ms. Adam said. An increasing number of schools across the country are contracting with companies such as Dell and Apple to integrate technology into the classroom, and to issue laptop computers to students. Critics, however, say that school dollars could be put to better use, and that providing preteens with laptops may do more harm than good. Some kids are learning to rely on Google, rather than libraries, to meet their research needs. Surely schools should integrate more technology into their lessons. But they should also evaluate the effectiveness of such lessons ("one-to-one" instruction via laptop is supposed to boost student achievement yet no data prove that claim) to ensure that Abby and her friends are actually gleaning more from their computers than Ashton Kutcher's favorite ice cream flavor.
"Saying No to School Laptops," by Jessica E. Vascellaro, Wall Street Journal, August 31, 2006 (subscription required)