Laptops in the middle school classroomI hear conflicting ideas on laptops in a classroom. Are they a distraction? Are they a tool to empower students to learn better? If so how would a teacher get...

Laptops in the middle school classroom

I hear conflicting ideas on laptops in a classroom. Are they a distraction? Are they a tool to empower students to learn better? If so how would a teacher get the most out of laptops in the class? Are there specific lesson plans?

Expert Answers
timbrady eNotes educator| Certified Educator

Laptop computers can be used to help students with their writing, both the technical and the rhetorical/style aspects.  The technical assistance can come from using the grammar checking functions of Word.  I know that they are not perfect, but they do tell a student WHILE they are writing that something MAY be wrong.  Research, my own and others, has demonstrated that student are much more likely to want to improve their writing while they are doing it, and not when their papers are returned.  When papers are returned, 85% of them get pitched as soon as students are able to find their grade.  During this type of writing, the teacher acts as a coach, available to the students to go over their "errors" and to suggest ways to improve the structure of their writing.  It is also interesting that students who are writing in the "public" domain (although the computer is not all that public, it is more public than a sheet of paper hidden on their desk) take their writing more seriously than those students who are only writing for "the teacher" and "a grade."

The second part links to the first.  After students have finished the writing assignment, they can e-mail their papers to the teacher who, after cleaning up their names, can post them for review by all the students;  it's amazing how knowing that you paper is going to be available for immediate (if anonymous) feeback from your "audience" which includes, but is not limited to, your teacher, helps the student to be more "concerned" about the product.  The teacher can point out effective sentences and constructions, good thesis sentences, etc., helping the students with the rhetorical elements of their writing.

In addition, the time devoted to writing in class reenforces something that we often tell students --- that writing is important.  Too often our behaviors have given the lie to that statement because we do not allocate an imporant resource, time, to learning the skill.  It has always been my belief that students should spend at least 2 class periods a week writing together.  Since writing is what the "next level" of education always finds to be the biggest weakness in their students, maybe it's the thing that most deserves our attention.

engtchr5 eNotes educator| Certified Educator

As a teacher inside a boarding school where laptops are encouraged as a modification or accomodation for specialized learners, I've seen both the merits and detriments of the devices as used inside the classroom. One student of mine simply emails me his written assignments so that he can avoid late penalties or forgetfulness, while other kids simply use them for their own personal distraction.

It takes a sharp eye and an iron fist sometimes, but overall, laptops in class can be helpful for those whose "pencil and paper" skills are less than impressive. Their use for research is also a handy asset, but here again, it takes a keen classroom manager to ensure that actual research is taking place, and not, say, social networking. Any teacher worth his/her salt should be able to adapt to and successfully implement student laptops. But that's just one guy's opinion.

hala718 eNotes educator| Certified Educator

Well, I believe laptops could be utilized as any other technical tool in schools. If your question about if students are ready at this age, then I say they absolutely are ready since Kindergarten. However, I do think that it could create some distraction if you let students use them all the time and without specific tasks to do. You need to keep students engaged in a project or tasks so they could benefit from using them.

Of course you also need to have a control over the type of programs and websites they could have access to during the class.

morrol eNotes educator| Certified Educator

Laptops in my classroom are absolutely essential. My students are constantly doing research and need to be connected to the internet.

The problem then becomes their urge to check facebook while they work on a paper.

I find that the best solution to this problem is simple. I set a desk up in the back of the classroom, and I can see what is on everybody's screens. Since I've been doing this, I haven't had a problem.

litteacher8 eNotes educator| Certified Educator

It depends on how you use the laptops whether they are useful or not.  If you use them in controlled conditions, they can be very useful.  For example, you can have students doing research, typing or making presentations, and practicing skills.  You just have to limit access to unwanted or inappropriate sites or activities.  Just like with anything else in the classroom, it is all about how you introduce and monitor.

lrwilliams eNotes educator| Certified Educator

Like any other technology in the classroom if is used for a purpose it is great. I have been in too many classrooms that have great technology but the teacher has no clue how to use it to their advantage.

crystaltu001 | Student

I think laptops were good for kids in middle school because you get to look up things you didn't know and take quizzes on them. But some people take advantage of these laptops in their classes and use them for themselves and not take their work seriously because they are busy looking something up for themselves.

arrellbelle | Student

When I was in middle school, we were not given the opportunity to use laptops and if we were researching, we go to the computer lab or libraries. If we were writing, it was the computer lab or we had to hand-write things ourselves. Which makes sense, we were only in middle school and not yet responsible. It made more sense to use them in college because you are paying for the tuition of your courses and using your laptop should be an option because as an adult, you are responsible for your education, bills, car, job, and/or family. So the laptop help cut down on time spent for education and helps for the student to focus on other things they are responsible for.

lindamerlo | Student

Optimize the laptop experience by having all students arrange their desks in a circle so that they face the walls and their backs are to the center of the circle.


  • You stand in the middle and can see all laptop screens at once.
  • The students can look around and see all screens at once.

It lets you manage what students are looking at, and it allows students to share their expertise with each other.

ik9744 | Student

Laptops is a very good learning tool unless given to a someone who rather do anything then focus. Through my past experience laptops is a very big distraction. A lot of people pretend to do work but instead play a game on the next screen [Mac]. They could easily set up hot keys to hide the window in seconds.  

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