Why Liverpool schools should look at Tablet PCs

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The New York Times article from May 4th, 2007 titled “Seeing No Progress, Some Schools Drop Laptops” discusses how one school, Liverpool High School of New York, has decided to drop their laptop program. Several reasons are given in the article for the decision including: cost, teacher training, inapporpriate use of laptops by students, no change in governments tests, and IT challenges.

If you want to learn more about what happened with the Liverpool laptop program, the school has this excellent 171 report that details the first three years of the effort, from 2000/2001 to 2002/2003.

There’s lots of great information in the report, but I want to point the following chart that breaks down how students felt the laptops impacted their education:

LiverpoolValueOfLaptops.png

As a Tablet PC enthusiast, what caught my attention were the areas where laptops are good and particularly not good. Look closely. Computer skills, spelling, writing all make sense as areas where laptops help out. And it makes sense that math, fine arts, reading, and the sciences are four areas that didn’t faire well. However, these are exactly the areas where I would expect a Tablet PC to be able to help.

Take Fine Arts for example. A laptop equipped with Photoshop, Illustrator, or something similar could make a great digital arts tool, however, a Tablet PC with Sketchbook Pro, ArtRage, or even Microsoft Journal can offer so much more. Sure someone can add an external digitizer to get similar capabilities, but this would not compare to the portability offered by a Tablet.

And then there’s Math. Again, the Tablet PC can merge the benefits of the digital world with a paper-like input experience far beyond what a laptop can offer. Typing a math equation or trying to take math notes using a keyboard does not even come close to taking notes or working through math problems on a Tablet PC.

How these differences translate into measurable outcomes in a classroom setting I don’t know. However, I hope that schools using Tablet PCs are looking into collecting data in these areas. I’d except to see that in schools which use Tablet PCs that computer usage would be greater in these areas where traditional laptops don’t fare well.

To me, it looks like Liverpool’s data is suggesting that they would have done better with Tablet PCs.